Eternal Space Debris?


#1

Hi, I am a youth minister who tried to explain St. Thomas Aquinas’s First Cause argument. I was using Beginning Apologetics #4, but one of the kids pretty much stumped me. He argued that some matter that we may or may not be aware of could be eternal, and the cause of everything else. I think this was Hume’s argument, and the kid kept repeating that “Cause is a human argument” I have looked into this and the argument is that all matter can decay, so it is not eternal. I don’t understand this however, because space debris and dust obviously changes forms as it knocks together, floats into the sun, etc., but the matter is still there, it does not vanish, it just changes form. Is this correct? Without going into other arguments (I believe this argument can stand on its own feet), how do I explain this to a 15 year old? Thanks in advance. :thumbsup:
Dave


#2

Yes, I think that’s one of the conservation laws of physics. Matter / Energy can change form but it continues to exist. Matter is neither created nor destroyed, (although it can be converted to energy and vice-versa.) At the quantum level, equal and opposite particles could in effect anhiliate each other, but in that case an equal amount of energy is created.

But that has nothing to do with Aquinas’ argument, which is that nothing we know of (except God) contains within it’s own nature a sufficient reason for it’s own existence.


#3

Yep. Basically, we know that the matter is there now, but where did it all start? All the interactions in the universe are a long chain of cause and effect. But there must have been a first cause.

What people argue, then, is that the ‘first cause’ could have been purely a matter of chance, or of necessity, or bascially something other than who we say God is. It could even be that the universe has always existed, that it didn’t have a beginning. (after all, that’s what we teach about God isn’t it? That he doesn’t have a beginning).

However, there is a sort of physics argument that makes it harder to not believe in God. It also definitely refutes the idea that the universe has existed forever.

Basically, what you were talking about before is the first law of therodynamics. That the total amount of energy plus equivalent amounts of matter is constant, as they can only change form. However, there is a second law of thermodynamics, which relates to something called entropy. Entropy is basically the ‘wearing down’ of the universe, or some describe it as being an increase in chaos of the universe. How it works is that there is high quality energy and low quality energy. The lowest quality energy is heat. High quality includes kinetic, electrical, etc. Now, we can turn low quality energy back into high quality - like using steam to run a train, or using a refridgerator to make cold things colder and hot things hotter (the opposite of how it normally goes). But in order to do these things, we end up turning more high quality energy into low quality energy than we do the other way around - eg, using up the energy stored in the fuel of the train. So overall there is always a net decrease in the quality of energy in the universe. Or in other words, a net increase in entropy. Thats the second law of thermodynamics.

So the question is, where the heck did all this high quality energy come from, if the natural tendency of things is always to go to low quality? If there is anything in heaven or on earth that has existed forever, then it must be something that’s not subject to the second law of thermo. Something, then, that is not matter, and not energy. Maybe God then???


#4

The following article might be of interest:

The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe
by William Lane Craig - leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html

From the impossibilty of an “actual infinite regress” (the article explains this better than I could) and from the scientific evidence of a “Big Bang” at the start of our “expanding Universe” - it can be seen by extrapolating back in time from the motion of the Universe that all the mass of our exisitng Universe was at the beginning of “the Big Bang” compressed into an “infinitely dense point” - ie., a “mathematical point”…

(If we imagine something being compressed into an “infinitely dense ball”, if that ball has any volume as a sphere then that means it can still be compressed further)

and so essentially it can be seen that the Universe started “from nothing”.

Matter had a beginning, and it began “from nothing”…how did this happen? The article shows how the best explaination is the existence of a Personal God acting to cause the Big Bang and the beginning of the Universe.

Keep the Faith
jmt


#5

Your student wouldn’t be a fan of Ayn Rand, would he? I ask because the eternity of matter in the universe is one of their tenets—obviously in order to get around Aquinas’ First Cause.

His argument has flaws, above and beyond what others have pointed out. Let’s accept, for examination purposes, his premise, “Cause is a human argument”: If that’s the case, then we are will have to throw out a great deal of physics, not to mention just about everything else. To suggest that causality is merely a subjective human construct that is not verified by reality (which it is—there is nothing that we can observe that is not caused), is to suggest that entities exist both randomly and spontaneously, with the means to “come into existence” at their disposal. (Ask him if he was “caused” by his parents–or did he cause himself to be?) The problem with matter causing itself to come into existence is that it would have to exist first in order to cause itself to come into existence—because “causing” is an action, and only something that exists can act. Anyway, you can see that this is ludicrous—finite matter is caused. Humans merely observe causality; they don’t invent it.

Anyway, I’m no theologian or physicist—if I’ve gotten something wrong here, maybe the sharper minds here on the forum can correct any mistakes.


#6

[quote=Sherlock]Anyway, I’m no theologian or physicist.
[/quote]

No, but you are the world’s first and greatest consulting detective.

:thumbsup: VC


#7

Lately, I have been finding that if I START with an “explanation” of infinity (in every aspect… time, space, creativity, infinite number of dimensions [versus three or four], and every other measure of a person), it makes it easier to work backwards to mere “physics” and other finite aspects of the universe and of our academic studies.

I saw a TV show in which they were explaining the amount of sheer empty space within an atom. A nucleus and some “electrons” [statistical distribution of electrical charges] with a vast amount of empty space in between. One could make a case that we exist only in the imagination of an Infinite God… that we can’t define what really constitutes the thing we call “matter” and that “matter” is just empty space with artfully contrived and artfully arranged “electrons” [statistical distribution of “electricity”]. Along with some kind of something that passes for consciousness. And something else called “free will”.

Relate that construct to the notion of Infinity.

Relate a one dimensional “creature” … a dot… and how a one dimensional creature might struggle to describe three or four dimensions. And then ask a three or four dimensional creature to describe an infinite number of dimensions.

Really blows the mind, because it turns out we really don’t know very much.

It’s a lot of fun and puts “things” in “perspective.”


#8

[quote=Verbum Caro]No, but you are the world’s first and greatest consulting detective.

:thumbsup: VC
[/quote]

Oh, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that during my 43 years of existence…believe it or not, “Sherlock” really is my last name. It’s actually pretty handy: instead of having to spell out my name “S”…“H”…“E”…and so on when giving my name, I can just say, “Sherlock, as in Holmes” and that does the trick.


#9

dont forget about the “Heat Death” of the universe, where all matter and enery are equally distributed. This means there are no gradients for matter or energy to flow down and produce work.

its a paradox actually. like absolute zero.

absolute zero is impossible to achieve because ALL motion stops. but the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle says that we cannot know the exact position and momentum of a particle at the same time. hence, if all motion stops, we would be able to measure its position AND momentum (where the momentum and velocity is zero). So at absolutel zero, technically the particle would have no position that we could determine.

as well as the paradox of approaching the speed of light where the traveling body’s mass approaches infinity, and its length approaches zero. hence, some of the energy to accelerate the object is actually transformed into mass, and the object’s density rises faster that to the power of e. so it would require infinite energy to accelerate a body to the speed of light.

HOWEVER, photons are recongnized as having no mass, and are thus able to travel at the speed of light. figure a mass of 0 into reletivity and then solve the Schrodenger wavefunction equation for its probability distribution, and i think (not sure) you get a value that is an imaginary number, assuming you can separate and solve the Hammiltonian and estimate the Eigenfunctions. Once the hammiltonian is no longer a Hermitian Operator (a REAL number and not imaginary), quantum principles dont seem to work as well.

hence there is no reconciliation between reletivity and quantum mechanics. the attempt is called Grand Unification Theory (GUT). Newtonian mechanics are a special case (very low velocities) of reletivity.

GUT is sometimes called God’s Ultimate Test, meaning that it will probably be right near the end of Time before wed ever solve it. once we solve it, there would be almost nothing humans couldnt accomplish. Some say that time travel would be possible, and hence humans would be able to travel back in time and potentially prevent Jesus from living, and annihilating the possibility of Salvation.

now THERE is a theological equation to address and deliniate.


#10

Thank you all for your replies. I used the article mentioned by John Taylor to explain that the universe had to have a starting point. Thank you so much John. :thumbsup: I appreciate all your responses and the time you took to help me out. It seems everyone has an interest in this topic, and it made a successful youth night. I wish you all the best, may God reward you. :smiley:
-Dave


#11

I’m not sure what the Church would think but my personal understanding is that God is not simply infinite, but He is beyond infinite. Heaven is infinite in it’s vastness, Hell is too infinite in it’s vastness and some claim that space is infinite in vastness, which I agree because the existence of “nothing” surrounding “something” doesn’t quite make sense as the nothing would either destroy the something or visa-versa, also how can there be a nothing if nothing literally means not-existing? It’s (scientifically) impossible to have a nothing within the plane of existence… But how can there be more than one infinite if infinite means no end? It is possible because God makes it so, if I remember correctly God can do anything and I think the creation of multiple infinities, although difficult for the human mind to conceive, is quite simple for God. As far as matter not being able to be destroyed, I agree that natural causes, humans included, cannot destroy matter but one day when the story has come to an end I think God might destroy it all, but I may be wrong. And as far as matter existing for an infinite time, that depends on your perspective I guess, if God wanted to make an infinite reality of which there was always matter in existence for an infinite duration then I’m sure that would not be a challenge… but it still doesn’t dis-credit the existence of God :wink: God is paradoxical, and as impossible as it may sound He is the only one who can see the edge of infinity.


#12

[font=Verdana]But that has nothing to do with Aquinas’ argument, which is that nothing we know of (except God) contains within it’s own nature a sufficient reason for it’s own existence.

Exactly! Don’t get bogged down in PHYSICS arguments, people…what we are talking about is an issue of METAPHYSICS! We are not talking about “cause and effect” in a merely material way…we are talking about it in a philosophical way.

[/font]

I guess, if God wanted to make an infinite reality of which there was always matter in existence for an infinite duration then I’m sure that would not be a challenge… but it still doesn’t dis-credit the existence of God

Exactly, because even if such matter were existing for infinite time…it would still not have a Necessary Existence like God does!

Metaphysically the matter’s existence would not be its essence…

Logically, it would still have a contingent existence because it could be concieved of not existing because its existence is not its nature…

Even if it existed forever, it would still need an Absolute, to have as the foundation of its reality!

It would still need a First Cause who is Pure Act, because it would still have obvious Potentiality.

The “matter could have existed forever” argument is sophomoric because it is looking at cause an effect from a temporal perspective…not an eternal one. And infinite time in both directions is different from Eternity. It is looking at “First Cause” in a material way, not a metaphysical way. Regardless of cause and effect, a Necessary Being, who is Pure Act, whose existence is its essence, is still needed to be the foundation of the reality of everything else.

Some scientists propose a “looped time” argument where the universe at some point early on “causes” itself by going outside of our space-time, which maybe is not necessarily logically impossible if we just view time as another dimension like height, width(length), or depth:

http://www.sns.ias.edu/~dejan/CCS/work/news/Gott_interview/universe_tree_time_small.jpg%between%

But even this self-contained universe doesn’t necessarily contradict the existence of God or the Catholic teaching. Indeed the Catholic Church teaches that the universe has a “beginning in time”…but in the above theory, that is still true in a sense: there is a definite beginning to time, and spacetime itself is still finite in the backwards direction…it just loops back on itself.

But that “self-creating” universe still does not contain its existence in its essense. It is not pure act, it still has potentiality. It is not an Absolute and Necessary Being. It still needs a Supreme Being as the foundation of its Reality. If you do not have an Absolute as the standard, it is impossible to define what “existence” even is.

So God could have potentially created a (spatially) infinite universe, or even a universe that extends in time forever in both directions, but he would still be the Necessary Being.


#13

Hello Dave,

Ask your student when empty space came into existance. God created from nothing; no mass, no energy and no empty space.

God is spiritual and exists outside of physical time. God is omni-Present to the whole of physical time. Both past and future physical time must bend to our Omni Powerful God’s hand. If God were going to destroy Nineveh with meteorites then meteors will have been heading toward Nineveh for tens of thousands of years. If the Ninehvites repent, God can alter physical past to where there never were meteores heading toward Nineveh.

If God wants to create rainbows as a covenant with Noah, then both future and past creation will now have rainbows where they did not have them in the pre-rainbow state.

Scientists confuse themselves when they think that God can only be the Prime mover cause of creation from some point physically before matter, energy and empty space existed. Our spiritual God is far more powerful than this. God is Omni Present to the whole of physical time and both past and future physical time must bend to His command.

God’s focal point of creation is bringing into existance a love for God capable being He named man. From God’s focal point of Adam, both infinte physical past and infinite physical future flowed out into existance by the power of our Omni Powerful God’s hand.

No doubt, matter, energy and empty space have infinite physical past and infinite physical future but they are not “eternal”. God created infinite physical past time and infinite physical future time thousands of years ago when He created Adam into existance.


#14

From God’s focal point of Adam

???

CHRIST is the focal point of all history and all creation.


#15

:thumbsup:

It seems to me, that the explanation you have given is related to this Zen koan:"Show me your face, your original face, the face you had before your mother and father were born.”

CHRIST is the focal point of all history and all creation.

Amen!


#16

[quote=batteddy]???

CHRIST is the focal point of all history and all creation.
[/quote]

Creation came into existance at the time of Adam. Jesus lived, as free willed man, four thousand years later (depending on how you figure years between Adam and Jesus). It was creation of a being who was free to choose to love God, man, if you do not like the term ‘Adam’, that the creation of infinite past and infinite future physical time flowed out from.

Adam chose to hate God through sin. Adam was now doomed to die. Jesus came and died for man’s sin so that man can enter into eternal life. Jesus death is the focus point from which all the heaven bound enter into eternal life. Jesus death is the focus point from which the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God, came into existance and now eternally exists from infinitely before physical creation to beyond the end of physical time.


#17

Creation came into existence at the time of Adam and flowed out in both directions?!

Thats probably unnecessarily esoteric, and for it even to come close to a Catholic understanding, Christ would have to be the crux of history…literally the Crux Christi (the cross of Christ) is the Crux of History, its turning point, its foundation…if creation “flows” out in both directions from any specific point, it is from Christ, not Adam. But even this discussion smells a bit of gnosticism. God is eternal. All Creation has always been present to him as a whole. We flow through it from start to finish, however.

If creation’s center from which it radiated out is Adam, where do the Angels fit in?

You’re going to have to work on that theory a lot, my friend.


#18

Hello batteddy,

We know that Satan was in the garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve. We know that Satan was once an angel. We know that Satan communicated with and amassed other angles to oppose God. We know that, by the power of the blood of the Lamb, Satan lost his battle against God.

So how does all this fit into the physical timeline between Adam’s physical creation and Adam’s fall as you see it?


#19

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.