January 10, 2012

From “Time Will End in Five Billion Years, Physicists Predict”, National Geographic Daily News:

The problem with a multiverse is that anything that can happen will happen an infinite number of times, and that makes calculating probabilities . . . seemingly impossible.

. . .

Physicists have been circumventing this problem using a mathematical approach called geometric cutoffs, which involves taking a finite swath of the multiverse and calculating probabilities based on that limited sample.

. . .

What a real-world cutoff would look like and what form the end of time would take are unclear, the team says. If it happens, it would probably be sudden and unexpected.

11 Responses to “Probably”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    Even if the physicists are wrong about the end of time, there is no dispute that someday our sun will explode (implode?). Which raises a very interesting question that has the potential to trigger another theological debate (which I happen to enjoy). Why would God create a transient species that is doomed to extinction? And why are we the lucky ones that got to experience life?

    • 3 answers to "why create at all?" Says:

      The traditional Christian answer to “why create at all?” rests on two foundational theological elements: 1) God is love, 2) God is a Trinity. This means that God, apart from creation, already loves in an other-oriented way, because all the persons of the Trinity love each other. God creates the world in order to be in relationship with it, pretty much just because he wants to, because it arises naturally out of God’s nature (that is, God is other-oriented love).

      But probably the question can be answered by looking at the world around us, too. Why would parents choose to have children even though they know those children will die some day? Why is there a whole movement in the art world that creates short-lived art (incorporating live animals or plants, or materials that break down)? Why do architects these days design buildings with the understanding that they will be replaced in a matter of decades? Why sing a song if you know it will end in just a few minutes? It’s not so remarkable a concept. Everybody creates ephemeral things, knowing they are ephemeral, and think nothing of it.

      And lastly, probably the most philosophically difficult answer has to do with the nature of time itself. You write as though there was a time before spacetime, and as though there is a time after spacetime. (and, oddly, hypothetical people who won’t get to exist after the end of spacetime?) Philosophers for millennia, and now cosmologists and physicists, have understood that there is no such thing as time without space (matter, and change). The article Chillingworth quotes is talking about the end of TIME, which is also the end of space, but so would the end of space (matter) be the end of time. What comes after the end of time? There’s no “after,” actually, because there’s no time without time (not as tautological as it sounds). Some philosophers have tried to model time as a sphere instead of a line, to illustrate this concept. In that sense, the created world (timespace) is finite and bounded, but you can’t talk about it being cut short, because, wherever time “ends”, the universe is complete nonetheless. So maybe the question shouldn’t so much be, “why create something doomed to extinction”? Maybe it’s more like asking, “why dig a pond that’s only so many meters in diameter?” or “why create a sculpture that has a definite shape?”

      • 3 answers to "why create at all?" Says:

        Should be “and we think nothing of it”.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        I was talking about the sun blowing up, not time ending. If you’re going to argue that creating life “arises naturally out of God’s nature,” then you also have to accept that death, suffering, and destruction arise naturally out of God’s nature. I’ve raised this point to Chillingworth before and have yet to receive a satisfactory answer. If God is the source of all that is good (such as love), he (or she, or it) is the also the source of everything that is evil. It’s only logical.

      • 3 answers to "why create at all?" Says:

        You’re right, I over-answered. Well, if ever you become curious about ultimate finitude, or the underlying notions of existence and nonexistence, you can come back and read the third paragraph again.

        You say, “It’s only logical.” But actually, without pinning down our assumptions, or thinking about systematic theology, it isn’t logical at all. What you mean is, “It makes sense to me.”

        Option 1: God creates suffering, but suffering isn’t bad. There are some religions that say God is responsible for good and for evil. But interestingly, the best example of that (Hinduism) actually claims that the world isn’t real (enlightenment is the realization that the whole world is really just Brahman’s dream) and good and evil don’t really exist. That’s because good and evil aren’t compatible with one another (like existence and non-existence), and any theological system that gives them the same source (e.g. God) has to say ultimately that good and evil are all the same.

        Option 2: Suffering IS bad, but God didn’t create it. Some people think you can’t have good without evil, but the most famous example of a religion that thinks that way is probably Zoroastrianism, which is sortof Manichaean, or dualist. They think the world is real, and that a force for Good and a force for Evil are constantly battling for control of the world, and ultimately, one will win. BUT, the good and the evil “deities” are separate. One doesn’t come from the other. Because they are absolutes, defined by something beyond this world, so they are, again, incompatible.

        So, in Christianity, God is the extra-worldly determiner of moral absolutes, God is goodness, is love, is justice, is every virtue. It is logically impossible (despite what makes sense to you) for God to create evil, because good and evil are incompatible. They’re different sorts of things.

        Where does evil come from in Christianity, then?

        Let’s revisit your original question: doesn’t God create death, suffering, and destruction? I’d say, maybe, that God creates death and some destruction (and these are not inherently bad), but suffering is something that arises out of our own natures, a RESPONSE located within ourselves. In Christian theology, God does not suffer. But we do. We’re different from God in some way that means we can suffer. What is that difference?

        Have you ever heard anyone say “evil is a privation of good”? It means evil is just the absence of good, the way darkness is the absence of light. God is perfectly, absolutely good. But we are not. If light has some ultimate “lightness”, some brightness that cannot be out-shined, that’s God. We’re 60 watt lightbulbs: light, created out of God’s brightness (good, created out of God’s goodness), but in a way, exhibiting a privation of light or goodness. Imperfection.

        The creator of the 60-watt lightbulb doesn’t create the darkness. The darkness is nothingness, it doesn’t exist. (See paragraph 3 of my other answer!)

        So, that’s the metaphor. If we’re talking about a lack of goodness, we can say we are created good, but also there is sortof a gap between us and perfection, so we are able to sin, to suffer, to be weak. God didn’t create the sin or the suffering.

        We are moral creatures that can choose to become brighter by moving toward God, or we can choose to become darker by moving away from God. Because God is the ultimate determiner of moral absolutes and the supreme being, God is the only source of light. So when Christians talk about eternal life with God and the sacrifice of Christ that purifies us, they mean, sortof, in the end, your little bulb will shine as bright as it can, or it will be turned off. Because when your bulb goes to join God, there is no such thing as dimness. If the dimness isn’t eliminated by the choice to join God, then God honors that choice, but because there is no darkness in God, your bulb is incompatible with God, so it ends up in the dark, where God is not. That is, it ceases to exist or have any goodness in it.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        If you’re going to argue that God created everything, then there is no way around the fact that he created evil. There just isn’t.

      • 3 answers to "why create at all?" Says:

        What can I say? You’ve got to do the hard work of understanding the difference between existence and non-existence yourself at some point. Your response tells me that you didn’t understand what I wrote. I sympathize. Philosophy is a difficult subject. It takes abstract thought. I can’t do the thinking for you.

        But be reassured, this is a pretty common concept. There IS a way to say God didn’t create evil, even though he created everything. It’s been around for a long time and it is pretty mainstream stuff. You can disagree with it (philosophers disagree about everything), but not until you understand it. Your current protestation isn’t disagreement, it’s a lack of understanding. Don’t take that as an insult, take it as an invitation. If you understood, you’d have a rebuttal other than that you just can’t get your head around what I’m saying. So go find a rebuttal! Go to a philosophy department, if you have a university nearby, and ask a professor to explain to you the idea that evil is a privation of good, and the idea the nonexistence isn’t a thing. Ontology is one of my favorite things to muse about. Not everyone enjoys it. You don’t seem to. And I’m not really sure why you start conversations about things you don’t really want to talk about. But if you’re going to argue about it, you’d better understand it. I’m not going to be both sides of the conversation just to save you the trouble of thinking.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        You do realize that most of what you write makes no sense.

    • 3 answers to "why create at all?" Says:

      Or, for a less abstract avenue into the subject, I recommend reading The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. It’s one of the most readable treatments of suffering I’ve ever read.

  2. Why wouldn’t God create a “transient species . . . doomed to extinction”? Christianity has been teaching that one day this world will end since long before scientists were talking about it (whether about the sun exploding, the heat death of the universe, a “big crunch”, or time ending). The book of Daniel, the last book of the Bible (Revelation), and parts of the gospels all talk about the end of this world.

    According to Christian theology, God has bigger and better things planned than this world.

    • Snoodickle Says:

      If this is true, though, why create it at all?

      P.S. I’m a fan of the black hole theory, where we all get turned into soup.

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