God and the idea of infinite regress


To make it clear, I’m not an atheist, just a questioning Catholic.

I’ve been thinking about an infinite regress and how it’s illogical. The universe couldn’t have always been here, because then we’d have an infinite past, but then we would never reach the present, because it’s impossible to reach an infinite amount of time. Thus, this a definitive proof of God. The universe had to be created because an infinite past is impossible and needed a beginning and creation.

However, how does God escape the idea of an infinite regress? How did God reach the point where He created the universe assuming He was around infinitely into the past. Is our present not the same as God’s present?


You’ve made a common metaphysical assumption…that causation is linear. That it begins in the past, and proceeds orderly and uninterrupted into the present. Evidence suggests that this simply isn’t true. Causation is non-linear, the future affects the past just as much as the past affects the future. So the very concept of an infinite regress is moot, because it’s based upon an obsolete understnding of cause and effect.

There’s no such thing as a “first” cause.


I remember a philosophy professor many years ago making the same point: that in speaking of an infinite series of causes, we do not mean a series of temporal causes, but an infinite series of instantaneous causes. What is the cause of the existence of this object right here right now?


People do tend to confuse a first cause with a necessary cause. Of course we know now that there’s no such thing as an instantaneous cause.


Hi oldnskeptical!

Im currently in philosophy courses and this one problem is still causing me to scratch my head. Do you think you could clarify what it means for the future to affect the past in non-linear causation? Im having trouble wrapping my head around that one… Thanks!


Here’s a simple definition.


This is tied up with what we assume to be the direction of time. However…

“Quantum mechanics and general relativity, the two predominant theories of modern physics, both agree that fundamentally there is no preferred direction of time—in quantum mechanics particle transformations and interactions look the same whether occurring “forwards” or “backwards” in time, a property known as time-reversal symmetry of microscopic laws of motion (part of CPT symmetry); and general relativity famously melds “past”, “present”, and “future” into one continuous spacetime manifold (the spacetime continuum).”

Trying to work out these type of problems using ‘common sense’ is never going to get you far. Our common sense evolved to enable us to hunt game and avoid being eaten. Much more than that…not much use really.


I don’t really buy that. I think it’s a bunch of pop science mumbo jumbo. The second law of thermodynamics makes it clear that time must go from past to future.


This is similar to the Kalam cosmological argument. I’m personally not a fan of it. It’s not what Thomas Aquinas was concerned with about an infinite regress.

The misconception, as I see it, is that “God was around for infinite time in the past.” I personally agree that’s illogical. The error is in assuming there was such a thing as time or some meta-dimension of time before Creation began. The Church teaches that God never had a beginning. This is not the same thing as stating that God’s duration of existence is countable/summable as infinite moments in time. Time itself is part of Creation. God Himself is unchanging and doesn’t, like us, go through a sequence of moments. He just is.


I’m impressed. Einstein only achieved E=mc^2. This is the next step, showing that an action in the present affects both the past and future. The bigger the causal mass, the greater the resulting impact. How do you think prophecies come about?


None of that objection would actually apply to Thomist cosmological arguments and many other types of cosmological arguments developed by Neoplatonists or some rationalists like Leibniz, even if what you said about temporal, linear causation was true.


The idea that the universe had to have been created is a very mechanistic view. It is possible to imagine a more natural solution, wherein the world simply grows rather than having been built. Everywhere in nature we are able to observe a perennial process that is fractal in nature and new things are made from the dissolution of the old. Beginnings and endings are a product of mindset, but in truth when one thing ends, another thing always begins, and it’s always the same thing just taking another form. If we were then able to imagine that at the core of it all there is some sort of primary or proto-consciousness, well, that could turn out to be what we are and what we always have been. The vine and the branches are not two separate things. They are one thing expressed as many. How could the world at large be any different, and how could God be anyone but you playing games with yourself?

I am open for polite, open minded discussion.

All the best


It appears that you didn’t read the article. Perhaps you should and then discuss WHY the experiments that showed that the arrow of time ‘in revese’ does not contradict the second law. From the article (the bit that you didn’t read):

“As experimenters have recently discovered, the laws of thermodynamics always predicted one direction for the arrow of time because it was always assumed that in the initial starting condition there was no correlation among the components of a system. What the latest experiment has shown for the first time is that when there is correlation in interacting systems at the initial conditions the arrow of time can appear to go the opposite direction, or “backwards” in time. Thermodynamically, this equates to heat flowing from a cold system to a hot one, so that initially correlated systems a hot particle will get hotter.”


I’ll continue trusting my physical chemistry professor that the laws of thermodynamics are the most basic laws we have. She said serious scientists won’t even consider a theory that violates them. Hence my comments. Feel free to disregard them.


Gee, you really are determined not to read the article, aren’t you. And equally determined not to read what I write.

What I wrote: ‘the arrow of time ‘in revese’ DOES NOT CONTRADICT the second law’.

What the article says: “The researchers explain that this DOES NOT violate the laws of thermodynamics because those laws do not address the role of correlation, and in fact assume that there is no correlation in the system.” (my emphasis).

As I asked…do you have any comments on the experiment. You know the one that DOESN’T contradict the second law?

Surely you’ll have to read it this time.


Entropy increases with time, so there is no time reversal symmetry because of the second law of thermodynamics, at least on a macroscopic scale.


We have evolved to understand the macroscopic. The vast majority of science has dealt with it. It’s only fairly recently that we have discovered that there’s more to reality than meets the eye. Or common sense.


An interesting take on prophesy. But wouldn’t this point of view result in branching timelines?


That’s an idea I have been very interested in. It’s actually the only way I can think of where we have any free will. In this iteration of reality, what you do today can change the whole story not only now and in the future, but back to the start, including recollection of the story mentally as well as any written or otherwise recorded memory. I do think it’s likely how things are. Today we may be living in a world whose story is significantly different than the one we were living in yesterday.


I think those timelines still exist. Time is like a tree so-to-speak.

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