Guide Beginning of Time

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Rather, the universe, and.
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Before the cosmos reached its billionth birthday, some of the very first cosmic light began a long journey through the expanding Universe. One particular beam of light, from an energetic source called a quasar, serendipitously passed near an intervening galaxy, whose gravity bent and magnified the quasar's light and refocused it in our direction, allowing telescopes like Gemini North to probe the quasar in great detail.

The Gemini observations provided key pieces of the puzzle by filling a critical hole in the data. The Gemini data contained the tell-tale signature of magnesium which is critical for determining how far back in time we are looking. The Gemini observations also led to a determination of the mass of the black hole powering the quasar. That picture reveals that the quasar is located extremely far back in time and space -- shortly after what is known as the Epoch of Reionization -- when the very first light emerged from the Big Bang.

The foreground galaxy that enhances our view of the quasar is especially dim, which is extremely fortuitous. However, as Fan suggested, "We don't expect to find many quasars brighter than this one in the whole observable Universe.


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The broad appearance of the magnesium fingerprint captured by Gemini also allowed astronomers to measure the mass of the quasar's supermassive black hole at million times that of the Sun. The supermassive black hole is most likely surrounded by a sizable flattened disk of dust and gas. This torus of matter -- known as an accretion disk -- most likely continually spirals inward to feed the black hole powerhouse. Observations at submillimeter wavelengths with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Maunakea suggest that the black hole is not only accreting gas but may be triggering star birth at a prodigious rate -- which appears to be up to 10, stars per year; by comparison, our Milky Way Galaxy makes one star per year.

However, because of the boosting effect of gravitational lensing, the actual rate of star formation could be much lower. What caused the big bang? One might consider some supernatural force.

If we are unwilling to swallow the idea that the universe came into being uncaused out of nothing, then we are stuck with a supernatural cause. As Sir Arthur Eddington opined, "The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural. So why did not God create the universe sooner? It might be said that given infinite past time, it is simply logically impossible for God to have a sufficient reason for choosing one moment rather than another to create the world and that God can hardly be blamed for not doing what is logically impossible.

Did Time Have A Beginning?

The problem may be formulated as follows, where t ranges over time:. The claim that it is logically impossible for God to have any reason for preferring one moment over another as the moment at which to create does nothing to undermine the crucial premise 2 , but rather undergirds the truth of premise 3. In an infinite, empty time prior to the existence of any reality outside of God, there can be no reason for God to wait longer to create the world.

At any time t , after all, He has already waited for infinity! Why delay any longer? The only change going on outside of God is the absolute becoming of time itself. If, from eternity past, God has willed to create the world at t , then the arrival of t as present could give God a new reason to create. But, says Leftow, it is at least initially plausible that a perfectly rational God could not have from all eternity a reason to create at one particular instant rather than another.

For there is nothing about the position of any particular instant which makes it an especially appropriate point for the beginning of the universe. So if God is to have a new reason to create, it must come from within Himself. But since God is from time immemorial perfectly good, omniscient, and omnipotent, no change within Himself can occur which should prompt Him to create at some time rather than earlier. Thus, God cannot acquire at some moment a sufficient reason to create the world.

But by the same token neither could He have had some reason from eternity past to create at some particular time, as already seen. He says,. Parents can find joy in the anticipation of a child. So God a fortiori can savor in advance the comingtobe of a universe whose precise nature He foreknows. So a rational person concerned to maximize his or her overall happiness would have some reason to give his or her gift at t. If so, He can resolve to create at just this point.

God will create at the moment His anticipatory pleasure peaks, and that is t , the time of creation.

Did God Create the Universe?

There is no empty space along the xaxis into which to shift such a curve. The equations whose values that curve expresses generates a value of y for each point along the x axis. Such a curve cannot be shifted. Rather, where its highest point falls clearly is a function of the nature of the curve alone.

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This reply fails to take account of the paradoxical nature of the actual infinite. Since the past is, ex hypothesi, actually infinite, there is no danger of "scrunching up" the front of the curve by such a backward shift. If such a shift seems impossible, what is called into question is the possibility of an infinite past. If the past is infinite, then at any moment prior to creation, God existed at that moment and could, at that moment, have brought the universe into being. But He did not.

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He waited. He delayed creating the world until some later moment should arrive. Notice that 2 does not depend on the truth of some broader Principle of Sufficient Reason. Notice, too, that 2 does not presuppose the infinity of time. Not only does that merely underscore 3 , but 2 does not postulate the infinitude of the past. It asserts that if God at some moment prior to creation consciously defers creating until a later moment, then He surely has a reason for doing so.

A perfectly rational agent does not delay some action he wills to undertake apart from a good reason for doing so. Accordingly, the Leibnizian challenge seems to me to furnish a cogent and persuasive argument for thinking that the past is finite. Thus, it seems to me that we have good grounds for affirming the finitude of the past and the beginning of time. Now if time had a beginning at some moment in the finite past, it follows that God sans the universe exists atemporally, even if subsequent to the moment of creation He is, as Newton believed, temporal.

Now prima facie such a position seems bizarre, even incoherent. Leftow has stated the objection forcefully:. If God is timeless, there is no before and after in His life. No phase of His life is earlier or later than any other phase, for only temporal durations and their phases stand in these relations. As it lacks earlier and later parts, an eternal life has no phases, even if as Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann contend it is somehow extended. If God is timeless and a universe or time exists, then, there is no phase of His life during which He is without a universe or time, even if the universe or time had a beginning.

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For a life without phases cannot have one phase which is without the universe or time and another phase which is with it. Hence, if God is temporal subsequent to creation, He must also be temporal prior to creation; indeed, given His necessary existence, time must be beginningless.

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How are we to escape this apparent antinomy? One possibility is suggested by a closer examination of the argument I presented for the finitude of the past.


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  • Strictly speaking, the argument does not imply that time itself had a beginning. Rather what it implies is that time which is divisible into distinct intervals must have had a beginning. But the argument would not be incompatible with the existence of an undifferentiated "before" followed by the beginning of time as we know it.

    Such a view of divine eternity sans the universe has been defended by Padgett and Swinburne. If God is changeless prior to creation, perhaps the time which characterized such an existence was radically different from metric time.