Most knowledgeable people acknowledge that theoretically, at least on paper, the concept of infinity has merit, even if it’s hard to pin down. Some, however, say that this concept presents a logical contradiction. There can’t be an actual infinity, so there had to be an “in the beginning”, a first cause, but 1) how do you create something out of nothing and 2) what was the first cause that caused the first cause? What follows arises from my point of view in a discussion I had with an accidental metamedic which I have hopefully edited for clarity.
# Defining Infinity
Actually, people (philosophers, mathematicians, and others) differ on the definition of infinite series, or rather the concept of infinity. Many tend to opt for the philosophical or mathematical definition that has infinity as a concept, not a number. I (and others) have gone with the practical definition which is akin to no matter how far you go (in time or space), you can always go even further, and further with no end in sight.
I will hold firm that infinity exists in a real-world practical sense, even if not in a philosophical sense. I define infinity along the lines that if it doesn’t matter how far you go (in time and/or in space) you can go further and further and further again and again, that’s a real, working, practical definition of infinity. . This works for me. I could care less if it doesn’t work for others.
# Infinity and the Ultimate Greatest Being (God)
My view remains that if the cosmos and everything in it is infinite (in a practical sense), then there is no need for any first cause, and therefore there was nothing that actually created our cosmic something. There is no requirement for a maximally greater Being (i.e. God)
Our cosmos cannot be infinite according to some like my ‘Accident Metaphysician’, therefore it was created by a Maximally Greater Being. The cosmos had a beginning. Any Maximally Greatest Being must be eternal but cannot be infinite (since infinity is just a concept). However, any Maximally Greater Being could NOT have been created in itself (according to my ‘Accident Metaphysician’) as you cannot create yourself. Therefore, any Maximally Great Being did NOT have a beginning. Therein lies a contradiction! Two things are linked, the cosmos and its Maximally Greatest Being, as both are NOT infinite, but one had an “in the beginning” and the other did not. That doesn’t make sense, so crazy about it!
# Eternal life?
Someone who “never died” would have an infinite life. An infinite lifetime could deal with an infinite series (just like a finite lifetime can deal with a finite series).
But I note here that those who argue that an actual infinity is impossible often fail to address the concept of an eternal (infinite) life after death. Do you or do you not get eternal life or everlasting life when and if you go to Heaven? If not, then you only get a finite heavenly life in the afterlife. Then what is? True believers clearly must believe their Ultimate Greatest Self when He says that you will get eternal life or eternal life after you leave this mortal body, but on the other hand they also argue or say that the eternal or the eternal (synonyms of infinity) is not possible. . Therefore, they should kindly clarify which point of view they logically believe in, or they don’t really understand what it is, as their worldviews are apparently in contradictory conflict.
Translated, my accident metaphysician believes that his afterlife (assuming an afterlife) will be finite, which seems to fly in the face of the biblical words “eternal” or “everlasting.” So be it. In a sense, I hope he’s right, since an infinite afterlife would be absolutely boring, since whatever you do, I guess you do things in an afterlife, you’ve already done it an infinite number of times before. However, that is a separate issue from an infinite cosmos or an infinite sky. In an infinite cosmos, you can go in and out of existence an infinite number of times, but you are lucky not to have to remember all those previous existences, which you could not do in any case since the memory capacity of the brain is finite and therefore could not cope with an infinite number of past or previous memories.
In conclusion, one can go through an infinite series if one is immortal and thus has an infinite amount of time to play. Doesn’t the Maximally Greatest Being promise eternal life or eternal life or eternal life or eternal life, or do you only get a finite existence in Heaven? Counting all the digits of Pi could give those with eternal life something useful to do in their eternal afterlife.
# Infinite in time and/or space (i.e. spatial infinity / temporal infinity)
If it can’t cross any boundaries with the Universe, that establishes that, for all practical purposes, the Universe is infinite (at least in space). A rose by any other name seems to apply here.
My little red rose whispers to me that if there are no limits then you have a state of eternity and eternity is for me and for my little red rose synonymous with the term infinity or infinity.
Infinity means there is no end point. That in itself does not exclude that the cosmos is spatially or temporally infinite. However, I do not subscribe to the idea that the present moment constitutes an end point of everything that preceded it. There is no such thing as “the present moment”, which has to be a kind of “boundary” between a past that no longer exists and a future that does not yet exist*.
Because producing an effect slides over a time interval. You’re driving, you see the green light turn yellow, you apply the brakes and come to a stop. You’re the cleanup hitter and you see the pitcher finish and throw the ball and you swing and hit a home run. Each of these events slides over a time interval. There was no “present moment”. If there is such a thing as “the present moment”, what is it? Is it five minutes long; five seconds long; a duration of half a second; 0.05 seconds; 0.005 seconds; 0.005 seconds? Is there such a thing as “the present moment” or does the past slide into the future infinitely fast?
# Infinity in Cosmology
You can never really know if something, like the cosmos, is infinite, as there is always more to explore. Therefore, you cannot conclude in any way whether the cosmos is really infinite or not. Only if you hit a boundary, in space or time (as in a First Cause) can you absolutely conclude that the cosmos is not infinite. Just because you can never get an infinite journey to its conclusion doesn’t necessarily mean that infinity isn’t really the state of affairs.
# Infinity and Cosmologists
Some say that the subject of infinity is not within the realm of cosmology. The accidental metaphysician suggests that the concept of infinity lies outside the realm of cosmology as it is just a mathematical/philosophical concept without any real reality. Since there can be no reality to infinity, it has no place in cosmology nor should cosmologists consider it.
Cosmologists may or may not disagree. That is for them to decide, no one else.
IMHO, the concept of infinity in space and/or time falls within the jurisdiction of cosmology and cosmologists. Obviously, mathematics/philosophy and its associated mathematicians/philosophers also play with the concept. The concept does not have to be intellectually confined to this or that profession.
Infinity may be a mathematical/philosophical concept, but if it has relevant applications to theories about the nature of the cosmos, then infinity is fair game for cosmologists to ponder and redefine as they see fit. In any case, just to repeat the obvious, what cosmologists want to ponder or not ponder is absolutely none of the business of non-cosmologists.
Ah, but are professional cosmologists even academically qualified to ponder the mathematical/philosophical concept of infinity? Now some cosmologists might or might not disagree with that reasoning. Again, that’s for them to debate with the skeptics. But, I will point out in passing, to be a professional cosmologist requires extensive coursework in higher or advanced mathematics; no doubt many cosmologists have studied philosophy, especially the philosophy of science, and metaphysics. If cosmologists wish to get lyrical about the concept of infinity, they are within their rights: freedom of expression applies here. If professional mathematicians and/or professional metaphysicians wish to debate them, that is also their right.
To repeat the obvious, cosmologists have the right to freak out over infinity if they want to. If every cosmologist wrote a textbook on the reality of traversing an infinite series, well, somehow I think civilization would manage.
Now there is an interesting “Twilight Zone” aspect to an infinite cosmos as postulated by some cosmologists. All configurations of matter and energy would have to reoccur, and therefore you and I would have to reoccur, and therefore we’ve had this discussion before, and before that, and before that in the future. That also gives us another future that is looking forward to us!
# Final thoughts and conclusions: What is infinity?
1: The cosmos is everything that is, was, or will be. REASON: there is no structure greater than everything that is, was or everything that will be. We call that larger structure the cosmos. The cosmos is 100% of everything that is, was, or will be.
2: Space is infinite. REASON: No matter how far you go into space, you can always go further and further and further. There is no limit you meet. It may not be a mathematical or metaphysical definition of infinity, but it is a practical definition, a definition that reflects reality, not philosophical mumbo jumbo. Speaking of philosophy, it also eliminates that awkward question of “what lies beyond the horizon?” There is always beyond the horizon.
3: Time is infinite. REASON: No matter how far you go back in time, you can always go back further and further and further. There is no limit you meet. Again, it may not be a mathematical or metaphysical definition of infinity, but it is a practical definition, a definition that reflects reality, not philosophical mumbo jumbo. Speaking of philosophy, it also eliminates that awkward question of “what happened before that?” No matter where you are in time, there is always a before that.
Finally, any ultra-comprehensive and exhaustive statement that my pontification is not supported by modern science is nonsense, since not all modern scientists adopt the particular world view of my ‘friend’, the accidental metaphysician, as interviews, for example, on PBS. The ‘Big Questions’ TV show “Closer to Truth” demonstrates this more than adequately. It is very clear that others can and have questioned his supposed “indisputable” reasoning.
*The alternative concept is that there is nothing but “the present moment”. That nothing exists but “the present moment” is based on the logical but obvious observation that no one, no organism, nothing at all, living or nonliving, has ever existed and experienced anything other than “the present moment.” That’s all she wrote as you no longer have an existence in the past and no existence yet in the future.