# Is cosmologist Carroll’s eternal universe possible?

April 14, 2014 | Posted by News under Cosmology, Multiverse |

Friend Kirk Durston asks because:

It is very important for a physicist, especially when addressing a lay audience, to clearly distinguish between a mathematical model and the real world. It is simply false that the universe is eternal because we can build a mathematical model of an imaginary eternal universe. The fatal flaw in invoking mathematical models and theorems that describe a universe with an infinite past, where time

tactually proceeds from minus infinity toward plus infinity, is that when applied to reality, every second of that actual countable infinite series must have actually occurred before we get to this particular timet now. More.

*See also:* Kirk Durston: Cosmologist Sean Carroll simply asserts “a conclusion with no supporting argument”

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*See also:*

### 33 Responses to *Is cosmologist Carroll’s eternal universe possible?*

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Wonderful article, and it shows how some ‘scientists’ will abandon logic and reason rather than allow the evidence to point to GOD.

Yes, this is the fundamental argument against a universe that exists infinitely back in time. By definition, an infinity cannot be traversed. So, time could not have proceeded from the infinite past to the point where we have the present “now”.

Time marches on, but only if it had a beginning.

How about “punctuated infinity”? An infinite past puncuated by stop/start points, the latest stop/start point being our big bang. Could Hilbert Hotel be renovated (close/reopen) an infinite number of times?

“Yes, this is the fundamental argument against a universe that exists infinitely back in time. By definition, an infinity cannot be traversed.

By definition? Nothing in the definition excludes there being an infinite past

Whether it’s punctuated or continuous I think you still have the problem of how a “now” can be gotten to.

Of note: George Ellis, who worked with Penrose and Hawking, extendeding General Relativity to incorporate time, raised an eyebrow of mine when he quoted this following quote towards the end of one his lectures on the Big Bang I was listening to (sorry I don’t have that particular video link handy).

If you go to

http://p2c.com/students/kirk-durston

you get to Kirk’s official web site. More interesting things there including several videos.

Folks:

Pardon a few quick thoughts. (I have been very busy elsewhere, on other matters.)

I think the core issue here is to see causal sequences as steps in recession. Then, compare the simple act of counting: start: 0, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, . . . nth, n+1th . . .

Can you complete a count of the steps? [And, notice the use of ordinals.]

No, at every case n, you can always go on, you never end.

An infinite succession cannot be completely traversed in successive steps.

The logical point then comes out most simply by reversing the count: . . . -(n+1), -n, . . . -3, -2, -1, 0. Put in one-to one match.

If the steps cannot be traversed forwards, neither can it be traversed back-ways: -aleph-null, -aleph-null less 1, . . . -2, -1, 0. (Hilbert’s Hotel beloved of WLC, only adds colour to the difficulty.)

The empirical fact of succession in time and linked causal chain points to a beginning. We live in a credibly contingent observed cosmos, and that is the now 90 – 100 year old message of the logic and later observations pointing to a singularity and onward expansion.

All in a context that is locally so fine tuned in so many ways that it makes purposeful, skilled design starting from the physics of the cosmos the explanation to beat. That is, the obvious, best, best supported, most credible explanation. (Start from a cosmos set up so that the first four elements are H, He, O, C with N close. Thus: stars, the periodic table, water, organic chemistry, proteins. Pause and reflect on the elegant simplicity and powerful properties of water. Then think about aqueous medium, C-chemistry, protein-machine based cellular life: gated, encapsulated, metabolising, self-replicating, code and algorithm-using.)

This is actually so decisive that we strictly speaking don’t need to argue over the details of the history of life on our planet, but that is a converging line of evidence. In particular, reflect on the role of complex functionally specific organisation, associated implicit and explicit information, codes and algorithms. Then ask yourself regarding the vera causa test: have you SEEN such FSCO/I beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of complexity spontaneously forming without intelligent direction? Why then, apart from ideological question-begging, should such be even entertained as an explanatory candidate for an unobserved past of origins? (By contrast we have observed design at work and have no good reason to equate computation and contemplation. It is at least a serious possibility that mind is antecedent to matter and that our own mind is more than brain chemistry and neural network patterns.)

So, it is time for a rethink on the dominant materialism that is ever so often question-beggingly equated to scientific rationality.

(In fact, it is seriously arguable that evolutionary materialism is inescapably self referentially incoherent, once we see that it must reduce mind to blind mechanism, computation on some substrate. GIGO, folks, where blind forces are being held to have written the brain operating system, Try telling that one to the designers of our own, much simpler computers.)

KF

Jerry: Thanks for the link, went there, led me to post, here. KF

Some comments:

Sean Carroll is intellectually dishonest, a bully and a coward. If anyone thinks he is a nice guy, google him and Michael Behe and John McWhorter about their blooging heads episode. And I have his Teaching Company course on Dark Matter and Dark Energy and know that he is not the biologist, Sean Carroll. I also have his book on “time” and the other Sean Carroll’s book on evo-devo.

If we want to talk about infinite universes, here is my standard response from the past:

“Then, compare the simple act of counting: start: 0, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, . . . nth, n+1th . . . Can you complete a count of the steps?”

- Complete what?

“No, at every case n, you can always go on, you never end.”

- Yes, that’s what you call a potential infinite. But how is it relevant to the question whether an infinite past is possible or not?

“An infinite succession cannot be completely traversed in successive steps.”

Not if you start traversing at some point, yes. But again, how is this relevant to the question whether an infinite past is possible or not?

”An infinite succession cannot be completely traversed in successive steps.”

- Baseless assertion.

”The logical point then comes out most simply by reversing the count: . . . -(n+1), -n, . . . -3, -2, -1, 0. Put in one-to one match. If the steps cannot be traversed forwards, neither can it be traversed back-ways: -aleph-null, -aleph-null less 1, . . . -2, -1, 0. ”

- Baseless assertion and a strawman yet again. Who has claimed that you have to start traversing? Do you know what an infinite past mean? Let the negative integers represent the past, positive integers the future,whilst 0 is now, eg …-2, -1, 0, 1, 2…

In what way is this scenario impossible?

”(Hilbert’s Hotel beloved of WLC, only adds colour to the difficulty.)”

- I’m not convinced that Hilbert’s Hotel generate paradoxes.

I’m not sure I grok this “Infinity cannot be traversed” argument.

If one is a christian creationist, for example, then God traverses infinity in 3 simple steps:

“who was, and is, and is to come”

This might not be a problem for agnostic IDers, but for creationists it seems like shooting yourself in the foot.

And the argument is un-necessary. The multiverse, like the Oort cloud, like the black hole, like dark matter, is just another baseless speculation, another Ptolemaic epicycle invented to overcome the fact that observation directly contradicts the established theory.

All that is necessary is to point out that no scientist can dismiss one evidentially naked theory in favour of another

on any basis other than personal prejudice.It is ok for scientists to HAVE personal prejudices – they’re people, after all – but it is not ok for them to claim their personal prejudices ARE science, or are scientific.

Did I miss something?

JG:

An infinity has to be there all at once, it cannot be built up successively.

That God is, was and is to come, means the same as in him we live, move and have being, i.e. he is the eternal substrate of reality, the necessary being and ground of existence. Without his presence there is no where there. The Psalmist speaks of rising on the wings of the morning and fleeing to the ends of the sea, and still God is there.

Omnipresence, in him we live, move and have our being.

Otherwise, think of a ladder with infinite rungs, start from the 1st, go 2nd, 3rd, . . . nth, n+1th . . .

At any step aleph-null, can you say that is the last one we are at the top of the ladder?

Nope, there is always an indefinite number ahead of cardinality aleph null, no matter how many finite steps we have taken.

The transfinite is a different order than the finite.

In this sense Hilbert’s Hotel Infinity is an entertaining illustration of what that means.

Watch the vid!

KF

S:

Kindly observe the reversal: from 0, 1, 2 . . . to 0, -1, -2, . . .

If we cannot climb up to infinite future in steps of cause-effect sequence, we cannot count down from the infinite past either. A countable infinity cannot be traversed.

So, an infinite succession of finite events culminating in the present is a logical impossibility.

Logic tells us that the order of reality that we live in is finitely bound int eh past, in order to arrive at a present.

This is of couse essentially the same message of the cosmological expansion pointing to a finitely remote singularity, aka big bang.

And if you revert to a multiverse, maybe in the budded form, this same problem of successions bites.

And in fact the further issue tied to this is that we wold have reached heat death in quasi-infinite time, as there would be time for energy to diffuse and dissipate to lack of those gradients that allow things of significance to happen.

There are elaborations of this, recent theorems, but the underlying point is simple.

Like or lump it, the smart money is, the past is finite, for any physical cosmos sufficiently like ours to have a statistical thermodynamics.

And, a beginning is a hallmark of contingency, thus of a cause. And behind all, an ultimate necessary being that is eternal, no beginning, no end, non-physical. Similar to the truth 2 + 3 = 5, which cannot not be. (And yes, I am aware of the view that the best explanation for such abstract necessary entities is they are eternally contemplated by a mind that is also the root necessary being behind the observed world. But we are here in first principles of right reason, logic and metaphysics, which are not exactly main staples of contemporary learning. They will seem surpassingly strange until carefully thought through.)

Going beyond, the many ways of fine tuning of our observed cosmos, considered as being at a locally isolated operating point enabling of C Chemistry aqueous medium cell based life, points to design.

KF

PS: To get a simple idea, think about your parents, theirs, back. Go back to OOL. Back to OO cosmos. You will see there is a definite SEQUENCE of causal steps, a succession with causal dynamics. Now feed into 0 = you, -1 = your parents, – 2, grandparents, . . . – nth OOL, . . . Keep going. Is that clearer to you now? An infinite set has to be delivered all at once, set builder style [or, underlying reality] or it is not going to be there in succession, we see only a potential infinity.

“Kindly observe the reversal: from 0, 1, 2 . . . to 0, -1, -2, . . .”

- What about it? Are you saying that its the same thing to start traversing at t=0, and never have started at all?

“If we cannot climb up to infinite future in steps of cause-effect sequence, we cannot count down from the infinite past either. A countable infinity cannot be traversed.”

- Baseless assertion. Did you even read my comment before you answered? And please try to stay on topic. Don’t go BA77 on me please.

S: I am pointing out that if an infinite succession cannot be traversed in steps going up, neither can it, coming down. If we are at the end of such an infinite succession as claimed, that infinite succession of steps would have to be traversed. But that is a logical no-no, for reasons already adequately pointed out. If you are reduced to trying to pretend to have a difficulty with that, then it shows that you have no answer tot he positive evidence not just logical, that our world has a finite past, and even a multiverse would have a finite past, once it is material enough to be subject to statistical thermodynamics. And it means you understand, deep down that hat which has a beginning has a begin-ner. I don’t have to belabour addressing your selective hyperskepticism, in order to have enough to let the reasonable person see where the problem is. KF

”I am pointing out that if an infinite succession cannot be traversed in steps going up, neither can it, coming down.”

- And I’ve already shown that there is a definite difference between the two scenarios you presented earlier. Why do you keep ignoring this?

”If we are at the end of such an infinite succession as claimed, that infinite succession of steps would have to be traversed. But that is a logical no-no, for reasons already adequately pointed out.”

- You havn’t adequately pointed out anything. What makes you think you have?

KF:

Thanks. That makes sense.

God doesn’t traverse the infinite in finite steps, as we are obliged to do, being finite.

S:

Nope, no difference.

What you may be trying to suggest is that the material cosmos as a whole is a necessary being.

First, no evidence on observation, this is highly speculative metaphysics done while wearing a lab coat. In fact, the empirical evidence and linked analysis point to a beginning, thus contingency. In many ways.

And nothing made of matter as we know or matter-energy combinations in some sort of space can but be contingent. (nothing made up of arranged parts can but be contingent.)

There used to be an attempt, a steady state universe where matter was somehow forever popping into existence. Never satisfactory, the stake went through its heart when cosmic microwave background was seen 50 years ago.

That is why the big bang, with implications of a beginning is the big game in town. Oscillatory universes are off the table, and multiverse speculations — they are not empirically grounded science — still run back into the problem of entropy piling up.

Then, multiply credible contingency and finitely remote beginning by the fine tuned, locally isolated operating point for C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life.

Our cosmos is not something that must be on pain of absurdity, nor are there good grounds to hold to a wider material cosmos as a necessary being.

The cosmos requires an adequate causal explanation.

One that is not forthcoming from materialistic frames of thought.

And one adequate to account for the required power, skill, and apparent purposefulness.

A necessary being that looks very much like a necessary — thus, eternal — mind.

KF

“Nope, no difference.”

- I’ve already pointed out the difference. Deal with it. I’m amazed that you can even post. How do you get past the ‘Verify that you are human by answering the question below.’?

PS: Recall, unlike what symbolisms such as (x,y,z,t) suggest, time is not a quasi-spatial, reversible dimension. Succession, with entropy proverbially time’s arrow, is essential to what time is. So the sort of cause effect chain from you at 0 to parents at -1, etc is not just a mathematical fiction, it is real. Nor are you and say your great great great great grandmother simultaneously present. When she was here, you were but a contingent possibility, yea, your parents and maybe grandparents, too. That step by step causal succession has to traverse in time, step by step, sixty seconds per minute etc. And, so, you face the problem of a stepwise traversal of a transfinite succession, if you hold to an actually infinite causal past leading up to the present.

S:

Just to highlight what is going on, I clip yours at 11:

>> KF: ”An infinite succession cannot be completely traversed in successive steps.”

S: – Baseless assertion.>>

KF: in short, you dismiss, refusing to address what was SHOWN, that there will always at any finite stage in the succession, be aleph null steps remaining, a point shown by the Hilbert Hotel example you also dismiss

>> KF: ”The logical point then comes out most simply by reversing the count: . . . -(n+1), -n, . . . -3, -2, -1, 0. Put in one-to one match. If the steps cannot be traversed forwards, neither can it be traversed back-ways: -aleph-null, -aleph-null less 1, . . . -2, -1, 0. ”

S: – Baseless assertion and a strawman yet again. Who has claimed that you have to start traversing? Do you know what an infinite past mean? Let the negative integers represent the past, positive integers the future,whilst 0 is now, eg …-2, -1, 0, 1, 2…

In what way is this scenario impossible? >>

KF: In the ways as already shown, of course. You confuse dismissal for well grounded refutation. Let’s just highlight, too, that a set of steps up a ladder say is a causal succession. In reaching to you, there is a definite succession of generational steps going back through OOL and OO solar system, galaxy and observed cosmos. Presumably, for you, it goes on beyond that forever. My point is simply to highlight that we do have successive steps and point out that stepping down 0, -1, -2, etc is not traversible back-ways or in actual forward causal succession { . . . grands, parents, you . . .} if not finite. (I am not talking about infinitesimals moving to finite limits here.)

But then, at this point, I suspect I am more speaking to the reasonable onlooker than to you, based on the tactics of hyperskeptical dismissal you have employed from the outset.

KF

Positing an infinite anything leads to absurdities.

An infinite future implies that I and every quark in existence will exist in an infinite number of permutations. Name me one possible assortment that cannot exist and all we will have to say is that in some future time it must. Just wait.

Taking the same logic, every possible assortment of the smallest entities possible must have existed an infinite number of times in the past. Explain why that is not true if the past is infinite.

Not only was there a past time where I made the foul shot that won the final playoff game in high school but there was an infinite number of these times and there will be an infinite number of them in the future. So I have both a past and future where I am the hero of the basketball game. Of course there are an infinite number of times where I didn’t even make the team let alone the shot.

Hey I can be an All-American basketball player an infinite number of times. Isn’t Sean Carroll and materialism great!!! I almost want to worship infinite materialism because it allows for all possible outcomes including an infinite number of Gods.

Wow.

Also, tell Sean Carroll there were an infinite number of past worlds and future worlds where he will be a pro-ID advocate and the same can be said of Richard Dawkins. Isn’t life great. We just have to wait.

Can a source of energy be infinite?

I’m sure some here can explain where the energy for the expanding universe comes from.

Yes, see Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It is called a magic wand. Harry Potter had a more modern version.

F/N: Overnight addition.

S wants to suggest that absent a start, an infinite succession is traversible to the present. Ironically, this is a baseless suggestion. (His rhetoric pivots on turnabouts, projections and insinuations, about par for the course for the tactics we have seen.)

For the puzzled onlooker, observe a stepwise number line:

. . . -n, -(n-1) . . . -2, -1,

0, THEN:+1, +2, +3, . . . +n, + n+1, . . .

Let us ask: where is the 0?

Answer, at any convenient point.

So now, let us be instead of 0, sit at some + k finitely remote from the 0. (A convenient case would be, 0 is at the singularity for the observed cosmos, some 13.7BYA on the usual results.)

The k steps are of course CAUSALLY connected, this is time and effects in succession, not an imagined axis drawn all at once.

Now, start from 0 and proceed, 1, 2, 3 . . .

Can we traverse to a transfinite of cardinality aleph-null, in discrete finite steps? (We can imagine the discrete steps to themselves be limit sums of series involving infinitesimals. As such, per L’Hospital, can sum to a finite, that makes no difference.)

Answer, no, we never reach the transfinite, we fail to traverse beyond the finite. A potential and an actually achieved stepwise infinity are different kettles of fish.

And, the same would obtain if we were to reverse signs and proceed from 0 in the opposite [anti-causal] direction.

That is, the notion of an infinite past of stepwise causally linked successions, fails to traverse to 0.

Where also, all of time cannot be simultaneously present, there is a definite causal succession.

This may be imagined away or ridiculed and dismissed to one’s heart’s content. What it cannot be, is squarely faced and solved. (BTW, that is one reason why I will normally only speak of the quasi-infinite in a physical context: a large, indefinite number, as opposed to an actual countable infinity.)

There is no good reason to accept the notion of an actually infinite physical, finite-step, cause-effect chain.

Hence, the aptness of Durston’s comment:

I hope that helps the puzzled.

A mathematical model must not be allowed to displace the issues of physical reality.

KF

KF,

My comments were obviously sarcastic but based on the actual implications of what Carroll hypothesizes. If you take all entities at the smallest level and say the history of existence has been infinite, then every possible permutation is not only possible but it must be inevitable. And each permutation must happen an infinite number of times.

This leads to the nonsense I said about specific situations. But the most interesting permutation is the one where intelligent life assembles which leads to the inevitable outcome that these intelligences will get smarter and smarter. There should be no limit on the level of intelligence that could happen. Hence the inevitable outcome of an infinite number of gods with unlimited intelligence.

These are some of the absurdities that Carroll’s thesis leads to. We could have a field day with this. There could even be a flying spaghetti monster that controlled everything in some universe.

”KF: in short, you dismiss, refusing to address what was SHOWN,”

- Refusing to adress? Do you remember me pointing out that there is a definite difference between the two scenarios you presented? You know, the argument you keep ignoring?

”Let’s just highlight, too, that a set of steps up a ladder say is a causal succession. In reaching to you, there is a definite succession of generational steps going back through OOL and OO solar system, galaxy and observed cosmos. Presumably, for you, it goes on beyond that forever.”

- Maybe. I find it logically possible atleast.

” My point is simply to highlight that we do have successive steps and point out that stepping down 0, -1, -2, etc is not traversible back-ways”

- I’ve already conceded that it’s not possible to traverse the sequence backwards. But again, how is it relevant? Do you remember the difference I pointed out? It’s crucial, yet you continue to ignore it.

” or in actual forward causal succession { . . . grands, parents, you . . .} ”

- And the two scenarios ain’t equivalent as I showed earlier. Yet you continue to claim so without any basis whatsoever.

S: Your dismissiveness from 11 on has been responded to at 23 above. The basic problem you are ducking, dodging and dismissing is the traversing of an infinite succession of causal steps one by one: it cannot access historic time even the finitely remote origin of the observable cosmos. Cf Durston also. KF

PS: Just to document again, here is 23:

__________

S:

Just to highlight what is going on, I clip yours at 11:

>> KF: ”An infinite succession cannot be completely traversed in successive steps.”

S: – Baseless assertion.[--> note the hyperskeptical brush aside] >>KF: in short, you dismiss, refusing to address what was SHOWN, that there will always at any finite stage in the succession, be aleph null steps remaining, a point shown by the Hilbert Hotel example you also dismiss [--> I add here, this was shown above and also in Durston]

>> KF: ”The logical point then comes out most simply by reversing the count: . . . -(n+1), -n, . . . -3, -2, -1, 0. Put in one-to one match. If the steps cannot be traversed forwards, neither can it be traversed back-ways: -aleph-null, -aleph-null less 1, . . . -2, -1, 0. ”

S: –

Baseless assertionand a strawman yet again. Who has claimed that you have to start traversing? Do you know what an infinite past mean? Let the negative integers represent the past, positive integers the future,whilst 0 is now, eg …-2, -1, 0, 1, 2…In what way is this scenario impossible? >>

KF: In the ways as already shown, of course. You confuse dismissal for well grounded refutation. Let’s just highlight, too, that a set of steps up a ladder say is a causal succession. In reaching to you, there is a definite succession of generational steps going back through OOL and OO solar system, galaxy and observed cosmos. Presumably, for you, it goes on beyond that forever. My point is simply to highlight that we do have successive steps and point out that stepping down 0, -1, -2, etc is not traversible back-ways or in actual forward causal succession { . . . grands, parents, you . . .} if not finite. (I am not talking about infinitesimals moving to finite limits here.)

But then, at this point, I suspect I am more speaking to the reasonable onlooker than to you, based on the tactics of hyperskeptical dismissal you have employed from the outset.

___________

The pattern is clear.

“Your dismissiveness from 11 on has been responded to at 23 above.”

- So being dismissive is defined as presenting a knockdown-argument? Ok, noted. And no, you havn’t responded to my argument. That is a lie, and you know it.

When are you going to realize that the two scenarios ain’t equivalent? You see, starting to traverse backwards from t=0, 0, -1. -2… is NOT the same as the following scenario: you NEVER start traversing, since you have ALWAYS been traversing. Simply showing that one cannot traverse an actual infinite by referring to scenario 1, doesn’t show that scenario 2 is impossible.

With regards to Durston, I’ve already responded to his argument on his blog.