What is the standard atheist response to this "proof" of God's existence?


I’m not really after a debate, which is why I am posting this here in GQ. I’m after a factual answer.

One argument that I often see for the existence of God rests on an idea that states it’s impossible that an infinite amount of time has passed up until now based on the following proof:

If said I will give you a dollar after an infinite amount of times passes, when would I give you the dollar? Never. Hence, it’s impossible that an infinite amount of time has passed up until right now, or else, the events currently taking place would never have been reached.

I have seen variations of this “argument” presented around the place, I am just wondering if there is a common refutation to it?

Or do atheists accept that the universe/space/time/matter had a beginning, a finite amount of time ago?

Many (perhaps most) atheists do accept that “the universe/space/time/matter had a beginning, a finite amount of time ago”, on the same empirical considerations which lead to belief in the Big Bang. However, let me point out that there’s no compelling logical inference from “the universe had a beginning a finite amount of time ago” to “God exists”.

As for your actual argument, it does not even establish that the universe had a beginning a finite amount of time ago. To see this, note that what it actually establishes is that no two points in time are infinitely far apart (though it essentially begs the question here; the argument fails without already assuming such a thing). But it does not follow that the span of time is finite.

After all, do you take your argument to prove that there is only a finite amount of time from now until the end of the universe? No? Why not?

Consider the real number line. No two real numbers are infinitely far apart (so if I stood at some point and said “Hey, if you stand at a point infinitely far to my right, I’ll give you a dollar”, no one could meet my challenge), yet all the same, the real number line is not finite, nor even the portion of it prior to any point.

One could argue that the concept of time had no real relevance before the Big Bang, and that therefore the Big Bang was the “start” of everything. At least as we understand it.

If anything, the OP is an argument ***against ***the existence of God. Isn’t God supposed to be eternal, i.e. he always existed and always will?

This sounds a bit like that tortoise and Hare paradox.

If every time the Hare moves, the tortoise moves half as much away from it, the Hare will never pass the tortoise.

(I’m sure I’ve got that wrong. It’s something like that)
Also - I personally don’t believe an infinite amount of time has gone before this moment in time. There has been a finite amount of time pass since time itself began.

That’s the very basic description of what I believe until someone comes along with a better hypopthesis.

I don’t know what the “standard” response might be, but a factual response would be: We don’t even know how to explain our perception of time or really what exactly time is, so any argument that uses time to prove or disprove the existence of god is based on an unknown.

Depends on whose G/god you’re talking about. Hindus believe the universes (and with them, deities) begin and end over and over again

Righto, so it seems atheists are happy to accept that the universe/time/space/matter began a finite amount of time ago?

That time itself began a finite amount of time ago.

But the important thing to note here is: It’s what some of us believe in lieu of a better theory. That’s what science is all about: Theories to explain things until better theories come along.

Or until we become aware of better theories. And By better I mean theories that make more sense and are simpler.

Sure. There’s no conflict between that and the nonexistence of God.

But like I said, your argument does not properly establish that “universe/time/space/matter began a finite amount of time ago”. Your argument is seriously broken. As it happens, current scientific consensus reaches the same conclusion that your argument attempted to establish, but the scientific reasons for believing such a thing are empirically grounded.

If somebody offered the argument posted in the OP as “proof” that god exists my response would be “You have no idea what proof means do you?”. As for the standard answer I don’t think there is one. There are probably as many answers as there are atheists…

Not quite: To say that a being is eternal means that it always exists, present tense. God (if He exists and is eternal) is right now present at the beginning of the Universe (if it has one), and also right now present at the end of the Universe (again, if it has one), and at every point of time in between, all right now.

Could it be that there was no big bang? It is only a theory after all. A pretty darned good theory though.

What if maybe, the universe has always existed. We are conditioned as humans to believe that everything has a beginning and an end. But what if there was no beginning? What if the universe has just always been here, and always will be? And, here’s another question, what if it is infinite in size too. Again, our brains think everything must have a beginning and an end.

So, my theory is that the universe has always existed and that it’s infinite in size.

Mine is that it’s turtles, all the way down.

So how do you explain the cosmic background radiation or any of the other pieces of evidence that led to the Big Bang Theory in the first place?

In this universe, time is more a function of entropy than anything else. The second law of thermodynamics talks about how changes in a system always result in more entropy. Thus, the beginning of “time” as we know it was a universe with little or no entropy.

If someone else cares to elaborate that’d be cool. Otherwise I’ll just point you to wikipedia entry on entropy. Under section 7 is an overview on “the arrow of time” with further links.

Surely something has always existed. But the universe as we know it, and the rules under which it operates, is finite. It is possible, and probably likely, that there are other universes that exist outside our own, each universe like a bubble in swiss cheese. The actual cheese in this case is a quantum state in which universes cannot exist.

These topics probably deserve their own thread, and are kinda getting off subject regarding the OP. I’m just gonna go back to reading.

In my egotism, I feel like everyone except me has gotten off subject regarding the OP (which I take to be mainly about the specific proposed argument).

Well, askeptic’s response was on-target too.

I believe the evidence currently points to an open universe; that is, one which is infinite in spatial extent. It does appear to be semi-closed temporally–a definite beginning of time, and no expectation of an end.

As for the rules, we have only discovered a countable number of rules, but that is more a limitation of the scientific method and inductive logic than an inherent property of the universe.

Rules be rules, counted or not. The way this universe formed put some rules in place that aren’t going to change. There could be other universes with different rules (different bubbles in the swiss).

I’m not sure what you mean about an open universe. There is a finite amount of matter in our universe. A finite amount of energy. Eventually there will be no more concentration gradients for particles to move down. Perhaps at that point the arrow reverses and the universe shrinks back until it looks like the conditions present for the big bang and pow, we start over again, new rules, new debates on internet chat boards.