Hi people.. I need some help with this one.
I think I'm going to have to start believing in "god" (notice the " "). At least I can't seem to get away from this conclusion. I've been working on this since May but it's still rough. If this is as good as I think it is however, I'm probably not the first to think of it and in a fair bit over my head. (Here's the "short version"):
A much more interesting question I think, than whether or not one believes in god, is whether or not one believes in infinity (which I happen to do - tho not necessarily with strong justification yet, but I'm working on that). Cause there's not really any good justification for believing that the world is finite either, is there? We need to be careful here tho. For instance, what do we mean by "the world" (but never mind that for now).
My justification for believing that the world is infinite however goes like this: We can't prove whether or not the world is infinite, until we measure the whole thing and discover the "end". What is the limit of big? What is the limit of small (and so on). Now while this measuring business is going on (science), one could argue that the correct view to hold would be agnosticism. We don't know if the world is infinite, and we don't know if it's finite. We'll just have to wait and see. Well, maybe, but that puts you in the following position: What if the world IS infinite. Then we'll go on looking forever for something that can never be found - the end. So until we actually DO find such an end (if it exists), the safest bet would be to believe that the world is infinite (just in case it is). Cause if the world IS infinite, we can never know by measuring, right?
Once You've accepted to think of the world as infinite, let me ask you this: Is there anything that we know of in the world that's only happened once? The answer is both yes and no. Did a thunderstorm happen only once? No. Thunderstorms happen all the time. Did Nazi Germany happen only once? Yes. But hold on a second. War didn't happen only once. Ethnic cleansing didn't happen only once. Swastikas didn't happen only once etc. Though the specific combination of these we might be tempted to say, did happen only once. Let's look at the thunderstorm again. Yes thunderstorms happen all the time, but any specific thunderstorm with its exact combination of power, level of moisture, lightning, time and location, did happen only once. So in other words: Every event has happened before, but any specific event happened only once.
Compare something that we know happen really often to something that happened only once. The binding of H2O molecules happen really often. The evolution of life on the other hand, happened only once (or The Big Bang if you will). Well did they? To our knowledge, yes. But the key difference between these two is different levels of complexity. Simple events happen often. Complex events on the other hand (or rather the levelling up of complexity), happen less often. Kind of like how change on the right side of "100 0045 426,9828925...", happens more often than change on the left. The more complex, the rarer it happens.
But here's the interesting thing about infinity. In an infinite world, every possibility will be realised. Why? Cause everything has infinite amount of time in order to do so. No matter how complex, as long as it's possible, it WILL sooner or later happen. It HAS to happen.
So then.. We have a good understanding of simple things, and not such a good understanding of complex tings. That should not have us draw the conclusion that complex things happen only once. In an infinite world, no matter how complex something would be, it would always happen again.
Today we know more about our own consciousness and brain than ever before. We can pretty much already clone ourselves, and it's no longer far fetched to think that in a few years time, we'll be able to understand what makes certain individuals they way they are and therefore go in and edit, improve and manipulate this as we see fit. We'll eventually, recreate ourselves (in our own image) - or in other words - create life by intelligent design.
I very much believe this to be possible and that we're not far away from it, and if you don't, I'll bombard you with justification.
If we'll be able to do this, it would be quite silly to think.. in an infinite world, that conscious creation of consciousness would be happening for the first time ever. Although we'll probably consider this an extremely complex event (something that can be a bit blindfolding when thinking about large numbers and infinity), it has probably already happened (and will continue to), and infinite number of times.
So then, as the old question goes: "If god created man, who created god?" Well the answer to this would be: god created god. Although god is the greatest, there would be an infinite number of "gods" greater. Having subjectivity while striving for objectivity is quite paradoxical as it essentially means being "a part" while trying to become "the whole". This is impossible as you would seize to exist, and in an infinite world "the whole" could never be captured. So a good way of thinking of god would be that god is relative, but always the bigger subjectivity.
Bear in mind tho, that for all practical, social, moral and healthy society preserving reasons, I'm still very much an atheist.
"Now while this measuring business is going on (science), one could argue that the correct view to hold would be agnosticism. We don't know if the world is infinite, and we don't know if it's finite. We'll just have to wait and see"
that's as far as you need to go. have to wait and see. to go further than this at this point is simply for the fun of it, a thought experiment, but essentially meaningless.
A. This is all pure speculation and conjecture. Its essentially mental masturbation.
B. We know for certain that the Big Bang started space-time. "Infinite" time appears to stop right there, which means that it is not infinite in any sense that you mean.
C. Some things cannot happen even once (like square circles) so there are finite possibilities and no reason why everything has to be repeated at least twice, at least for "general" things.
D. If you extend your logic then everything, even your birth, will happen more than once. This is getting beyond possible to only remotely possible.
E. There is a complete knight's jump in your thinking from the concept of "infinite" time and "infinite" possibilities to the question of "Who created god?"
There is absolutely nothing in your preceding argument that even suggests that the next step is "god".
In any case, whose god are you talking about? The version you were taught to believe? Or any of the thousands of other possibilities, including all those who were conjectured to have nothing to do with the birth of maintenance of the universe.
F. You have got yourself into an infinite loop of self-creating "gods".
Leave the conjecturing of extremely unlikely scenarios to the ancient philosophers and the current theologians. They are better at it than you. :-)
In any case, whose god are you talking about?
By the logic of the original argument, all of them.
Indeed like Doug Reardon said we don't know B. Certain quantumgravity theories (like Loop Quantum Gravity) take us back (in time) to before our Universe existed. Ironically somewhat in relation to the author's concerns about infinities since by avoiding the infinitely small by quantizing spacetime it manages to escape the singularity that destroys physics in the scheme of General Relativity operating on a real (infinitely dividable) continuum.
C/D - If the Universe is infinite and still homogeneous then every configuration of matter/ energy will appear an infinite number of times and actually you can easily make a back of the envelope calculation that would get you the answer of a recurrence distance (of an exact copy of our universe) of about 10^(10^122) lightyears. (That's a nested exponential.) These are of course such unimaginable vast distances that if it actually did, it might as well not exist. [ BTW Brian Greene calls this version the "Quilted Multiverse" scenario in his book "The Hidden Reality."]
I don't understand either what any of this has to do with believing in gods nor have I the slightest clue how the auto-genesis of gods can be deduced from or even fits into this scheme. Complexity is rather the result of the opposite of anything can and must happen.
"We know for certain that the Big Bang started space-time."
I think Rosemary is a psychologist, not a physicist... just sayin'
We know that it happened, just not how
By the way:
The evolution of life on the other hand, happened only once (or The Big Bang if you will). Well did they?
The Big Bang has nothing to do with life or evolution. It's about how spacetime and the universe came into existence. Life developed billions of years later. Evolution isn't even about the "creation" of life, but only about it's development. It doesn't make statements about how it came about in the first place
It’s amazing how failure to comprehend something (infinity and nothingness) can result in the manifestation of some sort of god to fill the void. This just sounds like an overly complicated “god of the gaps” argument to me.
Your concern about an infinite reality is unsupported by science. If I recall (and feel free to correct me if I am wrong) science has predicted the end of our universe. Given that our reality is defined by laws of science, the end of the universe would mean the end of this reality. Even if a new universe were to pop up, it would most likely generate laws that are vastly different that the ones we know, thus creating a different reality. As for the fear of infinite nothingness after the demise of our universe, science generally considers nothing to be terribly unstable and states that there is more likely to be something rather than nothing. In other words, it is predicted that nothingness will eventually yield another something…most likely another universe.
So, putting all of that aside, assuming that none of it was true, what credible evidence do you have in support of your “god” theory other than a fertile imagination and an inability to grasp infinity? What I’ve gathered from your statements thus far, you’re encountering the same problem as all believers in that “god” exists in your head and is unable to manifest itself in any form of reality through practical applications of logic supported through evidence.
Haha.. wow. What a mess. Even though we're dealing with weak definitions here I can't believe it would generate this much confusion (especially since I specifically said to leave any "god" baggage at the door). The use of the word "god" gets us way too stuck in old tracks. Forget god already. I'm not talking about god the way we're used to think of him/her/it or whatever.
Matt Clerke: I appreciate your input and I think we pretty much agree on most of the points (apart from the singularity stuff maybe). Of course I'm not suggesting that impossible events will become possible because of infinity. The transhumanism stuff is my justification for believing that higher levels of the videogame-programmer scenario is possible, and that we eventually will be able to emulate ourselves in machines and virtual worlds - just like the Matrix. I just feel that if this is possible (to be on the outside with full control over everything happening on the inside with the power to edit, manipulate and change anything as one sees fit), the outsider would for all practical purposes function as a "god" for the inhabitants). Just like a programmer is to ai in a videogame. And so, if this can happen, in an infinite world, it has probably happened before.
I'm still working on this thing so it is still rough. I don't think I will be able to show that the existence of a higher intelligence who purposefully created us and continues to hold full control is more likely than not, but rather at best that I'm close to showing how atheism over agnosticism is hard to justify.
Rosemary: Wow.. "mental masturbation".. "Leave it to the ancient philosophers". Are you my old gym teacher?
Ah, you made yourself a little clearer to me. But only a little. I still do not understand the relation of possible projected future developments in AI and "transhumanism" (both fields of futurist fantasy which doesn't impress me much, but admittedly that's neither here nor there) in our real Universe - at least our visible and causally related patch - to infinities and your allusions if I understand you correctly to (statistics of entropy) recurrence.
To be more specific if this is the case, what would exactly be the significance of such hypothetical recurrences due to our Universe/ Multiverse being infinite, to our visible patch, or in other words our (causally related) reality?
You're using too advanced language for me. I don't understand your question. Speak to me as if I'm 5 years old.
What exactly don't you understand about the relationship between transhumanism and "god"? I picture it like an inception thing (a dream within a dream within a dream etc). We create a virtual duplicate/emulation of our world which we can control. This could also happen within this world. I picture it as an infinite set of russian dolls. We're just a random point in the line.
I think we're drowning in imprecise language here. I apparently have lost you and you have lost me. I will review this whole thing anew, because the thought experiment of computer simulation Universes is actually being taken seriously (for example it has it's own chapter in the book of Brian Greene about all possible different kinds of Parallel Universes "The Hidden Reality") but beyond a thought experiment I regard it about as likely to be true as metaphysical solipsism. (Which, just to sketch my skepticism, I regard just this tiny speck of a tad more likely than for a god to exist.)