Is the Universe Finite or Infinite?June 29, 2021
Another debate in the philosophy of religion is whether the universe is finite or not.
As a result of the discussions, there was no consensus on whether the universe is finite or infinite. The main point in discussing this problem is whether the theism and atheism about the existence of God are valid if the universe is finite or infinite.
The problem of whether the universe is finite is also closely related to the problem of whether the universe was created or not. According to Al Kindi, one of the 9th century Islamic philosophers, the universe is not before but after. He argues that changes are observed in the beings existing in the universe, which is the proof of the phenomenon of time and that time is the proof that the universe is finite. He stated that since the universe is finite, it has a beginning and its initiator will necessarily be an infinite being.
This problem, which went beyond the philosophy of religion in time, was also discussed by physicists with the development of modern science. Evidence from physics has also been used by philosophers of religion. The entropy law is one of the best known examples of this.
The entropy law is a physical law that states that the energy of a substance is distributed unevenly within the system. According to this law, heat always flows by dissipating towards the cold one, and after the flow takes place, there can be no reverse movement. One of those who explain this law is an example where the heat energy of a cup of hot tea standing on the table is dispersed into the room over time and this heat flow does not reverse and reheat the tea. Some of the philosophers of religion say that this law is proof that the universe is the end. Because according to them, if there is disorder in the universe and it is increasing gradually, this shows that it is finite.
Philosophers of religion ask, “Did God create the universe? If so, did he create it finitely or infinitely?” They questioned the creation of the universe with such questions.
The materialist view, which accepts that everything that exists is composed of matter in accordance with mechanical laws, accepts that the universe is eternal and eternal. For example, according to Democritus and Epicurus, representatives of the atomist views of ancient Greece, only matter is real and there is nothing outside of it. For this reason, the universe was not created and is in eternity from eternity to eternity. Again, Aristotle, one of the ancient philosophers, accepts that the existence of both God and the universe are eternal, that is, they have no beginning. According to him, stars burn with an eternal fuel and are eternal.
While Plato says that God created the universe out of “chaos” and gave shape to this “chaos”, he stands close to the idea that the universe had no beginning. Farabi and Ibn-i Sina, Islamic philosophers, tried to combine creation from nothing and being eternal and put forward a different God-universe relationship. Ibn Sina says on this subject: “Allah is not before the world in time, but in terms of essence and order, just as he is before the effect of cause.” Agnostics, who argue that the human mind can never know or solve metaphysical problems such as “first cause”, “infinite”, “final purpose of things and events”, argue that it is not possible to know whether the universe is eternal or not. According to monotheistic religions, the universe is not eternal. In other words, it has a beginning as well as an end because God has created and designed the universe for a certain purpose, and when the day comes, the universe will experience the apocalypse.
Until the 19th century, the question of what the universe had a beginning and an end was mostly in the field of metaphysics and philosophy of religion. The observations made in 1929 that the universe is expanding became a turning point in the field of cosmology (universe science). In addition, scientific findings and evidences such as Newton’s law of gravitation, A. Einstein’s theory of relativity (Aynstein, 1879-1955), calculations made in quantum physics, the second law of thermodynamics (entropy law) “does the universe have a beginning and an end?” ?” led the question to enter the field of science. The “Bing Bang Theory”, which emerged as a result of scientific studies on whether the universe had a beginning and an end, says that the universe began to form from a single point, with a very intense and very hot energy explosion. He claims that the universe is constantly expanding and with this expansion, the temperature and density in the universe decreases, and accordingly all formations from the subatomic world to the stars have taken place, and therefore the universe has a beginning and an end.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Year 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Year 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook