Cosmology Intelligent Design Philosophy Physics

Does time exist and do we experience it?

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That’s a perhaps surprisingly contentious topic among theoretical physicists:

You see, whether time flows forward, or doesn’t flow at all, or moves back and forth, our resulting subjective experience would be identical in all cases: we would always find ourselves in an experiential snapshot extending smoothly backwards in memory and forwards in expectation, just like the desert road. We would always tell ourselves the same story about what’s going on. A mere cognitive narrative—based purely on contents of the experiential snapshot in question—would suffice to convince us of the forward flow of time even when such is not the case.

The ostensible experience of temporal flow is thus an illusion.Bernardo Kastrup, “Do we actually experience the flow of time?” at Scientific American

Bernardo Kastrup has a book coming out on this, The Flow of the World.

But isn’t consciousness itself an evolved illusion, according to Darwinians?

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See also: You are conscious but so is your coffee mug Materialists have a solution to the problem of consciousness, and it may startle you

and

From Scientific American: “we may all be alters—dissociated personalities— of universal consciousness.”

15 Replies to “Does time exist and do we experience it?

  1. 1
    Latemarch says:

    Does anyone still read Sci Am?

    The article is a solipsistic mess.
    Just terrible.

    Psalm 90:4
    A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

  2. 2
    Ed George says:

    I’m not qualified to comment on whether time exists. But there is no doubt that we experience the passage of time. What I find interesting is that the speed with which it passes appears to increase as we get older.

    On a totally different subject, I would be interested in what people here think about the redefinition of the kilogram. Up until a couple days ago, all of our measurements of mass were traced to a lump of platinum stored in a vault in France. It is now traceable to the Planck constant, not to a physical artifact.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    Ed,

    I am all for it. Anything associated with France has to be suspect. How do we know, for instance, whether over the years the brie munching, wine guzzling Gauls transferred micrograms of cheese and booze from their fingers to the object every time they handled it? Or perhaps they deleted micrograms when they dropped it in their haste to surrender to the Germans. Who knows. Far better to go the route distance and time measurements went long ago.

  4. 4
    jstanley01 says:

    So when I find myself in an experiential snapshot reading the words:

    “…find ourselves in an experiential snapshot extending smoothly backwards in memory and forwards in expectation…”

    I think that I have read the previous words in the paragraph, and I think that I am going to read the remaining words in the paragraph, but actually, there is no paragraph.

    Got it.

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    I favor the block universe/timescape concept. Everything that has happened or will happen already exists. There is no privileged ‘present’. Each viewpoint present is equally valid. The perceived passage of time is our movement through through the spacetimescape. The gap between George Washington’s present and ours was a mystery to him but well-known to us. Of course, the question is, if the future exists why can’t we see it? Or the past, come to that.

    It’s all in the Bible for those who believe in that sort of thing. Remember Jesus warned Peter in advance that he would deny knowing Christ three times before the cock crowed. And he did, even though he was forewarned clearly. He couldn’t change that future. An omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of what is in our future means that future already exists. In other words predetermination so what price free will?

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    Ed George @ 2

    On a totally different subject, I would be interested in what people here think about the redefinition of the kilogram. Up until a couple days ago, all of our measurements of mass were traced to a lump of platinum stored in a vault in France. It is now traceable to the Planck constant, not to a physical artifact

    Sounds like a great idea. Now the measure is no longer tied to a lump of metal in a French vault. Anyone can verify it if they have a Kibble scale. Which is a great name. I’m imagining my cat measuring an exact kilogram of cat food.

  7. 7
    Ed George says:

    Barry@3, I hate to appear unpatriotic, but if I have a choice between Brie or a Kraft cheese-food slice… 🙂

  8. 8
    vmahuna says:

    Um, we can WATCH baby humans grow older. At first, in the minutes immediately after birth, Time with a capital T moves in seconds and fractions of a second as the tiny human tries to make sense of what has happened to him or her and tries to work out some method for complaining.

    And from the outside, older humans, including the still young themselves newly promoted Big Sisters and Big Brothers, stare in awe and celebrate each tiny yawn and sneeze as the Life History of the newest member of the Clan moves forward in baby steps.

    There are probably other events (the launch of a rocket to the Moon) where the human observers feel each tiny unit of Time and know for an observed fact that what is happening NOW is in a hundred ways DIFFERENT than what we know happened an instant ago.

    But in the broader sense, to people who need to be at work by 9 a.m. on Monday, Time is a useful part of Reality. So only those who live beyond the fringes of Reality gain anything by refusing to recognize Time. It’s another one of those “if it wasn’t there we’d have to invent it” kinda things.

  9. 9
    aarceng says:

    This probably explains why every time I take a sip from my cup the level increases.

  10. 10
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    Remember Jesus warned Peter in advance that he would deny knowing Christ three times before the cock crowed.

    Wrong. Jesus did not refer to himself as “Christ”. And given the atmosphere that was an easy call. Or perhaps it wasn’t a prediction but he was telling him to deny his connection because he too would be put to death and The Word may die along with him.

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington says:

    Ed @ 7
    “Brie or a Kraft cheese-food slice”

    Tough choice. Brie tastes like dirt. Kraft cheese food tastes like oil.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    As to this quote from the article:

    The ostensible experience of temporal flow is thus an illusion. All we ever actually experience is the present snapshot, which entails a timescape of memories and imaginings analogous to the landscape of valley and mountains. Everything else is a story. The implications of this realization for physics and philosophy are profound.

    This is not a minor point that Bernardo Kastrup brings up. Philosophers in Einstein’s day referred to this subjective experience of having a perspective outside of time as ‘the now’ and/or ‘the experience of the now’.

    The simplest way to define “the now” and/or “the experience of the now” is to say that we have a unique mental perspective of being outside ‘space-time’. An ‘outside of time’ mental perspective where we watch as time passes us by. That is to say, our perspective of being in “the now” is permanent whilst time is ever changing, i.e. ‘flowing’ past us.

    And as Antoine Suarez put it in the following video, “it is impossible for us to be ‘persons’ experiencing ‘now’ if we are nothing but particles flowing in space time. Moreover, for us to refer to ourselves as ‘persons’, we cannot refer to space-time as the ultimate substratum upon which everything exists, but must refer to a person who is not bound by space time. i.e. We must refer to God!”

    Have Krauss and Hawking misidentified what they are referring to as “nothing?”
    Nothing: God’s new Name – Antoine Suarez – video (it is impossible for us to be ‘persons’ experiencing ‘now’ if we are nothing but particles flowing in space time. Moreover, for us to refer to ourselves as ‘persons’, we cannot refer to space-time as the ultimate substratum upon which everything exists, but must refer to a person who is not bound by space time. i.e. We must refer to God!)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOr9QqyaLlA

    In fact, this difference between the ‘physical time’ of scientists, and the “mental time” of “the now” of leading philosophers is one of the primary reasons that Einstein never received a Nobel prize for relativity.

    Einstein vs Bergson, science vs philosophy and the meaning of time – 24 June 2015
    Excerpt: ‘The key sentence was something that Einstein said: “The time of the philosophers did not exist.”’
    It’s hard to know whether Bergson was expecting such a sharp jab. In just one sentence, Bergson’s notion of duration—a major part of his thesis on time—was dealt a mortal blow.
    As Canales reads it, the line was carefully crafted for maximum impact.,,,
    Bergson was outraged, but the philosopher did not take it lying down. A few months later Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the law of photoelectric effect, an area of science that Canales noted, ‘hardly jolted the public’s imagination’. In truth, Einstein coveted recognition for his work on relativity.
    Bergson inflicted some return humiliation of his own. By casting doubt on Einstein’s theoretical trajectory, Bergson dissuaded the (Nobel) committee from awarding (Einstein) the prize for relativity. In 1922, the jury was still out on the correct interpretation of time.
    So began a dispute that festered for years and played into the larger rift between physics and philosophy, science and the humanities.
    http://www.abc.net.au/radionat.....me/6539568

    The first part of the following video gives a deeper insight into that conflict between Einstein and the Philosophers over the correct interpretation of time:

    Albert Einstein vs. Quantum Mechanics and His Own Mind – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxFFtZ301j4

    As was also highlighted in the preceding video, years later in 1935, Einstein was specifically asked by another philosopher, “Can physics demonstrate the existence of ‘the now’ in order to make the notion of ‘now’ into a scientifically valid term?”

    “Can physics demonstrate the existence of ‘the now’ in order to make the notion of ‘now’ into a scientifically valid term?”
    – Rudolf Carnap

    And again, Einstein’s answer was categorical. Einstein answered: “The experience of ‘the now’ cannot be turned into an object of physical measurement, it can never be a part of physics.”

    “The experience of ‘the now’ cannot be turned into an object of physical measurement, it can never be a part of physics.”
    – Albert Einstein
    Quote was taken from the last few minutes of this following video.
    Stanley L. Jaki: “The Mind and Its Now”
    https://vimeo.com/10588094

    Moreover, the statement Einstein made to Carnap on the train, ‘the now’ cannot be turned into an object of physical measurement’, was an interesting statement for Einstein to make to the philosopher since ‘the now of the mind’ has, from many recent experiments in quantum mechanics, undermined the space-time of Einstein’s General Relativity as to being the absolute frame of reference for reality.

    For instance, as the following researcher stated, “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,”

    Reality doesn’t exist until we measure it, (Delayed Choice) quantum experiment confirms –
    Mind = blown. – FIONA MACDONALD – 1 JUN 2015
    Excerpt: “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher and physicist Andrew Truscott said in a press release.
    – per science alert

    And as Scott Aaronson stated in his following lecture notes on quantum computation, “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists,,, But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”

    Lecture 11: Decoherence and Hidden Variables – Scott Aaronson – MIT associate Professor (Quantum Computation)
    Excerpt: “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”
    http://www.scottaaronson.com/democritus/lec11.html

    i.e. ‘the Now’, as philosophers term it, and contrary to what Einstein (and Jaki) thought possible for experimental physics, and according to advances in quantum mechanics, takes precedence over past events in time. Moreover, due to advances in quantum mechanics, it would now be much more appropriate to phrase Einstein’s answer to the philosopher in this way:

    “It is impossible for the experience of ‘the now of the mind’ to ever be divorced from physical measurement, it will always be a part of physics.”

    There is another nuance to time, i.e. ‘eternal time’, that Einstein’s relativity brings out.

    “For those of us who believe in physics. the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however tenacious this illusion may be.”
    – Albert Einstein – March 1955 – in the letter to comfort the family of a dear friend who had passed away. (of note: Einstein passed away the next month, in April of that same year)
    Einstein: A Biography, pg. 402

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Dr. Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 11

    To grasp the whole concept of time coming to a complete stop at the speed of light a little more easily, imagine moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light. Would not the hands on the clock stay stationary as you moved away from the face of the clock at the speed of light? Moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light happens to be the very same ‘thought experiment’ that gave Einstein his breakthrough insight into special relativity. Here is a short clip from a video that gives us a look into Einstein’s breakthrough insight.

    Einstein: Einstein’s Miracle Year (‘Insight into Eternity’ – Thought Experiment 55 second mark) – video
    http://www.history.com/topics/.....racle-year

    The differences between the temporal time that we currently live in, and the ‘eternal time’ of relativity, and the mental time of ‘the now’ of quantum mechanics are touched upon in the following video,,,

    Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, General Relativity and Christianity – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4QDy1Soolo

    Verse:

    Daniel 2:22
    He reveals the deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.

  13. 13
    StephenB says:

    Seversky:

    An omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of what is in our future means that future already exists. In other words predetermination so what price free will?

    Actually, this is not the case. God’s foreknowledge (God’s knowledge really) does not affect man’s free will or his capacity to act as an independent causal agent. God knows if the stock market is going to crash, but that doesn’t mean the God caused it to happen or that market forces were not operating freely.

  14. 14
    FourFaces says:

    Seversky:

    I favor the block universe/timescape concept.

    This is ridiculous. There is no change or motion in a block universe and yet we observe change. This is the reason that Einstein’s spacetime is fiction and that a whole slew of Star Trek physics (black holes, wormholes, time travel, etc.) based on Einstein’s model is just BS.

    Time does not exist, of course. Why? Because a time dimension would make change/motion impossible and we would be in a block universe, as Seversky correctly points out. Only the ever changing present exists. But only a Darwinist (or someone accustomed to believing in nonsense) will insist that there is no change/motion in the universe.

    PS. God never claimed to be omniscient. Predicting the future is not omniscience. It just shows the power of God to make the future happen as he predicted it. Even the brains of humans and animals can predict the future to a certain extent. They could not survive otherwise.

  15. 15
    PaV says:

    Interestingly, I happened to be reading the collected works of Henri Poincare yesterday, online of course.

    And one of the statements he makes, roughly around 1895, is that the works of Jospeh Larmor showed that ‘one moment of time’ is no more true than any other ‘moment of time.’ (My rough French translation).

    One wonders if this influenced Einstein. He would have been 15 at the time, and was enthralled with electromagnetics, with Poincare considered to be one of the experts on EM at the time. It would be interesting to look at how much, if any, Poincare affected Einstein’s thinking about physics in general.

    I was looking at Poincare’s writings because someone noted that Whittaker, in his famous work on the ‘aether,’ doesn’t give Einstein credit for special relativity, but, rather, to Larmor and Poincare.

    Poincare also says–either in 1895 or 1897, can’t remember which paper I was looking at, Poincare says that it is not possible to establish a preferred set of coordinates—which is, of course, Einstein’s understanding of his equations of 1905 regarding electromagnetism (dynamic equations).

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