Tibor R. Machan, in his recent essay, A Brief on Time, (RRND 5/31/11), takes the position that “time” is real.
I argue that it is not.
By “time” he means: “what we record for departure and arrival of planes and trains, what we learn from our clocks and watches, etc., etc, what we aim to save as we go about doing our various tasks, what we complain that we have so little of while others have too much of it on hand.”
“Time is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries and millennia. And the motion of things in the world, including even the speed of light, is, in turn, measured in periods or spans of time,” he observes.
All of that is true, but Mr. Machan’s definition of “time” does not define a physical entity within the cognitive contextual reality of existence.
There are dozens of definitions of the word “time” in the dictionary. None of them identify or define an entity or phenomenon within the cognitive contextual reality of existence, but instead only quantify or measure relationships between such entities and phenomena.
“Space-time” is defined by most scientists as a four-dimensional reference frame, consisting of three dimensions in space and one dimension in time, used especially in Relativity Theory as a basis for coordinate systems for identifying the location and timing of objects and events.
In General Relativity theory, space-time is thought to be curved by the presence of mass, much as the space defined by the surface of a piece of paper can be curved by bending the paper. The four-dimensional continuum in which all objects are located and all events occur is viewed as a single and continuous framework for existence. Space-time consists of length, width, depth, and time.
No argument with that.
But scientists cannot define "time," as a real entity in existence because the concept is only an abstraction quantifying dynamic changes in the context of existence. “Time” is used as a quantifier – a means of measurement -- not a real entity.
Time measures change. If the context of existence stopped changing, there would be no time, so "time" is just a word used to quantify changes.
"Time" elapses, only in your imagination. Changes in the context of existence simply happen constantly, and the reality of existence is always now. If Mr. Machan wants to define “time” as “change,” I would agree with him.
Movement involves change. Speed involves change. Disintegration, decay, atrophy, expansion, contraction, all involve change. Time is used as a mental tool to measure aspects of the changes, such as speed and duration. But “change,” like “time,” is not a physical entity in existence.
Existence is a continuum. Existence is a continuing now. Existence is always now. Now is not a day, hour, minute or second, but always. The contextual reality of existence is now and will always be now. So, there is no “past” or “future” in the contextual reality of existence. Past and future in “time” do not exist. There is only and always now.
“Past” and “future” are, like “time,” conceptual abstractions which we use in consciousness to organize our thinking about the dynamically changing nature of existence. All conceptual abstractions are imaginary. Therefore, both past and future are, like “time,” entirely imaginary.
Conceptual abstractions such as past and future can only be imagined using consciousness. So, the idea of creating a time machine, for example, with which to travel forward or backward in “time” is pure fantasy and quite impossible; sort of like trying to draw a square circle.
Of course, there is evidence now pointing to what happened in the “past.” Fossils, artifacts, and records are evidence of the “past.” But one may only imagine the context preceding or following now. The only real context – reality -- is now.
We experience the contextual reality of existence only now. So the “past” is a memory, a history, a record of events which is out of context with now. Past and future may only be experienced consciously – never cognitively.
Likewise, the “future” may often be accurately predicted based upon evidence of what is happening now and what has happened in the “past,” however any prediction is entirely imaginary as the future does not exist in the cognitive contextual reality of existence.
So “time” is a conceptual abstraction used in consciousness to organize our thinking about the changing continuum of existence. There is no such “thing” as “time” as a physical entity within the contextual reality of existence.
Clocks measure time; time measures change; so “time” is a conceptual abstraction, and not a physical dimension.
“Time” is not real.