Infinite Regress
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23-08-2011, 06:32 PM
Infinite Regress
Can someone explain to me the logic behind the postulation that an infinite regress is impossible? I'm no academic, so it may be beyond me, but I want to understand the premise. Every time I see it written it just feels so contrived. Something feels very wrong with it but it's one of those things I just can't put my finger (brain) on.

Lay terms, if you can manage it, would be much appreciated. Again, not an academic here.

Much obliged in advance.

He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy! -Brian's mum
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23-08-2011, 06:43 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
It basically boils down to "I can't imagine things going back infinitely."

A slightly more intelligent version says "If there's an infinite amount of past, how did we get to 'now'? There's an infinite amount of time in the way, so we'd never get to 'now'."

As it stands, it's pretty stupid, as they believe in an eternal god. I guess that's not necessarily infinite... but unless they're willing to say "Yah, God just popped into existence one 'day'" then they have no problems with something not ever not existing.

Every single argument for god that involves creation, infinite regress, beginning of time, etc... are really just arguments of special pleading. They usually start with a false premise too. Everything that begins to exist has a cause, time can't be eternal, etc... In the end, they never have an answer to why their god is the exception to that premise, and energy + physics isn't. And most importantly, they never link this deist god they have just 'proven' to their own particular god. While the 'first cause' strain of arguments is at least superficially plausible, anything that tries to place any attributes on this first cause, including intelligence, is laughable.
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23-08-2011, 06:50 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
(23-08-2011 06:32 PM)Cardinal Smurf Wrote:  He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy! -Brian's mum

Just hafta say: Best signature on the Forum! Smile

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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23-08-2011, 08:27 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
I wish to offer my humble apologies for not doing sufficient research into my question before posting and for not phrasing my question more precisely. After seeing the Wikipedia pages for

Infinite Regress and

Agrippa's Trilemma

I now realize that "infinite regress" is a philosophical concept that can well stand apart from religion altogether. What I should have asked was this:

The way in which Christian apologists are using the concept of the infinite regress to argue for a uncreated creator feels contrived and illogical. Am I alone in this?

However, it's apparent you got the gist anyway. I searched the forums but I didn't see this subject really covered significantly enough to call it a real "treatment."

Quote: Just hafta say: Best signature on the Forum!

Haha! Thanks. Been a fan since I was "indoctrinated" around 15 or so by my grandfather.

He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy! -Brian's mum
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23-08-2011, 09:33 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
There was some mention of it back in the days of a fellow named parture. If you google him you'll find a lot. Which made me in turn look it up as I'd never heard about it before.

I'm with sines. It's a whole lot of endless questions without acceptable answers.

"I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments." -Jim Morrison
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24-08-2011, 12:07 AM
RE: Infinite Regress
The question of the unmoved mover has been thoroughly described first by Aristotle, but if you want the 'official' Christian point of view, then read about Thomas Aquinas' laws. They're the ones mostly taught in catholic schools.

The first 3 talk about your question.

1 - FIRST MOVER: Anything in motion is moved is moved by another, and there can't be an infinite series of movers. So there must be a first mover (a mover that isn't itself moved by anything else). This we call God.

2 - FIRST CAUSE: Anything caused is caused by another, and there can't be an infinite series of causes. So there must be a first cause (a cause that isn't itself caused by anything else). This we call God.

3 - NECESSARY BEING: Every contingent being at some time fails to exist. So if everything were contingent, then at some time there would have been nothing -- and so there would be nothing now -- which is the case. So not everything is contingent. So there is a necessary being. This we call God.



His philosophy doesn't explain anything, but gives a starting point. The main difference between the Big Bang and creation (regarding infinite regress) is that Big Bangers can imagine and accept a universe before its current state.

And even if the Aquinas' theory was watertight, it still wouldn't prove that the Judeo-Christian God is the right one.

Aquinas has 2 other laws, but they talk about classification (absolute goodness and evil etc.) and the concept of what we call intelligent design today. Nothing to do with your question.


The atheist point of view varies, but if you want a simple non-academic approach, check the version Howstuffworks. It gives a basic, comprehensible explication. I hope this helps Smile

"Infinitus est numerus stultorum." (The number of fools is infinite)
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24-08-2011, 12:30 AM
RE: Infinite Regress
(23-08-2011 06:32 PM)Cardinal Smurf Wrote:  Can someone explain to me the logic behind the postulation that an infinite regress is impossible? I'm no academic, so it may be beyond me, but I want to understand the premise. Every time I see it written it just feels so contrived. Something feels very wrong with it but it's one of those things I just can't put my finger (brain) on.

Lay terms, if you can manage it, would be much appreciated. Again, not an academic here.

Much obliged in advance.

Are you referring to soul or some aspect of finite personality going backwards/forwards eternally? Two mystics Ouspensky and Gurdjieff ,who were reincarnationists ,taught backwards reincarnation. "You" could return , say, in the 14th century or any time for that matter.
As for the reverse and ultimate end of "time", I just don't have a clue.Huh
An American psychiatrist (Wiel I think) claims to have hypnotically regressed patients to past lives as well as progessing some to future existences.
Hardly the stuff, one would think ,as helpful for disturbed people.
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24-08-2011, 10:44 AM
RE: Infinite Regress
Quote: and there can't be an infinite series of movers

It's these I'm having trouble with. Saying there can't be a regression of infinity sounds arbitrary to me, so the whole thing falls apart. Does this mean I am beginning to understand the flaws in the concept? Or does it mean I don't understand at all?

How can humans possibly know the nature of infinity enough to presume what infinity is and is not capable of?

@Mr. Woof: Indeed. It sounds more like an opportunity for celebrity. It has an unmistakable P.T. Barnum flair to it I think.

He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy! -Brian's mum
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24-08-2011, 11:00 AM
RE: Infinite Regress
Isn't the whole "infinite past can't exist" argument nothing more than a modern version of one of Zeno's Paradoxes?

In essence it goes like this, for you to cover any distance you must first go half way, then a quarter way and so on through an infinite number of fractions of the distance, so theoretically, you cannot move because you can never make it through an infinite number of fractional distances to any location.

Of course the fact that we travel all the time shows it is nonsense, likewise I have a feeling that nature doesn't give a damn as to how difficult it may be for us to understand it.

“There is no sin except stupidity.” Oscar Wilde
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24-08-2011, 12:18 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
Quote: Isn't the whole "infinite past can't exist" argument nothing more than a modern version of one of Zeno's Paradoxes?

I think that may be possible. Also, funny you should mention this. I work for a company that was named after Zeno (before we were purchased). The founder was a philosophy major.

He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy! -Brian's mum
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