Can you prove the universe is eternal, and never had a beginning? Some scientists think so. But this is a very old idea they are working on.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument was first formulated by a Muslim philosopher in the 12th century to combat ancient Greek ideas about an eternal universe. The Kalam does not function as a proof of Christianity – or indeed Islam – but it clearly gives us ground for a cause that we can deduce as personal, powerful, immaterial, beginning less and timeless. Why? Because time, space, matter and energy were all created with the universe, so the cause cannot be of the same stuff as what it caused. So, it took will and choice to cause the universe to exist. This cause of the universe fits with how mono-theistic religions describe God.
The basic Kalam argument says:
1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2 – The universe began to exist.
3 – Therefore the universe has a cause.
I’ve discussed some of the scientific support for premise 2 – the universe began to exist. But not everyone agrees that the universe began to exist. There are various attempts to argue for an eternal universe. This blog looks at them.
1 – Oscillating Universes
Imagine universes coming into existence and then dying out one after another. A bit like a pendulum swinging to and fro into eternity.
The problem with this theory is that our universe has thermodynamic properties, and we know that entropy (the degree of disorder in a system) grows over time. So, on each oscillation, the degree of entropy increases. This means that each oscillation cycle gets longer and longer. So if that is the case, then working backward, the earlier oscillations were shorter.
Where’s this leading? You guessed it. We are back at the universe having a beginning. The first oscillation had to be initiated by a cause.
2 – Bubble Universes
The idea behind this theory, also known as the multiverse, is that each bubble contains a different universe and the second law of thermodynamics only applies inside each different bubble.
The problem is that you still need a beginning, even to the multiverse. The Borde Guth Vilenkin theory from 2003 discovers that any expanding universe cannot be infinite into the past. It must have a starting point, a space time boundary.
Bubble Universes still need a first cause and a beginning.
3 – Baby Universes
In this theory, energy is thought to travel through worm holes in space and exit from black holes, spawning baby universes as it does so. The problem here is that subatomic physics has shown that whatever goes into a black hole stays in our universe. So, the second law of thermodynamics still applies. And – we are left with needing a space time boundary condition again.
4 – The Universe Caused Itself
This idea is incoherent and worse than magic. At least in magic you have a magician and a hat for him to draw the rabbit out of. With this idea, the rabbit just pops into existence all by itself! No – this is an illogical idea. The universe would have to first exist to cause itself. Do you see the problem? It’s a logically incoherent idea.
5 – The Big Bang is Logically Incoherent
Because the laws of physics break down at the big bang, it is said that this is a logically contradictory state of affairs. Why is it logically contradictory? Presumably because the person making the claim is a naturalist. And you will often find the naturalist making assumptions about the universe that are very similar to the theists assumptions about God. So – the naturalist needs the universe to be eternal to satisfy their naturalistic worldview. A supernatural creation event does not fit well with naturalism.
This is not an issue of logic at all. It is a worldview issue, and what the naturalistic worldview will permit.
Yet at what cost? This attempt seems to ignore all the scientific evidence and philosophical reasoning to the contrary. For example, Einstein’s model for General Relativity predicted a finitely old universe before this was a fashionable idea. He underplayed this prediction until further theories and observations (that I’ve discussed here) confirmed a finite universe.
Basically, you have to ignore a lot of data to cling to the ancient Greek idea of an eternal universe and to avoid challenging your own worldview assumptions.
If the universe began to exist, then it has a cause. To admit that, and to stop there and not consider what that cause is, seems to me to be really very strange. We are all about making scientific discoveries…right? So why would we stop at the thought of making metaphysical discoveries, and looking seriously at why we are here in the first place?
If we take the Kalam’s conclusion – which logically deduces a personal first cause – then the question becomes, what is that creator like? To answer that question, the best place to start is Christianity. If you can disprove Christianity, then you can really work out what the truth is – right?
 William Lane Craig, On Guard Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, (Lee Vance View: David C. Cook, 2010), kindle edition, loc 1131 – 1649, synthesised and summarised.
 “Big Bang Vanishes” – Quantum Theory Describes an Eternal Universe, The Daily Galaxy, posted 17th June, 2019, https://dailygalaxy.com/2019/06/big-bang-vanishes-quantum-theory-describes-an-eternal-universe/.