One of the most popular arguments for theism is the Fine Tuning Argument (FTA). The FTA is generally formulated something like this:
- The “constants” of the universe either arrived by chance or design
- The chance is overwhelmingly small
- Therefore, they must have arrived by design
There are a lot of things we could discuss about the FTA. It poses a particularly intriguing problem due to all the unknowns involved. However, I want to focus on a single aspect. If it is correct that the past is beginningless, then chance actually poses no problem.
The biggest hurdle to people accepting the possibility of a beginningless past, at least in my experience, are a strand of arguments regarding actual infinites. The thing about actual infinites is they grate against our intuitions as they are presented in the aforementioned argument. They are, in a sense, a completed infinite or an infinite set of things. This tends to bring about questions like, “How can an infinite ever be complete?” It’s a good and difficult question, but I hope to offer a different perspective on these arguments that may give you something to at least think about, even if you aren’t convinced.
So how might we respond to this difficulty? To start, the proponent of the FTA will often not have a problem with a potential infinite. They will likely grant the possibility of a potentially infinite future – namely, Heaven. I question whether this is really so different than asserting a beginningless past. One states that for any moment chosen in the future, there will be a later moment. The other says the same, but for the past. This symmetry can be seen in the following figure:
It does not seem clear at all why we should accept one, but not the other. Confronted with this, the proponents will often turn to another sort of argument that seemingly applies to past events.
So, what are these arguments? I’ll give a few varieties and you should see their basic form:
You cannot create an infinite set through successive addition (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4 … ∞).
If you knock down the first of an infinite set of dominoes, you will never knock down the entire set.
If you start filling an infinite hole with an infinite amount of dirt and an infinite amount of time to shovel, you will never fill the hole.
The gist of the arguments is that we would never reach “now” given an infinite past. I initially found these arguments very persuasive. But after seeing them in a different light, I came to realize they don’t actually address the idea of a beginningless past head on enough to be convincing. You’ll see that these arguments all rely on starting somewhere. You begin adding, you begin the dominoes, and you begin filling the hole. But who has asserted that we are beginning anything? The dominoes have always been falling. If the concern is that we can never reach the present, you can say, “Ok, choose any moment in the past and it will be countably far away from the present.” Their argument, though, doesn’t rely on counting from a past moment to this one – it relies on counting from the first past moment. But that is precisely what the beginningless past theory says we will not find.
I propose that the popular arguments against a beginningless past merely seem to have force because we aren’t framing the issue correctly. And, if a beginningless past is an option, what do we make of the “chance” problem presented in the FTA?
- God and Time: A Dilemma
- On Absurdity: William Lane Craig and Actual Infinites
- The Sherlock Holmes Defense