Introduction to the Blockworld for Everyone

Copyright 2017 by Donald R. Tveter, don@dontveter.com

Beta version from March 18, 2017

This document may be freely distributed provided it is complete and unchanged.


There is an important result from modern physics that EVERYONE needs to be aware of. It's been "hidden" for a long time for various reasons but it is now popping up more and more in scientific and philosophical books and journals. It gives the best ever proof for the existence of God and a human soul. And changes our entire understanding of the world around us.

First, consider the way we currently think about the world. We think that only the present exists, the past is gone and the future is not out there yet. Philosophers call this idea presentism. This includes the idea that there are particles moving around through time. It's a good 19th century position. In the 20th century, scientists figured out that there was that Big Bang that created the universe so that almost all the particles we have now were created then. As they moved through time, stars formed, stars exploded and planets formed from the "star dust" that came from these explosions.

But modern physics discovered that the past, present and future all exist "at once" around 100 years ago. It is a consequence of special relativity. In physics, that whole of creation, the past, present and future is viewed as a "frozen" block of everything that "just is". It's like a statue carved in stone that stays the same forever. Or it's like a book that has been published that stays the same forever. So physicists call this block of everything that "just is" the blockworld or the block universe. This idea actually goes back in time as far back as Parmenides of Elea and philosophers call the idea eternalism. Here is the well-known physicist Brian Greene talking about the blockworld only he refers to it as being like a loaf of bread:
...then reality encompasses all the events in spacetime. The total loaf exists. Just as we envision all of space as really being out there, as really existing, we should envision all of time as really being out there, as really existing too. Past, present, and future certainly appear to be distinct entities. But, as Einstein once said "For we convinced physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion however persistent." 1
Belief in the block universe is not optional - if you want to be modern, rational and scientific. Here is what physicist Andrew Thomas has to say about it:
...first it has to be stressed that accepting the reality of the block universe is not an option. To disregard the implications of the block universe is not only to ignore the conclusions of special relativity, it is to ignore basic logic. 2
If, after reading this, you think the physics is crazy, I have an article entitled Science Points to the Blockworld that lists physicists who take it seriously starting with Einstein and Greene.

Odds are you have never heard of the blockworld before and there are many reasons for this. First, it is very hard to believe because we only see the present. So we think the past is gone and the future isn't out there yet. Second, it seems to eliminate free will and even scientists want to believe in free will. Third, there has been a problem in physics trying to reconcile relativity with another crazy idea called quantum mechanics. Fourth, you can't use the result to build a bigger bomb or a faster computer so not a lot of physicists get involved with this idea. Fifth, it is pretty obvious that the blockworld gives an excellent proof for a Creator and a human soul. This, of course, makes it politically incorrect among scientists.

Getting to the blockworld result is fairly painful for non-scientists but then there is an easy way to describe the results and thereby come to a better understanding of what is going on. So consider an amusement park ride such as the haunted mansion ride at Disneyworld. The whole ride was built in advance. When you start out at the beginning of the ride everything you are going to see in the future is already out there. It has all been prepared for you. Then when you are halfway through the ride, the part you have already seen is still there, just like the past of our real world is still there. And when you finish the whole ride, the whole past of the ride is still there and it is the same as when you started your ride.

For another analogy, there is a physicist in the UK, Edgar Andrews, who has written a very nice, very entertaining, down-to-earth book called Who Made God?: Searching for a Theory of Everything. In chapter 8 he says this:
This implies, of course, the intriguing concept that all time still exists. In the three dimensions of space, I can travel from London to Manchester and onwards to Glasgow. In terms of my experience, once I reach Manchester, London lies in the past and Glasgow in the future. But this doesn't mean that London has stopped existing or that Glasgow is still a green-field site. So with time. The fact that we are confined to 'now' and can visit neither yesterday nor tomorrow, doesn't mean that yesterday has ceased to exist or tomorrow doesn't yet exist. It is, in fact, one of the inevitable conclusions of relativity theory that the whole of space-time must have a real and continuing existence - regardless of our perception of time as being divided into past, present and future. If you doubt my word, physicist Brian Greene sets out detailed arguments to prove this and concludes: 'Just as we envision all of space as really existing, we should also envision all of time as really being out there, as really existing, too' (his italics). The biblical idea that God surveys all time is therefore predictive of what has only recently become apparent to science. 2
I would say, however, that this result has been apparent to science for around 100 years, so it is not really recent. But of course it has only recently started to surface. Notice that his trip around the UK is the equivalent of my haunted mansion ride.

There are more analogies that apply. First, there is the analogy of reading a book. First, the author has to prepare the entire book in advance and when all the details have been taken care of, the book is finished and then it is published. When a reader picks up the book and starts reading at chapter 1, the whole future is out there ahead of the reader. As you move through the book, going page by page, the page you are reading now is the present, the pages you have read are in the past and the pages you haven't read yet are still there in the future.

A second analogy that applies is that the blockworld is like a movie. The movie has all been prepared in advance. As you watch the movie, the place you are at now is the present, the frames of the movie that you've seen are in the past and the future frames are still out there in the future.

Then consider an animated movie. Either the old-fashioned kind that was done by hand by artists or the new style that is done with computer graphics. Every last frame of that movie has to be prepared in advance. And the difference from one frame to the next frame has to be very small so that when a person sees the movie all the action seems continuous just as movement in our real world seems continuous. So suppose in one frame of the animated movie a tree is just standing there. If the tree is going to be in the next frame of the movie, the artist must explicitly draw the tree in the next frame. And the frame after that and the frame after that and on and on until the scene changes. If it is going to really be realistic, the tree will have to be bending a little bit because of the wind blowing on it so each frame will have to show the parts of the tree in a slightly different position.

Then for the final analogy, there is virtual reality, as in the film, The Matrix. In virtual reality, a computer feeds impulses into your brain and picks up what your brain outputs. In virtual reality, the computer prepares a world that looks as real as the real world. Now in this situation you need to constantly feed frame after frame of visual information into the brain, just like you must create frame after frame of an animated movie. The difference is that in our real world, you don't just have one 2D image after another (that appears to be 3D). You have one "3D image" after another and it will be your consciousness that moves through the universe of "3D images". And, as far as we can tell, in our world, those "3D images" really are out there.

The creation of a block universe is interesting. It gets created all at once, as philosopher Barry Dainton says in this quote:
Imagine that I am a God-like being who has decided to design and then create a logically consistent universe with laws of nature similar to those that obtain in our universe...Since the universe will be of the block-variety I will have to create it as a whole: the beginning, middle and end will come into being together...Well, assume that our universe is a static block, even if it never 'came into being', it nonetheless exists (timelessly) as a coherent whole, containing a globally consistent spread of events. 3
So everything that is ever going to happen or is ever going to exist will show up in this block universe. That's everything across all of space AND TIME! That's going to be every particle, every star, every galaxy and every planet that will ever exist for the entire lifetime of this block universe. There will be a "3D image" for every moment of time.

This leaves atheists with a difficult situation. They can be modern, rational and scientific and accept the results from MODERN science (rather than 19th century science) and concede that there is a Creator. Or they can stonewall it and hope that something will come along to discredit the blockworld. This is extremely unlikely. The science has been around for over 100 years and every time special relativity has been tested it has worked perfectly. Or they can assume some highly advanced aliens have come up with a simulation and are feeding that simulation into our brains that are sitting in vats somewhere, as in The Matrix.

I've discovered when you present people with the block universe idea they often reject it in favor of the Big Bang idea. The Big Bang idea is enormously popular because everyone else believes it. An awful lot of what we believe, we believe because lots of other people believe it too. But the block universe is perfectly compatible with the Big Bang. The Big Bang comes from general relativity. Now general relativity implies special relativity and special relativity implies the block universe. So the Big Bang and the block universe both come from the same place, they both come from general relativity. In conventional 19th century thinking a whole lot of particles formed in the Big Bang and they are moving around. And the Big Bang is long gone. In the block universe, everything across all of space AND TIME appeared and everything is frozen in place - forever. Nothing is moving around. (Instead our consciousness is moving through the blockworld.) The Big Bang is still back there at the beginning of our time. It was pretty easy for people to accept the Big Bang because it fit in nicely with the 19th century idea that there are all these particles flying around. The block universe has been more difficult for people to accept because it RADICALLY alters our understanding of the universe. But both ideas come from the same scientific theory, they both came from general relativity.

Now recall that in presentism you've got particles moving around so that the universe evolves. And of course, many people like to think that with particles moving around, living cells can form by chance and then evolve by chance. But our blockworld is nothing like that. In our blockworld we've got lots of living things and those living things are extremely complicated. And they all showed up at once! There just wasn't any time available to evolve them. So now, naturally, evolution by chance (and with it, atheism) has been killed in a single stroke. There must have been a Creator to make these intelligent designs.

It was hard for people to accept the idea that the Earth was not flat. It was hard for people to accept the idea that Earth was not at the center of the universe and that the Earth went around the sun instead of the sun went around the Earth. It was hard to accept that the continents moved. The blockworld/block universe idea is the worst of all of them. It will be very hard to get used to, especially in this day and age. In this day and age people have accepted the 19th century view of the world that things are happening at random and that through science, education and political action it is possible to improve the world by human efforts alone. This is the politically correct position. Instead, modern science makes it clear that there is a Creator and the Creator has a plan for this world and that plan is already out there in the future.

1. Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality, Vintage Books, 2004, p139. http://www.amazon.com/Fabric-Cosmos-Space-Texture-Reality/dp/0375727205/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360441182&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fabric+of+the+cosmos+brian+greene".

2. Andrews, Edgar, Who Made God?: Searching for a Theory of Everything, EP Books, Faverdale North, Darlington, DL30PH, England, 2009. At Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product//0852347073 (accessed January 16, 2017). (I don't have a physical book so I can't give you a page number. In a Kindle, look around location 1761.)

3. This quote from Dainton's 2001 edition of the book:

Dainton, B. (2001) Time and Space, McGill–Queen's UP, Montreal.

is taken from pages 18 and 19 of:

REVERSING THE ARROW OF EXPLANATION IN THE RELATIONAL BLOCKWORLD: WHY TEMPORAL BECOMING, THE DYNAMICAL BRAIN AND THE EXTERNAL WORLD ARE ALL "IN THE MIND" by Stucky, W.M., Silberstein, Michael, Cifone, Michael, 2005, http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/3249/1/ZiF_05_stu.pdf, (accessed November 6, 2016).

It can also be found in Dainton's second edition: Time and Space Second Edition, Dainton, Barry, McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal & Kingston, Ithaca, https://amazon.com/gp/product/0773537473, (accessed November 21, 2016).