Does time exist or not?

It’s just gone 5:30 on an autumn evening here in sunny England, but where you are it might be later in the day and already dark, or in the opposite hemisphere you may have only just woken up after a good night’s sleep. So, time exists, but for the Earthbound it’s not the same for everyone. Now, imagine you’re sitting on a GPS satellite, what time is it there, given that relativistic effects certainly take place when one object is accelerating relative to another? What time is it on that satellite as observed from terra firma? What time is it on the Moon, or that distant planet orbiting two stars? And, when we talk of once upon a time in a galaxy long, long ago, we really do mean a long time, the light from some distant cosmic objects is yet to reach our telescopes, light from objects that appeared not too long after the Big Bang have just hit the sensors…so does time exist or not?

3 thoughts on “Does time exist or not?”

  1. Re point 1 (D.B. ‘one can come up with facile arguments on both sides’), this is true and almost always and endless waste of breath – but i believe i can come up with an argument on the side of the notion of time being unfounded – which I believe is not ‘facile’ (from Latin facilis (“easy to do, easy, literally doable”).

    first we consider facile and non facile positions, e.g. 2 ‘notions’. 1 that ‘gravity’ in some form exists, and 2 that ‘magic’ in some form exists.

    If gravity is said to be ‘that which seems to consistently hold every grain of sand, molecule of water and human being etc on the ground ‘everywhere’ (bar extreme conditions), and that which we have all seen consistently and immediately makes objects ‘fall’ to earth where released. then because we know where we got the idea, and it can be seen and tested by all, this is not a facile argument that gravity exists.

    however, if we say ‘magic’ is that which enables magicians to ‘saw’ an assistant in two, as long at the actual cut is never seen – then separate the half’s (cuts unseen) and rejoin the assistant perfectly, with out any scar, blood, or function loss, then because this is never actually seen, and doesn’t happen everywhere, anyone believing ‘magic exists’ does…

    A- not have an initial reason to suspect ‘magic’ exists, and
    B- cannot produce an experiment that shows magic to exist.
    (so the notion that ‘magic’ exists is unfounded’)

    The only defence a person supporting magic might have is ‘you cant prove magic doesn’t exist’, but the onus is on the claimant.

    re ‘Time’ – Many peoples initial reasons for suspecting ‘time’ exists, is that we see constant ‘organised’ and ‘chaotic’ movement and change in the world out side us, and we see an apparent accumulation of ‘memories’ in our minds.

    if we then conclude that because ‘things happen’ (matter moves changes and interacts to form ‘objects’ and ‘memories’) – then, 1- these happenings, happen ‘over time’ and/or
    2- all happenings are ‘recorded in a ‘temporal past’

    then this argument (for ‘time’ existing) CAN be seen as facile and unfounded. – because,
    A – all we have only seen things ‘exist and move’ (‘now’), and
    B- We cannot produce an experiment to show ‘the past’ or the future’ or anything other than ‘motion and interaction now’ exist.

    E.g. while we might ‘say’ there is evidence the universe has been through billions of YEARS of change’ – we have not proven that there is a future, or a past, or a thing called time that exists and flows between ‘past’ and ‘future’ , and does so in one direction (arrow). Or that as the earth orbits the sun ‘time also passes’ and, each orbit ‘is’ a ‘year’ of ‘time’. (all we observe is that the earth ‘is’ orbiting).
    We may also see our own bodies change – but this does not prove that as they change a thing called ‘time’ also (or intrinsically) passes – especially if as our bodies change and ‘wear’ we ‘say’ , but cannot give a reason why, or prove. that a ‘record’ of this change is created and added to, or stored in ”the temporal past’.

    All we see, and all we can prove, is that matter exists, moves and interacts. making machines with steadily rotating arms, and ‘calling’ them ‘clocks’ does not prove the ‘future’,’past’ and flow of a thing called time exists. ( they do prove ‘batteries’ or springs, and a flow of energy out from them exists).

    – the notion and tool (and mathematics) of time do work extremely well, and are indispensable for our human coordination. but if ones initial reason for thinking ‘the past’ exists is based solely on seeing external physical formations accumulate (tree growth rings, sedimentary rock layers etc), and internal mental formations (‘memories’) accumulate ‘now’ (so to speak) then the initial reasoning is invalid, as probably are all extrapolations from it. E.g.’if there is a past there may be a future’ and – ‘if there is a past and a future ‘time’ may exist and flow ‘between’ them’.

    re the ‘arrow of time’ – thermodynamic, cosmological, psychological – hot things cool if their surroundings are cool, the universe is observed to be expanding, and we physically accumulate matter in-formation (memories) as our bodies function (and dissipate matter in-formation if we are decomposing). These are all true, and IF time exists (and if time’s existence has been proven elsewhere) THEN they are indications of its direction.

    but if ‘Time’ has not been proven else where, then each of these so called arrows, only actually proves that things exist and move in certain ways. Each does not prove that as things cool (etc) a thing called time also passes / events come out of a ‘future’ / or that events are ‘stored’ in a ‘past’ in any way. (they might be renamed ‘arrows of matter, or motion’).

    (in my opinion :^)

    matthew marsden

    ‘A Brief History of Timelessness’
    (youtube Greenwich Observatory video –

  2. But, the point is that, one can come up with facile arguments on both sides. What does it mean that somethings “exists”. In some theoretical frameworks time is nothing more than an additional axis on the spacetime graph, orthogonal to x, y and z. But, doe up and down, left and right, forward and backwards “exist”? It’s not like you can grab hold of them and because they’re all relative there isn’t even a point at which you can say they begin or end. The arrow of time argument, is just that, an argument, entropy, like sh*t, happens, but given the probabilistic nature of reality exposed by quantum mechanics, it is inevitable that every possible configuration of all the energy and atoms in the universe will exist at “some point in time”. Our universe may just be one of those configurations. There may be another that existed “before” this, or might exist “after” in which stars and galaxies do not exist, or in which Brian Cox doesn’t say, “Brrillliant” quite so often when confronted with things that are interesting and fascinating but not necessarily luminescent.

  3. My favourtie question….
    I like Professor Cox’s “Arrow of Time explanation of time”. He does a really good explanation of how entropy (the universe becoming more random) causes time to move foward the way it does.
    Time does exist, it just depends how we interpret it.

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