A Physicist Finally Engages Argo: The notion of “time”
Many thanks to Wartburg Watch’s resident physicist, a commenter who goes by the moniker of “Old John J”. The thread in question concerned the ongoing debate between Old Earth and Young Earth proponents; clearly, Old John J, being a professional physicist, sides with mainstream science (as do I, in the strict terms of the debate). However, that is merely because Young Earth proponents want to concede the same scientific presumptions on what constitutes the agreed upon definitions. In other words, in both camps, a second is a second, a minute a minute, a year a year…and so on. For me, as one who denies the concept of time as nothing more than a product of a mind which can conceptualize his environment, I believe that the whole debate is moot from the start. The only relevant question in any school of that is what constitutes actual value; the source of truth…or, that which all ideas are in service to as the plumb line for their TRUTH. That is the place from which all ideas should proceed. Otherwise, it’s merely academics quibbling about relative terms which don’t actually mean anything.
Since time is not absolute, because both schools of thought, Old Earth and Young Earth (scientific and religious), concede that time was created, “in the beginning”, then time by definition did not have a time from which it started (a contradiction in terms anyway). And if time itself has no beginning time, it is impossible then to say that any time which we ascribe at all to any motion of any object regardless of the reference we use (a calender or clock or moon or sun) has any sort of actual, non-subjective, value. Thus, the debate actually boils down to a quibbling about definitions. What I am trying to say to Old John J in this dialog, and having little success it seems for whatever reason (I chalk it up to the stubbornness of physicists in general; they will concede an argument about as readily as a Calvinist will, so…you get the point), is that all Young Earth proponents need to do to reasonably reject Old Earth science is redefine time in such a way that it “proves” that the age of the earth is relatively young, as opposed to relatively old (and really, they don’t even need to go to that trouble…they just need to rightly point out that since science doesn’t have an absolute reference for time, then age is relative; they can just as rationally call the Earth young as they call it old; a billion years can become a thousand years and there is no absolute standard by which to refute their claim). Since time is indeed relative to whatever abstract reference we choose, “old” and “young” can mean whatever we want it to mean.
This of course is a notion that anyone who believes in a “force” which “determines/governs” the universe simply cannot suffer. Mystic, or scientist…they love excluding man from the equation. And that is the crux of my problem with science, and why I love going after the assumptions of Old Earthers (scientists/physicists). In the end, their “Standard Model” is as subjective as Calvin’s standard model of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Both break down, collapsing under the weight of their own capricious definitions, as soon as we realize that the SELF (a physical body) is the source of itself, by itself, and that it simply cannot be any other way. Both physics standard models and religious models (and all models for that matter) inevitably arrive at the only place they can really go: utter contradiction of themselves and, if forced upon the masses anyway, the destruction of mankind in favor of their abstract absolute “truth” which “controls” absolutely.
People think I’m nuts…but I have seen the end of all “laws” (determining forces described in various schools of thought), and they end either in the affirmation of mankind’s singular and perfect value/truth, or mankind’s utter ruin in service to a “truth” which lay perpetually beyond him. And the belief that this truth “controls/determines” is simply more proof that man cannot really be valued in the equation, and thus, cannot be known to exist. There is no middle ground.
Incidentally, if you really want to get their—that is, the physicist’s—goat (they are fun to poke at), tell them that the universe is not, in fact, expanding. Watch the nerds fly into a rage. Tell them that since the “big bang” created space and time, thus making space and time and of course the universe itself as having an origin of NOWHERE and NO-WHEN, it is impossible to deduce that the universe is in fact expanding because by definition (their own!) there is no actual place the universe could be expanding from. Space began in NO space. And time began at NO time. And that being the case, there can be no location to the start of the “expansion”. Therefore, the universe is where it is now in the same place it was then…and where it is, is nothing more than itself.
Again, if the universe doesn’t have a starting point, then it cannot be going anywhere. For how can anything be going anywhere if it came from nowhere? It is an irrational notion. Movement, and thus expansion, by extension, is simply another way man qualifies the relative motions (which can be of a variety of sorts, not just “movement”, but “time” and “distance” and “direction” and “energy”, etc.) between two bodies. In reality, since there is no actual value to space or time, because in the physics model both were created, and thus are direct functions of NO space or time, there is no such thing as expansion. Expansion is relative between two bodies. The location of those bodies can thus only be themselves in literal fact.
To me, it seems that the logical fallacies of physics are the only things actually expanding.
Finally…before we get on to the dialog between myself and Old John J…
Why is this important? Why do I spend so much time going after these false notions of time and space as entities which, though they are direct functions of the utter contradictions of themselves (of no space and no time) even according to physics itself, are deemed as somehow non-relative and actually causal?
I do it to show the insidiousness of the philosophy of the Primacy of Consciousness. I do it to show just how quickly abstract truth can pass for CAUSAL truth. These “laws” are always thought to carry the epistemological and existential day. ALL notions of absolute truth outside of man–like the Jewish “law” as James Jordan argues it, like the Gnosticism of post-Augustinian Christianity, like the Standard Model of physics–must eventually push man into a place of utter irrelevance. If we do not concede that all truth is a direct function of the physical bodies which actually exist, observed by a man’s conscious mind, then man must become an affront and an enemy of truth. Once that happens, man must be destroyed. There is no living with an absolute truth that does not include YOU. There. Is. No. Living. Period. Either YOU are VALUE, or you are the enemy of value (and another word for “value” is “morality”).
If physics places truth outside of man, then physics becomes the destroyer of worlds like any old despotic religion does. Man dies in the service of truth. That is why this is important. And physics and math and science are the gold standard for impenetrable abstract “truth” in the world. To me, if I can declare and reveal the contradictory assumptions and the false logic of these schools of thought, then the rest of the despotic ideas which rule the world will be easy fodder. One can easily show how individual man is outside of the “collective”, and thus, the collective itself must be nothing more than an abstract concept meant to enslave individuals to a “truth” which MUST destroy them in service to itself. That isn’t too hard. But declaring that you or your mind are NOT a product of physical laws which determine or govern, which we can observe to be efficacious in many tangential-to-man’s-self ways, such as industry and technology…well, that is hard.
But we must ask ourselves: Does efficacy in these areas make the laws of physics “true”? What is “truth”… meaning, if truth is in service to areas outside of man’s self, then what does that make “truth”? Is a science-based technology used to kill men and women and children (Syria?) in mass quantities “true”? And if so, true according to what? Not to man, obviously…thus, the truth is revealed by what the science is used in service to, not In the science actually “working”, I submit. For if what “works” is what removes mankind from the face of the Earth, then “works” is actually NOT working at all. And so in this sense, the laws of physics are not any different than the laws of government, or art, or language, or economics. All of these schools of thought have their ways of organizing the world. Science is no different. In all cases, there are ideas—there are “laws”—and yet, the truth can only be measured one way: the affirmation of that which is the only thing which can be objectively known as TRUTH: human beings.
Here is the dialog between Old John J and myself. John J bailed I would say pretty early…but maybe you don’t think so. That’s fine. For me, well, like I said…a physicist is simply a priest of sorts. They are the ones divinely given grace to perceive the truth. When Old John J declares he has nothing more to add to the discussion, this is the same thing as a Calvinist saying “Well, I know it’s true; you don’t have to accept it”. In other words, agreement with them is the only way you can have truth. You have to agree before you understand. [sigh] Notice in the discussion with Old John J his presumption that the consistency of ideas is not relevant. That is, truth can be known in spite of its foundational assumptions being utterly mutually exclusive to reason. Notice how time does not need to have any actual absolute value in order to be completely able to consistently and accurately describe reality.
This is not a rational idea. The notion of a NON-absolute ruling absolutely is insanity. This is merely mysticism in a white lab coat instead of a miter.
Here is me and Old John J talking time. The couple of comments in brackets are mine, added during the writing of this post:
The answer is simple [to the question of “how old is the universe”] : there is no actual “age” of the earth or universe since time is, according to GR, relative. In both YE and scientific claims, time is “created”. This means that time itself begins, by definition, at “zero time”…or, better said, time is created at the location of NO time. This makes time itself a direct function of zero. Which means that the age of the universe and earth cannot really be known since the birthdate of anything which exists is 0/0/0.
Old John J said:
Argo, sorry I missed this yesterday.
I think there is considerable confusion here. Time is not an absolute measure. It is always the difference between two times taken with respect to the same reference: our calendars and clocks. Relativity as in General Relativity defines how perceived times are to be compared over large distances, large gravitational field differences, large speed differences. It’s computations are precise, not relative as in the colloquial sense of the word. Your age is not arbitrary: at the minimum I assume you know it’s date. Official accounting of time here on Earth is done by counting seconds. The second is defined in terms of a reproducible property of the Cesium atom. The inability to establish an absolute time does not in any way call into question time keeping.
Many physical properties have been shown to take place extremely regularly. Radioactive decay is one of them. OE proponents count on the long term reproducibility of many different radioactive decay sequences, measured quantities that are falsifiable by direct observations to make their age estimates. All measurements are subject to certain amounts of uncertainty. Statistics was invented to deal with such measurement problems. No statistical uncertainties in the current OE age of Earth estimates are large enough to encompass the YE preferred age.
Old John J,
I am fully aware of how the YE crowd attempts to “prove” its “science” by appealing to the usual scientific assumptions regarding what constitutes a “day”, or an “hour”, or the “math” or whatever. I am being a little facetious when I suggest that YE crowd simply needs to redefine a “second” according to their own consensus. Since time, as you admit, is not absolute, really, it boils down to what we label (how we choose to quantify) the relative movement (relative to us) of whatever object we are tracking as the reference.
You rightly point out the use of atomic clocks for time keeping. Sure…it’s a great system, as long as we all agree that a motion from A to B (or whatever interaction we choose to measure) constitutes a second (strange…no one asked me). Since time is not absolute, then what if we make the same motion from A to B two hours? Do that enough, get the math to work out, and you have “proven” YE. My point is that time is merely a measurement of what physical objects do…it is not a “law” that governs the motion of those objects. Time is a term. Human beings give it meaning. As with everything then, truth is a function of man, not a function of abstract measurements.
I understand it may seem like semantics. However, I submit that truth gets clouded when we lose sight of ideas like relative time (not absolute). We begin to subjugate man to “forms” which are beyond him. This can only lead to man’s destruction. In addition, I submit that science would be more evolved if it dropped its Platonist facade. Ideas like “numbers don’t lie” must hinder any scientific endeavor, I assume. One has to ask, if we began with the proper assumption, that the SELF is what actually exists and acts (and even more so, that truth is ultimately derived from the conscious observer), might we have advanced our understanding?
Old John J said:
Time is a well defined concept. There is no absolute time but since all given times are actually the difference between two measurements the lack of an absolute reference is immaterial. Time differences can probably be measured more accurately than any other physical quantity. There is sufficient accuracy to see even the minuscule variations due to General Relativity effects on our planet. There is nothing in the physics of time that can bridge the gap between OE and YE age estimates for the Earth.
“Time is a well defined concept.”
Defined by who? Time does not define itself. Man defines time. So if I don’t accept your concept, you have no way to prove me wrong. Time has no reference. Itself has no value.
“There is no absolute time but since all given times are actually the difference between two measurements the lack of an absolute reference is immaterial.”
On the contrary. Since there is no actual reference for time (an absolute reference) then time cannot be defined absolutely. All values of time then are both relative and a matter of consensus. You cannot PROVE an age based on a reference which you admit does not exist.
“Time differences can probably be measured more accurately than any other physical quantity.”
Differences based on a reference number that is merely theoretical. Change the number, change the measurement.
“There is sufficient accuracy to see even the minuscule variations due to General Relativity effects on our planet.”
Variations in what? Time is a concept. Variations in time are variations only insofar as the abstract reference is agreed upon. The only ultimately non- subjective measurement of time is OBJECT (self). Every object is where and when it is. Any other description is theoretical only. A theoretical measurement between the relative movement between two or more objects. Remove objects, remove time.
“There is nothing in the physics of time that can bridge the gap between OE and YE age estimates for the Earth.”
Time does not have physics because it is a product of cognition. It, itself, is an absolute idea (infinite ). It can have no measurements apart from objects; thus, it has no physics. Physics itself is theoretical only. If you change the definitions, you change the age of the earth. You claim the earth is old. I might claim it is young. Outside accepted definitions, neither argument is right. Because there is no reference for time ITSELF.
Old John J said:
Time is fundamental to all of physics [oh…I know, heh, heh]. It is in no way undefined or arbitrary. Time is measured by reproducible periodic astronomic or atomic phenomena. An agreed on reference time and date and choice of measurement units is all that is needed to compare the times of different events. The small gravitational and velocity effects that occur in measuring time are well understood as shown by the functioning of the Global Positioning System.
There is nothing that allows for the YE 6000 year estimate of the age of the Earth to be taken seriously compared to the accepted OE estimate of 4.5 billion years (4,500,000,000). This the only absolute in dealing with time that I accept.
Educationally, I am an old experimental physicist. Theologically only Genesis 1:1 appears to be a useful science reference point. The remainder of the first 11 Genesis chapters speak to the relationship God expects from his chosen people: no idols, polytheism and an expected moral righteousness. Genesis should not be interpreted in the light of contemporary science.
Beyond this I don’t believe I have anything that I contribute to a deeper discussion of time.
Old John J,
I am not trying to be argumentative. But seems to me that physicists have as hard a time letting go of their assumptions about reality as anyone else. They think that because they have models which do a good job of organizing the environment, that they get to claim somehow that these models are causal. (Maybe not you…but the idea that physical laws “govern” I have heard all my life; it is a lie…because that which is purely theoretical cannot govern, because it cannot exist.) So, the real question is WHY do we decide that the way physics models and uses the concept of time is “better” than one who would choose to disregard those models, such as a YEC proponent?
What is the thing which the models are in service to? If you say “truth”, fine…but what is truth in service to? True in what way? All truth must boil down to the affirmation of what EXITS, which is not physics itself, but the relative relationship between the objects physics describes. Objects are the cause of themselves…the physics is simply a paradigm we use to organize what we observe. And what exists as a function of the VALUE that physics is in service to is MAN. Anytime the model becomes causal (time becomes “objective”), then truth is outside of humanity. And this is the Platonism in science. This will eventually lead to abuse. Physics, like any other idea, must serve the affirmation of MAN, or it cannot be proven as true. We can argue against YEC…but if we argue it by making physics the new primary consciousness, instead of the “biblical inerrancy” like the Young Earthers declare, then we are hypocrites.
And I am right. Age is relative. By definition. If time is a function of “no time”, then any value of time is NOT actual. Your appeal to physical phenomenon as the source of time is concession of this argument. I am forty years old. Relative to the age of the earth. Relative to the age of the universe. Relative to the big bang (or creation) which occurred at NO time. All age stems then from a reference which is zero. Age is relative. The only actual age is ME. I am when I am. You are when you are. Age is merely a brand of relatively quantifying our difference with respect to an agreed upon theoretical reference.
I asked: At what time did time begin? There is no answer to this question that doesn’t ultimately prove that time does not exist. It has no absolute reference itself, so any value of time is going to relative to whatever objects we are observing. If we put all objects into a physics model, then time certainly can seem “non-arbitrary”. But the fact is as one time, some PERSON had to decide how to define a day. An hour. A minute. The definition itself doesn’t really matter…consensus matters. Why does consensus matter between human beings…what is the value they are trying to perpetuate? Existence of MAN.
The only truth then is LIFE. Human life. Life(man’s SELF) then is the objective source of truth from which all ideas (even physics) stems. Physics is not causal. It is descriptive. It is man’s attempt to organize his universe in a way that affirms himself.
Here is a perfect example of the favoritism and hypocrisy which exists at Wartburg Watch. This is precisely why I reject all of the arguments Dee has made for placing me in permanent moderation on her blog. In this way, she plays the part of a hypocrite perfectly. This is a good example of the kind of reasoning she used to moderate me into oblivion there in the first place:
Bennett Willis said:
The uncertainty in time is such that even over 4.5 billion years it does not amount to your age. Please select something that matters to discuss.
Something that matters? The insinuation of an abstract, theoretical construct as the source (cause) of truth doesn’t matter? In the context of a blog meant to deal with abuse, I would say you need to rethink what matters.
You and I have different notions of what constitutes relevance. I do not agree that you are the arbiter of what is truly relevant.
Could you take it down a notch? Thanks.
So…yes, I am accused of discussing something wholly irrelevant, while none of my claims are refuted, and when I respond to the accusation, I’m the one who has to tone it down.
The Marxism of the mind. The Haves are to be sacrificed to the Have Nots.
The tyranny which so easily seduces is seen in so many little fits and starts. It is big in some places, and small in others. But it is there, always and inexorably. People think that can never fall prey to the devil’s schemes. That’s because we don’t fall…we waltz right in.