Is it reasonable to use induction to conclude that the universe probably had a beginning?

  • 2
    Can you clarify if you mean mathematical induction or inductive reasoning? They're different. – user4894 Jun 23 at 3:17
  • I mean inductive reasoning – A curious guy Jun 23 at 3:19
  • Do you require that inductive reasoning be used alone, or can it be used in conjunction with deductive and abductive reasoning? Because if you really restrict yourself to just inductive reasoning, you will severely limit the set of conclusions that you can reach. With no deduction, you have no mathematics; with no abduction, you have no scientific hypotheses. With no math and no science, you can barely figure out anything at all. – Kevin Jun 23 at 19:50
  • Umberto Eco once said that there is but one question in philosophy – to whit, “why is there something rather than nothing?” (from memory btw!) What I mean is – yes, inductive reasoning implies a chain of inferences going all the way back … a causal chain – many then say, “there must be a first cause, a prime cause, a prime mover – God”, or you could accept that the first cause spontaneously sprung into existence ex nihilo (from nothingness itself, quite alarming) or you could deny a first cause and posit infinite regress. Them's your choices to my mind. My advice, don't think about it :) – igravious Jun 29 at 16:18

To use inductive reasonning you need a record of experiences with a similar object than the one you are considering now.

Let's say I have a whole egg in my hand. I know that if I drop it it will break on impacting the floor.

Obviously, I never dropped this particular egg, otherwise it would be broken. But I have dropped lots of similar eggs in the past (I'm super clumsy), and based on this experience I expect this egg to break too. The fact that I have a large record of experiences and that any chicken egg is similar enough to any other makes it reasonable to draw this conclusion.

Based on this, your question can be reformulated as "do I have enough experience of having observed the beginning of objects similar enough to the universe ?". My personal opinion is that no object can be considered similar to the universe, therefore no.


If you use induction then it's more reasonable to conclude that the universe has no beginning. All things you see happening have causes that precede them so seen from this perspective there can no beginning be induced.

  • 1
    Quite so. Since each observable universe-state is derived from the previous universe-state, a claim that there was an original one that derived from something else would not stand without a supporting argument or evidence of some kind. – Frog Jun 23 at 11:33
  • @Frog Indeed. You could claim it had a beginning but then you have to state a non causal mechanism. General relativity doesnt give one. So maybe this already is a sign that its not the whole story. I mean that a cause must exist in the non GR domain. – Deschele Schilder Jun 23 at 11:45
  • @DescheleSchilder, it is known that GR breaks down in the very very early universe. This does not mean you must invoke a noncausal mechanism, all it means is that you must search for the correct causal one. – niels nielsen Jun 23 at 17:11

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