Is time real or an illusion ? By Michael Segal

“Physics was invented by people who happened to be very religious. Newton is one example. For him the laws of nature and their mathematical representations were synonymous with knowing the thoughts of God: Space was the sensorium of God and true time was the time in which God experienced the world and made things in the world.”

Conversation with Lee Smolin.

Your Cosmological Natural Selection hypothesis suggests that the laws of nature change in time. How can that be possible?

There are two kinds of explanations as to why some system is one way rather than another way. One is that it has to be that way because there’s some fundamental principle that makes it so. In fact, my generation was raised to find the unique set of laws which would satisfy the principles of relativity and quantum mechanics. We thought we would find a unique answer. But now we know that there are many, many different possible laws compatible with the principles of nature. The only other way in science that things get explained in a way that leads to testable hypotheses is if there’s some dynamical process acting in time, which makes the world come out the way it did.

What does that mean for our understanding of time?

The standard view in physics is that time isn’t fundamental, and that it emerges as an illusion out of the action of the laws. But if the laws evolve, that can’t be the case; time has to be more fundamental. If laws can change in time, then I take that almost as a definition of time being real. The arguments that Einstein and other people give for time being an illusion assume that the laws of nature never change. If they do change, the case that time is an illusion falls apart. It means that time is more fundamental than the laws of nature.

Newton was revolutionary in part because he applied a timeless set of laws to the whole universe. Was he wrong to do so?

Physics was invented by people who happened to be very religious. Newton is one example. For him the laws of nature and their mathematical representations were synonymous with knowing the thoughts of God: Space was the sensorium of God and true time was the time in which God experienced the world and made things in the world. And Newton’s style of doing physics works perfectly when you apply it to a small part of the universe, say something going on in a laboratory. But when you take Newton’s style of doing physics and apply it to the universe as a whole, you implicitly assume that there is something outside the universe making things happen inside the universe, the same way there’s something outside the laboratory system making things happen in the laboratory. What I think has happened is that even physicists who have no religious faith or commitment have gotten sucked into a form of explanation which has a religious underpinning, by which I mean it requires pointing to something outside the universe in order to give a complete explanation. Many people who think of themselves as atheists do this habitually. In my view, it makes them think sloppy thoughts about cosmology. When it comes to extending science to the universe as a whole, you have to think differently than applying science to a laboratory system.

http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/the-metaphysical-baggage-of-physics

Posted By F. Sheikh

20 thoughts on “Is time real or an illusion ? By Michael Segal

  1. If lower type of biological body could create organisms in the forms of blood celss or sperm why can’t all pervading cosmic intelligence create every thing within? Does ominpresence logically lead to a creation within and to pantheism?

    • I was really intrigued to read this comment by Nathan Yesudas.
      This shows the power of creating a website for Thinkers Forum USA.
      Thinkers Forum has a global reach now.
      I read the original interview of Lee Smolin. Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist. The heading of the interview is “Is time real or an illusion?”
      It is a complex question which needs our attention.
      At present I am trying to understand Nathan’s comment.
      Nathan has used two important concepts. “Cosmic Intelligence” and “Pantheism”.
      Cosmic intelligence has a religious connotation and Pantheism has a philosophic orientation.
      Nathan has also mentioned ‘Omnipresence’ as well.
      Time is a concept/entity/attribute which belongs to science/physics, philosophy/metaphysics as well as religion/theology.
      Lee Smolin is discussing this concept as physicist.
      What about Nathan Yesudas?
      I would request TF USA affiliates to participate in this discussion.
      What do you think according to Lee Smolin time is real or it is an illusion?
      Based on my initial reading, according to Lee Smolin time is real.

      nSalik

  2. To the great surprise of many religious scholars, Rumi believed that there is no creation in time–but rather TIME ITSELF IS CREATED! He reflected in his Mathnawi:

    I was on that day when the Names were not,
    nor any sign of existence endowed with name.
    By me Names and named were brought to view
    on the day when there were no “I” and “We.”

    In these verses, Rumi is pointing to a “time” before time, where there were no Names, no thoughts, and no time as we know it; but instead of creation in time, there was eternal inception of souls or egos. Here Rumi represents a Neoplatonic outlook instead of a religious notion of creation in time. However, Rumi seems to go only one step with Plotinus in his assertion that there is emanation instead of a creation in time. Parting from Plotinus, Rumi believes that all beings emanating from the One source of creation are impelled by “love” or a natural attraction–a creative urge to return to the Creator via an evolving consciousness. For Rumi there is nothing dead, and the lowest form of life is matter which is the material source of man’s evolution that also knows the urge, however minute, to return to the Creator or the source which is the cause of whole creation.

    Rumi’s view about time, is both metaphysical and philosophical. What is a physicist’s finding about the creation of time, only a scientists can explain.

    Mirza Ashraf

    • I intend to write this brief comment on Mirza Ashraf’s comment.
      But I would like to say few words just to attract/invite other TF USA affiliates.
      Lee Smolin’s interview was posted by Dr. Fayyaz Sheikh
      Nathan Yesudas wrote the first comment.
      Noor Salik wrote a comment on Nathan Yesudas comment.
      Mirza Ashraf wrote a comment on Lee Smolin’s interview. Noor Salik will write a comment on Mirza Ashraf’s comment. (I am referring to this comment)
      Babar Mustafa wrote a comment on Lee Smolin’s interview.
      Noor Salik wrote a comment on Babar Mustafa’s comment.
      All theses comments are here in chronological order.

      Let me make a statement.
      The authenticity of human knowledge in descending order.
      (1) Scientific knowledge.
      (2) Philosophical knowledge.
      (3) Mystical knowledge
      (4) Theological knowledge
      Whatever (this includes all above four categories) has been said in this universe by human beings is the outcome of only HUMAN MIND.
      Now let me address Mirza Ashraf’s comment.
      Mirza Ashraf writes about RUMI, Plotinus, Neo-Platonic thinkers.
      It is extremely important to know where and when a THINKER was born.
      This establishes the references in space and time.
      The concept of ZEITGEIST is critically important in intellectual endeavors.
      Imam-e-Ghazali died in Iraq/Iran in 1111.
      Averores (Ibn-e-Rushas) was born in Spain in 1126
      Rumi was born in Tajikistan/east Iran in 1207.
      Plotinus was a great mind of second century Greece/Italy. He laid down the intellectual foundations of Neo-Platonism. All Muslim philosophers were new-Platonists except Ibn-e-Rushd (Averrores).

      Rumi was not a Philosopher, he was a mystic poet – may be the greatest in the world in mysticism.
      In modern time if one wants to read Rumi, it is a personal choice.
      Great poetry, emancipation from dogma (but still rooted in dogma).

      Modern science and modern philosophy started with Renaissance.
      Before that it was all dogma.
      When Rumi says “time before time’ – what does it mean?

      Rumi including all religious thinkers believe the universe was created by God. God created all souls. All souls eventually refer back to God.
      For believers these are intriguing and fascination concepts.
      For philosophers these are just meaningless statements.

      This may be continued – if there is a rebuttal from any TF USA affiliates.
      Otherwise basic concepts have been stated.
      To understand what is time? One has to read, Einstein, Bohr, Stephen Hawking’s, Roger Penrose, Michio Kaku, Lee Smolin, Heidegger, Husserl etc. etc.
      All great Muslim thinkers were from pre-renaissance time. It was all dogma and mysticism – which is just 80% theology and 20% philosophy.

      The biggest intellectual tragedy was Allama Iqbal.
      He studied all modern philosophy and dragged the Muslims of present time back to dark ages.
      Allama Iqbal says:
      “Kheera Na kar saka mujhey jalawa-e-daanash-e-farang”
      “Suma Hair maire Aaankh ka Khaki-e-Madina-O-Najaf”.

      One can easily forgive RUMI for spreading ignorance because he was in 13th century – pre-renaissance.
      One cannot forgive Iqbal for spreading ignorance because he was born in 19th century -post renaissance.

      nSalik

      • Comments by Fayyaz Sheikh
        These comments by my friend Noor Salik:
        “Modern science and modern philosophy started with Renaissance.
        Before that it was all dogma.”
        “All great Muslim thinkers were from pre-renaissance time. It was all dogma and mysticism – which is just 80% theology and 20% philosophy.”
        To me these statements are somewhat contradictory. If there were great Muslim thinkers before Renaissance, then it cannot be all dogma and mysticism. Nothing happens in vacuum, neither Golden age of Islam, nor Renaissance, nor modern science and philosophy. If one reads following excerpts from an article by Mr. Naimat Arora, it cannot be separated from modern science and philosophy. .
        Sir John Glub writes in “Short History of Arab People”.
        al-Mamun opened an institution which he called the House of Wisdom [Bayt al-Hikmah] … for the translation of Greek works … [Many citizens made] outstanding contributions … in the field of mathematics … invented algebra, plane and spherical trigonometry … logarithms … [their] astronomers measured the circumference of the earth with remarkable accuracy, six hundred years before Europe admitted that it was not flat … Baghdad had its first paper mill … opened public hospitals, medical schools. Under their highly developed banking system, an Arab businessman could cash a cheque in Canton on his bank account in Baghdad.”
        ‘By the end of the first millennium, Arab mathematician and physicist Alhazen had produced works on optical theory and planetary motion. His theories, translated into Latin in 1270, strongly influenced European thinkers. His publications deal with refraction, reflection, binocular vision, focusing with lenses, the rainbow, parabolic and spherical mirrors, spherical aberration, atmospheric refraction, and the apparent increase in size of planetary bodies near the Earth’s horizon. He was first to give an accurate account of vision, correctly stating that light comes from the object seen to the eye.’
        On al-Farabi’s works on logic, Maimonides (1135-1204 CE), the foremost intellectual figure of medieval Judaism, had this to say:
        ‘You should always follow this rule: in studying logic, deal only with what was written by the wise Abu Nasr al-Farabi, for all that he wrote, and particularly his work Madabi al-Mawjudat [The Principles of Being], is a pure meal … The books of Ali Ibn Sina [Avicenna], on the other hand, although they are very accurate, do not match the writings of al-Farabi”
        “Avicenna’s attempt to reconcile Greek thought with theology decisively shaped Thomas Aquinas. Also known as the father of modern medicine, he studied the contagious nature of infectious diseases, introduced the practice of quarantine, pursued experimental and evidence-based medicine using clinical trials and efficacy tests, and proposed the idea of the syndrome. He came up with the concept of ‘momentum’ in physics and made several discoveries that make him the father of geology as well. Avicenna attained great renown as an astronomer, chemist, geologist, logician, paleontologist, mathematician, physicist, poet, psychologist, and teacher.”
        This from Wiktpedia;
        “Averroes was a defender of Aristotelian philosophy against Ash’ari theologians led by Al-Ghazali. Averroes’ philosophy was considered controversial in Muslim circles.[7] Averroes had a greater impact on Western European circles and he has been described as the “founding father of secular thought in Western Europe”
        European Renaissance in reality started in 15th century and coincided with the re- capture of Muslim Spain by Ferdinand II and conquers of Constantinople by Ottoman Empire. Many from both areas migrated to Italy and brought knowledge with them and help ignite the Renaissance of Europe.
        Renaissance is a process built upon previous achievements. As you said many times, at this critical juncture Muslims decided to follow likes of Al-Ghazali and Al-Hanbal, and west went after Averroes.

        Iqbal was a great inspirational poet and has written wonderful poetry suiting the time and taste of the people. I do not think he played any significant role, one way or the other, over the overall condition of Muslims. .

  3. Time is relative. Now to call something relative an illusion seems to me an unjust parallel
    but since it is considered so generally, I’ll swallow it.
    Concept of what time really is very hard and confusing and if Lee Smolin is building a case of ignorance to invoke God, it is nothing different than the whole basis of religions. No offense is meant by the use of word ignorance, it is in the sense of not knowing the absolute reason or cause of something. Scientists have decreased the ignorance quite a lot but have not yet found all and absolute answers. Why must God be invoked where we stop understanding something? I would like to point out some misunderstanding, either on my part or the author – Newton’s laws do not break down in the big universe, his laws work fine on macro level, on the motion of stars and planets etc.,they breakdown on micro/quantum level. How does he claim time is real is beyond me, I did not see him prove this. What does he mean by God “experienced world” in real time is beyond me. I would appreciate if any one would like to explain that.
    To conclude that we haven’t found the theory of everything (although Stephen Hawking now thinks String theory, in all its variations, is the theory of everything) means that there is an outside entity, is jumping to conclusions without any proof – again, ignorance used to invoke God.
    When Lee Smolin says that “there are many many different possible laws compatible with
    the principles of nature” he probably means all five different solutions of string theory rather than one but Hawking explains all five solutions as looking from five different angles of same solution. I wish he (Lee Smolin) had explained why more than one law being compatible with nature concludes for him that laws are not correct (hence a justification for supernatural).
    I do not find it strange when a scientists believes in God. It isn’t hard to assume that whatever science discovers is how God meant it to be. For instance, a lot of believers have accepted evolution as God’s way of evolving man. There is no discovery that can not be credited to God. As for myself, I just can’t assume the personality of God of Bible or Quran compatible with the elegant universe. A God for me would have to rise above throwing tantrums or being vengeful or demanding praise.

    Babar

    • I agree with most of the points expressed by Babar Mustafa in this comment. I also learnt that Stephen Hawking is intellectually inclined towards String Theory. Lee Smolin has challenged vigorously the essential tenets of String Theory. Lee Smolin is an independent thinker. He relishes to swim against the tides.

      I have to ask Babar Mustafa one question.
      In the earlier part of his comment Babar Mustafa wrote:
      “……. if Lee Smolin is building a case of ignorance to invoke God, it is nothing different than the whole basis of religions”.
      This invoking of God thru ignorance by Lee Smolin is from this article or it is from some other source.
      It will help me to understand Lee Smolin at a deeper level.
      nSalik

  4. I had never heard of Lee Smolin before and my comment was only from the impression I got about him from this interview only. He said in this interview:

    “What I think has happened is that even physicists who have no religious faith or commitment have gotten sucked into a form of explanation which has a religious underpinning, by which I mean it requires pointing to something outside the universe in order to give a complete explanation”

    No one has complete explanation, physicists do not point to something “outside the universe” to explain completely, only believers readily assume something outside the universe to understand “completely”. Where we stop understanding, our ignorance starts and to assume something outside the universe is nothing but our ignorance. lee Smolin first states that::
    “The arguments that Einstein and other people give for time being an illusion assume that the laws of nature never change. If they do change, the case that time is an illusion falls apart. It means that time is more fundamental than the laws of nature”.
    Here he implies that “laws of nature never change” is an assumption and hence goes on to declare that time is more fundamental than the laws of nature, on the assumption that if these (laws) do change. Then he goes on to say that this fundamental time is real time that God experienced the world and made things in the world. My point is that his “assumption” that time is real does not qualify to be anything more than the gap of knowledge, in other words ignorance and he proves nothing. How did he find out that in this real time of his, God experienced the world, it does not make sense to me.
    Laws of nature can not be laws if they change from time to time. Scientists are trying to find out the theory of everything just to reconcile the laws so that these laws do not appear to be different at different times. We haven’t succeeded yet to formulate a theory of everything and this is in no way a reason to turn to “something outside the universe” and end the quest.

    About Hawking leaning towards the string theory as the theory of everything:For reference I would mention Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow’s book “The Grand Design”, where on the last page they conclude,
    “M-Theory is the most general supersymmetric theory of gravity. M-Theory is the only candidate for a complete theory of the universe………. M-Theory is the unified theory Einstein was hoping to find.”
    Note; M-Theory is same as combined five string theories. M stands for “Mother” theory, Mystery theory, and is also referred as “Membrane” or as a short Brane theory…its funny how names get stuck finally, like the term Big Bang or God Particle. Scientists do have a sense of humor too – naming the first cloned sheep as Dolly for big breasted Dolly Parton, the country singer.

    Babar

  5. Comments by Fayyaz Sheikh
    I think Lee Smolin is saying that the laws of Universe evolve because the Universe is evolving and for this evolution to take place, time is fundamental, and not an illusion. His comments are interesting because, I think, he is talking about both at micro and universal level. His argument is supported by the fact that the Quantum Physics has challenged lot of pre-existing concepts of laws of universe. Either the initial concepts were inadequate, or are no longer fully applicable to the evolved universe. In Quantum Physics, nothing is absolute certain, it is all on the scale of probability. The flaw in the initial concepts of laws of universe is that they are more certain than probable. His comments about God are just a side note.
    I think it is interesting to review different concepts of Time over time of decades. Most of it are excerpts from articles by Max Tegmark and Zeeya Merlin. It is lengthy, and I wanted to post it as separate articles, but I thought to post it as comments to keep the string of thoughts.
    Einstein taught us that there are two equivalent ways of thinking about our physical reality: Either as a three-dimensional place called space, where things change over time, or as a four-dimensional place called spacetime that simply exists, unchanging, never created, and never destroyed.”
    To explain two viewpoints, Max Tegmark gives the example of a Bird and Frog who has different perspective of reality. The bird surveys the landscape from a high above, like physicist, and sees the spacetime that simply exists, unchanging. The frog on the other hand lives within the landscape, and it looks at moon move with the passage of time while the bird from high above sees one big universe, stationary, just sitting there. For bird there is no such thing as time, while the frog has an illusion of time.
    Quantum Mechanics & Time
    Zeeya Merali writes in one of his article;
    The second development disrupting our view of time was quantum mechanics, the physics of the subatomic realm. Quantum mechanics revealed that on the smallest scales, reality was strange indeed. For instance, two particles can become “entangled” in such a way that they always act in tandem. An experiment carried out on one will immediately influence its partner, no matter how distant it may be. In other words, the distant particles communicate instantly, apparently defying the rule that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light and the very concept of time itself.
    Wheeler and Dewitt, two physicists combined the theory of relativity and quantum physics and came with an equation,and proved in laboratory, that universe is stationary and nothing evolves.
    Page and Wooters decided to apply the controversial concept that the universe as a whole could be treated as a giant quantum object—subject to the same physical laws as electrons, protons, and other tiny particles of the subatomic world. They imagined splicing the contents of the cosmos into two pieces. Because quantum laws prevailed, the pieces would be entangled. Scientists have found that two entangled particles measured in the lab can have equal but opposite values. If one is spinning clockwise, for instance, the other will be spinning counter-clockwise so that, when summed together, the properties cancel each other out. Page and Wooters argued that in similar fashion, each section of their divided cosmos could independently evolve, but because they were entangled, the changes in one would be counter-balanced by the changes in the other. To someone inside one of the sections, time would appear to pass. But to the outside observer, the overall universe would appear static.
    In 2013 Genovese, performed successfully an experiment in the lab and proved the theoretical sketch of Page and wooters.
    Before the discovery of string theory, physicists ran into trouble whenever they tried to combine the equations of general relativity with those of quantum mechanics. The combined mathematics appeared to tell them that infinitely small points in space all around us should contain infinitely large amounts of energy—essentially predicting that we are surrounded by black holes everywhere we turn, which is not true. String theory sidestepped this problem, however, by positing that nothing can be smaller than the size of a string. That meant that its equations never had to worry about regions of space that were smaller than this fundamental limit, eliminating the messy math with its predictions of infinite energies and other impossible results. With string theory, the physics of the very large and the very small appeared as if they could coexist—at least once string theory was finessed
    Yet string size raised new questions about the reality of space, and, in turn, of time itself. This is because string theory says that no experiment, no matter how elaborate, will ever be able to show us what happens at distances smaller than the size of a single string. “What happens at short distances,” explains IAS string theorist Nathan Seiberg, “is an ill-defined concept—maybe space exists, but we can’t measure it, or perhaps there is nothing there to measure at all.” That meant that space may simply not exist below a certain limit. Since Einstein had already shown with his theory of relativity that time is just another dimension, like space, then “if space becomes ambiguous, time must do so too,” says Seiberg. “People often ask: ‘What happened before the Big Bang?’ But what we are seeing is that at the start of the universe, the notion of time ceases to make sense.”
    This ambiguity gave string theorists their first inkling that time might not exist at a fundamental level, notes Seiberg. Instead, our experience of time might be constructed from underlying building blocks, much like temperature, which arises from the motion of a collection of atoms. An individual atom does not have a temperature; the concept of hot or cold only has meaning when you measure the average speed of a large number of atoms: Fast moving particles have a higher temperature than slow atoms. In a similar way, there may be fundamental grains that together generate our experience of time. But just what those grains may be, well, “that’s the $64,000 question,” says Seiberg.
    Max Tegmark writes in concluding paragraph;
    This is how I see it. However, although this idea of an unchanging reality is venerable and dates back to Einstein, it remains controversial and subject to vibrant scientific debate, with scientists I greatly respect expressing a spectrum of views. For example, in his book The Hidden Reality, Brian Greene expresses unease toward letting go of the notions change and creation as fundamental, writing “I’m partial to there being a process, however tentative […] that we can imagine generating the multiverse.” Lee Smolin goes further in his book Time Reborn, arguing that not only is change real, but that time may be the only thing that’s real. At the other end of the spectrum, Julian Barbour argues in his book The End of Time not only that change is illusory, but that one can even describe physical reality without introducing the concept of time at all.
    http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/life-is-a-braid-in-spacetime
    http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/in-search-of-times-origin

  6. The evolution is more in human knowledge about the universe. Time is one of the variable dimensions that has enabled great minds to fathom the greater intricacies of the universe. Theories are advanced by data and the world of astronomy has seen unprecedented technological leap forward since the advent of the Hubble telescope. The avaiable data does not refute change. It is our understanding of the nature of that change that requires the relevance of time.

  7. My comment is less about the origin of the thread and more directed to Mr. Salik…

    It is extremely important to know where and when a THINKER
    was born.
    This establishes the references in space and time.
    The concept of ZEITGEIST is critically important in
    intellectual endeavors.

    It is pretty clear you are using the time and place a thinker was born not as a means to contextualize his thoughts but simply as a blunt object to dismiss many of the greatest minds in history. It also seems you focus on the zeitgeist of those living in the barbaric past, but don’t seem to seriously consider the possibility that the ruminations of most contemporary philosophers is the result of a current zeitgeist that may also be discarded and ridiculed in the future.

    Modern science and modern philosophy started with
    Renaissance.
    Before that it was all dogma.

    This is a stunning statement. You have just flippantly dismissed thousands of years of thought, simply by saying it was “all dogma”. What is your evidence for such an assertion?

    When Rumi says “time before time’ – what does it
    mean?
    Rumi including all religious thinkers believe the universe
    was created by
    God. God created all souls. All souls eventually refer back
    to God.
    For believers these are intriguing and fascination
    concepts.
    For philosophers these are just meaningless statements.

    To say that the concept of God and/or the soul are meaningless concepts for philosophers is not justifiable. The existence/nature of God along with the concept of the soul and whether the chemical processes of the brain can fully explain the thoughts/feelings/consciousness of the mind have been central to philosophy since its inception, and remain so even today. Some examples of contemporary philosophers who continue to delve in these matters are Thomas Nagel, David Chalmers, and Alvin Plantinga.

    To understand what is time? One has to read, Einstein, Bohr,
    Stephen
    Hawking’s, Roger Penrose, Michio Kaku, Lee Smolin,
    Heidegger, Husserl etc.
    etc.

    Why is this so? These people can’t agree on what time is either! Why are the speculative philosophical ruminations of one class of people any more valuable than those of others?

    Being impressed with the spectacular advancements in science is one thing. Fetishizing science and scientists and baselessly claiming science has or even can provide answers to the sorts of questions philosophy and theology ask is another thing entirely.

    Aziz

    • First I would like to thank Dr. Aziz to bring the intellectual environment of TF USA to a bit higher level by writing a critical comment on a comment.
      Normally either we just ignore the comments or say only positive things.

      Dr. Aziz took parts of my comment and crossed questioned and critically analyzed them.
      I will respond to each component separately.

      Point # 1
      <<<>>..
      It is extremely important to know where and when a THINKER
      was born.
      This establishes the references in space and time.
      The concept of ZEITGEIST is critically important in
      intellectual endeavors.

      <<<<>>>>>>
      It is pretty clear you are using the time and place a thinker was born not as a means to contextualize his thoughts but simply as a blunt object to dismiss many of the greatest minds in history. It also seems you focus on the zeitgeist of those living in the barbaric past, but don’t seem to seriously consider the possibility that the ruminations of most contemporary philosophers is the result of a current zeitgeist that may also be discarded and ridiculed in the future.
      >>>>

      I was slightly puzzled when Dr. Aziz inferred that I was not contextualizing it but simply I was dismissing bluntly many great minds of history.
      My intention was just to contextualize when I said we have to know when and where a thinker was born. It tells us what was said before this particular thinker and what was the thinker’s contribution to the concept/though/idea under discussion.

      When I used ZEIGEIST it was completely a different context than what Dr. Aziz inferred. ZEITGEIST is a controversial concept. It is a German word which means ‘Spirit of Time. Even one may disagree with the concept, it cannot be easily dismissed because it is used by quite a few modern German philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Fichte, Comte, Goethe etc. etc. In layman’s terms it simply means that there are important concepts in every intellectual epoch about which thinkers of that time think about collectively. Through mutual interactions they either clearly complete and finalize the concept or take to next higher level to be take taken up by next generation of thinkers.
      We cannot say only modern minds are great thinkers and thinkers of the past were not great. Thales, Zeno, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alfarabi, Ibn-e-Sina (Avicenna), Ibn-e-Rushd (Averroes) were the minds of the past but their greatness has been established for eternity.
      Zeitgeist just indicates what the concepts are, about which serious minds are/were thinking about.
      It reality it is much more complex. Here I am just giving a reference because I am responding to Dr. Aziz comment.

      Point # 2
      <<<>>..
      Modern science and modern philosophy started with
      Renaissance.
      Before that it was all dogma.
      <<<<>>>>>>
      This is a stunning statement. You have just flippantly dismissed thousands of years of thought, simply by saying it was “all dogma”. What is your evidence for such an assertion?

      >>>>>>>>

      Before I respond to this comment I think we should define what is ‘DOGMA’?

      According to The Oxford Companion to Philosophy DOGMA is.

      [ A term that is generally applied to religious doctrines that are accepted irrespective of reason or evidence, usually on scriptural or ecclesiastical authority. It is now used pejoratively, because it sanctions not only belief unjustified by reason, but also intolerance, i.e. the punishment of false belief. However McTaggart revives the original positive sense, suggesting that the definition should be widened to include any proposition which has metaphysical significance, whether or not it is based on reason. ]

      So dogma is applicable to religion as well as philosophy.
      The difference is that religion starts with dogma, belief in supernatural phenomenon especially monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Starting with Abraham, Moses, Christ, Prophet Muhammad (PBU) up to renaissance all thinkers of Middle East and Europe (Except few Greek thinkers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) were thinking under the supreme guidance of monotheistic dogma.

      Starting from Christ up to Renaissance all Christian and Muslim Philosophers were attempting to prove that there is no contradiction between revelation and reason/logic.

      We should read the philosophers of this period from Christ to renaissance (about 1500 years) there are only few prominent names Al Kindi, Ibn-e-Sina, Alfarabi, Ibn-e-Rushad, (Muslims) St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Scotus, Ockam (Christians), Maimonides Jewish – they are called philosophers of medieval ages.

      These were great minds of their own times. But monotheistic dogma was so strong and entrenched that they could not break the barriers and clutches of dogma even if they wanted to.

      (Alfarabi – the greatest logician of Islamic golden age, Ibn-e-Ruhad and Mamonides did lay down the seeds of Renaissance – it was not because of Islam, it was in spite of Islam).

      Monotheistic dogma was smashed into pieces in Europe not in Islamic world by great scientific and mathematical minds like Copernicus, Gallileo, Descartes, Pascal, Fermat, Newton, Leibniz.

      There are identifiable but complex reasons that Europe was able to overpower/tame monotheistic dogma but Muslim world could not.

      One reason is Europe followed Inb-e-Rushd (Averrores) and Muslims followed Imam-e-Ghazali. This happened only in western Europe, not in eastern Europe, Orthodox Russia, Orthodox Greek , Coptic Christians areas.

      Masses need dogma to survive in life. It is intellectual class of any group which determines the ultimate destinies of any group.

      I am not sure whether I was able to answer Dr. Aziz question. Let me wait for his response. He will come back if the answer is not up to his satisfaction.

      Point # 3.
      <<<>>..

      When Rumi says “time before time’ – what does it
      mean?
      Rumi including all religious thinkers believe the universe
      was created by
      God. God created all souls. All souls eventually refer back
      to God.
      For believers these are intriguing and fascination
      concepts.
      For philosophers these are just meaningless statements.
      <<<<>>>>>>
      To say that the concept of God and/or the soul are meaningless concepts for philosophers is not justifiable. The existence/nature of God along with the concept of the soul and whether the chemical processes of the brain can fully explain the thoughts/feelings/consciousness of the mind have been central to philosophy since its inception, and remain so even today. Some examples of contemporary philosophers who continue to delve in these matters are Thomas Nagel, David Chalmers, and Alvin Plantinga.

      >>>>>>>>

      This point raised by Dr. Aziz is extremely complex. In detail I would like to address this later on.

      Right now I would say God and Soul are primarily religious concepts.
      The western philosophy (this includes Muslim/Islamic) philosophy is much younger as compared to Monotheistic religions.

      Judaism is almost 5000 years old, Christianity about 2000 and Islam about 1500 years.

      During past 500 years majority of philosophers and scientist do not profess belief in personal God who created this universe and controls the proceedings of this universe.

      The concept of soul has been replaced with consciousness.

      These concepts are so complex that there is no black and white demarcation between various points of view. Among philosophers and scientist believers in personal God are in minority.

      Dogma ruled the world for millions of years. Monotheistic dogma has been around over 5000 years. In just 500 years the human minds have done a remarkable job of getting freedom from monotheistic dogma. Some of the answers may take very long or it may never be possible to answer every questions but we must not forget Socrates statement:

      “The non-availability of right answer does not justify, the acceptance of the wrong one”

      Human mind will keep struggling to find the rational answer to every question instead of going back to dogma – which is based on superstition and supernatural myths.
      “Thomas Nagel, David Chalmers, and Alvin Plantinga” belong to minority group.
      Human mind has to go forward not backward.

      Somebody told me Alvin Plantinga was interviewed about existence of God and it was published recently in New York Times under STONE, we must read that interview.

      Point # 4
      <<<>>..

      To understand what is time? One has to read, Einstein, Bohr,
      Stephen
      Hawking’s, Roger Penrose, Michio Kaku, Lee Smolin,
      Heidegger, Husserl etc.
      etc.
      <<<<>>>>>>
      Why is this so? These people can’t agree on what time is either! Why are the speculative philosophical ruminations of one class of people any more valuable than those of others?
      Being impressed with the spectacular advancements in science is one thing. Fetishizing science and scientists and baselessly claiming science has or even can provide answers to the sorts of questions philosophy and theology ask is another thing entirely.

      >>>>>>>>>>

      Let me admit first my mistake.
      I wrote:
      “To understand what is time? One has to read, Einstein, Bohr,
      Stephen
      Hawking’s, Roger Penrose, Michio Kaku, Lee Smolin,
      Heidegger, Husserl etc.
      etc.”

      I should not have included Heidegger and Husserl in this list.

      Time as a concept can be answered realistically and authentically by scientists only.

      Philosophers and Theologians can speculate about “Time” but their answer has no validity.
      Time is an attribute of physical universe. Only scientific answer, unanimously accepted by scientific community will be satisfactory to all, therefore we have to wait till that moment comes.

      To be continued if Dr. Aziz or anybody else from TF USA affiliates responds or comments.

      nSalik

  8. I think while referring to great thinkers it is important that the chronological progression
    be kept in mind. Mr. Aziz took it as grounds to dismiss great minds/thinkers but I think it actually makes those thinkers look even taller. Every time I think of Darwin arriving at his conclusion without knowing what we know about genetics now, makes him more brilliant in my eyes. Although the view of earth being the center of universe seems silly now but I can not look down upon those who were watching the heavens without even a telescope and were able to predict the movements of celestial bodies. We stand where we stand now is only because these giants undertook the investigations and started the research. All the progress is made over the earlier works of great minds. If some of their understanding was wrong, knowing what they had to work with still makes them great.
    Einstein was not in agreement with quantum physics but if we are developing this field it is still based on his theories or for the research on his unfinished work. Einstein’s cosmological constant, which he himself considered his biggest mistake, is back in contention of being right. There are many philosophers who got things wrong but when I see what era they were from, I understand where they were coming from. Mirza Asharaf Sahib has put in decades of hard work in his book “Introduction to World Philosophies – A Chronological Progression” and it helps me readily by just looking at the index to understand how to look at the work of our great thinkers.
    Copernicus figured out the sun being the center of our solar system in 1543 and when I see that in 8th century mathematician Mohammad al Fazari developed the astrolabe (a device used to locate and predict the positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars) I can only admire the work done by those who came before Copernicus and if it wasn’t their shoulders that ones who came later were standing upon then we could not have made progress. We should be open minded to accept the possibilities that some of the great minds of the past were wrong without dismissing their contributions.

  9. This post is again in reply to Mr. Salik..

    Point #1”

    Your first post listed a number of philosophers and the century they lived (12th). Then you wrote:

    Modern science and modern philosophy started with Renaissance.
    Before that it was all dogma.

    The definition you yourself offered for dogma began with the following:

    A term that is generally applied to religious doctrines that are accepted irrespective of reason or evidence, usually on scriptural or ecclesiastical authority. It is now used pejoratively, because it sanctions not only belief unjustified by reason, but also intolerance

    I believe my point of you using “zeitgeist” as a blunt instrument to dismiss most of human intellectual history stands, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree.

    Point #2

    Returning to your given definition of dogma, it should be clear that the claim that medieval philosophers’ minds were shackled by it has little to no basis. The goal of these philosophers was to show that the existence of God could be ascertained WITHOUT scripture, through the exercise of reason and the observation of the universe. You may find their reasoning and evidences as lacking, but to state that “monotheistic dogma was so strong and entrenched that they could not break the barriers and clutches of dogma even if they wanted to” is false; atheist philosophers were present in their time and they spent a lot of time dissecting and attempting to refute their arguments.

    (Alfarabi – the greatest logician of Islamic golden age, Ibn-e-Ruhad and Mamonides did lay down the seeds of Renaissance – it was not because of Islam, it was in spite of Islam).
    Monotheistic dogma was smashed into pieces in Europe not in Islamic world by great scientific and mathematical minds like Copernicus, Gallileo, Descartes, Pascal, Fermat, Newton, Leibniz.
    There are identifiable but complex reasons that Europe was able to overpower/tame monotheistic dogma but Muslim world could not.

    It has become fashionable to make statements such as these; those making them generally find them so self-evident that providing any evidence to back up the claims is unnecessary. Dr. Sheikh already posted on the scientific advances made by medieval Muslims on this thread. Furthermore, the people making these discoveries were usually quite explicit that their desire to gain a greater understanding of the majesty of God by uncovering the complexity of His creation was the primary reason for their endeavors. Mr. Salik, please explain how Islam in general or the Islamic belief that the universe obeys unalterable laws laid down by God precludes scientific (or any other sort of) discovery.

    Also, is it not peculiar that the “smashers and overpowerers of monotheistic dogma” in Europe were all fervent monotheists?? These people were some of the brightest people who ever lived, yet apparently they were too stupid to realize the religious implications of their discoveries. This is a good example of another current trend, where all “modern” scientific advancement is co-opted as evidence of the superiority of a non-religious mindset; never mind that Leibniz is almost as famous for his theodicy as he is for calculus, or that Pascal is the author of Pascal’s wager.

    Point #3

    During past 500 years majority of philosophers and scientist do not profess belief in personal God who created this universe and controls the proceedings of this universe.

    That the majority of philosophers and scientists over the past 500 years did not profess belief in a personal God is certainly a gross exaggeration. But anyway, it certainly is true today. The question becomes whether the study of science or philosophy LEADS to a disbelief in God. I would argue it is the other way around.

    Since this thread started with an article by Lee Smolin, I thought it would be useful to quote him:

    I used to believe in the essential unreality of time. Indeed, I went into physics because as an adolescent I yearned to exchange the time-bound, human world, which I saw as ugly and inhospitable, for a world of pure, timeless truth….

    In this admirably honest self-assessment, Smolin elucidates an important point. His childhood beliefs LED to his choice of profession. Keeping in mind that all generalizations have exceptions, it still is safe to say that many/most academic atheists (particularly the vocal kind) were intelligent yet unhappy/socially awkward boys that started to profess atheism around the age of 10-15, BEFORE they began their life in academia. Such people then gravitate to the study of science and/or philosophy, hoping to find meaning in these pursuits.

    Dogma ruled the world for millions of years. Monotheistic dogma has been around over 5000 years. In just 500 years the human minds have done a remarkable job of getting freedom from monotheistic dogma.
    Human mind will keep struggling to find the rational answer to every question instead of going back to dogma – which is based on superstition and supernatural myths.

    Human mind has to go forward not backward.

    Again, your posts continue to take it as a given that the world was ruled by dogma from time immemorial until relatively recently, and that humans are now slowly but surely becoming dogma-free. But if dogma truly is applied to ALL doctrines accepted irrespective of reason or evidence (not just the religious variety), then not only is dogma alive and well, it is still flourishing.

    The existence of the universe can be explained through solely natural processes.
    Life could have arisen through simple chemistry.
    Evolution is sufficient to explain every single aspect of life on this planet.
    Consciousness/first-person experience will be explained by purely material means.
    Matter (in its various forms) is all there is.

    All of these statements are PURELY speculative; they are the dogmatic statements of a particular zeitgeist. Nevertheless they remain the backbone of academic thought.

    Point #4

    Time as a concept can be answered realistically and authentically by scientists only.
    Philosophers and Theologians can speculate about “Time” but their answer has no validity.
    Time is an attribute of physical universe.

    Again, these statements are a good example of the fetishization of science/scientists. It is still not even clear whether time is “an attribute of the physical universe” or not; no one has been able to even properly define time as of yet! To unequivocally state that something which might not even have any independent reality is something that only scientists can comment on/eventually define is pure dogma; there is currently NO valid reason to hold this view.

    Finally, I would like to strongly recommend a book which deals with these issues in a much more comprehensive and eloquent way; the topic has particular pertinence to many of the threads on this forum.

    The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions
    by David Berlinski

    Militant atheism is on the rise. In recent years Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have produced a steady stream of best-selling books denigrating religious belief. These authors are merely the leading edge of a larger movement that includes much of the scientific community.
    In response, mathematician David Berlinski, himself a secular Jew, delivers a biting defense of religious thought. The Devil’s Delusion is a brilliant, incisive, and funny book that explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it is the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Devils-Delusion-Scientific-Pretensions/dp/0465019374

  10. I will add my 2 cents. I am impressed by nSalik’s explanations. I have the same views about Allama Iqbal, that he did not do anything good for Muslims. Most of the time when we talk about scientists from past we immediately add that he/she was a God believer. Please don’t forget that Christianity at that time was very Talibanic. Anyone who did not pretend to believe in God was burned to death under blasphemy law. Newton was one of them. If you google the dark side of Newton life, you will be amazed to find what he was involved into. Now back to main topic of time. Time only exists for us in our physical body. Once we leave our body and move back to our astral life (real life), time cease to exist….

    • Asif Mirza has partly agreed with Noor Salik’s views about Allama Iqbal.

      The discussion can be expanded if other TF USA affiliates are willing to participate in it.
      Let me make another brief new statement and repeat a previous one.
      (1) Allama Iqbal was Imam-e-Ghazali of modern times.
      (2) Rumi can be excused because he was a thinker of pre-renaissance.
      Allama Iqbal cannot be excused because he was a thinker of Post- renaissance period.
      What I am saying here are just intellectual opinions. They are subject to modification if any enlightening arguments are presented by any TF USA affiliate/s.

      I have read about Newton.
      Intellectually he had some dark sides as well.
      He believed in Al-Chemey. He might have practiced it also.
      What is Al-Chemey?
      If you know, please write your definition here in the comments.

      Let me ask another question here.
      In modern times Al-Chemey almost disappeared from intellectual realms of modern times but Astrology still persists – WHY?
      ..

      Second point about Newton.
      At the later stages of his life Newton was busy to find out mathematically the exact locations of Hell and Paradise in the known universe.

      I would ask Asif Mirza as well as other TF USA affiliates to write down the dark sides of Newton here in these comments. We should make TF USA website informative as well as challenging.

      I have recently read an article about Newton in Scientific American.
      In the early editions of Principia Mathematica, Newton did not mention about God and Theology. Because Leibnitz Theodicy onslaught, he was intellectually forced to introduce God and Theology in subsequent editions.
      You may read this article in http://www.ScientificAmerican.com

      ..
      nSalik

  11. i also found it hard to understand most of the concepts in that article.my two cents are that time might really be an illusion.

    disclaimer: the following is from someone who does not know diddly about physics and i am way in over my head writing about this topic.

    time only becomes a reality when we humans become aware of its passage. it is believed that some 10,000 yrs. or more ago, humans were unaware of passage of time. as a hunter-gatherer who did not have to arrive at work in time or have a dentist’s appointment or catch a plane, the only thing that would remind him/her of passage of time was that people grew from young to old and died and that day turned into night. other than that “time” as we know it didn’t exist. i don’t think time exists – or it even matters if it did exist or not – in a faraway galaxy where there is no life. on the other hand, gravity, a reality, exists even in that faraway galaxy, with or without life. time is not something that travels from one place to another; there are no time waves like the sound waves. it is because things around us move, rotate, revolve that time becomes a “reality”.

  12. Time is a measure of change, theoretical or illusion, that human beings need to understand the laws of nature.

    Nasik

  13. I disagree with Noor Sahib that Iqbal was al-Ghazali of modern time. Ghazali was a passionate Sufi, while Iqbal was following Rumi’s mysticism of Divine Love–not Rumi’s Universal Love. Ghazali did not touch political philosophy, while Iqbal was very much involved with Islamic Political Ideologies, believing strongly in Pan-Islamism. In the West, the European Renaissance was followed by the age of Reformation and soon after the French Revolution the ever continuing period of Enlightenment started. Iqbal could not find his place in the age of Enlightenment, because he saw the predicament of the Muslim World during the time of European age of colonization. However, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan guided the Muslims of the Sub-Continent to step into the age of Enlightenment. After the two world wars, the world was divided into nation states and the pan-Islamism and also pan-Arabism lost grounds. Iqbal who had died before the 2nd WW, his political philosophy of uniting the Muslim Ummah also lost its value. He was also against democracy. However, he succeeded in demanding a separate homeland for the Muslims of the India–a demand that was based on a nation state instead of pan-Islamism which in itself negated his voice of pan-Islamism. Thus he emerged as a national hero of a state to be born out of India, while his contemporary Tagore whose philosophy was at par with the new Enlightenment, became an international hero and grabbed the Nobel Prize. Iqbal badly missed the concept of Islamic Civilization, which would have been a greater outlook to bring Muslim Nation States under a common voice.

    (2) RUMI CAN BE EXCUSED BECAUSE HE WAS A THINKER OF PRE-RENAISSANCE.

    Rumi, was not concerned with any political ideology. He was a universal man with a timeless appeal. Even Ataturk, the staunch secularist in the Middle East said, “Rumi is for every age, rather more important for the time to come.” Rumi unites humanity with his message of Love saying many times in many ways:
    “Sometimes unknown, sometimes known; we’re Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
    No matter our race or creed, our hearts are formed the same.”
    I view Rumi as a “religious humanist” who is today being more loved by the Western World than the Muslim World. According to Eric Fromm (1900-1980) a Sociologist, Psychologist, and a Psychotherapeutic Practitioner, “Rumi was enlightened centuries before the age of enlightenment started.” We should not confine ourselves that scientific knowledge and research is the only enlightenment, rather modern science is the result of the modern man’s philosophy par excellence which gave birth to a period as argued by Anthony Pagden in his book, The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters, that enlightenment is a “period that seeks to overturn every intellectual assumption, every dogma, every ‘prejudice’ (a favorite term) that previously exercised any hold over the minds of men.” Interestingly Rumi trespassed the sensitive line of religious dogma that is why he is disliked by the Wahhabi, Salafi, Deobandi, and many other like minded Muslims.
    MIRZA ASHRAF

Comments are closed.