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Arrows of Time and the 'Wrath of God'

Time comes about by virtue of the motion of matter in space.


Melting Clock by Salvador Dali - Image credit: James Galleries

In Relativity, we have space-time with time being considered a property of space and described as a "fourth dimension". Amrit Sorli of the SpaceLife Institute in Italy does not agree. In a recent paper he says:

In the universe the passing of time cannot be clearly perceived as matter and space directly; one can perceive only irreversible physical, chemical, and biological changes in the physical space -- the space in which material objects exist. On the basis of elementary perception (sight) one can conclude that physical time exists only as a stream of change that runs through physical space. The important point is: Change does not "happen" in physical time -- change itself is physical time. This is a different and more correct perspective than the conventional view in physics, in which space-time is the theater or "stage" on which physical change happens.
See: From Space-Time to A-temporal Physical Space

According to John Merryman, who started a conversation by commenting on an earlier article on this site, time has two directions:

If we were to build a clock-like device to characterize motion, it would have many hands, going in both directions and the cumulative action would cancel out in a general equilibrium. With the concept of time, most of these hands are combined into the face, with a few going in one direction as coordinates for the reference point. Time is a component of motion, not the basis for it.

Merryman goes on to discuss how time can be seen as either going from the past towards the future - the usual view - or the other way, if we see time in the context of process. But his essay has actually two subjects. Time is one of them, and monotheism is the other. This latter one, or a rather fundamental error in basic logic connected with it, he says, is at the bottom of many of our current problems ... but read for yourself.

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Beyond belief

Written by John Merryman

...in which John courteously suggests an error in basic logic may be at the root of our current problems...

(go see the original here)

A search for hope in reason

While I was a little slow in school and make my living outdoors, I've always been an avid reader of whatever might explain this existence. In this process of self-education, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the little I know. One of my earliest memories of questioning more than just the dictates of family was sitting in church at about ten years old and vaguely wondering what purpose all that ritual really served. At that age the idea of God seemed so transcendent and religion only served to obscure and trivialize it. Now, after several decades of trying to make sense of the ways of this world, it seems to me as though life is like an onion. You peel away every layer and finally there is nothing left.

Why is that? We distill away everything that seems transitory about life, searching for some hard little nugget of meaning and when we are done, have so little to show for it. The problem isn't life, the problem is the idea of meaning. Life is dynamic and holistic. Meaning is static and reductionistic.

As an organ, the brain evolved for navigation and survival. It naturally doesn't worry about all the things going right, just those it needs to survive, or that might kill it. Given this tendency and necessity to concentrate on what's wrong and fix it, it's no wonder that when we focus this passionate intensity on all that's good and doesn't need fixing, we basically see right through it and can't understand why. How do we escape the architecture of our own mind?

To begin with, there are two errors at the base of modern logic.

The first is that geometry never fully incorporated the zero. Consider that points, lines and planes supposedly have a zero dimension. Well, 1x0=0. What they really have is a virtual dimension, not zero dimensions. While a point can presumably be dimensionless, it is still a specific point of reference. The real zero for geometry would be empty space. It is the potential for any point, not a specific one.

Also, three dimensions are a specific coordinate system, referenced by the zyx point, not space itself. Any number of coordinate systems, starting from any point, can be used to define the same space. You might say the Israelis and the Arabs use different coordinate systems to define the same land.

The other issue concerns the nature of time. For one thing, time has two directions. The observer's arrow of time goes from past events to future events. On the other hand, these events go from being in the future to being in the past, so the arrow of time for the observed goes from the future to the past. To the hands of the clock, the face is going counterclockwise. The three dimensional frame of reference is not moving along an additional dimension. This subjective coordinate system is interacting with other such frames.

If we were to build a clock-like device to characterize motion, it would have many hands, going in both directions and the cumulative action would cancel out in a general equilibrium. With the concept of time, most of these hands are combined into the face, with a few going in one direction as coordinates for the reference point. Time is a component of motion, not the basis for it.

The unit of time goes from beginning to end, but the process of time is going toward the beginning of the next, leaving the old. The hour on the clock starts in the future and the hand passes from its beginning to its end and then moves on to the next, leaving the previous hour in the past. Days go from dawn to dusk, as the sun moves from east to west, but the reality is that the earth is rotating west to east and the sunlight is moving on to other time zones. Our individual lives are units of time going from beginning to end, while the process of living goes on to the next generation, shedding the old like dead skin.

Compare it to a factory. The product moves from start to finish, but the production line is facing the other way, consuming raw material and expelling finished product. This relationship of the process and the unit is one of perspective. A unit at one level is a process at another and vice versa. What matters to the process isn't so much the end product, as it is the energy produced, in wages and profits, calories burned, etc, that propels the process forward, consuming more material.

Reality consists of energy recording information. As the amount of energy remains the same, old information is erased as new is recorded. Objective reality is the energy. Time is a function of the subjective information, as past and future do not physically exist because the energy to manifest them is currently tied up in the present. If another moment were to exist, it would require its own energy and so would not be on a continuum with our reality.

Time is not so much a projection out from the present event, as it is a coming together of factors to define what is present. The past being those influences which define current order and the future is determined by the energy to motivate that order. When order is an open set, it absorbs fresh energy, defining it and adapting to it, so that the future is a continuation of the past. When order is a closed set, the energy accumulates elsewhere and the future becomes a reaction to the past. Evolution and revolution.

One definition of the arrow of time is that of decreasing usable energy and increasing entropy in a closed system. Keep in mind though, that a "closed system" is a unit and these processes are the aging of this unit.

Even though we have come to understand there is no preferred frame of reference, when we define reality as three dimensional space, with this linear graph of motion, called time, as a fourth dimension, we are still using the perspective of the generic point as the basis for explaining reality, when a more objective description requires understanding how many such points interact.

How should we go about considering objective reality, when the very concept of perspective implies a point of reference? Our fundamental process of thought is inherently reductionistic and linear, so how do we reconcile it with a reality that is neither? This might seem like an academic exercise, but in a world that is reaching the boiling point, it may be helpful to review the basics.

Temperature is another way of measuring motion, that of a level of activity against a prevailing scale. At the atomic level, this method begins to lose its conventional meaning, as individual atoms are moving along particular trajectories and at specific velocities, while at the human level, government statistics, for example, are a form of temperature reading of economic activity.

To the individual, the linear connection between one moment and the next, as well as the whole mortality thing, is a fundamental reality. Thus our assumption that time is the basis of motion, but to the larger group there is no preferred frame of reference. As politics is the process of organizing and refereeing competing perspectives, it is the concept of temperature, the level of activity and energy, that most clearly defines political activity. While particular movements have their own historical perspective, consideration of the past and concern for the future don't resonate across a fractured and fractious political landscape.

Of all the ideas for bringing humanity together, one of the most successful has been monotheism. It serves as that preferred frame of reference that we are constantly searching for and can never find. As originally conceived, it was so formless that even naming it was forbidden, but layers of meaning and narrative have attached to it in order for it to be accessible and useful.

The first assumption occurs in the very term "monotheism." Mono means one, as in a set, or unit. This creates various postulates. The first is that as a unit, it must have some centralized controlling perspective and principle. The perspective assigned to it was as a father figure. This in turn had its consequences. For one thing, the father is of the previous generation and while this bestowed on it the authority of the past, over time it tended to create an increasingly rigid theology overseen by a similarly inclined priesthood. Not to mention societies dominated by male impulse.

The principle assigned to this singular deity was invariably to maintain the fortunes of those worshiping it and we all know how that goes.

As I pointed out in describing time, the unit is only one side of the equation and its timeline goes from beginning to end, so monotheistic religions do develop a natural propensity to view history in apocalyptic terms. In fact, ancient religions, with their focus on the seasons, had a better appreciation of regenerative processes. This concept of death and rebirth was a major factor in the early success of Christianity. Of course, with Constantine making it a state religion and using the cross as a war totem, the vital core crossed the political spectrum from being a tale of social insurrection, to being a tool for civil indoctrination, but that too is a natural aging process.

As this figure of authority, it is assumed that God must know everything and this has created enormous confusion. How can God both grant us free will, yet know our every move. Why worshipping a knowing God should require us to deny our own intellect. Why so much pain. Etceteras.

Human logic has expanded greatly since the dawn of monotheism and one of the many concepts brought forth by this evolution has been that of the absolute. This would be a universally neutral state, where every force and energy has been balanced against its opposite. Now it was natural to assign this state to our ultimate deity, but complications arise. Pope John Paul II described God as the all-knowing absolute, but while the absolute would be a completely featureless state, knowledge is a process of making distinctions and judgments.

We have described God as this father figure and assigned to it all that is ordered, but is that logical? Order is a function of material realty. It is the machine, not the ghost.

The real mystery is where does life originate and what is the source of this sense of being that describes our personal awareness. Assuming they are ultimately the same, the process of evolution suggests this is an elemental quality that we gradually and fitfully rise out of and possibly fall back into. (If not simply vanish, like the picture on a television that has been turned off, depending on how much of our being is information and how much is this spiritual energy. Personal experience suggests this is a very complex relationship.) As the absolute is the basis out of which order rises, not a set of it stored away somewhere, the spiritual absolute is that essence we rise out of, not a singular entity we fell from. Relieving God of ultimate knowledge not only makes sense, but it requires us to use our own. Rather than using fear of God to compel law and order, we would understand that our basic impulses are not a sign from on high, but raw material to work with.

Good and bad are not a top down dual between the forces of light and darkness, but the bottom up binary code of biological calculation. For the process, they are relative. What is good for the fox is bad for the chicken. For individuals, they could easily be absolute, at least to the chicken.

It should be noted that atheists also equate knowledge with consciousness, but assume it is order that creates consciousness and not the other way around.

This life force uses order to manifest itself, but is order the source of our consciousness? For one thing, order is subjective. You must have the point of reference, or everything is chaos. Now that point tends to accumulate structure and become a unit. As such it has a beginning and end. Life has managed to bridge this gap through regeneration. Personally, I suspect there is something here beyond mere ordering.

Currently we have a world that appears about to go up in flames, as those with the gift of absolute truth battle it out. Of course it is a political advantage of monotheism not to have a philosophy that tries to look at both sides of everything when it comes to getting everyone marching in the same direction.

Those of us more interested in asking vital questions then in having set answers should start considering how to build the next world out of the chaos of the old, while we still have the tools to do so.

There is a time in one's life when the father goes from being the model one follows, to the foundation one rises from. Optimistically, I hope humanity is simply at that stage.

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If you liked John's article, you might want to see how our conversation started. John commented on an article in the economy section: Will Demise of Dollar Usher in Free Money? Check out the comments at the end of that article (starting on 20 August 2006) to get both the beginning and the end of the conversation...

See also:

Time Was Never the 4th Dimension

Time is not the fourth dimension of spacetime, nor is it an absolute quantity that flows on its own, Slovenian researchers say. Instead, they propose that time is simply a measure denoting the numerical order of change.

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Thank you for posting this. In the course of subsequent discussions, I've expanded on some of the final paragraphs;
This life-force uses order to manifest itself, but is order the source of our consciousness? For one thing, order is subjective. You must have the point of reference, or everything is chaos. Now that point tends to accumulate structure and become a unit. As such it has a beginning and end. Life has managed to bridge the inevitable gap through regeneration. This awareness is like the light shining through a frame of film. Even though everything on the film might seem explanatory, relative to all the other details, it would all be dark without this sense of being. We perceive it as a property of the individual, but ultimately it only exists in the present, with individuals as a function of larger processes. While consciousness may be described as an emergent property, the roots of this essential quality must run very deep. Even the most basic life forms respond to the elements of attraction/rejection that underlay our concept of good vs. bad.

This model of reality also negates determinism of either the theological or causal variety. To the first, top down order emanates from the point of reference and there is no ultimate point of reference. To the second, every aspect of our being is part of the larger equation, so we affect it, as it affects us. The greater our independence from outside factors, the less effect we would consequently have on everything else. Therefore our best behavior is important in this integrated reality.

"The greater our independence from outside factors, the less effect we would consequently have on everything else. Therefore our best behavior is important in this integrated reality."

Agreed. In order to influence things around us, we better be pretty clean as individuals, otherwise we may find ourselves in a world of trouble.

Which reminds me of the world political situation, that requires our active participation to ensure our kids and grandkids have a world left to live in, not a prison planet.

The question is how to plant a seed that will sprout when the husk of this old world order falls away.

It's a question of time and place. The time is getting close, but it's not here yet.

The place is the minds of those who can still think, but don't know what to believe.

In many ways, those who have ignored reality in their quest for power are creating the situation where this is possible. Society is being run off a cliff of expectations, more then physical limits.

Greed and fear rule the world now, but they are destroying their own house of cards. Those who can offer hope are the ones who can provide the seed.


If you have some time, here is a discussion that might fill in some of the complexities;


It spills over into this one;



thanks for those links. I went and looked. Would love to get in on some of these discussions, but I just don't have the time to do it - too engrossed in other things I consider important at this moment.

I liked your discourse on coordinate systems, and it stimulated me to think about my own proposal in this regard, which is from some years back - to base coordinates not on the Cartesian xyz right-angle system, but on the tetrahedron.

(see A tetrahedron-based system of space co-ordinates)

Not that I have any formalism worked out - just the concept. So today, reading your take on coordinates, I tried to get into the frame of mind again and actually did think up a way of how it could work numerically. As you say (in post number 55 on the first discussion you linked) a tetrahedron potentially accomodates four coordinate systems in one. It is a single system to potentially describe any point in space - the system extends in all directions starting from a central point, unlike the xyz coordinates, which define space starting from one corner of the space that is being described.

The system I envision has one central point and four directions vectoring out through the respective centers of the faces of a tetrahedron. The advantage is all-space description by one single system.

The trouble I am having is putting the location of any point in mathematical terms - to define how any of an infinite number of points in space can be described in a simple way. (If any mathematician reads this - I need some help...)

Any point in space will locate with respect to three of the vectors. It is imagined to locate the point by its relative position, expressed as a range from 0 to 100 or a percentage of the inter-vector separation, from each of the three vectors in question. This locates the exact direction, but not the distance of the point in space. The fourth number, that vector not used to determine direction, could then perhaps signify distance from the central point, for a complete determination of any location in surrounding space.

The description of the central point would be 0/0/0/0.

the vectors have designation c, m, y and k.

A point located anywhere between vectors m, y and k would be described as

... well, here is where I could use some help from the mathematically minded.



A tetrahedron is a solid shape. You can do it with any such form. Consider the buckyball. We all live on the surface of a sphere and all live in different three dimensional frames. Math formalizes our insights, but the insights still precede the description. All human laws, principles, math, etc. are approximations of reality, not the basis of it, no matter how solid they may seem. Reality is bottom up. These conceptual structures are top down.

The article in that discussion from NewScientist by Lee Smolin that Knotted recommended discussed the possibility that laws could change over time. I think the basic question is whether they exist beyond their expression. When you think about it, don't all laws essentially boil down to 'similar causes yield similar consequences'. In a very real sense, they are like Plato's essences. As Plato suggested that physical objects are imperfect examples of some perfect form, we have this assumption that there is an absolute frame or set of physical behavior that reality is destined to follow, but just as reality is cascading processes of increasing complexity, is it possible the laws are also compilations of interacting cause?

To a certain extent, this is the direction Stephen Wolfram is going with his, "A New Kind of Science." Admittedly, my ADD didn't get me through the first few chapters, as well as having read a few reviews. It does get conceptually repetitive, but the patterns, relationships and examples covered thoughout are truly mindbending, In a way, the book follows the pattern he describes. It seems his conclusion is that the universe is a computer and while simple programs might be able to describe to the interactions, the behavior they produce cannot be predicted without completing the process. That simple programs can create completely random behavior. The universe is essentially a computer that could only be duplicated by a computer as complex as the universe. (I recommend the book highly though. The cellular automata are truly incredible.)

While modern logical systems grow increasingly complex, it seems that this might be due to explaining various basic initial misconceptions that create confusion. Possibly these basic principles rise out of some essential equilibrium, ie. absolute. What's more basic then the binary relationship of positive and negative?

Of course, it isn't the mathematicians who are going to crack the shell. There are so many systems heading for the edge that it's like one of those rogue waves at sea that occasionally happen when a lot of waves happen to be at the same place. There is going to be far more distress in economic, political, religious and other social arenas then in any academic circles. Like a fire resistant seed that needs to be burned before it can germinate, the time is coming when alot of people are going to wonder why the system broke and what's next. Many will be following whatever demagogue happens along. Hopefully there will be a window of opportunity to explore the fundamentals of reality and how we can really do better next time and not just crash. It seems like a long shot, but the world is really weird and getting weirder by the moment, so there's no telling what might go viral. Unfortunately, reality really is bottom up and stupidity generally rules, but you never know.... Sorry for the rant.



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