∆-4 The onus of proof.

Apple Newton

  Picture borrowed from Newton and the apple…

Newton observed that on Earth things consistently 'fall' towards Earth, and named this observation 'gravity'. He explained mathematically how gravity operated, but did not put out a theory as to what it was.

Similarly, 'Timelessness' as described here, is not a theory about how or why things can 'just' exist and move and change, but an explanation of the observation that 'things do seem to just exist and move'. And how if this is considered carefully it seems to be enough explain why we (mistakenly) jump to the conclusion that 'the past', 'future' and 'time' also exist. And thus, why the universe can be said to be 'Timeless' - to use a redundant word.

So the onus of proof that time exists, lies with whoever puts out a theory that there is  more than there seems to be, in addition to what we constantly  directly observe.


The idea that something as apparently mysterious and intangible as 'Time' obviously 'exists unless dis-proven' may be one of the boldest errors in current science.

What is apparent beyond a reasonable doubt is that things in the universe seem to just exist, move, and change.

According to Wikipeda's definition of 'Burden of proof' " there is an implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim". Therefore anyone claiming that extra to things in the universe just existing moving changing and interacting (as observed) there is 'also' another thing called 'Time' that passes of flows etc., then it is not up to someone claiming Time does not exist to prove this, but for someone claiming 'time exists' to prove this objectively. (See Wiki Scientific method, Burden of evidence ).


'No matter how beautiful your theory, no matter how clever you are or what your name is,

 if it disagrees with experiment, it's wrong.'

Richard Feynman


How can we disprove something that doesn't exist? Can I prove to you that Time does not exist ?

To be honest probably not, and probably for the same reasons that you couldn't prove to me that goblins and ghosts don't exist. But that's not the problem, because all I'm saying, is that the world is just as we directly observe it to be, with no added mysterious and invisible extra dimension called time - which I believe proves itself to be true constantly. So in a sense, everything you constantly observe is an experiment that proves that matter just exists, moves and interacts (now). Asking for an experiment to prove this direct observation is a bit like asking for an experiment to prove that the Sun does what it does. You don't need an extra experiment, just look (carefully) at the thing itself.

The problem is, if you believe in Time, can you think of an experiment that proves Time's existence?

Before we can prove that something does not exist we have to be reasonably clear about what we are talking about. This means agreeing on a clear definition of ‘time’ itself. When we try to do this we seem to immediately hit a problem, because when it comes to time, most lay people, and even the experts disagree about the precise definition, nature and attributes of the subject.

Given that this book is about disproving time we can avoid getting bogged down in the finer details of any definition, because at the end I hope to show you that the thing doesn’t exist anyway.

(Nonetheless the definition I am opposing is outlined here >> The definition of 'Time' as being examined here.)

It's a kind of magic.

A useful analogy here is to compare time to ‘magic’, and by magic I mean something that doesn’t really exist in the sense that hopefully we can agree that a ‘magician’ cannot really saw an assistant in half with an unsterilized wood saw, keep both half’s alive, spin them around and then rejoin them perfectly so that all the bones, nerves, major and minor blood vessels and internal organs are fully and perfect rejoined and the assistant doesn’t even have an external scar.

If we can agree that ‘magic’, in this sense at least, doesn’t really exist, other than as an idea, then we can see that this is the very reason that any number of definitions of ‘what magic really is’ will all be wrong, and are bound to disagree; because the definitions are not explaining a real thing, but are the results people using their imaginations to guess the attributes of an invalid notion.

So as a general working definition we can say that by ‘Time’ we mean the thing that most people seem to think consists of...

  • The ‘past’, that which we remember, and can see proof of in museums and the world around us.

  • The ‘present’ which we see ‘now’.

  • The ’future’, which we see arriving and sense stretches for millenniums or ‘eternity’, ahead of ‘now’.

  • That which constantly ‘flows’ from the future, through the present, into the past...

  •  and which does so in ‘one direction only’.

  • Time is also the thing that ‘other things need in which to change and move’, in that things change ‘over time’, and ‘take time’ to move from A to B.

  • And finally some people say time is perhaps the thing that ‘stops everything happening at once’.

There are some finer distinctions to be addressed about time, such as that the theory of relativity says time flows at different rates under different conditions, to do with speed and gravity etc, and we will cover these further on, but this loose and broad definition will be enough for us to get started on.

The onus of proof, and the big question.

As we shall see, getting to a point where you can at least fully see what is meant, and what is not meant by timelessness, so you can then decide for yourself whether it makes sense or not[1] can be quite an intricate process. However I am pretty sure we can get there with the right approach.

What I mean by this is that a lot can be achieved with cooperation, but without cooperation and without an open mind many things that are perfectly possible cannot in fact be achieved; Just imagine two climbers at the foot of a mountain, if they rope themselves together they can work together as one team and climbing the mountain will be far easier and safer. But if one of them uses the rope to hold the other one back very little will be achieved.

Re-explaining all the effects in nature that we attribute to time is hard enough, but re-explaining everything we attribute to time, while also battling against an already unfairly biased, or overly defensive mind will probably not get us up the mountain.

Healthy scepticism is of course always necessary to prevent us filling our minds with unchecked facts, and so for any ‘theory’ to have scientific credibility it should generally speaking also describe some provable ‘test’; such as an experiment, observation, or prediction, that can be performed, and shown to be right or wrong.

Therefore anyone carrying out this test for themselves, can independently prove to themselves, whether the basic point of the ‘new’ idea presented can be shown to be right or wrong.

The problem here is that from my point of view I am not really trying to prove some new theory to be correct, but rather, I am presenting ‘a set of linked observations’, that are aimed at disproving some ‘existing and incorrect, theory or assumption’. Specifically I am intending to prove that the assumption, or ‘theory’ that ‘time exists as an entity in some way’ is completely invalid.

So I am not trying to prove some new , unusual, incredible, or hard to imagine ‘thing’, all I am trying to prove is that the world is just as it seems to be, all around you now. And that there is no extra and invisible ‘fourth dimension’ that you and I can guess about but never see. So the problem is a bit like trying to come up with an observation or test disproving that things like ‘magic’ or ‘ghosts’ exist.

The problems with ‘disproving’ something.

Disproving the existence of something that doesn’t exist cannot really be done; can you for example prove that ghosts don’t exist? Or prove that there isn’t an invisible mass-less planet orbiting the sun?[2] All that can logically be done in these cases is to ask the person making the claims to prove the truth of the claim and so the onus of proof lies with the ‘claimant’ who should not rely on his or her claim to be disproven, but be able to give proof or show how their theory passes some sensible test.

For example disproving ‘magic’ might be impossible, but one of the main things a ‘magician’ might claim to be able to do is to make things disappear and reappear in impossible ways, (oddly always when the actual act is out of sight for a moment).

And so a good test to show that any magician is real and not just fooling us by letting us misunderstand something complicated that we do actually see, would be to ask them to make an object that we were directly looking at and holding in our left hand, disappear while we were holding, feeling and watching it, and reappear in our right hand as we and others watched or even filmed the event.

In reality you will probably find that rather than actually doing this anyone claiming magic is real will in fact only ever come up either a series of examples claiming to be magic but which can be explained in other ways, or with an endless list of examples and reasons as to why ‘magic’ can never be really examined closely, and even suggest that these ideas or pieces of non-evidence are ‘facts’ relating to and part of the proof and reality of magic.

Similarly, given the claim that ‘time exists’, anyone really holding and believing in the idea should be able to show that time, and not just movement and change, really exists.

For example, they should be able to actually show proof of the existence of the past, or proof of the existence of the future. But again in reality we will probably find that someone believing in time, possibly even yourself, will probably at first come up with either a series of examples claiming to be proof of time, but which in fact can be explained entirely in terms of what happens as we compare the movement of different objects in the present moment. Following this there may be an endless list of reasons and explanations as to why the supposedly ‘real and existing’ distinctions of time can never be ‘tangible’, and how this ‘non evidence’ is also part of the reality and proof of the existence and nature of time.

The onus of proof reversed.

Given that anyone believing in time is claiming the existence of a ‘mysterious’ and invisible (undetectable) thing, and anyone saying ‘things just exist and move with energy’ is simply pointing out what is all around us, then the entire onus of proof should really lie with those who claim they have found something extra, or new.

However this point is often overlooked possibly because of the very unscientific idea that ‘a lot of people accepting something they have heard, is the same thing as an actual proof’.

In other words, the problem here is that someone expecting a testable prediction relating to timelessness that can be proven or disproven and so prove or disprove timelessness is actually being perhaps at best unfair, and at worse unscientific. Unless they can also name and prove some ‘well known scientific experiment’ that has been tested and seems to show time to be something real and not just a human idea and mental or mathematical tool.

Professors Brian Cox, and Jeff Forshaw, sum this up excellently as follows, in their book ‘why does E=MC Squared, and why should we care’.

 

The great physicist Richard Feynman once said that no matter how beautiful your theory, no matter how clever you are or what your name is, if it disagrees with experiment, it's wrong.

In this statement is the key to science. Turning this statement around if a concept is not testable by experiment, then we have no way of telling whether it's right or wrong, and it simply doesn’t matter either way. Of course, that means we could still assume that an idea holds true, even if it isn’t testable, but the danger is that in doing so we run the risk of hindering future progress. Because we are holding on to an unnecessary prejudice.

My point is that Feynman himself probably wouldn’t be happy if he saw us picking and choosing where we use this approach, or marking some aspects of the universe, such as the existence of time, as being ‘obviously’ above or beyond suspicion, and examination.

We should apply the need for experimental proof to all scientific things, including the idea, or ‘theory’, that a thing called ‘Time’ exists, and is needed to explain what we observe.. And If we use this approach to the analysis of ‘Time’, then we can say that it is indeed an excellent theory, that certainly gives us a useful way of understanding, quantifying and comparing the many types of orderly and chaotic motion we simultaneously see in and around us. But we should also ask whether there actually is any single experiment at all, that proves there is more going on than just, and only, matter, moving, changing, and interacting where there is energy, in orderly and chaotic ways, be it in the space around us or the physical matter  within our own minds.

Is there any actual experiment for example that proves the real existence of the ‘temporal past’, as being something that exists other that just as an idea in our minds? Or an experiment that proves the future really exists, again as more than a mental construct that we may have ‘now’? Or if the past and future may exist but be inherently un-seeable, is there an experiment that proves this fact? Or an experiment that proves not just that things exist and move, but also that ‘Time exists and Flows’ and this ‘Time’ is essential for movement to happen? Or an experiment that shows ‘time exists, flows, and has a direction’, as opposed to an experiment that just shows it is extremely likely for a vase to smash when dropped on a stone floor, but extremely unlikely for the right kind of forces to align together within a stone floor to send fragments of a broken vase together in one particular ‘perfectly’ specified formation?  

 If you look carefully, I personally believe you will not find that any such experiments have been designed or proven.

You may find that no such experiments exist because they seem completely unneeded, just as we don’t really need an experiment to prove the sun, the Earth, ourselves or the wind exist. Or you may find many experiments, claiming to be, or just assumed to be some kind of proof of the existence of Time, and of its nature; experiments involving observations of the motion or stars and planets in the skies, fossils or decaying radioactive materials, or using simple machines that may be referred to by the word ‘clocks’, but on close examination I think you will find that such experiments only actually prove that objects exist, move, and change, in different ways, at different rates and in different directions, ‘now’.

The key question...

As you read this book you will find that there are a lot of observations and situations that seem to prove or confirm the existence of time, and which by ‘default’ we are happy to accept in a very hasty and biased way, as being actual or scientific proof that time exists. The very subtle problem with these observations is that...

If you look at some situations, with the assumption that ‘Time definitely exists’, then those situations will seem to confirm ‘that time exists’. But if you look without the assumption that time exists - you will just see matter and motion existing and happening ‘now’.

 

The meaning and significance of this will hopefully become more apparent as we progress, particularly if at any point of doubt you first recall that our own internal memories only really prove that matter can exist and move ‘now’, though we may think they prove the past exists. And then ask yourself the key question which is...

 

  • Would the situation I am considering still work and make sense if time did not exist, and things ‘just’ moved and changed’ - or does this situation  actually prove the existence of the fourth dimension... ‘Time’?

 

We tend to assume that the existence of time is either obvious, or has already been proven by some experiment, or that virtually any matter seeming to involve time also works as a proof of time, but this is precisely what this book is actually checking, and confirming or denying – because no other work seems to have rigorously carried out this most basic step. This may seem unnecessary, and if it is then this should become apparent very quickly, but in my experience this doesn’t seem to be the case.

If you check to see if any particular situation ‘actually proves’ the existence of time, rather than just assuming that it does, or assuming that time is proven elsewhere, you may unexpectedly find that every example that seems to prove the existence of time, and its apparent flow from the future through the present and into the past, only actually supports the idea of time if it has been proven elsewhere, and otherwise only proves - that things exist, and move and change ‘now’.

(See, problems with disproving myths, -1 A Cautionary Tale. Do Drongos exist?)



[1] As opposed to just ‘thinking’ timelessness doesn’t make sense but not being able to explain the precise reason the observations are incorrect.

[2] Apparently Bertrand Russell makes a similar analogy to a ‘teapot’ floating in space... but that’s just ridiculous.

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