Dr Who is a TV Programme 66

Time does not exist. It is an abstract concept invented by humans as part of our effort to rationalise the extraordinary fact of our existence. The past no longer exists, and the future has never existed. You can’t physically travel around time any more than you can physically travel around mathematics or ethics. All that exists is the fleeting instant.

I would not have thought that needed saying. But there you are. I am not however questioning the value of what sounds like a tremendous piece of research – only the BBC’s populist presentation of it.

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66 thoughts on “Dr Who is a TV Programme

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  • Clark

    Angrysoba, you wrote: “I am pretty sure that you are leaping way beyond the scientific evidence to say something that hasn’t been proven at all: “Consciousness is universal.””
    No, not scientifically proven. However, something has presumably been collapsing wave functions. Do you assume that all those wave functions were collapsed by human observation? Also, quantum physics has clearly established non-locality. Non-locality has to be assumed to be the norm. Come on Angrysoba, you +know+ that everything affects everything else. Even classical gravitation makes that inevitable. Why should consciousness be an exception? “Consciousness is universal” is probably the most conservative hypothesis, or would be if material realism didn’t already hold the floor. Well, it holds the floor locally, at least.
    “I do not know what you mean by the creative history of the universe.”
    You don’t? Seriously? OK. Our standard model is the Big Bang. The universe started with just energy, all of the same form. Later we find the four fundamental forces. Then subatomic particles. Then the simplest three elements. Then gravitational clumping leading to the first stars. Within the stars, synthesis of higher elements. Then supernovae distributing those elements. Chemistry becomes possible. Then simple life, then multi-celled life, then intelligence and technology. Somewhere in there is galaxy formation and planetary system formation. It looks consistently creative to me. The further back you look, the less of interest you find. Would you call Picasso creative, but not the process that produced Picasso? Maybe you wish to claim creativity as a purely human quality. I don’t. OK, that’s subjective, but so is everything, ultimately.
    Angrysoba: “as much as you may now want to make the move that Eastern philosophy has shown us that subject/object distinctions are merely artificial…”
    Well, Eastern philosophy asserts a route to this realisation that they claim is testable. The Buddhists say “don’t take our word for it, meditate and see for yourself”. I haven’t done so, but when multiple sources claim that their results can be reproduced, I take them seriously. But that wasn’t actually my source. Quantum physics asserts the indivisibility of the observer and the observed, and it has been rigorously tested by experiment. When the same result is found by different methods, it adds weight to the argument. That’s how we do science.
    Angrysoba quotes: “We can choose to align ourselves with the universal creativity or not, as we wish. That is a moral decision.”, and replies: “This is absolutely in the language of New Age gurus and doesn’t even rise to the level of scientific conjecture.”
    It is also the language of ancient gurus. I have no idea which gurus have genuine personal experience and which are merely parroting, and the general morality of gurus proves nothing, of course. No, it isn’t a scientific assertion. I am nevertheless much happier to assert it than the “realist” standpoint that morality is merely subjective.
    Angrysoba: “At least the heat death of the universe is a reasonable extrapolation from known observations.”
    Er, no. From known observations, the matter is undecidable – it’s the “is the universe open or closed” problem. If it’s open, then eventual heat-death. If it’s closed, then eventual Big Crunch. As things stand, the universe appears to be critically balanced between these two, to the limits of accuracy of our measurements. What is more, the expansion of the our horizon ensures that the matter cannot be resolved in any reasonable time frame.
    Angrysoba: “But if you say, “[Physicalism] is now known to be wrong” you have again made another bold and unsupported claim. Known by whom? Is it demonstrated to the point of irrefutability?
    Does physicalism deserve to be assumed true? I think I’ve presented enough evidence that the burden of proof should be applied equally in this case. State your physicalist axioms, and let’s see how they hold up in the light of the best scientific theory that has been formulated to date.

  • Nextus

    Angrysoba: “I am not at all angry at the use of the word, “materialist” I just happen to think that “physicalist” is a more precise term …”
    — Me too. I once presented a postgraduate seminar championing physicalism over materialism, citing similar reasons. (Coincidentally, I floated the idea that phenomenal consciousness required quantum electrodynamic field activity within the nervous system, but the reasoning was a lot more technical than the shallow metaphysical speculation in this thread. There is a time and place, and this isn’t it.)
    I’ve really enjoyed this debate (thanks Clark!). I guess we’ve some to a natural respite. I have to make long trip early tomorrow, for a landmark event, but I’d be happy to pick up the reins on my return.

  • technicolour

    time – forward moving linear time certainly exists. as MJ says, you just have to consider speech, or the growth of a tree from an acorn.

    that linear growth, is obviously also cyclical, in a sense; the tree decays, another acorn grows from the same soil. but it is linear for that particular acorn.

    the universe (leaving aside animate creatures) is conscious in the sense that it is constantly reflecting itself; the harmony of the spheres echoes the musical scale which echoes the periodic table, it seems. oceans form tree shaped patterns on sea beds. we are all made of stars. beauty seems to be a common denominator too.

  • Paul

    Anon: “It is only in the realms of consciousness that time exists.”

    This is only true in the same way that “It is only in the realms of consciousness that exists” is also true for any .

    Time is a label for a phenomena and that phenomena exists even if we don’t fully understand what we mean by it, nor how closely what we think we mean relates to reality.

    Try replacing with any of these: “the United States”, “Art”, “Colour”, “Good Taste”, “the Sea”, “Human Rights”.

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