∆ Do you believe that Time exists?

1.                   Do you believe that ‘Time’ exists?

For the answer to this question to be of any value at all we have to be very clear about what is meant by ‘time’, and what is meant by ‘exists’. Otherwise it won't even be clear what a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer actually means;


Figure Although it seems to make no difference, we never see 'through' windows, we just see the images that come in through them; effectively we generally get this detail completely back to front, our whole lives - and it doesn't seem to matter at all!

 Consider your answers to the following two questions…

  • Can you look through a window?
  • Do you believe that ‘Time’ exists?

 If you answered yes to the first question then you are both slightly, and massively mistaken. This is because you, and I, have never looked through a window in our lives, and we never can. In fact no one has ever looked through a window. We may have seen the light that came ‘in through’ a window, and some of that light may have made an image in our eyes, but that is the complete opposite of you or I looking ‘out through’ a window.  

 It’s a seemingly small point, it might even sound like a matter of semantics, but it’s not. If we think we can look out through glass ( eg a window) we are completely wrong, what we are in scientific fact doing is, seeing light coming in through glass… But funnily enough even though we may jump to a completely wrong conclusion, about literally how we ‘see’ the world around us, it really doesn’t seem to matter at all. 

It makes you wonder if we have any other similar misunderstandings.


Shopping time.

Picture - You're out of food at home. So you go to the supermarket, buy some and bring it home. Then surely the food at home on the kitchen table proves you must have thought and done things 'earlier'. So this must prove that 'the past', and time exist.

Now let’s consider the second question; Do you believe that ‘Time’ exists?

This may seem to be a ridiculous question to ask. If you’ve ever gone out to the shops then returned home with some bags of shopping, then this alone might convince you that time exists. Clearly you must have been at home earlier, then gone to the shops, bought your shopping, then returned home afterwards. So time must exist or otherwise you couldn’t have ‘left home earlier’, ‘have memories of going to the shops’, and you couldn’t ‘be back home now’, with all the shopping and receipts laid out on the kitchen table as evidence of your past trip.

So maybe we can wrap this all us very quickly in scene one, which may leave you wondering what the rest of this book could possibly be about. But let’s look at what this shopping scenario as just described definitely proves, and what it may or may not prove.

We can fairly safely say the scene proves that you, the shops, your shopping and the kitchen table all exist. It also proves that things can move and change. You can move from your home to the shops, and move and change the location of some goods, from various shelves in a shop, to the checkout, into some bags, and then back home and all laid out on your kitchen table. Because you have memories of seeing that you needed to buy groceries, then leaving home, buying the goods, and returning. This scene also proves that the contents of your mind can also move and change, to create what we call new memories.

note of course, whatever the cause of these new memories is it can be shown to always just exist – i.e. the stuff you see in the shops must exist ‘before’ you go to see it – to make ‘new’ memories of it …

So far so good, you, your mind, shops, shopping, kitchen tables, movement and change, all can be said to exist. But does any of this also prove that an extra, unseen thing called ‘Time’ also exists? ‘Time’, with a ‘past’ and a ‘future’ and a flow, and various other intriguing properties? Or is just this movement and change, of the things around us, and of the contents of our minds, enough to explain all that we observe without any need at all for Time to also exist?

To provide an answer to this question that will not easily fall apart under the attention of every possible logical or scientific test we have to be more than usually careful in some places. This is because the subject matter of this book, Time, can be very slippery and evasive. Many people have an idea of what they mean by Time, and many people’s ideas are similar, but also subtly different, yet we all use the general word ‘Time’. So unless this is openly realised it is easy to have very long discussions with people about ‘Time’, clarifying each point step by step, with careful questions and noted answers, only to find that at the end of the discussion they completely deny half of what they first agreed, and then claim to have already known what they initially said they didn’t believe!

Take this opening question, ‘Do you believe that Time exists?’ Before answering such a question it makes sense to agree what is meant by ‘Time’ here. And this can immediately lead to a long open ended discussion full of confusion, compromise and loose ends.

As well as this we even have to agree on what we mean by ‘exists’, and be clear on the distinction between ‘what really exists’ and what ‘exists, but only as a Notion’. Given that a ‘Notion’ is something that can exist in our minds, then we can claim that ‘anything at all, that we can think about, or imagine, does exist... as a notion’. [1]

This is true, but not very helpful here, because elephants exist... as a notion, mountains exist... as a notion, but, angels, ghosts, vampires, fire breathing dragons, parallel universes, magic, and ‘Time’ can also clearly all exist... at least as ‘Notions’.

So this discussion on ‘Time’, and ultimately on ‘Timelessness’ can get out of hand very quickly unless we clearly define and agree what it is that we are discussing, and in doing this I should also clearly define what I am claiming to prove in this book.

Given that pretty much anything can be said to exist if only ‘as a notion’, and assuming that we can agree that some things do simply really ‘exist[2]’, i.e. not just as notions, then we can see that some things, fire breathing dragons, Magic etc, probably exist only as notions, while other things, like aeroplanes, or gravity exist as real things in some way, and as notions.

So for the purposes of this book we can say that of course ‘Time’ exists... as a notion, but the important question is...

 ‘Do you believe that time exists in any real way, other than just as a notion?’

And this is a critical question here, what is critical about it also is that however you answer it you make a note, mental or written, of your answer, and then as this book progresses look at how you may or may not change your mind, or more deviously, how you may find yourself claiming you ‘didn’t mean what your original answer seemed to imply’, and so on.

To the question, ‘Do you believe that time exists in any real way other than just as a notion?’ we can sensibly consider three wide-ranging answers, Maybe, Yes and No, or more clearly...

  • Maybe, I kind of think that Time, or something that does its job in the universe, must at least kind of exist as something other than just a notion, but I'm not sure on the details.

  • Yes, I believe Time must definitely exist not just as an idea or mental tool, but also as a real thing in some way. Whether we understand it fully or not, Time must be fundamental to the workings of the universe as ‘spacetime’ for example, and it must at least comprise of things like the past, present and future, and it must ‘tick’ or flow in some way.

  • No, I don’t believe that time exists in any form whatsoever in the universe, other than as a useful idea, or notion in our minds.

This book is written from the perspective that as a layperson or a scientist you probably believe that either ‘maybe’ or ‘yes’ are the answers probably closest to the truth, and that time kind of exists, or definitely exists in some real way, while I hold that the last answer, No, is completely correct.

Whatever your answer here, it will essentially be either, that time exists as more than a notion, or, that it does not.

If you believe that time does exist, then the rest of this book will be clearer if you can decide for yourself more accurately what you mean by that. I.e. do you think the future exists and is constantly arriving? Or do you think we are flying into the future? Do you think the future is fixed or changeable? Do you think time can be sped up, slowed down, or theoretically even travelled through? And do you think the past ‘exists’? Grows? Is fixed or changeable? Do you even think that ‘all of time exists all at once’, and if so is it all ‘completely fixed and pre-defined’ or ‘all kind of changeable?’

Precisely what your personal definition or belief about time is right here is not quite the point. I will aim to address all the general definitions as we progress, here the point is, that unless you get a reasonably firm idea of what your starting position or belief is, then you may find the following chapters make as much sense as a movie you are watching while not paying any attention to the plot. Even if the plot is sensible it may seem not to be to you, because of your approach to it. Likewise unless you are fairly clear about what your starting beliefs about time are, you will never know when or where I may have changed your mind, or just where you, or I may actually be wrong.

Note here that even if you’re starting point is ‘I'm not really clear what my view on time is, I just think it kind of exists’, or even that that your ‘not sure what is meant by exists’, and so on, this is completely fine, as long as you define a starting view, even if you define it as ‘undefined’.[3]

If your answer to the question is ‘No, I don’t believe time really exists at all’, (other than as an idea or mental tool), then I hope to show you how and why I agree with this view on a logical, scientific level, and how it seems to me that everything in the universe around us can be seen to back up this idea, and be fully explained without Time.

But you should also note that by agreeing that Time does not really exist, you are agreeing with me, that, with respect, in every section of every book listed in the attached bibliography, wherever time is referred to as being anything at all other than ‘a mental idea or tool’, the text is fundamentally, and scientifically incorrect. So, you are also agreeing that scientific contributors such as Galileo Galilee, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman and many more are all possibly somewhat mistaken in thinking time actually exists.


To be very clear on this point, what I mean by the universe being ‘Timeless’, is that as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no logical reason to believe that such thing as Time exists in any way shape or form in the universe at all. So there is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow and no ‘flow’ of some ethereal thing that orders and regulates the workings of the universe in any kind of a mysterious way. ‘Things’ just exist, move, and change.

If you are tempted here to create a grey area, and back off a bit, by saying something like, ‘Ah, by time, I mean whatever it is that enables things to move[4]’, then we should clear this up before we progress, otherwise, again, you may spend the entire discussion sitting on the fence, not being clear about what your own position is, and whether or not it has been confirmed or changed.

If your view is that ‘time is whatever it is that enables things to move’, or any other variation on this, then again, you can hold onto this or any other view, and the following discussion will still hold, as long as you are clear that if you think ‘time is that which enables things to move’, or that Time has any other ‘real’ function, then your position for the purposes of this book is – ‘that Time does exist in some real way, as well as also being a notion’.

If you are sure that time in some way exists, but you can’t define it precisely it is worth noting this fact on its own, namely that you believe in something that you cannot in any way directly see, and that you cannot define, so this alone should raise some suspicions.

The point being that it really doesn’t matter what ‘way’ or to what extent, you think time may exist, as long as you are clear that you have some belief that perhaps it does, if that is the case, because whatever your starting viewpoint, what this book is maintaining, is that it can show you that there is no grey area, and Time simply does not exist.

If not time, then what?

If not time then what? You may ask, well ‘energy’ exists, and matter exists, and energy can physically move and change matter, ‘wherever’ that energy and matter happen to be. So for example, a fully charged electrical battery can make a connected bulb produce light, or make a motor move a golf cart etc; A fireplace full of wood can create heat and boil a kettle; full tank of diesel fuel can power a tanker across an ocean, and a bar of chocolate can enable a human to run a few km.

But this is obviously not because batteries, logs, diesel and chocolate hold quantities of ‘Time’ that can be released, it is because they hold quantities of ‘energy’ that can be released. And this energy may be released not ‘over time’ but just ‘at a ‘finite speed’ or ‘finite rate’.

These finite rates may vary from virtually zero, as In the speed some energy might escape from a sealed and well stored can of gasoline, right up to the speed of light, as in the speed that some energy is released in part of an explosion.

Saying things move or change, ‘over time’ or ‘ at a finite speed’ might sound like the exact same thing expressed differently. But the difference, as explained in more detail throughout this book, is what we can call ‘the baggage of time’. In that something moving or changing ‘at a finite speed’ can be said to just[5] be doing this now, as you can directly see just happening anywhere. But claiming that something moves ‘over time’ requires that we either agree that ‘over time’ doesn’t really mean extra than ‘that things just move’. Or we explain what special features this thing called ‘Time’ actually has, that make it a genuinely distinct and existing thing.  I.e. we present some kind of proof that ‘time’ and its basic features - the past, the future, time’s one way direction, and flow etc, all exist, and are needed for things to exist and move.

In saying ‘things move and change ‘at finite rates’ we are saying that there is ‘matter’, and ‘energy’ in the world around us, and they do interact and react in different ways and at different speeds. So there is movement and change, with some matter creating tracks, trails and wakes in other matter, as energy is released and matter moves. And these tracks and trails do so show how things have moved and changed. But all of this ‘motion’ is not happening ‘over’, ’with’, ’in’, ‘through’, or ‘because of’ a thing called ‘Time’ in any way. It is all just constantly happening ‘now’.

>>∆ Einsteins 'Distinctions'.

[1] And even if it didn’t exist as a notion, like ‘lighter than air food’, it suddenly does, the moment we think about it =) DEL?

[2] If you wish to go off on some surreal tangent here about how Magic and Ghosts etc ‘may’ exist, and how chairs, tables, gravity and people etc may not, then that’s all very fascinating, but this discussion is tricky enough as it is, and won't progress satisfactorily without some commonsense cooperation, and discipline in sticking to the essence of the subject.

[3] It’s hard to realistically be any more accommodating, and open to all challengers than this. If you want someone to disprove the existence of something that you can't define, and that you can't even agree that you can't define, then I wish you luck.

[4] I.e. without really addressing whether the past and future ‘really’ exist or what their nature might be.

[5] You and I might not feel very satisfied with the idea that things may ‘just’ exist and move. But if you look at the world around you, you will find that things do indeed seem to ‘just’ exist, and ‘just’ move and change where there is energy present. How or why matter and energy exist is not the subject of this book, but saying ‘things exist because time made them exist’ does not explain anything, just as saying that ‘things exist and move, therefore time exists  is no better than saying things ‘just’ exist. Especially if you cannot prove the existence of, and need for time in the universe.