I went to TANSA’s first event for the year, and the talk (by Prof. Wilf Malcolm, emeritus professor of Mathematics at Victoria, and at one time the Vice Chancellor of Waikato) was on relating the Mathematical concept of Infinity to God. Much of the math (or ‘maths’ if you’re a NZ-er) went over my head, but I enjoyed it anyway.
In reflecting on the talk/discussion, it occurs to me that in my discussions with atheists, I’ve encountered two views that seem to me to contradict one another? I don’t claim to have deep understanding on this stuff, but conversation always helps me learn, so any thoughts are welcome – as always. Here are the two views I’m talking about:
On one hand, it seems the very concept of infinity is kind of poo-pooed as fluff, irrelevant nonsense, ‘adding infinity to infinity’, ‘adding integers and ‘tweens’, ‘never crossing a room by only going half the distance at a time’ and ‘layers of infinite magnitude’, etc. The common complaint is that none of this has any bearing upon reality.
But then on the other hand, when an infinite First/Final Cause is put forward as an ultimate/infinite explanation for the existence of the cosmos, the predictable, ‘just think for a moment longer’ typical response is: “oh yeah? but what caused the cause?” For every ‘final’ cause suggested, the word ‘final’ gets promptly ignored and a prior cause – or indeed a string of prior causes – is insisted to be necessary. I can see no other conclusion than that atheists think that the cosmos has an infinite number of prior causes (or is its own infinite source of self-causation). But what happened to infinity having nothing to do with reality?