The Infinite: A Question of the Cosmos
It is hard to imagine a word more abstract than the word “infinite”. Infinite can be defined as, “having no limits or boundaries in time, space, extent, or magnitude” (“Infinite”). How can one imagine something with no end? Nearly everything humanity knows has an end to it; there is always a place where one thing stops and another begins. A song, a road, and an ocean all have definite ends or boundaries. How, then, can we comprehend the notion of a never-ending universe? It is not easy, and perhaps impossible for some people, but physicists have gathered mathematical and scientific evidence to support the theory of the Big Bang, including the origin and the limitless nature of our universe. However, religious texts also attempt to describe the origin of the universe, though in much simpler terms. Though the scientific and religious explanations are not necessarily concurrent, both can help people understand the origin of the universe in their own terms.
The first question that pops to mind when contemplating the vastness of the universe is, “What is beyond?” The answer to this question, according to physicists, is, “Nothing.” There is no “beyond”; there is just the universe, filled with an infinite amount of ever-expanding galaxies. Further complicating the average person’s comprehension of the scientific explanation for the origins of the universe is the “paradox of infinity,” a concept which states that though the universe is changing in size, it has always taken up infinite space (Gamow 28). In addition to the concept of spatial infinity, one must also think about temporal infinity. Before the universe began expanding, it had condensed into a small, compact mass. The era of the compression of the universe existed before the era of the universe we know, and it is likely that the universe has been around for an infinite amount of time. Although these scientific theories concerning the origin of the universe seem confusing and counterintuitive, years and years of evidence and research point to the Big Bang as the most likely explanation.
Religious texts, such as The Bible, provide their own explanations for the beginning of the “heavens and the earth” (“Genesis” 1.1). The Christian version of the story follows God as he magically creates everything on Earth within a seven-day period. This account is very definite; one planet, one woman, and one man are made in just seven days. The use of finite numbers and familiar objects make the creation story in The Bible more relatable and easier to comprehend, especially for uneducated people who know how to count days, but who may not be familiar with scientific laws and theories. The word “infinite” is not even mentioned, allowing people to avoid asking questions that their brains cannot comprehend. However, The Bible does not provide an explanation for exactly how God created these things. This is where religion falls short and science serves its purpose by providing a detailed description of how the universe was made.
It is up to each individual to decide with which premise they are most concerned. For some people, it is fulfilling enough to believe that a single deity created everything in a week. For many, however, a more scientific description of the universe is desired. Since the longest thing any of us experience is life, which has a definite beginning and end, thinking in terms of infinite time and infinite space does not come naturally. Simply acknowledging the vastness of the universe and conceding that it may be beyond the grasp of our naïve brains can allow us to accept what math and science have been working to prove: that the universe is, in fact, infinite.
Gamow, George. The Creation of the Universe. New York: The Viking Press, 1952. 21-43. Print.
“Genesis”. The Cambridge Annotated Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Cambridge England: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Print.
"Infinite." Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 9 Sep. 2012. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/infinite>.
- Subjectivity of the Mind
I have compared and contrasted the views on the subject of mind through the writing of three experts: Rene Descartes, Sigmund Freud, and Gerald Edelman. The common conclusion is that the mind is a subjective entity.
- The Origin of Language
My thoughts on an essay claiming that bipedalism was the first step toward a complex language system in humans. I also explore similarities between other species today and our human ancestors, as well as the possibilities for the future.
- Galileo vs. Darwin and Wallace
I have examined, compared, and contrasted the different tactics which Galileo and Darwin/Wallace use to convince the public to believe their new scientific discoveries over the religious teachings.
- My Evolving View on Evolution
An exploration of the differing views of evolution and the never ending struggle between religion and science.
© 2012 ReverieMarie
ReverieMarie (author) from Tuscaloosa, Alabama on February 23, 2016:
@Austinstar - thanks for your comment! I like how you simplify it!
Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 08, 2015:
Just found this hub and I like the way you presented this complicated, yet simple premise of infinity. I have noticed that even when people seem to grasp the meaning of the word, infinite, they still refer to beginnings and endings. I describe the universe as one simple formula:
infinite mass + infinite energy + infinite space = the infinite universe. And it's just that simple.
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on February 24, 2015:
I think we all struggle with comprehending infinity. It may be impossible since we live in a finite world, both in time and in space. I like to stretch my mind around the thoughts too. I find this to be such an interesting topic that I wrote several hubs on the subject.
ReverieMarie (author) from Tuscaloosa, Alabama on February 23, 2015:
@Glenn Stok - Thank you very much! I really appreciate the comment. I recently took an astronomy class, and I still struggle with the concept of infinite! I do enjoy trying to stretch my mind to understand it, though.
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on February 21, 2015:
I'm surprised that you're not getting more people reading this. You expressed some very worthwhile considerations about why and how people think. You came to a very meaningful conclusion as to why some people prefer to base their beliefs on religion, and others (those who understand the concept of infinity) can appreciate how the universe evolves.