It Never Will Be, Either

By William M Briggs Published on February 20, 2018

What’s with all the deference shown to science among religious folks?

As soon as a scientist, or science cheerleader, starts talking about a conflict between religion and science, a Christian apologist trots out and pleads, “There is no contradiction between science and Christianity.”

Well, that’s true. But too often this response grants science more territory than it deserves. This is the wrong instinct. There’s no need of meek acceptance of science’s superior ground. Science does not hold the hill. It is down in the valley boasting big. Christians need to recognize this. When a scientist starts waving his slide rule around in a menacing manner, the Christian should say What is wrong with you people?

The Limitations of Science

Science is terrific. But isn’t everything. It isn’t even most things. Knowing the weight of a neutrino won’t tell you why stealing is a sin. Positing some mathematical formula for altruism and selfish genes won’t tell you why men cooperate. All arguments along this line are circular or invalid, anyway. They either assume what they want to know, like that rape is wrong. Or they assume that alone among men, the scientist has escaped the pull of his biology and can tell you how things really are.

Look. Figuring how to create a magnetic monopole won’t get you into Heaven. It won’t keep you out, either. So why are scientists so combative about religion?

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The hope of some scientists is that a culture that embraces science will eschew religion. Science will allow humanity to leave its infancy behind and lead it to a bright, happy future where everybody goes around chatting about the reproductive habits of newts.

But not discussing why it’s right or wrong to kill yourself. Scientists figure they can handle those tough questions themselves, or rather explain them away, and then tell the rest of us their “discovery.” This is a vain hope. Why?

The Importance of Science Isn’t Scientific

Given how it defines itself, natural science can speak with some authority only about the measurable properties of things. That’s it. Nothing more. About elementary fermions science is teeming with a lot o’ news. It has many cheerful facts about your brainwaves when you take a snooze.

But why science is possible in the first place, why mathematics is so important, and even of what mathematics is, science, as the term is now used, is necessarily mute. Scientists yap away, all right, but it’s always a bluff. Science cannot tell you what it’s like to experience an emotion, or to have a flash of insight. Science can never say why the universe is the way it is. It can only work with what it has. Why whatever is at the base of the physical world is that way and not another, or why there is something rather than nothing at all, are questions for theists and philosophers, not scientists — at least not in their official capacity.

You Cant Measure the Unmeasurable

Insofar as natural science is about measurement, it can’t tell us about God. You can’t put a yardstick to God. Again, given how scientists define their field, questions about God can never be scientific. But few scientists are consistent on this point. This is why exasperation is the only proper response to the scientist who prattles on about needing “evidence” for God. Just what exact evidence does he have in mind? Call his bluff and ask him. What evidence would he accept? Like the time God took on flesh and walked among us as a man?

It would be swell if more people knew more science. But it would be grander if they knew more Christianity, philosophy, and history.

You cannot see, and therefore cannot measure, what cannot be seen. God is immaterial and infinite, omnipotent, omniscient. The infinite cannot be plumbed. There is nowhere to point a telescope and see God the Father.

This isn’t a cop out. You can’t see numbers, either, or the continuum on which modern calculations are based. You can see individual things, but you can’t see or measure the logic used to make scientific judgments. So scientists don’t apply their rule even to their own discipline. Science is awash in abstractions, religion and philosophy, just like every other human endeavor. It is only that science pretends these things somehow don’t exist. And it then expects us not to notice the contradiction.

Loving God Does Not Mean Hating Science

I critique science as a scientist. I’ve worked in medicine, electrical engineering, space and earth weather, climatology (now more a branch of politics), and other areas of physics. I know by experience that science is a fine thing. It gives tinkerers their ideas, which in turn become the stuff that churns things along. It would be swell if more people knew more science. But it would be grander if they knew more Christianity, philosophy, and history.

Focusing on science dodges the big questions. Make that The Big Question. Every question is secondary to this one. So why should we defer to the judgment of people on the one matter they have made their biggest error?

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  • Ian

    For a man of statistics and a fellow Cornellian, I’m deeply disappointed in the lack of support you presented for your claim. With the exception of your point on “measuring God” (on which I agree, and why I’m agnostic) the article dismisses arguments of scientists as bad or selfish or contradictory without even fully telling us or citing what they are (“All arguments along this line are circular or invalid, anyway.”). Referencing your own paper on rape that follows similar contours is not sufficient.

    I agree that science is “awash in abstractions”, but it feels like you’re pinning down science as only allowed within the confines of what it can physically measure, leaving any other theorizing to religion and philosophy. Under such a weird definition, science and mathematics are obviously going to be intrinsically contradictory, which let’s you call it hypocritical and prove religion’s superiority, and to me that seems very flawed. I assume that’s an inaccurate or incomplete interpretation, so please fill me in; I am actually trying to understand.

    Finally, every similar article I’ve seen on this site ultimately
    revolves around “scientists get facts, but you can never extract any
    moral conclusions from facts” as if that’s a universal law that needs no
    support. My first thought is always Game Theory as a reasonable
    starting point for a discussion like this, yet nothing like that is ever
    mentioned. Why?

    • Aeneas

      That’s right. Math isn’t science. That doesn’t mean they contradict each other. Does mean scientists are using a tool which has no empirical proof going for it. Same for logic.

      Religion has to be superior to science, religion gives better ideas on what the purpose of people is. Science tries too but it will always say no purpose, and that’s plain wrong. That’s that “circular” idea too. Why study rape at all unless you already knew it was bad from outside science?

      • Ian

        Your answer is emblematic of everything that frustrated me about this article, so how about we start with a logical exercise (logic being a tool that science can use, like you said) and go from there.

        I don’t like being hurt, therefore I don’t want you to hurt me. Since you are also human, I assume you also don’t like being hurt, and I probably should not hurt you either. Those who are religious are more than welcome to use God as their guide, I’m not trying to strip that away, but I would like to know why a secular person could not use these sorts of logical steps towards forming their own moral compass? You could make the same sort of logical steps to object to rape without God telling you anything.

        • GPS Daddy

          Ian, logic by itself has little value. The logic of life is based on a worldview. Have you ever taking non-euclidean geometry? Non-euclidean geometry is about geometries that assume that the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. The axioms (or assumptions) of the geometry matter. They cannot be just any axiom. Not all axioms can work together.

          This is the same in life. Lets take the idea that the material world is all there is. Everything is just neutrons, protons, and electrons. If this is the case then the meaning, value, purpose, joy, sorrow, etc… you find in life are just the interaction of neutrons, protons, and electrons. They really do not exist as we perceive them. So the axiom that neutrons, protons, and electrons is all there is is incompatible with there being meaning, value, purpose, joy, sorrow in life.

          Consider this: What do we observe in life?

          Life ALWAYS comes form life.
          Intelligence ALWAYS comes from intelligence.
          Personhood ALWAYS comes from personhood.

          We know that time is not infinite in the past for if it was then time “now” would be at infinity. We know that an actually physical infinity is not possible. This means that there must be a prime mover of the universe. And since this prime mover is responsible for life in this universe we can also know the following:

          This prime mover is living.
          This prime mover is intelligent.
          This prime mover has personhood.

          But we can also know more about this prime mover. Think about good and evil. Evil is nothing more than a violation of good. Anytime we say something is evil we do so in the context of what good has been violated. However, we never refer to something as good because it has violated evil. (Calling something good because it corrects or eliminated evil is not the same as good violating evil in the same way the evil violates good.)

          What does this mean? Good comes first. Good exists without evil. Evil cannot exist without good. So, back to our prime mover: The prime mover is not only living, intelligent, has personhood but is also good. The prime mover must be incredibly powerful as well to have created the universe. The prime mover cannot be material either for the material world has a beginning and the prime mover must be outside of the space-time continuum.

          So now we know a great deal about this prime mover:

          Living
          Intelligent
          Having personhood
          good
          and immaterial.

          • MikeW

            GPS Daddy, actually we don’t all know that time was not infinite in the past. (You may know, but I don’t.) And even if past time is not infinite, it’s always possible for a finite past time to be long enough to be effectively infinity for anything observable that we are trying to explain. Given that, the rest of your argument is toast.

          • GPS Daddy

            Mike,

            Think about an infinity. What is infinity plus 1? The answer is infinity. If time was infinite in the past then “now” would be at infinity. So “now” plus one second would be the same “now” that was one second ago. But we know this is not true. So “now” is not at infinity. Therefore time must be finite in the past. If time is finite in the past so in the material world for they are connected.

          • Pat Cusack

            Mental “experiments” are not scientific experiments. They are thought-bubbles.

            Your bubble about “Think about an infinity …” is a case-in-point.

            Such thinking merely creates “thoughts”, not any form of physical reality. Any conclusion reached thereby can only be as good as its premises and logic, and you know how easy it is to make mistakes in both of those.

            Any “infinity” I’ve been exposed to is either imaginary or unimaginable. Knowledge is not the same as imagination.

          • GPS Daddy

            Pat,

            The physical world is real. Its not an illusion.

          • Pat Cusack

            I agree with you.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Mental “experiments” are not scientific experiments.

            Certainly not! Mathematics is a different realm of thought from the physics. It considers the abstracted properties of ideal bodies, while the physics considers the abstracted properties of real bodies. Physics is based on experiments and experience; mathematics is based on logic and axioms. Physics proceeds by induction and leads to tentative conclusions; Mathematics leads by deduction to certain conclusions (within the axiom system).

            Metaphysics is different from both. It proceeds from experience (like physics) but like mathematics, it proceeds by deduction. Instead of working backward toward inductive laws, it works forward to deductive conclusions.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Non-euclidean geometry is about geometries that assume that the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line.

            No. They are based on variations to Euclid’s fifth postulate regarding parallel lines. Riemannian geometry and Lobachevskian geometries. Euclid postulated that given a line and a point not on the line, only one parallel could be constructed with rule and compass. The logical alternatives are: none can be drawn (Riemann) and many can be drawn (Lobachevsky). The former is geometry on a globe. (Two lines of latitude can never be parallel in the Euclidean sense). The latter is geometry on a hyperboloid.

          • GPS Daddy

            I have a math degree. I checked the way I used this with a student who is a perusing a PhD in math. What I am referring to is that there are different axiomatic basis for different geometries. These axioms cannot counterdict themselves. We need to pay attention to this in life. For we make assumptions in life that are very axiomatic in nature. The problem is that in life people very often assume things that are in conflict. Take for example naturalism. The naturalist will say there is only the material universe and there is no ultimate meaning in life. Yet, will fervently defend the meaning they have in life. These two are in conflict with each other.

          • Ian

            I really liked this explanation. Even if I still disagree and see flaws/leaps in the logic, it helped fill in some of the gaps I saw missing from the article and reframed how I thought about it. Thank you for taking the time to write this!

          • GPS Daddy

            What flaws or leaps of logic do you see?

          • GPS Daddy

            So Ian, you may not have had time to respond to my last post to you but I really want your opinion of what you think are the flaws or leaps in logic in my reasoning.

          • Ian

            Judging by your other posts, you actually don’t. Even so, I don’t think an extended logical debate trying to prove and/or disprove God’s existence – which is where this entire comment thread is heading, and not in a healthy way – is worthwhile. My aim was never to disparage a religious worldview, but simply to defend my own against some supposedly deductive reasoning that my view would always be inferior. To that end, your response helped me understand your worldview better, and that’s what I was looking for. Thank you, and have a great day.

          • swordfish

            “We know that time is not infinite in the past for if it was then time “now” would be at infinity.”

            Physicists don’t know this so how can you? Our universe could be part of an infinite series of universes via ‘eternal inflation’, or it could be something else we don’t understand at all. Yet.

            “We know that an actually physical infinity is not possible.”

            No, we don’t. Please cite peer-reviewed papers supporting your claim.

            “Therefore we know that the space-time continuum has a beginning.”

            No, because your previous claims are unsupported.

            “Life has a beginning.”

            At last! Something true.

            “Something has to have started all of this.”

            Why?

            “This means that there must be a prime mover of the universe.”

            No, it doesn’t. This is all built on sand. The reast of you nonsense only goes to prove that metaphysical arguments go nowhere.

          • GPS Daddy

            Hogwash.

        • See? Sea Lion argument right there. Also, circular logic. “Please use science to explain your philosophy.”

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          I assume you also don’t like being hurt, and I probably should not hurt you either.

          Uh-oh, we saw you palm that Ace. Why should I not hurt you? Where does that come from. If I don’t want to be hurt, maybe I should hurt you, to drive you off or get your genes out of my pool.

          Besides, “I don’t like being hurt” is itself a subjective statement. Pain does not have empirical, objective existence. That’s why the Scientific Revolutionaries dismissed it as unscientific.

          • swordfish

            “If I don’t want to be hurt, maybe I should hurt you, to drive you off or get your genes out of my pool.”

            That might be true if we weren’t a social species.

            “Pain does not have empirical, objective existence.”

            This right here is why science has crushed philosophy and religion.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            “Pain does not have empirical, objective existence.”

            This right here is why science has crushed philosophy and religion.

            I’m not sure why. That was a conclusion of the Scientific Revolutionaries when they were distinguishing the objective from the subjective. It’s right there in Galileo’s “The Assayer,” as well as in Hume, Descartes, and the others.

            “If I don’t want to be hurt, maybe I should hurt you, to drive you off or get your genes out of my pool.”
            That might be true if we weren’t a social species.

            And that might matter if it was the species and not the individual who did the acting. But in any case, history is a testimony against your starry-eyed optimism.

          • swordfish

            “And that might matter if it was the species and not the individual who did the acting.”

            The species consists of individuals.

            “But in any case, history is a testimony against your starry-eyed optimism.”

            History shows things are getting better.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Your comment was “That might be true if we weren’t a social species”. However, this was meant as a rebuttal to the alternative hypothesis that “If =I= don’t want to be hurt, then…” I should drive you and keep the Darwinian advantage. I referred you to history as a sanity check, where the Other has been often driven out, massacred, enslaved, or otherwise marginalized.

            That humans are a social species only means we form societies. It does not mean that we always admit Others into our societies. Ask those who contributed to Timur Lenk’s mountain of skulls.

            Your response to this observation was to claim that “History shows things are getting better”. Whether or not this is a true observation, does this mean that we have only lately been becoming a social species and were not so in previous ages?

            Your reifying comment that “the species consists of individuals” reverses the causality. It is “individuals comprise a species.” And it is precisely the diverse behavior of humans that matters here. Some are social. Some are not.

          • swordfish

            I was responding to your: “And that might matter if it was the species and not the individual who did the acting. But in any case, history is a testimony against your starry-eyed optimism.”

            It *IS* the individual acting, not the group, but what is good for the individual is generally good for the group also, as the group consists of individuals.

            As for history, your claim was that I was too optimistic, but the fact that things are getting better indicates that my optimism is well founded.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Running away from an enemy may be good for the individual, but may not be good for the group defending its village.

            It’s not at all clear that “things are getting better.” They thought the same thing during the long peace after the Napoleonic Wars, but it ended in the horror of the Germanic Wars,

          • swordfish

            “Running away from an enemy may be good for the individual, but may not be good for the group defending its village.”

            Seatbelts sometimes strangle people in a crash. That doesn’t mean thay’re not a good idea in general. Just because you can think up an exception doesn’t mean it has any significance. If you don’t accept evolution, don’t complain to me about it as I didn’t discover it.

            Are “things getting better”? Steven Pinker argues a strong case supported by detailed statistical analysis in “The Better Angels of Our Nature”.

    • You are yourself using circular logic. Your argument seems to boil down to “why does this short philosophical article not use scientific methods of proof, with footnotes?” It seems to me to be the scientific variation on the Sea Lion argument tactic.

      Please allow me to elucidate what I believe the author’s point is (an admittedly arrogant feat on my part): Scientists are terrific at counting buttons, polishing flasks, and doing math. They are not philosophers (which is quite sad), yet many of them pretend they are, often in quite an amusingly wrongheaded fashion. This happens too much to be coincidence, so we must posit a cause. Given the social climate of universities, where scientists are trained and employed, the most obvious cause is leftism, or progressive socialism (ProgSoc). Adherents of ProgSoc treat their political philosophy as a religion, and it is indeed a jealous god, admitting no others. This is the root cause of why many scientists feel the need to attempt the impossible – using science to disprove the existence of God.

      • Ian

        Your reading, that *many* scientists (not all, importantly, or even most) fall into the trap of treating political philosophies like a religion and/or try to disprove God, is far more palatable than my reading. I am truly not trying to Sea Lion (which I’ve never heard of before, and is an awesome term! Thanks for that).

        • You are quite welcome. It is, indeed, a wonderful term, and I thank the maker of WonderMark for it.

      • GPS Daddy

        Good explanation and Sea Lion is an awesome term.

  • Grasshopper

    Let’s be clear: most of the so-called “scientists” are nothing but poseurs. Al Gore is no scientist. Not even close. Calling yourself “reasonable” and “scientific” isn’t quite the same as having an advanced science degree.

    • Of course, having an advanced science degree is, in and of itself, not the same as being reasonable and scientific in your outlook and thinking.

  • Trilemma

    We know rape is wrong. But science can’t condemn rape and God in the Old Testament condoned it.

    You cannot see, and therefore cannot measure, what cannot be seen.

    Can you measure gravity? Can you measure time?

    God is immaterial and infinite, omnipotent, omniscient.

    Science certainly cannot support this and I don’t see that the Bible does either.

    But it would be grander if they knew more Christianity, philosophy, and history.

    And more Epistemology.

    • GPS Daddy

      You have skewed view Trilemma because your staring point is transgenderism. Its not seeking truth, its not seeking Jesus. This is why you hide behind all these canards.

      • Trilemma

        What canards?

        • Sea Lion confirmed.

          • Trilemma

            I can’t respond to a vague accusation. GPS Daddy needs to be specific.

        • What hump?

    • Correction – Christians know rape is wrong. Don’t presume to speak for other religions or cultures. Islam has no problem with rape, as long as the victim isn’t another Muslim.

      • swordfish

        If Christians know rape is wrong, they can’t be getting that idea from the Bible because the Old Testament condones conquest rape – must be their naturally-evolved human nature telling them so.

        • Oh, ye of little faith and less knowledge. Your subtle trap has been noted and ignored.
          Perhaps the knowledge you write of (and not so subtly mock) is contained in a book called the Old Testament because there is also a New Testament? That’s what we call “logic”.

          • swordfish

            Are you saying that the Old Testament is invalid? If that’s the case, you’d have to throw out the Ten Commandments.

          • It’s almost as if there are different groups called “Jews” and “Christians”, who each have different beliefs and follow the teachings of different books. More current and correct knowledge supercedes older, less correct knowledge. Luke 10:26-27.

            Children are taught simple lies, so that they can later understand greater truths. Go read more Pratchett.

          • swordfish

            “More current and correct knowledge supercedes older, less correct knowledge.”

            Yes, that’s why we invented science. But regarding the OT, are you suggesting that when God says something, it isn’t true, or He’s changed His mind later on?

          • You have been freely given answers. The fact that you refuse to recognize them says much about you.

            And why is an atheist concerned about the teachings of Christ? Do you equally berate the adherents of Pastafariansim? How about Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or the Hindu religion? Or are you specifically anti-Christian, as most avowed atheists seem to be? Of course, you could be a practicing Jew who despises Christians as heretics, but those seem to be rather rare.

            True atheists do not care about any particular mythology or religion, believing all to be simple stories. Devout Atheists care because they are anti-theists, when they are not simply Satanists in denial of their true master.

          • swordfish

            “You have been freely given answers. The fact that you refuse to recognize them says much about you.”

            What it says about me is that I’m not very easily impressed.

            “And why is an atheist concerned about the teachings of Christ?”

            Because I used to be a Christian, so I’m aware of the negative influence of Christianity.

            “Do you equally berate the adherents of Pastafariansim? How about Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or the Hindu religion?”

            Not all religions are equal. I’d say Islam is worse than Christianity at the moment, but it’s a close call.

            “True atheists do not care about any particular mythology or religion, believing all to be simple stories. Devout Atheists care because they are anti-theists, when they are not simply Satanists in denial of their true master.”

            Now you’re telling me how I should think? Atheism isn’t a belief system, so I’m free to think what I want. And there’s a difference between ‘theism’ and Christianity (or any specific religion).

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Can you measure gravity?

      No, but you can measure the rate at which physical bodies fall.

      Can you measure time?

      No, but you can measure the rate at which the sun and stars move across the sky — or the rate at which cesium atoms decay.

      • Trilemma

        You can measure gravity by the rate at which physical bodies fall.

        You can measure time with a cesium clock.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          What you measure is not “gravity,” but the rate of descent of motion of matter. That is, you measure observable material bodies. Then you apply a theory to it and give it a name. “Theory of gravity” simply means that you have a narrative about these observations that “makes sense” out of them. At one time it meant that the falling body possessed “gravitas,” or “weight,” and that as it neared the center of gravity it rushed faster in order to occupy its natural place. Later, folks thought gravity was some mysterious “force” that reached out (somehow) to seize other bodies and pull them in. Nowadays, we think that it is a distortion (caused by the presence of matter) in the field of Ricci tensors that make up the space-time manifold.

          The same goes for time, which is the measure of change in mutable being. The change might be the decay of cesium atoms, the swinging of a pendulum, or the unwinding of pedant weights; the beating of the heart, or the motion of the sun or of the moon. But in every case, the thing actually being measured is a change in some material body.

          There is a reason why EInstein declared that both space and time possessed no objective existence, but were metaphysical intrusions on what ought to have been an empirical science.

          • Pat Cusack

            Einstein was right, on “time”, but wrong, on “space”.

            IOW, “t” does not exist in the same way that “x, y & z” exist.

  • John Doane

    “So why are scientists so combative about religion?”

    Those scientists who are combative about religion generally hold to their beliefs much more strongly than just to a philosophy. Their intense commitment indicates that they themselves are religious. Such scientists are expressing a kind of pantheism, which holds: 1) there is no supernatural Creator outside of nature; and 2) meaning can be found in aligning with the principle behind nature, which is perceived to be evolutionary progress.

    Indeed, Christians need to stop being intimidated by scientists claiming to “hold the hill.” We must not allow conflicts to be framed as “science vs religion.” Rather, we must identify them for what they really are; namely, pantheism vs Biblical Christianity. That is, one religion vs another.

  • Pat Cusack

    A careful, forensic investigator will conclude that “time” is not a physical feature of the universe. In this context, the only “thing” that exists (in the scientific sense of ‘can be sensed by a human’) is “now” and “change”.

    We humans have the abilty to “remember” previous “nows” (in what we call ‘the past’) and “hope for” different “nows” (in what we call ‘the future’).

    But both reside entirely in our minds. From them we construct a “movie” for ourselves in which we try to play our part.

    So are we not immersed in an “unending” dramatic existence whose beginning and end are truly either imaginary or unimaginable?

    • GPS Daddy

      We cannot understand the physical world around us without time. So time is not an illusion. I was just at work. That is now in the past. My wife is cooking dinner “now”. Eating it is in the future. I am currently writing this post. The writing of this is in the “now”as I do it.

      • Pat Cusack

        You can’t; I can. Your writing is a representation of your thoughts, which I comprehend. Time may not be an illusion, perhaps, but it is in our heads. It’s not “out there”.

        What you see, feel, touch, etc., changes, and we translate that observation onto an imaginary ‘scale’ which enables us to collaborate, coordinate, etc. That is very useful, but it still only exists in our heads Just like the thoughts which prompted your writing (which form a record of those past thoughts, which have no physical existence NOW).

        • GPS Daddy

          Sorry, Pat, either you deny that the physical world is real or your subscribing to the b-theory of time.

          • Pat Cusack

            False dichotomy, Daddy.

            1. The physical world is real.
            2. Not b-theory: What we call ‘the past’ is a memory; ‘the future’, a hope, wish or dream.

            Only the present form of the universe (‘a moment’, if you will) exists.

          • GPS Daddy

            What you are describing is the b-theory of time.

          • Pat Cusack

            Not so. “B-theorists argue that the flow of time is an illusion, that the past, present and future are equally real …” Read what I wrote.

          • GPS Daddy

            The “present”now is where we are in time. The past are actual past events that have happened. They are not imaginary nor are they figments of our imagination. The past is real even if we cannot go back to them. The future is a potential and is to come. Time is an arrow on which we are traveling. The fact that the past did happen and it is not imaginary. I’m heading to bed in a few minutes. This potential is real as well… its called temporal becoming.

          • Pat Cusack

            GPS Daddy,

            The “present”now is where we are in time. You meant, “… when … “ didn’t you? Or is time now a spatial dimension?

            The past are [sic] actual past events that have happened.
            Tautology: “The past” is “the past”. I agree. The important clue is in the word “happened”; that’s the past tense of the verb “happen” (meaning “occur” or “have existence”), which means it is not now “happening”.

            They [past events] are not imaginary nor are they figments of our imagination. I used the words, “memory”, “hope”, “dream” and “wish”. I didn’t imply they were fictitious? Is the memory of “a kiss” (past) or the anticipation of one (future) the same as actually kissing (now)?

            “The past is real …” ; Define “real”.

            “Time is an arrow on which we are traveling”;
            You may be “on” something, but I’m not traveling “on” anything. Your fertile imagination is clearly very active.

            “… the past did happen …”; Of course it did. Nor was it imaginary while it was “happening”, but once it has “happened”, it’s over, finished, gone, kaput; it no longer IS.
            THEN, it is; NOW, it was.

            Sleep tight.

          • Pat Cusack

            … where we are in time. You mean when we are in time don’t you? Is time a spatial dimension for you?

            The past are [sic] actual past events that have happened. Tautology: The past [is the past]. I agree. The clue is in the word “happened”. It is the past tense of “happen”, which means “occur” or “have existence”, so past tense means “HAD existence”.

            They are not imaginary nor are they figments of our imagination. When I used the words memory, hope, wish and dream, I didn’t imply they were fictitious. They are “real” when they “occur”, but ephemeral in nature.

            The past is real …? Prove it. Scientifically.

            Time is an arrow on which we are traveling. You’re certainly travelling on something, but not any form of arrow I can imagine. Your arrow implies both a direction and a motion, but both direction and motion are spatial terms, not temporal. Even as an analogy it is “pointless”.

            You do realize that today was tomorrow, yesterday, don’t you? So which of the three is “real”?

          • You need to study more physics. Time is real, and all of science depends upon that fact. The fact that we don’t fully understand it does not invalidate its existence.

            Good debate here, BTW. It’s not one that I often see. And you two are handling it in a mature, civil manner.

          • Pat Cusack

            Does an engineering degree (1st class honours) and 42 years professional practice in forensic investigations sound good enough for you, McChuck? Being cross-examined in the witness box by legal experts hones one’s awareness of the difference between facts and opinions.

          • GPS Daddy

            Having an engineering degree does not mean that you correctly handle the philosophy of time well. There is nothing in engineering that must be understood outside of the a-theory of time. I’d suggest giving a deeper dive into Dr. William Lane Craig’s work on time. You can find his work over at reasonablefaith(dot)org.

          • Something I’ve been wondering – what does “degree (1st class honors)” mean? It seems to be a British university system thing, as near as I can tell. I never heard of it until recently. (I guess I’m meeting a different class of people where I hang out now?)

          • Pat Cusack

            Australian university, 1972. Selected graduates are invited to seek Honours, which requires one additional exam, and can be awarded in two levels, 1st & 2nd class.

          • GPS Daddy

            >>Is time a spatial dimension for you?

            Is it? It can’t a spacial dimension like the other three dimensions, right?

            >>The past is real …? Prove it. Scientifically.

            Hmmm, well, lets see here. We can take your hand and put it on a table. Then you can swing a hammer down on it. Now, was it a real event that the hammer hit your hand? Was that real event in the past? I’d say lets do that experiment multiple times to get a baseline of statistical data so we can get en error value out of it.

            >>you’re certainly travelling on something, but not any form of arrow I can imagine.

            Go read Dr. Craig.

            >>You do realize that today was tomorrow, yesterday, don’t you

            Lets not trip up on the English language…

          • GPS Daddy

            I suggest you read Dr. William Lane Craig’s work on time.

          • Pat Cusack

            After a brief review of the various theories of time, I seem to be leaning towards “presentism”. So I guess I stand with Heraclitus, “… it is impossible to step twice into the same river.”

          • GPS Daddy

            Only a brief review? Pat, the a-theory of time is the view that is consistent with what we experience. All others you must suspend some part of what is obvious. Be careful to reject your life experience on a philosophy that must be accepted by rejecting what is obvious.

    • Einstein’s theories, which have been repeatedly demonstrated to be true, require that time be a fundamental property of space. He calls it space-time. The math only works if time is, essentially, a dimension of space. Time is therefore a physical feature of the universe. QED

      • Pat Cusack

        McChuck, you can do things in maths which have mathematical significance, but have no coherent meaning in the physical world. Try this one:

        A maths exam problem is stated as: “Solve the equation x-cubed = 8“. Every mathematician knows this equation has three solutions, one of which is “x = 2“. I won’t try typing the two other (imaginary?) solutions, which involve “the cube-root of minus-3“. Every mathematician can solve this problem completely and is apparently pleased by the ‘symmetry’ of the two imaginary solutions.

        A real-world equivalent of this maths “problem” might be, “What sized cubic box would I need to hold exactly 8 cubic feet of water?”

        How many different cubic boxes can be built to solve this real problem? Go to it guys. The water truck with your 8 cu.ft of water is arriving tomorrow morning.

        • An excellent summary/analogy of the difference between pure mathematics and applied mathematics, also known as physics and engineering.

          I notice that you acknowledge the existence of time when you say the truck will arrive tomorrow. 🙂

  • Thank you for this fine article, William!

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