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Do you believe matter has always existed?

I am a Christian who enjoys discussing various beliefs I hold and those held by agnostic and atheist friends.
In a discussion regarding the origin of the universe (or more generally: Where did all this come from?) we found ourselves discussing the concept of the eternal existence of matter juxtaposed with the existence of a single God.

Do you believe that “something”, and/or whatever material substance led to its existence (as opposed to a Divine Power), exists without ever having having come into existence? That matter has, in one form or another, just always existed?

Thanks.

Posted: December 31st 2007

George Locke

First, I find the question of the world’s origin very interesting, and I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who enjoys esoteric discussion.

It seems to me that there isn’t a man alive who could answer the question properly, though. It’s a hard question to answer since there’s only very circumspect evidence. All you or I can do is speculate. We could pontificate about which answer makes the best sense to us, but on matters of cosmology I yield to cosmologists. Unfortunately, cosmologists haven’t solved the riddle.

So far I haven’t said what I 'believe’ though. Not to dodge the question, my only belief regarding the matter is that I don’t know, but I shouldn’t be alarmed if time began at the Big Bang (or something like that…), or if the universe has always existed.

I did my best to summarize my understanding of current cosmological theories here, but smartLX said it much more intelligibly than I when he said,

Our time is unlikely to have been entirely linear at the Big Bang, or perhaps it was created by the Big Bang as part of our spacetime. In either case, considering time before the Big Bang could be entirely nonsensical. Stephen Hawking compared it to asking what’s north of the North Pole.

As an aside, the questioner doesn’t say if s/he finds the idea of an eternal universe more improbable than an eternal deity, though the issue is in the air about this question. Suffice it to say that today I see a universe but not a god, so I pick the eternal deity as more fishy.

Posted: January 6th 2008

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Eric_PK

In my mind, existence of an object by definition defines a place in space and in time for an object. To talk of existence outside of the timeline of our universe therefore doesn’t make much sense to me.

There are some theories that posit that entire universes may come unto being through random fluctuations, which are interesting intellectually but until they make testable predictions are just that, interesting, but not really useful.

Posted: January 4th 2008

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SmartLX www

It may be that we’re assuming too much. Our universe’s time is unlikely to have been entirely linear at the Big Bang, or perhaps it was created by the Big Bang as part of our spacetime. In either case, considering time before the Big Bang could be entirely nonsensical. Stephen Hawking compared it to asking what’s north of the North Pole. That said, let’s assume linear time for now.

With this assumption and without an eternal god, some form of eternal matter or energy must have existed forever. So why is a god the best hypothesis? A being which directly, deliberately created the whole universe is more complex than the whole universe put together. (Complexity can emerge from simple beginnings, but only through gradual, incremental processes as far as we’ve seen.) That makes a creator god the most complex, most exotic and most unlikely object imaginable.

Any other hypothesis is therefore preferable to a god, especially if you explicitly use Occam’s razor. When you favour the simplest explanation, an uncreated, uneducated and yet all-powerful and all-knowing god loses out to anything else you can come up with: a multiverse, consecutive universes creating each other as they die, etc.

Therefore I think that matter (or energy which later formed matter) has always existed if time was always linear as we assumed. In order for a god to be the best explanation, every other possible explanation would have to be found inadequate, and that’s not likely to happen soon.

Posted: January 3rd 2008

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