- 'X'-plaining away 'The past'.

One of our main reasons for assuming time exists, is because it seems so obvious that our own internal memories prove this without doubt. 

In fact, without careful consideration, our 'memories' seem to prove this so obviously that most of us, scientists in particular, seem not to even bother to ask a 'control' question to check the other possibility. With this in mind, consider, and preferably try, the following experiment...

Start with a sheet of paper and a Pen.

Pick up the pen and start to draw an 'X'.

Complete the 'X'. 

... put the pen down.... and look away.

Question 1,

With the 'experiment' over, and considering that you have a memory of forming the X, and the X itself is proof that it was formed, we ask 2 questions, the first is...

Q 1 - If things in the universe could exist, move, change, and interact over time, would this be enough to explain how the X could be formed, and how you have a memory of forming it?

If we assume that time exists, then this question basically describes the world as most people see it, 'things move over time'. And so given that the X exists, and your memory of forming it exists, then the answer to question 1 would be 'Yes, if things can move and interact over time then this explains both the X and my memory of making it, which both clearly exist.  

So this seems to confirm that having the concept of Time in the question and answer makes sense. But this may not be quite correct.

A Critical point on 'reasoning'.

Now, there is a critical point to consider before reading on.

If you think time exists in some way, then the above piece of reasoning should seem logical, and seem to confirm that time clearly exists - because if you look at the experiment in terms of time existing it make sense.

( see logical point re, the error where ∆-3 Assumptions 'seem' to be confirmed. )

Therefore it can be said that the above reasoning is responsible in some way for you belief that time exists.

But, if i can show that the above reasoning is incomplete and inconclusive, then, assuming you believe time exists, you will basically have 2 choices.

1, to consider that some reasoning you thought was complete is not complete, and thus to reconsider what ever conclusions you have that were based on that reasoning.


2, To 'change horses mid race', and in seeing that this reasoning is incomplete, automatically dismiss any thoughts of it and immediately search for a new way to defend your belief.

The choice is of course yours, I can only point directly to what I think may be true, but it's worth asking what the difference between position 2 and a 'closed mind' is?

My conclusions about time not existing may of course be right, or wrong. But it is also worth asking how would one ever find that a belief one held was incorrect, if one only ever used this second approach?

With this in mind we consider a second 'control' question...

Question 2, is as follows...

Q 2 - If things in the universe could just, exist, move, change, and interact, I.e. not 'over time',  would this state of affairs be enough to explain how the 'X' could be formed, and how you have a 'memory' of forming it?

The point here is that Question 1, has a 'presumption' in it. i.e. it is pre-assumed that 'time' exists and is part of the situation, unless evidence to to contrary is shown. This can sometimes be a serious failure in reasoning.


If question 2 can be answered 'yes' even though it does not call on Time to exist, then the presumption made in Q1 can be shown to be unnecessary. So, without any presumptions consider the following...

'looking at the X on the paper in front of you, have you got any idea at all as to how it got there ?'

Hopefully you will have some idea, and you will probably think the X got there because you 'wrote' it there... 'in the past'.

But now the question is 'how on earth would you possibly know that you wrote the X there 'in the past'?

Do you have a time machine, did you just nip into 'the past' to check you created the X ? 

Or do you have a 'memory'  here now in your head? Created as the X was being created  - Just as the paper was being changed, were the contents of your mind also being changed?

The facts,

The point here is that for the X to form on the paper,

  • the paper must exist, 
  • the pen must exist
  • the ink must exist
  • and the pen must be able to move, and interact, with the paper to move ink from the pen to the paper in the shape of an X.

So all that the X on the paper actually directly proves is, that things (paper, pen, ink) can exist, move and interact. 

Ie the x on the paper does not also prove that as existing things interact, and physically change each other,  they also create another record of their interaction 'in the invisible temporal past'.

likewise, for you to have a 'memory' of creating the past, all that need happen is for you to see images of you making the X on the paper. And for the electrochemical interactions in your eyes, nerves, and neurons to be able to change in some way (creating a record of you making the X). 

But just as there is no reason to suspect that 'ink moving to a sheet of paper' also creates a record in 'the past' - there is no reason to think that the 'light making images in your eyes, and changing the formation of stuff in your brain', also creates a record 'in some invisible and intangible place called  the temporal past'.

No 'third' record.

In other words, we have the idea, or more accurately the presumption, that these two bits of evidence, 'the physical existence of the X on the paper', and the 'physical existence in your mind of a trace of the event happening' point to, or prove the existence of a 'third' record of the event.
But this idea that a third record, 'the past' exists is a 'presumption'. And a presumption is essentially an assumption that is taken as being true unless evidence is shown to the contrary. But if we don't spot that we have made a presumption, then we will never be motivated to find evidence to the contrary.


For everything you see to be explained - the X - and your 'memory' of making it - all that needs to be able to happen is that matter can exist, move, change, and interact - leaving physical evidence of these interactions - in itself - here, now, by changing form. 

So despite how it may first seem,our memory of the creation of the X is not a proof that 'the temporal past exists', or that Time exists.

An independent observers view.

It is interesting to note that if someone saw the 'X' you had drawn after it was completed, they would feel able to deduce that 'someone had drawn an X on the paper in the past'. 

But this is a double edged sword, because all they are seeing is 'stuff here now'. But from only seeing stuff here now, they may be completely convinced that they know something about 'the past'. and this may lead them to conclude that 'the past' has some reality or meaning. 

So, if Time does not exist, and things are just constantly happening 'now', with no 'past' being created as they happen, then someone just seeing some matter information now - could be convinced time does exist, and 'the past' exists.
(See >> Timeless memories. for a more detailed version of this experiment, and  >> - How memories are timeless.  ).

This is particularly true if we have been given a bias towards interpreteing the evidence in some particular way.

We can note also that in the 'X' marks the spot experiment, nothing is added to or taken away from the scene from the first step to the last.


The amount of 'stuff' in each of these pictures is the same. Nothing has been added to or taken from either.

The only difference between the first and last frame is that some existing ink has been moved from one place to another, i.e. out of the pen and on to the paper in the shape of an 'X'.

we might want to say 'some information' has been added to the scene. But even this is questionable, because each of the molecules of ink moved in-formation to make the X, was already 'in a formation' within the pen. It was just a formation that we as humans might not think, notice, or care about.

Likewise, when we, as humans, 'see and remember something' all that happens is some of the already existing contents of our minds get rearranged -into a different formation - made to resemble the event we witnessed. So again nothing is added, or taken away from the scene as a whole. So again, all that need happen for us to remember something is for matter to be able to exist, move, change and interact 'now'.

As an example of this consider the picture above taken at an air-show

Although we cant see the jets that have made the heart shaped smoke trail, we know that they did so, because of the way they changed the air they flew through. We may say 'this proves the jets were there in the past', but this doesn't prove that there also really 'is' a temporal past.

(We can also note that the smoke trails are decaying or changing, because all we directly,and scientifically, observe is that everything changes. It's odd then that one of the apparent aspects of the past is 'that it is an unchanged record of all events, that we could possibly even go back and visit.Why, when we never see anything ever remaining 'unchanged' do we assume this invisible thing we never have seen (the past) would be unchanged? This sounds like another seriously questionable presumption).

The critical point to realise here is that our main reason for assuming time exists, is that we see the evolved state of the world around us, and the contents of our minds (records or memories of us being smaller etc), and we deduce from this that things must have 'happened in the past', and so the expression 'the past' relates to something real (i.e it must be real, we remember being there).  

At the risk of over complicating this, the reasoning is 'We think our memories are of the past, because we think time exists, becasue we think our memories prove the existence of the past.

So, Things, or 'events' obviously happen. Thus in a sense it is logical to say 'events have happened', and in a sense logical to say 'events have happened 'in an order'. e.g. you cannot put the roof on a house before you have built the walls. So any typical house you see is proof that walls are built, and then roofs are put on them. 

but what I am trying to show here is the subtle distinction that events may happen, and events may happen in an order - but if as events happen there is no 'temporal' record created of the event, and thus no temporal record created of the order of events - then there is no 'temporal order'. I.e we can talk of a temporal order - but there is absolutely no evidence to show that it is ever created or existing in any way, anywhere. Which leaves 'Time' just being a useful notion, and not something so real you could perhaps travel through.

If at this stage, this seems like I am stating the obvious, and we feel like falling back on the 'everyone knows  'the past' is just an expression' - then look again at the articles on the page linked below. Because the views and ideas express there are fundamentally different from the idea that time is just a notion - because they directly imply 'the past' is a real thing that might actually be travelled to.

 (See also  >> No Stored Temporal order. 'No stored Temporal order' (to be added))

On to the future...

With the idea that 'the past exists, in place, we then may try to confirm this idea of time, and so we consider the possible existence of 'the future'.

In doing this we start to consider the 'orderly' and 'chaotic' ways in which the countless things around us interact, in terms of 'the future constantly arriving', and 'the future being in some ways 'predictable' and other ways 'unpredictable'.

So while we again, only observe matter existing and interacting, here, now, we can think we are proving that 'the future' (and time) exist. While in fact (in my opinion) we are using a bias to support itself.


notes to add
same contents in 1st and last pic.