Posts tagged ‘time’

March 7, 2012

Conceptualizing God’s Relationship to Time

by Max Andrews

Absolute Eternality (Timelessness):  This view is the traditional (Augustinian) view that God is absolutely timeless.  His timelessness is not affected by the temporality of the universe nor his interactions with it.  In the metaphysics of absolute eternality, God experiences all of his life and being in one eternal now.

Relative Eternality (Timelessness):  The relative eternality position acknowledges that God transcends time, which is a created thing and dependent upon God, but denies that he is absolutely atemporal because it sees God as actively sustaining a changing world in existence.  The relative eternalist therefore maintains that God is timeless relative to physical time but temporal relative to an uncreated metaphysical time that transcends the universe and is a pure duration that flows without change.  God’s being is ontologically prior to this temporal aspect of his life and serves as the ground of it.

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February 1, 2012

Is There Scientific Evidence for Young Earth Creationism?

by Max Andrews

To answer the question, “Is it surprising that scientific evidence supports a young earth perspective?” I would respond saying that I would almost consider this a loaded question.  I don’t think I can find no evidence for a young earth; however, I find the record of nature to support the proposition that the universe is old (billions of years) by overwhelming evidence.  There is hardly any evidence for a young earth, if indeed there is any at all.

Before getting to the geologic record of nature one needs to address the cosmological record of nature (the earth cannot be older than the universe).  I initially gained my interest in cosmology (and I must say I really enjoy discussing cosmology) was the Kalam cosmological argument, which is an apologetic argument for a beginning of the universe.[1]  I’ll put aside the mathematical and philosophical arguments for a beginning of the universe for that would be off topic and I’ll stick with the scientific evidence.  If one were to analyze an extrapolation of space and time then that initial singularity for the universe would take us back 13.73 GYA (giga, billion years ago).  There are many models of the universe such as the steady state, oscillating, quantum fluctuation, and other string theory models that coincide with former.[2]  The most prominent model with the most philosophical, mathematical, and scientific evidence is the standard model (due to cosmic inflation, the big bang).  Prominent cosmologist Paul Davies comments,

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October 23, 2011

J.M.E McTaggart’s Argument That Nothing is in Time

by Max Andrews

J.M.E. McTaggart provides an objection to the A series of time but suggesting that it may be true that past, present, and future are mere illusions of the mind.[1]  McTaggart dismisses the argument’s subjectivity of time by simply defining it out of existence.

McTaggart’s Argument:

  1. Anything existent can either possess the characteristic of being in time or the characteristic of not being in time.
  2. Anything existent does not possess the characteristic of being in time [due to subjective references, a lack of indexing events from moment to moment or changing, etc.]
  3. Therefore, anything existent does not possess the characteristic of being in time (time is illusory).

The objection to the A series by the subjectivity of the individual mind is not so easy to dismiss as McTaggart seems to do.  With advances in relativity theory this objection may have phenomenological credibility.  Though McTaggart’s rejection of the argument is correct, there are better reasons for opposing the argument of the mind’s subjective relationship to time.[2]

The special theory of relativity (STR) states that clocks in motion slow down.  This time dilation occurs with respects to the observer.  In the early 1900’s, Albert Einstein’s STR changed how physicists and philosophers viewed the previous Newtonian paradigm of absolute simultaneity.  If STR is correct, then an observer in motion will experience time at a slower rate than an observer at rest.  Perhaps, given STR, the A series of time is really illusory since the experience of time is relative to the subject (the object being the spacetime fabric).

STR may still permit an A series of time where the subject’s experience of objective becoming is supported by the object’s relation to the subject.  There are two concurrent ways this may be done:  Lorentzian simultaneity (from the physical approach) and God as the prime reality (from the metaphysical approach).  Hendrick Lorentz proposed the idea that time and length are absolute but there are no way these measurements could be made since the measuring devices are in motion.

Lorentz’s equations for local time and transformation may aid the A theorist in the subject to object relationship with the observer being the subject and spacetime being the object; however, if the object is changed to God then perhaps the observers experience of becoming is objective [or perhaps a metaphysical time].  Propositions that appear in the past tense are true if and only if that proposition was true and that moment it describes.  The proposition, “It rained yesterday on March 12” is true if and only if today is March 13 [or any later day] and it rained the day before March 13.  If the observer experienced an earlier-than, later-than sense of becoming respective to March 12 and March 13 what criteria would warrant a rejection of that sense of becoming?  If on March 12 the observer objectively experiences rain and then affirms the truth of the proposition “It rained yesterday on March 12” the next day it seems that the proposition is objectively true as it stands in relation to the event and the observer.  If the event experienced (absolute becoming) is objective and the proposition “It rained yesterday on March 12” is true on March 13 then perhaps the referent for temporal becoming is not mere spacetime but rather God.

Admittedly this makes pantheism and panentheism to be sufficient explanatory hypotheses but these are not the only hypotheses that may work.  If all reality is found in God, according to an Anselmian God, then conceivably the phenomenological experience of the observer objectively experiencing a temporal becoming is due to a noumenal projection or referent providing that objectivity.  This would be analogous to Kant’s phenomenal-noumenal split with regards to the categorical imperative.  Just as Kant antecedently accepts the categorical imperative as objective he consequently postulates God as the objective source.  The analogy fits in the same phenomenological/experiential sense as well as the antecedent-consequent relationship and postulation (as well as implying the reality of events and experiences having temporal characteristics).

The question of how God relates to the world will inevitably be raised in light of this hypothesis.  Explaining how God relates to the world, whether it is pantheistic, panentheistic, or God’s temporal relationship is a Lorentzian time, is not necessary to make the postulation as long as God is the Anselmian understanding of God (that God is the prime reality).  This explanation comes to the same conclusion that McTaggart came to except more credence is given to the subject’s relationship to the object (whatever the object may be).  If the object is spacetime then it certainly may be the case that temporal becoming is an illusion given STR.

            [1] J.M.E. McTaggart, “Time:  An Excerpt From The Nature of Existence” in Metaphysics eds. Peter van Inwagen, Dean W. Zimmerman (Oxford:  Blackwell, 2008), 118.

            [2] When is use past tensed verbs such as “experienced” or “rained” I am using them in a series-independent sense.  The English tenses may assume an objective difference in time but I am not giving credence to my argument by appealing or assuming verb tenses as being true merely because of linguistic limitation.

August 10, 2011

Einstein, The Big Bang, and Natural Theology

by Max Andrews

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (GTR) had predicted that the universe was either expanding or contracting.  Einstein found the notion of a beginning to the universe so distasteful that he introduced a “fudge factor” to his field equation to keep a Steady State universe, an eternal equilibrium.[1]  Einstein introduced a term called the cosmological constant.  The cosmological constant was a force so weak, which factored into the geometric curvature of space, that it would make no difference on an eternal universe.

In the 1920’s Edwin Hubble was studying the Andromeda nebula.  At least since the time of Kant scientists wondered what these distant enormous objects were (galaxies).  Kant conjectured that they might be island universes in their own right.[2]  With further study, Hubble noticed that these galaxies had a red shift; the galaxies were appearing redder than they should have and Hubble postulated that these galaxies were moving away from one another.  What was being observed was the same thing that the Doppler effect has on sound.  The trajectory of an object has an effect on the wavelength of the sound, or in this case, light.

As a result of Hubble’s discovery and Einstein’s own equations the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman and the Belgian priest and physicist Georges Édouard Lemaître suggested that the universe had a finite past and was not static and eternal.  There was now a problem with the cosmological constant; it cannot simply be deleted from Einstein’s equations. The cosmological constant could balance the equation from describing the geometric curvature (left hand side of the equation) to describing the energy momentum (right hand side of the equation).   If this expansion is extrapolated the equations of motion then (and even now) can only go but so far—until the universe comes to a singularity. With reluctance Einstein conceded the steady state model in the late 1920’s, though many scientists would not accept the implications of an expanding universe (its finitude).  One critic, Fred Hoyle, dubbed such an event the “Big Bang” in mockery and the name stuck.[3]

Einstein’s GTR [and aspects of STR] has made incredible contributions to natural theology.[4]  Given the fixed speed of light, that nothing can travel faster than light, and the billions of light-years separation between the earth and other stars, it follows that the universe is billions of years old.[5]  This has created a problem for young-earth creationists.[6] Current estimations for the age of the universe have been set at 13.73±2 billion years old.  Young-earth creationists have adopted three main approaches:  (1) embrace a fictitious history of the universe in the spirit of Philip Gosse’s 1857 work Omphalos; (2) view the speed of light as having decayed over time; and/or (3) interpret Einstein’s GTR so that during an “ordinary day as measured on earth, billions of years worth of physical processes take place in the distant cosmos.”[7]

Regarding a fictitious history of the universe, the argument states that all present light, which appears to be billions of light years away, was created in transit with an appearance of age.  So, when supernovae exploding in a galaxy millions or billions of light years away, the young-earth creationist [advocate of a fictitious history] must adopt the approach that no supernovae ever exploded.[8]  Einstein and the scientific theologian’s epistemic method reject such an interpretation.  Einstein’s method of inquiry based the natural order as having an ontological status of genuine reality and the discoveries are made a posteriori; no such method of inquiry is tenable under a fictitious history.  Einstein’s epistemology has influenced Big Bang theists and scientific theologians regarding GTR and the objectivity of the natural order.  It appears, objectively, that the universe really is billions of years old.

The second argument was a denial that the speed of light has been a constant [approximately] 300,000 km/s.  As previously discussed, Einstein’s E=mc2 states that energy is proportional to the mass of an object multiplied by the speed of light squared.  If c decays then that would imply that there has been a change in the quantity of energy in the universe.  This creates a problem for thermodynamics.  Thermodynamics would not be the only problem; many other constants would need to change as well to preserve the stability of a life-permitting cosmos such as Planck’s constant h (h-bar).  Suddenly the objection is not only with c because that would in turn change all of physics.[9]  All of this would be done to circumvent an old universe suggested by a constant speed of light.[10]  Before Einstein’s relativity theories, this would not have been a problem for the young-earth creationist.

The third foremost-misconstrued aspect of Einstein’s equations by natural theologians has been to misinterpret GTR and time dilation.  The mathematics of this theory shows that while God makes the universe in six days in the earth’s reference frame (“Earth Standard Time”), the light has ample time in the extra-terrestrial reference frame to travel the required distances.[11]  The problem with this theory is that there are mathematical errors in its use of Einstein’s GTR.

One misunderstanding is the theory’s use of the Cosmological Principle.  It wrongly assumes that the long-time-scale implications of Big Bang cosmology are crucially dependent on the global validity of the principle and that the relaxation of this assumption, through the introduction of a boundary to the matter of the universe, produces dramatic differences in the gravitational properties of the universe.[12]  A second misunderstanding is the nature of time.  The theory wrongly affirms that the physical clock synchronization properties, which occur in the standard Big Bang model are due to the boundary conditions implied by the Cosmological Principle and that modification of these boundary conditions can change the way physical clocks behave.  Clocks in either our bounded or unbounded universe will behave exactly the same way whether on earth or at a distant galaxy provided there are identical interior matter distributions.[13] The third misunderstanding to be discussed is how GTR relates to event horizons (the point where escaping a mass’s gravity becomes impossible).  The theory wrongly affirms that observers who pass through event horizons observe dramatic changes in the rate of time passage in distant parts of the universe when it is the case that no such changes occur.[14]  Einstein’s impact on young-earth creationism has been profound and, arguably, has overthrown the tenability of young-earth creationism altogether.[15]

Einstein’s impact on natural theology has not been completely negative, as in the case for young-earth creationists, but for scientific theologians [and old-earth creationists] he has been a catalyst for epistemic and religious advances.  It is important to understand that as a GTR-based theory, the model does not describe the expansion of the material content of the universe into preexisting, Newtonian space, but rather the expansion of space itself.  The standard Big Bang model, as the Friedman-Lemaître model came to be called, thus described a universe that is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a g finite time ago.  Moreover, the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo.[16]  Christian theologians and philosophers already had arguments for a beginning of the universe based on necessity, contingency, and the concept of an actual infinite, but Einstein’s equations, which led the Standard Model, gave a mathematical and physical description of the universe that supported the Christian doctrine of creation.  The metaphysical concept of creatio ex nihilo now had empirical evidence.

In the 1960’s there was a dramatic increase in a series of dialogue on the relationship between science and religion.[17]  Natural theology [by the tasks of primarily scientists and philosophers] has sought to demonstrate that God is a necessary element in any comprehensive explanation of the universe is a long tradition, one that the Darwinian crusade sought to eliminate.  It might be legitimate to say that this renewed relationship between science and religion is a return to normal if Einstein was right when he said that “science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”[18]

            [1] Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards. The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004), 171.

            [2] Gonzalez and Richards, 169.

            [3] Gonzalez and Richards, 171.

            [4] Natural theology supposes that the belief in God must rest upon an evidential basis.  Belief in God is thus not a properly basic belief.  Through the development of Einstein’s work, natural theology was undergoing barrage of attack from theologians such as Karl Barth.  Barth’s polemic against natural theology can be seen as a principled attempt to safeguard the integrity of divine revelation against human attempts to construct their own notions of God, or undermine the necessity of revelation. Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 81-82.

            [5] It is worth noting that space itself can travel faster than the speed of light, Einstein’s STR permits this.  It is expected that space begin to exceed this cosmic speed limit relatively soon.  William Dembski, The End of Christianity (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2009), 65.

            [6] Young-earth creationists have an epistemic method that begins with the Bible and shapes the rest of nature and science according to that specific interpretation rendered.  Their conclusion is that the six days of creation are a literal 24-hour day period and the universe is roughly six to ten thousand years old.

            [7] These are the three primary approaches as they relate to Einstein’s work.  Young-earth creationists have certainly developed scores of other arguments, but these are the most relevant and most cited.  D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe (Green Forest, AR: Master, 1994), 37 quoted in Dembski, 65.

            [8] Dembski, 66-67.

            [9] Dembski, 67-68.

            [10] There are models consistent with a 13.7 billion year old universe that suggests a change in the speed of light.  Recent varying-speed-of-light (VSL) theories have been suggested as a possible alternative to cosmic inflation for solving the horizon problem, the problem of causality over long distances in initial inflation, suggesting that the speed of light was once much greater.  This is not a popular view since it is difficult to construct explicit models permitting such a suitable variation.  Other constants have been suggested to change (a theory of varying fundamental constants) in part due to superstring theory and eternal inflation.  Even so with these theories and cosmic models, there are still more-fundamental (in contrast to varying) constants in the parent universes (preceding universes in the multiverse models).  Even with a theory of varying fundamental constants Einstein’s equations [of STR] still stand in such models. Andrew R. Liddle, and Jon Loveday, The Oxford Companion to Cosmology (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2009), 316.

            [11] Humphreys, 13.

            [12] Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page, “Starlight and time is the Big Bang,” CEN Technical Journal 12 no. 2 (1998): 174.

            [13] Ibid.

            [14] Ibid.

            [15] In Conner and Page’s response to young-earth creationism’s cosmology they assume five mathematical and methodological points.  (1) GTR is an accurate description of gravity.  (2) Gravity is the most important force acting over cosmologically large distances, so that the conventional application of GTR to cosmology is valid.  (3) The fundamental parameters of nature, such as the gravitational constant G and the speed of light c, are invariant over the observable history of the universe.  (4) The visible region of the universe is approximately homogenous and isotropic on large distance scales.  Lastly, (5) the events which we witness by the light of distant galaxies and quasi-stellar objects are real events and not appearances impressed onto the universe by the intention of the Creator.  Ibid, 175.  The first two assumptions directly reinforce Einstein’s GTR equations.  The third assumption, as previously discussed, relates to Einstein’s STR equations.  The fourth assumption relates to the balancing of Einstein’s field equations and its adjustment after Hubble’s discovery of expansion.  The final assumption relates to Einstein’s epistemic method of reality having real ontological value in an epistemic inquiry.

            [16] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Leicester, England: Apollos, 2004), 222-223.

            [17] These efforts were predominately made by scientists and not theologians.  Such landmark works were Ian Barbour’s Issues in Science and Religion (1966) and later Paul Davies’ God and the New Physics (1983). Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 197.

            [18] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, Trans. and rev. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Three Rivers, 1982), 46. Stark, 197.

June 18, 2011

Process Theology in a Nutshell

by Max Andrews

Process theology entered the scene as a new natural theology.  Some major proponents are Charles Hartshorne, John Cobb, David Griffin, Schubert Ogden, and Thomas Altizer.  This concept of God has him evolving in the world, co-dependent, and God needs us to evolve with him.  God is not all-powerful and he cannot necessarily bring out what he wills.[1]  God works with us by luring us; to lure the cosmos and us to an ever-greater directedness, novelty, harmony, and fulfillment.  God is not omniscient because the future is truly open.  This is a facet is similar to the open theist’s concept of omniscience though the open theist typically affirms that omniscience is defined as God knowing everything in so long as it is possible for him to know it.  A more modest case would simply be that omniscience is redefined.

God is seen as an actual and everlasting entity who is becoming (evolving) in potential as a being.

  • He supplies every entity with it’s initial entity and gives to all beings relevance
  • God needs the world as much as the world needs God
  • The consequent of the pole (physical or actual pole; contrast to potential or primordial pole), also called nature instead of pole, which receives or prehends, uses and is affected by the concrete entities of the world.
Consider the lemniscate as an illustration of God’s and the world.

Left side

  • Potential and not actual (dotted line maybe)
  • What Whitehead referred to as eternal objects
  • Primordial and mental
Right side
  • Consequent or physical pole
  • Relates to all actual entities, galaxies, stars, physics, etc.

God is absorbing in and through the consequent nature all good and evil valuations from all actual entities.  Through creative prehension, in order to make all things and to turn all increasingly to the good, God transforms everything he took in through the consequent nature and re-injects it into the consequent world. God is seen as dynamic, growing, evolving, learning, and directing; also, in an organic relation to all entities in the world.  Because God is not distinct from the world we can infer things about God from the world.  As responsive and growing God too is partially created by the universe as he interacts in it.  He hopefully creates good out of all occasions and persuasively lures to greater creativity and harmony, etc.

Then there is process and reality (the Process Bible).

“Both God and the world, together constituting the universe, are caught in the grip of the ultimate metaphysical ground, the creative advance into novelty.” Alfred North Whitehead

Creativity is ultimate in Whitehead’s view.  Process is a view of reality as a whole.  The world is dynamic, relational, and evolutionary.  Time, process metaphysics, is not a single smooth flow but droplets or actual occasions.  An actual occasion is the basic unit of reality.  This actual occasion (currently understand as being Planck time, 10-43sec.) and it’s evaluation is prehended by the occasions that follow and personal human existence is wholly made up of these occasions dynamically.  All of reality and it’s massive occasions are interrelated because the cosmic realm is a living whole (like an organism) then all things are vitally linked for ultimate actualization of possibilities.  All reality, then, is an interrelated society of societies of occasions and all of things impact all other things—causal efficacy (not mechanical), understood as relational that which forms an organic whole.  Ontorelations, a result of what exists as a result of relationships.From within all of this, God is lovingly seeking to lure the world to greater creativity… out of destructive chaos.

[1] For clarification, the orthodox understanding of this is that the consequent of God’s will is brought about necessarily by virtue of his power and knowledge; however, the antecedent is contingent upon many factors including the will of free agents.