Why time is not an illusion

Blog 20151230 Why time is not an illusion

When I ask folks what time is, I generally get one or two of these:

1.     Time is a dimension.
2.     Time is a measurement.
3.     Time is an illusion

Readers know, of course, that time is motion (the title of one of my most popular Blogs). The upshot is that almost no one else knows what time is. I understand why regressive physicists consider time to be a dimension—they could not be hired if they thought otherwise. Without it, relativity and Big Bang Theory would suffer an early death. The solipsism embodied in the second definition is common, and well-preserved in positivism and operationalism. My response to those who think time is a measurement is this: The dinosaurs experienced time, even though they were incapable of measuring  it.

I was always intrigued by the silly statement that “time is an illusion.” This is the definition of “illusion”: “a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses.” Growing up, I used to do some simple magic tricks that clearly were illusions. Nonetheless, I am under no illusion that a great deal of time (motion) has occurred since. The silver hair tells me as much. Then I got this anonymous comment giving me a clue to what was up:

“as time is illusion, cause and effect do not exist. Our concepts about time and cause and effect are deeply erronously."

Despite the misspelling, the comment clearly shows the necessary connection with indeterminism. As determinists, we assume that there are material causes for all effects. Of course, anonymous is correct to a certain degree: cause and effect do not exist, they occur, as described by Newton's Second Law of Motion. On the other hand, hardly anyone denies causality for some events. Even if you lived in a basket, it would be impossible to deny that eating food (a cause) might produce an effect (continued life). This all goes to show how the radical adherence to logic based on indeterministic assumptions leads to nonsense. Thenceforth, we can consider the statement “time is an illusion” to be pure indeterminism. And like all indeterminism, we can disregard it as psychobabble handed down to thwart the advance of the scientific worldview.


Westmiller said...

GB writes: "...I understand why regressive physicists consider time to be a dimension - they could not be hired if they thought otherwise."

That may be true today, but the original advocates simply observed that length, time, and motion could be *quantified* by reference to a standard unit. I think that was an important development in the pursuit of all forms of scientific investigation. Their fault, as you've pointed out, was to reify their "measure by relative comparison" as though the units themselves were objective physical objects.

George Coyne said...

It is obvious that the only illusion concerning time is in the holding of erroneous concepts of time, not in the reality of the occurrence of time. Just as matter can not exist without being in motion, the occurrence of motion requires the existence of what is included in the category referred to as “matter”. As time is motion itself, this leads to the realization that time can not occur without matter, and for matter to exist,time needs to be occurring.The two are completely inseparable.

It is impossible for matter to not exist, therefore it has no beginning or end. This means that time is also infinite because it always occurs where matter exists.

Anonymous said...

Glenn, you are one of the few who get it. Time is motion. Objects without motion are a static picture, and have no time. The block universe is nonsense. It implies that we have no free will and all things have no motion and thus no time. The block universe is like looking at a movie on a DVD, it is all there and already happened (filmed) and nothing within it can change. Einstein makes no sense to me. The twins paradox, time dilation, block universe are philosophical nonsense.

Glenn Borchardt said...

Dear Anon:

Agree totally except for the pro-free will part. In science there causes for all effects. I must admit that you got me to look up the meaning of "block universe": "According to the growing block universe theory of time (or the growing block view), the past and present exist and the future does not exist. The present is an objective property, to be compared with a moving spotlight." Maybe that is what one relativist meant when he said that I did not exist, but that the event of my birth did exist. It seems that regressive beliefs are getting nuttier all the time.