Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Time and the Philosophers 3: Quentin Smith on Immanuel Kant and the Beginning of the Universe

Today's blog post title is taken from a paper that caught my eye by Professor Quentin Smith, who works in the fields of the philosophies of time, language, physics, religion and cosmology. He's also a painter in his spare time. The paper concerns whether or not the beginning of time coincided with the beginning of the universe. Smith has papers up on the Web here, here and here. His article, Kant and the Beginning of the World (orig. pub.: The New Scholasticism, Vol. 59, No. 3, Summer 1985, pp. 339-346) opens with a question about how time may or may not have been defined prior to the beginning of time.  This question also deals with the beginning of time to test the existence of God.

Painting Thirty One, a.k.a. The Blue Astronomer and Its Children. By Quentin Smith (Dec. 2002 - Jan. 2003).

Smith opens his paper by quoting Immanuel Kant (Kritik der reinen Vernunft):
"Then one assumes: it [the world] has a beginning. Since the beginning is an existent (ein Dasein) preceded by a time in which the thing (das Ding) is not, there must have been an earlier time in which the world was not, i.e. an empty time (eine leere Zeit). Now no coming to be of a thing is possible in an empty time. ... In the world many series of things can begin, but the world itself cannot have a beginning, and consequently is infinite in regard to past time."
In other words, nothing could come into being in a realm where time does not exist.  Therefore, Smith agrees that past time is infinite.  In other words, time infinitely pre-existed the beginning of the universe.  But Smith hastens to add that that the infinity of past time is not synonymous with God; in other words, God did not create the Big Bang.  But Smith isn't sure what did.

In his study of the origins of the dawn of the universe, Smith repeatedly dismisses the idea of a divine creator as logically possible.  In a 1988 article entitled "The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe," he comments: "There is sufficient evidence at present to justify the belief that the universe began to exist without being caused to do so."  In 1996, he wrote in "Causation and the Logical Impossibility of a Divine Cause" that: "Virtually all contemporary theists, agnostics and atheists ... [have] assumed that the sentence, 'God is the originating cause of the universe,' does not express a logical contradiction . ... I shall argue that ... the universe has an originating divine cause is logically inconsistent with all extant definitions of causality and with a logical requirement upon these and all possible valid definitions or theories of causality. I will conclude that the cosmological and teleological arguments for a cause of the universe may have some force but that these arguments, traditionally understood as arguments for the existence of God, are in fact arguments for the nonexistence of God." Several short citations of Smith's core ideas along these lines are here.  Smith then looks forward, rather than back: he implies that the beginning of the universe with the Big Bang, which occurred between 13 and 20 billion years ago, shapes our whole understanding of being and time. The history of the universe is the history of one explosion, and everything that exists is still, and will always be, a mere fragment of that explosion. Moreover, the explosion is still taking place, and in fact is speeding up.

Nonetheless, the alternative explanation of the cause of the Big Bang is wanting.  Smith finds that Einstein's General and Special Theories of Relativity fail in key aspects to explain space and time.  He insists that we do not yet have a general theory of space and time; and gravity and Big Bang cosmology remain fundamentally unexplained. In a 2006 interview with the Sci Phi Show, he remarked: "We have no theory of gravity, we have no theory of space and time, and we have no theory of the universe as a whole.  And no one has any idea of how to start going about finding such a theory to replace the General Theory of Relativity.  So what they do is they just forget about it because it's too overwhelming. ... The main work I'm trying to do is ... give some idea of directions in which they could look."  He believes the String Theorists' attempts to unite Quantum Mechanics with Einstein's Theory of General Relativity are wasted because the latter theory has already been falsified.  So what we are left with in Smith's cosmology is an ocean of time, with an island of mysterious reality floating in the middle of it.

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