A Question of Time


Life is somewhat a question of time. That is, between birth and death all you have is time. It’s such a mysterious and elusive thing that no one seems to know exactly what to make of it.

Nevertheless, almost everyone seems to have weighed in on the subject. In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant described space and time as a priori notions that allow us to experience the world around us. Then, Einstein came along with his theory of relativity and said that space and time (space-time) were mathematical constructs. So, does time really exist? That’s the $64,000 question. Apparently, physicists aren’t sure. Simon Saunders, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford, had this to say about the subject, “The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics. The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.”

In the field of cosmology, there is another factor apparently in play.  In an article in Nature, two prominent researchers called out the scientific community for breaking away from science’s mandate of experimental confirmation in the development of new theories. This comes directly on the heels of exotic theories such as String Theory, the Multiverse and supersymmetry. The two researchers who wrote the article, George Ellis, professor emeritus of applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Joe Silk, professor of physics at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics and at Johns Hopkins University, stated that “a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific.”

Yes, falsifiable, just as science philosopher Sir Karl Popper stated in his groundbreaking work Conjectures and Refutations.  Accordingly with respect to the Multiverse theory (for example), the additional universes of the multiverse would lie beyond man’s powers of observation, as they would be beyond space and time and, therefore, could never be directly investigated. So, a theory like the Multiverse Theory could only ever be, at best, an approximation of reality. At worst…well, let’s just say that it might make good science fiction.

As John Horgan discussed in his book, The End of Science, the conundrum for theoretical scientists is whether or not they can remain relevant. After all, there is a limit to knowledge as science attempts to push beyond what’s observable (beyond space and time). Theoretical science is almost by definition limited in that regard regardless of what scientists like Stephen Hawking might say. Quoting Stephen Hawking might make good press but it doesn’t necessarily make good science. For example, Hawking, in his book The Grand Design, said that, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” This is not a fact, but rather an unproven theory and, I would argue, tantamount to a declaration of faith (in an ideology). After all, Hawking has gone on record as saying that science makes God unnecessary.

So, from my perspective, scientific theory is a moving target and it’s only a matter of time before many of the current scientific theories get replaced with new ones. That’s why we have previously moved on from theories like the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth. Since some current scientific theories are incompatible with each other (e.g. the rules of general relativity seem incompatible with those of quantum physics), it’s only a matter of time before the next shoe falls, or as Adam Frank said in his book About Time, “In an era in which the search for quantum gravity has multiplied dimensions and the discovery of dark energy has sent cosmologists back to their blackboards, all the fundamentals seem up for grabs.”

Despite all of the research, time is still an enigma and that may not be changing any time soon. Great minds like Einstein and Planck concur that the fundamental laws of nature are beyond man’s ability to comprehend them. Despite that, scientists claim to understand the cosmos – that things called dark matter and dark energy make up most of the known universe. However, they have yet to find either. Perhaps, it has something to do with what Confucius once said, “The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”


“What a life in science really teaches you is the vastness of our ignorance.”

– David Eagleman, neuroscientist



35 Responses to “A Question of Time”

  1. Arkenaten said

    So, from my perspective, scientific theory is a moving target and it’s only a matter of time before many of the current scientific theories get replaced with new ones.

    YOu wrot ethis as if scientists might consider such a statement blasphemous, whereas I’d venture this is exactly what most if not all scientists not only expect but hope.

    • chicagoja said

      The difference is that we live with scientific theories knowing full well that science will discover better information. Yet, we discuss these theories, as well as teach them in schools, as if they are fact. So, I ask you: Do you think that we will move on from the theory of evolution one day?

      • Arkenaten said

        You are misunderstanding the term theory in this case, as so many people do.Therefore I suggest you hit Google and gen up on what the term theory actually
        means in this instance and then this should not only answer your question but render it moot.
        It’ll take you two minutes.

      • chicagoja said

        So do you think that perhaps evolution be replaced someday by a new theory? Tt’s a simple question and it doesn’t even require Google.

      • Arkenaten said

        No, based on the science, I think evolution is fact, and so do the scientists, from what I can gather.
        Of course we are not talking about the origins of life

        Are you advocating ID?

      • chicagoja said

        I’m sure that any number of scientists believe in evolution, and why not? After all, over 90% of scientists are atheists and almost all atheists believe in evolution. Richard Dawkins told a recent TED conference that now he has proof that evolutionary theory is correct. Of course, that implies that prior to that there was no proof. By the way, Dawkins saying that he has proof that something is correct does not make evolution a fact. If you read my last post, you already know that Dawkins has opened Pandora’s Box with respect to the I.D. issue.

      • Arkenaten said

        So , for the sake of argument, let’s say ID is correct. How does it work?

      • chicagoja said

        suggest you ask richard dawkins (see my post “The Dawkins’ Disclosure”).

      • Arkenaten said

        I read the post , I am asking you.

      • chicagoja said

        I defer to R.D. (and Crick).

      • Arkenaten said

        Why do you defer?
        Are you that afraid to express an opinion?
        Are you talking about directed panspermia?

      • chicagoja said

        Certainly, that seems to be what Dawkins was referring to.

      • Arkenaten said

        So, aliens, or something else?

      • chicagoja said

        Dawkins referred to a very advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Presumably at least a Type II on the Kardashev Scale.

      • Arkenaten said

        And where do you think this Type II came from and who ”made” them?

      • chicagoja said

        Don’t know, but Dawkins attempt at an explanation was hilarious.

      • Arkenaten said

        So if you don’t know why are you being derisive of Dawkins?
        He was being badgered, for one thing, and your attitude just makes you come across as weaselly.
        Why don’t you make a positive case for what you believe instead of simply pissing on the cornflakes?
        You think that’s smart?

      • chicagoja said

        Go back and look at the interview again. Dawkins wasn’t badgered. He volunteered much of the info on origins. You know when you use phrases like “being derisive” and “come across as weaselly”, you’re the one that comes across as someone who is, as you phrased it, pissing on cornflakes. You think that’s smart? Anyway, I could care less what you opinion of me is. What I’m interested in is meaningful comments of which you have not yet had any. If you’re going to comment, don’t suck.

      • Arkenaten said

        All you have tried to do is deride Dawkins and champion Crick but refuse to man-up and state exactly what you think,rather deferring to what Dawkins said then take the piss out of him.
        I consider Stein was angling for some sort of ID answer.

        You are not providing evidence but merely taking pot shots.
        Why not champion Hoyle as well?
        You an hypothesis all you like. And why not?

        But if you have an angle, then explain it succinctly so that it can be considered.

      • chicagoja said

        Sure Stein was angling for some sort of I.D. answer (but that’s not badgering)… and boy did Dawkins give him one. So why don’t you man up and accept it. Dawkins discussing I.D., with his own theory no less. That’s my angle.

      • Arkenaten said

        The problem here is simply this: the general understanding of ID ( as it is normally presented) always comes back to God – no matter the word proponents wish to use. And of course when we say God we mean Yahweh or his Jesus disguise.
        Unfortunately, any posible legitamcy attached to this phrase has been virtually lost in the mire because of Creationists hijacking it and attempting to get it taught as legitimate science, which of course under the religious umbrella is palpable bullshit.
        And any allusions Dawkins may have made to Intelligent Design were directed solely at an intelligent species or possible race of aliens.
        In other words – No Frakking God Needed.
        By you trying to nail Dawkins as if he were some sort of Closet Creationist comes close to being disingenuous.
        As it is it just makes you appear smarmy.

      • chicagoja said

        No, the point is that you have no point other than to disparage people and twist the words around. You’re the one hung up over the I. D. issue because you are afraid that any such admission is tantamount to an admission of a Creator. I thought Dawkins handled it pretty well in the respect that he said life in this universe may be the result of I.D., but not from any such God. Why can’t you just say yes to that?

  2. Arkenaten said

    Bottom line – Dawkins admits that evolution is not a fact.

    No, he did not say this and you might just be cherry picking here, or maybe even poisoning the well.

    There is a big difference between evolution and origin and you are misrepresenting Dawkins and the science involved.

    • chicagoja said

      If you don’t know where and how life originated, you can’t say how it evolved. That is, you don’t have a starting point.

      • Arkenaten said

        So, we are discussing evolution, and possible origins. Dawkins did not say anything like evolution is not fact.
        Really trying to prove a point or win an argument by attempting to twist what Dawkins said does not improve your case or make you look smart. Quite the opposite I am sorry to say.
        Stick to trying to demonstrate what you believe using what evidence you have.

      • chicagoja said

        So let’s refresh:

        Dawkins: It was the origin of the first self-replicating molecule.

        Stein: How did it happen?

        Dawkins: I told you. We don’t know.

        So if you don’t know how the first self-replicating molecule happened and how it evolved, what does that say about evolution? When does the theory of evolution start? With the first single cell organism, with the first fish, RNA, DNA or what? Does the theory of evolution start billions of years ago or when first multi-celled organisms appeared or maybe just a few millions of years ago. Maybe it was when when the fish evolved into a platypus (presumably) which evolved into a hippo (presumably) which evolved into a giraffe (presumably). You’re arguing with me and you should be arguing with the likes of Stephen Gould and Thomas Nagel (both atheists who don’t agree with you). Why don’t you go argue with them.

      • Arkenaten said

        Oh, and don’t you think it’s about time you stop moderating comments? What are you afraid of?

      • chicagoja said

        I’m concerned about wasting my time with you. i don’t see the point.

      • Arkenaten said

        As you have moderated my comments from the get go I see this as another example of hand-waving. Are you afraid f something?
        Anyway, as I appear to be the only one commenting, perhaps you should consider the ‘lurkers’: those that prefer not to comment but read your blog nonetheless.
        If my position is ”a waste of your time” think how much fun you can have taking me down a peg or two and the glee those that support your position – whatever this is, exactly – will experience seeing you demonstrate the likely veracity of your claims and making me look foolish?
        Or maybe you will garner more respect and credibility if you adopt a different approach and actually explain what you mean? Now there’s a thought, right?

      • chicagoja said

        You are a waste of time. Anyone’s time. Here’s the reason. You have no desire to have a meaningful dialogue. You know the truth and everyone else is mistaken. I could show you all sorts of proof but it would never be enough for you. The reason it would not be enough for you (as if you don’t know this already) is that you are only interested in your ideology, which, by definition, denies any truth which contradicts it (just like religion). So evolution is a religion just as Michael Ruse admitted. Go disparage him too while your at it.That’s why you’re a waste of my time and that’s why you get a lifetime ban. Have a great life inside that trolling bubble of yours.

      • Arkenaten said

        And exactly what should I argue with Stephen Gould about – even if he were alive, of course?

        As for Nagal. I don’t see the point.

        If you cannot make a decent argument for your case and simply offer up vague platitudes, derisory comments about Dawkins and hand wave an criticism , then what the hell are you posting about this stuff for?

      • chicagoja said

        Gould and Nagel, as if you don’t already know their positions on evolution and the fossil record. I have a quote from Nagel in my next post. You’ll absolutely love it. I’m sure that you’ll tell me that he was badgered or that I took it out of context. So…you still haven’t told me the start date which is relevant to when evolution theory became applicable. Bet you can’t tell me that one (or perhaps you don’t want to). You also seem stumped by how the platypus evolved or the whole family tree of animals for that matter. Go see Gould if you’re stumped.

  3. Arkenaten said

    John Tooby

    “Although Gould characterizes his critics as “anonymous” and “a tiny coterie,” nearly every major evolutionary biologist of our era has weighed in in a vain attempt to correct the tangle of confusions that the higher profile Gould has inundated the intellectual world with. The point is not that Gould is the object of some criticism — so properly are we all — it is that his reputation as a credible and balanced authority about evolutionary biology is non-existent among those who are in a professional position to know…
    These [major evolutionary biologists] include Ernst Mayr, John Maynard Smith, George Williams, Bill Hamilton, Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Tim Clutton-Brock, Paul Harvey, Brian Charlesworth, Jerry Coyne, Robert Trivers, John Alcock, Randy Thornhill, and many others.”

    • chicagoja said

      There you go disparaging someone again. This time it is actually one of your own kind. The people you cite are all atheists and all ideologues. Wow, they are in a “professional position to know” – at least according to you. How about Nagel? Are you going to disparage him too?

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