Talk:Temporal finitism

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Yamara 21:31, 17 March 2008 (UTC)


All the stuff under "modern" looks pretty broken to me William M. Connolley (talk) 23:13, 24 March 2011 (UTC)


I don't have the time to find references and things, but i'm fairly sure that this is presenting some fringe ideas as mainstream. William Lane Craig, in particular, does not find general acceptance of his ideas amongst the secular philosophical community, and yet his ideas are presented as if they were accepted.

From a mathematical point of view, there are a number of points that should be made to tighten up the modern part: 0 Mathematics has more-or-less stopped debating whether "infinity" exists because the question is somewhat meaningless. in some situations, sets are defined for which an attempt to count them would never end. They are described as infinite, but the statement that "infinity does not exist therefore that set doesn't exist" is meaningless.

1 The entire argument appears to be against "actual infinity" as the duration of the universe, an idea which is clearly nonsensical. The text seems to imply that that means that the universe therefore has to have a beginning, which it doesn't. Therefore, it's not clear what relevance the statement that actual infinity cannot be reached by adding 1 successively to the conclusion they draw that therefore the universe had to have a beginning.

2 It is easy to imagine a logically consistent universe that has no beginning: for instance, it might be homomorphic with the set of natural numbers, and so any statement that appears to logically disprove the idea of a universe with no beginning must include a discussion of counter opinions.

3 The article neglects to point out that physicists are in agreement that the universe logically could have turned out to be infinite, but that the position has turned out to be difficult to defend against the evidence for the big bang (and thermodynamic questions)

4 It might be worth pointing out that current cosmological theories suggest that the universe will be infinite in time in the direction of the future.

5 All of the "absurdity" arguments such as the man counting from infinity to zero, should have their criticisms voiced: It is easy mathematically to conceive of a man, who at time t is currently counting down and is at the number of days until 2015-04-30. If you ask him why didn't he finish yesterday, he will simply reply "because I was at the number 1". Therefore, it is not clear in what way this is absurd, and in what way that absurdity has any relevance to whether time can be infinite in the past. You may as well ask what would happen if a man counted forwards from 1, starting today (since WLC seems to accept that the universe might be infinite in the future too?), and ask him why he started today.

6 The vast majority of the references in this section are from a small number of philosophers with a strong religious bias. (talk) 18:23, 30 April 2015 (UTC)

Able to be Clarified?[edit]

In the lede is the phrase "[...] who were unable to reconcile the Aristotelian conception of the eternal with the Abrahamic view of Creation."
Would it be more clear to the reader if that phrase was altered to "[...] who were unable to reconcile the Aristotelian conception of the eternal with the Abrahamic view of Creation, which held that time as finite." or some variation (exact phrasing isn't important as long as it conveys more clearly what the opposing views, that are being compared, were)? The only problem I see with the choice of words, that I above suggested being added, is that "finite" may not be the best choice since the Abrahamic concept of Creation only speaks about a beginning, and not about an end (which leaves the possibilities of both single-ended finite time, as well as double-ended finite time). Hopefully my explanations here were not too confusing (I don't think I expressed my thoughts too well here). — al-Shimoni (talk) 17:03, 23 December 2011 (UTC)

criticism of WLC[edit]

I found one paper that seems citeable and which goes through WLC's arguments in detail. There are many others, but they often focus on the whole of the kalam cosmological argument as made by WLC, and some of them are vaguely less citeable. In many cases, their validity rests on the fact that their criticisms are obviously logically sound (whereas a lot of WLC's are less logically sound), rather than because their author is well known and influential. This seems to be at least partly because WLC's work is not taken seriously in the philosophical community due to an obvious religious bias (and a willingness to overlook logical soundness because of it) and so serious criticism is less easy to come by. I've added the paper and a summary of it. I hope that my summary of that work is adequate. I will email the author of that paper and check that they consider my summary to be accurate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by H123 wiki (talkcontribs) 23:46, 1 May 2015 (UTC)

A criticism section in an article this short is going to give undue weight.--TMD Talk Page. 23:52, 2 May 2015 (UTC)
I would say that we need to have criticism on this page, although perhaps the criticism should be embedded in the main text rather than as a section to itself. Either way, the criticism should be there: Kant's views on this are hardly accepted as uncriticiseable, and WLC's views are so non-mainstream that to leave them on the page without criticism is misleading and one sided. I've tentatively reinstated my original article. Maybe we can get a 3rd party to make a decision.H123 wiki (talk) 08:34, 3 May 2015 (UTC)
Again, I am not say8ing that the position is beyond criticism, but that a criticism section is inappropriate for this, so I will not allow that edit to stand. And since you are a single-purpose editor, I suggest you let this go.--TMD Talk Page. 11:59, 3 May 2015 (UTC)

Let me explain why I think that this page has more importance, both in proposition and opposition than its current length suggests: This is an example of the cross-over between philosophy and physics, and is important in the philosophy and history of science. For instance, the big bang theory and its acceptance was obviously affected by Temporal finitism and infinitism. It is very closely related to spatial finitism, which had a similar effect on physicists, some of whom had initially assumed, for reasons similar to the rough arguments put forward by Kant &c, that an infinite universe was unlikely or impossible. These almost-logical arguments suggesting an absurdity, rather than mandating a contradiction have historically had more weight than they are merited, and the realisation of the scientific community that they cannot rule out any mathematically coherent theory at all --- even it if suggests very counter intuitive results, such as multiple universes, or time dilation, led to spectacular advances in the 20th century.

The page could eventually encompass some of this, in my view, or at least link to a page that discusses the influence of philosphy, both good and bad, on the history of science. I think that, like almost every page in the sciences, when an argument has a counter argument, both are on the wikipedia page. I would agree that more work is needed to find other references and expand both the proposing side and its criticism, but I don't think that it is constructive to simply remove the criticism section in this page without even discussing it.H123 wiki (talk) 08:49, 3 May 2015 (UTC)

TMD, this article is not too short to have a criticism section, and H123 is not required to get lost simply because he seems to be a single-purpose account. The criticism section might have to be shorter than it was, but there's nothing wrong with having that section if its contents are properly sourced. Temporal finitism is a concept, not a person or organization who we need to protect from undue negative content. In an article about a concept it's useful to describe that concept in the main sections of the article to describe what it is, and put criticism in a separate section. — Jeraphine Gryphon (talk) 12:28, 3 May 2015 (UTC)

To TMD: I am not a single-purpose editor, I am a person who has just started editing wikipedia. I joined originally because I saw that a topic that we debated in school, university and in my doctoral work (Theoretical physics) does not portray the state of the subject as accepted in physics. After some research, I discovered the not-so-surprising truth that mainstream philosophy considers william lane craig's arguments not to be even remotely watertight, and so I thought that this topic needs to be finished. Indeed, when I first saw it, there was an invitation at the top saying that the topic needs to be extended, and in the talk suggestion, someone had pointed out that the "modern" section was "broken", which I agree with. I am not a single-purpose editor simply because if I see other things that need to be changed in physics or philosophy of physics, I will change them. It seems a little bit as though you are fighting a war using the wrong tools: perhaps a counter-criticism section would be more appropriate than trying to remove the criticism section. For this reason, I have reinstated my original changes. I am open to someone with more authority on how these things are normally resolved to settle this for us. H123 wiki (talk) 14:25, 3 May 2015 (UTC)
One place to look for additional eyeballs could be the WikiProject Philosophy talk page. I would usually recommend a noticeboard but in this case I'm not sure which one. I just don't see where the problem is. — Jeraphine Gryphon (talk) 15:01, 3 May 2015 (UTC)

Louis J. Swingrover[edit]

Who is this person and why does his opinion matter? The source goes to which is a site where any academic can upload their writings. I think the writings in this article that rely on that source alone need to be seriously shortened. — Jeraphine Gryphon (talk) 15:15, 3 May 2015 (UTC)

Louis J. Swingrover answer[edit]

It does seem as though that is not a peer-reviewed article, and references to it might be shortened. Personally, I find that a shame, since his views seem very correct, in a field where an argument can be judged on its own merit, but I agree that it should be shortened. Another reference that I might summarise in its place is this: S Puryear - Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2014;FINITISM AND THE BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE;

The arguments put forward there are similar in that they point out that WLC's argument goes like this: More precisely, the argument can be put this way: 1. If the universe did not have a beginning, then the past would consist in an infinite temporal sequence of events. 2. An infinite temporal sequence of past events would be actually and not merely potentially infinite. 3. It is impossible for a sequence formed by successive addition to be actually infinite. 4. The temporal sequence of past events was formed by successive addition. 5. Therefore, the universe had a beginning.

and points 2,3 and 4 are not solid. The reference is better in that it talks a lot more about other authors than Swingrover does.

Let me see if I can re-jig the criticism part with this, and a much shorter Swingrover part.H123 wiki (talk) 21:15, 3 May 2015 (UTC)

yes, I've redone quite a bit there. But it's getting late, and I'm still missing parts (and I might have to reread it in the morning). The remaining point I'd like to get referenced is the point that one can just assert that tristram shandy's story assumes that tristram shandy had a beginning, otherwise it's not possible, and this doesn't lead to an impossibility of temporal infinity, just an impossibility of tristram shandy. H123 wiki (talk) 22:30, 3 May 2015 (UTC)
and I've added another reference. The problem is that each reference seems to uncover a bit more of the story, and it's difficult to summarise what normally turn out to be long, really long, discussions succinctly, without hideously over-simplifying things. Life would be easier if philosophers accepted that "if X is mathematically coherent, then it is possible". Given that each reference seems to have 2 more that discuss it in turn, and each one is twice as long as the previous, it seems that the task of representing this field in a wiki post may continue unendingly.H123 wiki (talk) 01:24, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Hey, good job. — Jeraphine Gryphon (talk) 07:50, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

New Ideas for This Page[edit]

I am afraid that the article mainspace might be too ambitious in its current state. Instead of trying to succinctly summarize the many twists and turns in the scholarly literature concerning arguments for a finite past, I think it would be more helpful for readers to simply summarize the main lines of argument for a finite past and the principal objections that have been raised against them; that way readers can learn about this subject without getting bogged down in some of the scholarly literature's more obscure rabbit trails.

Also, I would like to rename the section titles to the more apt "Medieval background," "Modern revival," and "Critical reception." TheNewSaadia (talk) 17:24, 31 December 2015 (UTC)

Tristram Shandy[edit]

I cut:

The Tristram Shandy paradox also illustrates the absurdity of an infinite past. Bertrand Russell asks us to imagine Tristram Shandy, an immortal man who writes his biography so slowly that for every day that he lives, it takes him a year to record that day. Suppose that Shandy had always existed. Since there is a one-to-one correspondence between the number of past days and the number of past years on an infinite past, one could reason that Shandy could write his entire autobiography.[1] From another perspective, Shandy would only get farther and farther behind, and given a past eternity, would be infinitely far behind.[2]

There's quite a lot wrong with it. Firstly, also illustrates the absurdity of an infinite past makes it appear as though this makes an infinite past absurd. That would imply that the argument can be settled, by pure reason. However, we all know it can't be. Second, this is merely yet another paradox-of-infinity, no more interesting or unusual than "are there more integers or square integers?" I don't have access to BR. I suspect that he merely raises it in the std-paradox-of-infinity line William M. Connolley (talk) 18:11, 31 December 2015 (UTC)

I haven't cut, but probably ought to, Craig asks us to suppose that we met a man who claims to have been counting down from infinity and is now just finishing because it is stupid. Its yet another in the very many "oh dear isn't infinity odd" quasi-paradoxes. The "solution" is that it isn't possible to start counting down from infinity, any more than its possible to write down the digits of pi backwards William M. Connolley (talk) 18:19, 31 December 2015 (UTC)

Greetings William M. Connolley. I am sorry, but I don't agree with editing this material from the Modern revival section given that (1) this is an argument frequently discussed in the scholarly literature, and (2) scholarly criticism of this argument is mentioned (and/or alluded to) in the Critical reception section. If scholarly criticism of this argument merits attention then a brief summary of the argument should also be mentioned in order to motivate the scholarly criticism that follows (if nothing else).
Also, I understand that you may personally think there is "quite a lot wrong" with these sorts of arguments, and that you may find some of them to be "stupid." But these personal opinions/feelings/judgments of yours are not what matters in editing WP—what matters is what can be established by reliable sources and is considered relevant in the eyes of academic scholars per WP's academic bias. Hence, I am going to restore this material to the page. TheNewSaadia (talk) 00:32, 1 January 2016 (UTC)
If you think it should go back - and if its widely used, it probably should - then it needs better context. It cannot be inserted, as it was, as a clear proof of the absurdity of an infinite past. Because it isn't; its just proof that many philosopher's don't understand infinity William M. Connolley (talk) 11:21, 1 January 2016 (UTC)
Hello again William. I agree that the argument needs better context; however, I don't think any of the arguments mentioned in the article mainspace are summarized all that well. There is a lot of room for improvement in this entry, hence my desire to work on it. In any case, I am quite confident that readers of this entry won't come away thinking that there is a "clear proof" for a finite past given the litany of scholarly criticisms mentioned in the Critical reception section.
The Tristram Shandy argument features prominently in the scholarly literature because more recent versions of the argument do not turn on a certain claim about infinity (as in earlier versions), but on a certain claim about the modal structure of the past. Indeed, the main point of the criticism attributed to Graham Oppy at the very end of the Critical reception section is not that the argument misconstrues the metaphysics of infinity, but that it depends on an unsupported modal claim which is "not necessarily true."
For what it's worth, I also think that the series of arguments given for a finite past listed in the article mainspace are not very convincing (or at least they are not very convincing to me); however, what matters for the purposes of editing WP is not what I personally find convincing, but what can be established by reliable sources in accordance with WP's academic bias. TheNewSaadia (talk) 15:16, 1 January 2016 (UTC)

OK, sooo... the crit rec section: 3. It is impossible for a sequence formed by successive addition to be actually infinite... Puryear points out that... the most contentious is point 3... "Consider the fact that things move from one point in space to another. In so doing, the moving object passes through an actual infinity of intervening points. Hence, motion involves traversing an actual infinite. This (like so much of the article, and quite possibly so much of the philosophy) confuses maths and physical reality; and this particular bit is distinctly muddled between integer and real maths. For example, the moving object passes through an actual infinity of intervening points is only true if you believe the real physical world is non-granular; yet it fails to point that out. More importantly, it fails to understand what the original point 3 is saying, which is that finite addition of finite numbers doesn't lead to infinity; which is true, but irrelevant; because all that is being done is adding {0} to {...-3, -2, -1}. The {0} doesn't "complete" anything, nor does it transform a finite thing into an infinite thing William M. Connolley (talk) 15:51, 1 January 2016 (UTC)

Actually, Puryear points out at the bottom of page 5 of this preprint of his paper that one can reply to this concern by saying (along with Whitrow) that "space and time are discrete," so that the passage of time does not constitute a literal continuum. He does not consider this type of response at length in the paper because he is more interested in teasing out the ramifications for the more Aristotelian type of response that Craig prefers. The subtle nature of Puryear's true aim in that paper is not reflected in the WP entry, because the latter is poorly written.
In any case, this is all beside the point vis-á-vis the Tristram Shandy argument because—as Morriston points out on page 15 of this paper published in Philo (see page 11 of the PDF file)—that argument is not an attempt to show that an infinite series cannot be formed by successive addition/synthesis (contra Craig). On the contrary, Morriston emphasizes in that article that this is a different sort of argument, as I was saying in the earlier comment above.
Believe it or not, the philosophers who work in this area are generally not ignorant of the advancements that have taken place in modern mathematics. Craig himself demonstrates awareness of how transfinite cardinals/ordinals are handled in modern set theory in his first book on this subject (published in 1979). The question that is almost never at issue in these sorts of scholarly discussions concerns the mathematics of infinity, but the metaphysics of infinity. If that makes no sense to you, and you haven't spent much time reading this type of scholarly literature (perhaps because you don't think it's worth your time), then I am not sure why you are editing this page. TheNewSaadia (talk) 17:07, 1 January 2016 (UTC)
I'm editing this page to make it better. Weirdly enough. Shall we have this as a nice polite discussion where we don't disparage each other's motives? William M. Connolley (talk) 19:06, 1 January 2016 (UTC)
Sure, I would like to see this page improve as well and work amicably with those who are like-minded. More specifically, I would like to see this page faithfully reflect the scholarly discussion insofar as that can be neatly summarized for readers per WP's academic bias and neutrality policies. Hence, I have no problem with editing material from this page on the basis that it plays only a tangential or non-existent role in the aforementioned scholarly discussion, but I do have a problem with editing material on the basis that an editor finds it unconvincing. Verifiability, not truth, is one of the core criteria for inclusion in WP, which means that editors "may not add their own views to articles simply because they believe them to be correct, and may not remove sources' views from articles simply because they disagree with them."
So, yes, let's be nice, please. TheNewSaadia (talk) 21:56, 1 January 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ Russel, Bertrand (1937). The Principles of Mathematics, 2nd Edition. London: George Allen. p. 358. ISBN 978-0393002492. 
  2. ^ Craig, edited by William Lane; Moreland, J.P. (2011). The Blackwell companion to natural theology ([Pbk. ed.] ed.). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 121. ISBN 978-1444350852. 


As anyone familiar with Jagged85 might expect, the refs to Al-and-so-on were inserted by him [1]. I'm going to take them out; not because I know for certain that they are wrong, but because they're unreliable from such a source. Feel free to re-introduce, providing you have personally checked that they are valid William M. Connolley (talk) 21:41, 31 December 2015 (UTC)

Agree Peter Damian (talk) 16:02, 2 January 2016 (UTC)


I see this almost entirely overlaps with Eternity of the world, which was written by User:Editor with a background in philosophy, who he? Ideally they would be merged. I need to check if 'temporal finitism' is a recognized name for the subject. Peter Damian (talk) 16:05, 2 January 2016 (UTC)

Google eternity of the world has fewer, and generally less reliable sources than Google temporal finitism. Peter Damian (talk) 16:09, 2 January 2016 (UTC)

Well spotted. Clearly the two should be merged, though in which direction? I don't greatly care. FWIW, pretty well the only thing User:Editor with a background in philosophy did was Eternity of the world William M. Connolley (talk) 17:33, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
Ha ha. Peter Damian (talk) 18:13, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
The problem with Eternity of the World is that there is no agreed term for its opposite, unless it is 'Temporal finitude of the world'. If you follow the Google link, you see that the classical term is 'Eternity of the World', which I would prefer, if the articles could be successfully merged. Peter Damian (talk) 18:16, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
I disagree with this idea for a couple of reasons. First of all, the two issues are clearly distinct and, therefore, require separate articles. In particular, contemporary analytic philosophers (like William Lane Craig) recognize in their published work that the world may have begun to exist without there being such a beginning for time itself (I can provide references to the academic literature if challenged on this point), hence even if it was known with certainty that the philosophical doctrine of the world's eternity is false it does not necessarily follow that the doctrine of temporal finitism is true. Secondly, the question of the world's eternity figures much more prominently in the academic disciplines of historical theology and philosophy of history, as some of the world's major religions take a stand on this issue, while the question of whether time itself had a beginning figures much more prominently in current scholarly discussions pertaining to the metaphysics of time. Hence, the issues are not handled (or discussed) in quite the same way among scholars. TheNewSaadia (talk) 15:11, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

Some kind of link to physics[edit]

This article shouldn't exist in a kind of philosophical ghetto, so it needs some kind of link back to modern physics; my Modern Cosmogony accepts finitism, in the form of the big bang, but on physical rather than philosophical grounds is an attempt to do that (without getting into some complex argument about whether the std big bang does indeed imply finite time). What this article lacks is some kind of "history of acceptance of the concept", or "history of how the concept was thought about". By which I mean: once upon a time it was purely in the realm of philosophy, and that's what this article is about at present. Nowadays, its not pure philosophy; its also part of physics. I don't know - and reading the article doesn't enlighten me, so that's a flaw - whether "modern philosophy" regards the issue as resolved (by physics, in favour of finite) or resolved (by philosophy, in either direction) or unresolved, or just not very interesting any more William M. Connolley (talk) 18:02, 2 January 2016 (UTC)

There is the same problem with Free Will and Infinity. The big question is whether the physical conception and the philosophical one are really the same. If the same, then we deal with the philosophical as 'history'. If different (as I believe they are), then two separate articles. However, as you note, this article is mostly about the philosophical problem. Let me think about it. Time for supper. Peter Damian (talk) 18:19, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
I am afraid that this idea is mistaken and that the question of whether time itself had a beginning is a purely philosophical one. The problem is that, as various contemporary analytic philosophers recognize, the world may have had a beginning even if time itself did not (I can provide references to the academic literature if challenged on this point). And the subdiscipline of cosmology within modern physics only speaks to the issue of whether the world had a beginning. Hence, I think there should be some "kind of link to [modern] physics" in the article devoted to the question of whether the world had a beginning, but not in the article devoted to the question of whether time itself had a beginning. TheNewSaadia (talk) 15:21, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

What of the future?[edit]

The arguments for finitism in the past are equivalent to arguments about the future, simply reflected in the time axis. I'm curious if anyone familiar with the history of this knows if people did indeed apply the same arguments to demonstrate that time must come to an end? William M. Connolley (talk) 20:40, 2 January 2016 (UTC)

The philosophical argument depends on our conscious perception of time, which is not symmetrical. A traversal of the infinite is supposedly impossible because we could never get here to where we are. That's the argument. As I pointed out, it was rejected by a number of medieval philosophers. One argument for infinitude was that if the universe started at a particular time t, there must have been a time before that. Augustine objected that time itself might also have started at t. Leibniz had another objection, based on the principal of sufficient reason. Peter Damian (talk) 22:17, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
I just remembered that Lichtenberg asks why, given that the hereafter is infinite, and that the past is finite, we are not in the hereafter already? Peter Damian (talk) 12:22, 3 January 2016 (UTC)


I propose to copy over the text of the Medieval Section into Eternity of the world, as this is what the question was known as in the Middle Ages (and Philoponus actually calls his treatise On the Eternity of the World against Aristotle. Once I have edited this into the article, we can discuss moving the remainder. Note that this article is about a thesis or doctrine, namely temporal finitism, whereas the other article is about a question, which is neutral about whether the world has existed eternally or not.Peter Damian (talk) 16:54, 3 January 2016 (UTC)

See also Cosmic age problem and Age of the universe. Peter Damian (talk) 17:18, 3 January 2016 (UTC)

Interesting history[edit]

There is an interesting history to this, which I was never aware of, which is scattered and Wikipedia and elsewhere, but never captured in a single article, which I briefly summarise in the following timeline:

  • Aristotle argues in the Physics and elsewhere that the universe is infinitely old.
  • In the early (Arab) and middle period of the Middle Ages, probably influenced by theological concerns, it is accepted that the world is finitely old.
  • Difficult to find much immediately after the scholastic period. Astronomers such as Newton are silent on the age question.
  • James Ussher (1581 – 1656) famously pronounces the world to have begun in B.C.E 4004. However, the development of chronologies predates Ussher by some way.
  • The next advances are in geology. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-88) estimates the earth's age to be 75,000 years by calculating its time of cooling from the molten state.
  • James Hutton (1726 -1726) proposes an indefinitely old earth. See Uniformitarianism.
  • Wilhelm Olbers (1758–1840) discovers the "dark night sky paradox", i.e. that the darkness of the night sky conflicts with the assumption of an infinite and eternal static universe. If the universe is static, homogeneous at a large scale, and populated by an infinite number of stars, any sight line from Earth must end at the (very bright) surface of a star, so the night sky should be completely bright. This contradicts the observed darkness of the night! (N.b. "Thomas Digges wrote about it in 1576, Kepler stated it in 1610, and Edmund Halley and Jean Philippe de Cheseaux talked about it in the 1720's, but Olbers stated it very clearly, so he was given credit for it. ") But an infinitely old universe means that there has been plenty of time for the light from every star that has ever shined to reach our eyes.
  • 1831: Charles Lyell (1797-1875) arrives at an age of 240 million years based on fossils of marine mollusks.
  • Kelvin (1824 –1907) takes on the uniformitarians, arguing that the geothermal gradient—the rate at which temperature rises with depth in the Earth—must depend on the time elapsed since the planet was a uniformly hot ball of molten rock. He eventually arrives at an age of 20m years for the Earth. It is essentially this form of reasoning that all modern arguments are based, yet ironically Kelvin was a devout Christian who saw his Christian faith as informing his scientific work, which broadly supported creationism.
  • In 1895, Kelvin's former assistant John Perry (1850–1920) challenges Kelvin's assumption of low thermal conductivity inside the Earth, thus disputing Kelvin's estimate of 20m years. "Perry's reasoning held that if the interior of the Earth was fluid, or partly fluid, it would transfer heat much more effectively than the conductivity which Kelvin assumed, and he stated that "much internal fluidity would practically mean infinite conductivity for our purpose." However, this does not challenge the fundamental conclusion that the age of the earth must be finite.
    • Kelvin eventually admitted that his age of the Earth and the Sun were incorrect because each has an additional energy source (nuclear fusion for the Sun and radioactive decay for the Earth). Ernest Rutherford was instrumental in demonstrating that the nuclear energy was of the right scale and sort to resolve this problem and the story goes that Kelvin was more or less satisfied by Rutherford's resolution of the "debate" shortly before he died. I do not think that Kelvin's religious proclivities played a major role in his mathematical argumentation and the hundreds of million to billion year timeframes that his opponents argued for was no obstacle in principle to Kelvin's faith (unlike the anachronistic arguments of Young Earth Creationists). jps (talk) 22:18, 3 January 2016 (UTC)
      • Yep but I am also looking at this which has an interesting take of the radioactivity bit Peter Damian (talk) 22:39, 3 January 2016 (UTC)
    • See also: Cosmology#Historical cosmologies. jps (talk) 22:20, 3 January 2016 (UTC)
    • Another wrinkle to add to this discussion is the 1950s argument between Steady State Universe theorists (typified by Fred Hoyle, Hermann Bondi, and Thomas Gold) and Big Bang theorists (typified by Ralph Alpher, George Gamow, and Dave Wilkinson). The philosophical part of this argument centered around two differing formulations of the Cosmological Principle. The Steady Staters argued in favor of the "Perfect Cosmological Principle" which proposed that the universe was homogeneous and isotropic in both space AND time. The Big Bang, on the other hand, demanded an evolutionary characteristic to the universe which typifies our current mysteries regarding the arrow of time (and was argued to be self-evident by the cosmologists who pointed out that we do know the difference between the past and the future). To the extent that the Big Bangers were correct and the Steady Staters were incorrect, one could say that the rejection of temporal symmetry on cosmological scales typifies Davies' comments about there necessarily being a "beginning", but most cosmologists I know would only argue in favor of there necessarily being a "progression" which is to say that end points are ill-determined even while it is possible to identify which state of the universe came before/after another state. jps (talk) 23:06, 3 January 2016 (UTC)
    • I was just reminded of this Guth essay. jps (talk) 20:09, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

Modern Cosmogony accepts finitism?[edit]

From the lead:

Modern Cosmogony accepts finitism, in the form of the big bang, rather than Steady State theory which allows for an infinite univierse (sic)

From Cosmonogy:

Cosmologist and science communicator Sean M. Carroll explains two competing types of explanations for the origins of the singularity which is the main disagreement between the scientists who study cosmogony and centers on the question of whether time existed "before" the emergence of our universe or not.

So what is it? Didn't Penrose propose a model where the end of one universe became the big bang of the next one? Prevalence (talk) 08:13, 5 January 2016 (UTC)

See the section "Some kind of link to physics" above William M. Connolley (talk) 09:48, 5 January 2016 (UTC)
Ah, sorry, I missed that. Hadn't noticed how recent the discussions and latest edits were either, mea culpa. I see the problem now. There's also the question of whether theories about events before the big bang can really be considered physics/science, if they don't make predictions that can be tested (Penrose thinks they do but I haven't seen much support for his views, most people seem to think that no information could be transferred between the aeons in his model). Where does physics end and philosophy begins? ... Prevalence (talk) 13:47, 5 January 2016 (UTC)
I disagree with this addition to the lead section on the basis that the question of whether time itself had a beginning is a purely philosophical one. The problem is that, as various contemporary analytic philosophers recognize, the world may have had a beginning even if time itself did not (I can provide references to the academic literature if challenged on this point). And the subdiscipline of cosmology within modern physics only speaks to the issue of whether the world had a beginning. Hence, I think there should be some kind of link to modern physics in the article devoted to the question of whether the world had a beginning, but not in the article devoted to the question of whether time itself had a beginning. TheNewSaadia (talk) 15:25, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
You disagree; but who elected you arbiter of this article's meaning? William M. Connolley (talk) 22:16, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Obviously, no one is arbiter of this article's meaning; however, consensus is "the primary way decisions are made" on WP according to WP:CON. And I have provided you with an argument to the effect that modern physics may be pertinent to the question of the world's eternity, but not the question of whether time itself had a beginning (i.e. the doctrine of temporal finitism). If you desire to include references to modern physical cosmology in the article devoted to the world's eternity, I would have no problem with that, as such references would be relevant there. Please address the argument(s) I've provided on this talk page so that we can reach some kind of consensus. TheNewSaadia (talk) 13:15, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't understand your separation of "space" or "world" and "time", above. You're not back in Newtonian physics, are you? William M. Connolley (talk) 10:17, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
No. These concepts have the potential to come apart so long as we define "world" to mean the sum total of the physical universe, as there might be non-physical states of affairs that obtained in reality prior to the physical universe. On the other hand, these concepts cannot possibly come apart in the case where we define "world" to mean the sum total of the temporal universe, as the beginning of the temporal universe will necessarily involve the beginning of time itself. The problem is that when modern physicists speak of the world/universe in their scholarly work it's always with the former sense of the word in mind and not the latter, hence even if they establish that the world/universe had a beginning it will not necessarily follow that time is finite in the past. TheNewSaadia (talk) 12:37, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
That is self contradictary. You claim to be in "space time " physics, but then you claim to be able to separate the two. From a physical point of view this makes no sense; from a philosophical viewpoint I think its just a pile of complicated words which are nonsense, but not easily seen to be such. Assuming that we don't agree on this point - it seems unlikely - we're left with what to do with the article William M. Connolley (talk) 12:43, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
How is it "self contradictory," exactly? For myself and many others, time is a relation that orders the various states of affairs that obtain in reality, so I reject any such absolutist/Newtonian view of time. TheNewSaadia (talk) 13:24, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
If you accept the standard physics viewpoint that time doesn't exist alone, only as spacetime, how can you talk about time without space? William M. Connolley (talk) 20:14, 25 January 2016 (UTC)

Message to William M. Connolley[edit]

Dear @William M. Connolley,

I would appreciate it if you would be willing to interact with the concerns I've raised on this talk page. As you can see by the above comments, I have concerns with your addition to the lead section as well as your idea of merging this article with the Eternity of the world article. If you're not willing to discuss the matter with other editors here, I don't see why you're recent edits to this article should remain.

My desire for this article is that it accurately reflects the current state of the scholarly discussion around the question of temporal finitism in the philosophical literature (or "ghetto," as you might call it). From my point of view, modern physics/astronomy/cosmology are almost entirely irrelevant to this question for reasons already mentioned above. Also, while there is a relationship between the doctrine of temporal finitism and that of the world's eternity in the sense that if the former is true then it follows that the latter must be false, these are still distinct issues that require separate articles since the converse is not necessarily true (i.e. if the latter doctrine is false then the former doctrine might still be false). These doctrines are not logically equivalent, hence they are not different ways of saying the same thing! Finally, the question of the world's eternity is of obviously greater theological concern than that of temporal finitism, as the former doctrine shows up in key religious texts like Genesis 1:1 while the latter doesn't. I would imagine that an article devoted to the ancient question of the world's eternity would make reference to such texts, in contrast with an article devoted to a more exclusively philosophical question like temporal finitism.


TheNewSaadia (talk) 17:05, 21 January 2016 (UTC)

Patience, glasshopper William M. Connolley (talk) 22:17, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
Okay. :) TheNewSaadia (talk) 00:47, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Your message is puzzling. I've no idea why you think I'm not prepared to discuss these things. I'm pleased that you've stopped edit warring over the tags, and hope that you've realised that they are appropriately placed to suggest a merge, but don't determine one. You and PD and I clearly disagree; hopefully other people will chip in, which is what the tags are to encourage. it is not obvious why you think your view will definitely prevail William M. Connolley (talk) 21:26, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Well, I would imagine that you might want to debate/discuss the merits of the proposal on this talk page (perhaps one of us could change each other's mind). In any case, I am done edit warring over the tag. TheNewSaadia (talk) 15:35, 23 January 2016 (UTC)