Science Points to the Blockworld
Hardly anyone knows about the blockworld (or block universe) concept from modern physics. Only a handful of physicists and philosophers deal with it and their thoughts have never been brought to the attention of the general public. So here in this little essay I'm going to quote some of these physicists and philosophers so that you clearly understand that this is legitimate science and not some made-up fairy-tale type stuff. This little essay is not intended to be an explanation of the blockworld concept. The point is to show that reputable physicists and philosophers do believe in the blockworld concept. Most of these physicists and philosophers do not take the next step and use the idea as a proof for God or proof for a human soul, however. This essay includes many references I have found since my book was published.
The nicest explanation of the block universe I have found so far I found after my book was published. It comes from the book, From Illusions to Reality: Time, Spacetime and the Nature of Reality (Understanding Reality Series Book 1) by physicist Vesselin Petkov. He does a thorough explanation of why the block universe makes sense and why our normal view of the world is not consistent with physics. It is a different, better explanation than what you find in the appendix of my book although Petkov does not cover the relational blockworld interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Besides his excellent explanation of the block universe he agrees with me on a number of important issues. If you don't think I am credible by proposing these ideas then listen to him! First up is the existence of a Creator. Petkov says this on page 129:
The presentist view of the world pictures it as an evolving universe which, according to science, does not need a creator. On the spacetime view, however, the world is a block universe - the entire history of the world is given at once (as a whole - en bloc) since all moments of time exist as the "points" of the fourth dimension of the world (exactly as all points of any of the three spatial dimensions exist at once). It may not be seen immediately, but a block universe implies that it was created.
Petkov goes on to explain why the block universe must have a Creator and the reasoning is the same as mine: the universe is just too complicated for it to have happened by chance. When I got Petkov's book from Amazon there were two one star ratings for it. I am certain this conclusion of Petkov's is the reason why. The idea of a Creator is politically incorrect.
Then we have Petkov saying this about the block universe on page 129:
Perhaps taking seriously this assumption fully reveals what a challenge the spacetime view of the world is. I think it is sufficient to mention only two questions - who created it and how can the block universe be created given the fact that all moments of time are given at once. It is true that formally, a block universe can be created in a second time. As the existing experimental evidence does not provide even the slightest hint of another time, I prefer to stop here.
It was in chapter 5 of my book dealing with Genesis chapter 1 where I showed how the text could be interpreted to mean that each "day" of creation took place in a second dimension of time. Someday soon I must find out why Petkov says that "formally, a block universe can be created in a second time."
Next there is the issue of the human soul. Petkov concludes (like others) that our consciousness is moving through the block universe and that is why we see the world outside changing. Because the entire block universe (with the future) has been fixed in advance he and others have concluded that we have no free will. Instead we are simply passive observers of what is going on in the world. I have to disagree with this. That consciousness is from our soul and while the block universe of matter is fixed, it does not mean that our soul is not free! Of course, in order for God to build the block universe with free will God would have to know what we were deciding out there in the future! Of course basic Christian thinking is that God does know everything, including what we will be thinking and deciding in the future. It occurs to me that just as the entire future of the physical block universe is already out there, so, too, the entire future of the spiritual universe that includes all our thoughts and decisions is already out there as well.
The block universe is a tough idea to accept. Early on in his book on pages 26 and 27 he writes about how, when he first encountered the idea he could not accept it. In the quote below Petkov talks about Minkowski's view of the world. Hermann Minkowski is the mathematician who originated the block universe idea.
Let me assure you that I am perfectly aware of how difficult it is to accept and especially to adopt Minkowski's totally counter-intuitive view of the world. When I first realized its huge implications for virtually all areas of our life ... my reaction was perhaps similar to the reaction of a lot of you - the world could not be that idiotic ... . However, instead of throwing out all my books on relativity and hoping that my refusal to accept that view would make it wrong, I chose to follow the path of the scientific method. As like anyone else in the scientific field, I also recognize the experimental evidence as the ultimate judge and the only authority in science, I started to analyze the experiments which confirmed the relativistic effects with the firm intention to disprove Minkowski's view (i.e., the spacetime view of the world). But the analysis did not produce the results I was sure they would produce. Quite the opposite - it turned out that those experiments would be impossible if Minkowski's view were wrong, i.e., if the world were three-dimensional. After repeating those analyses, finally I asked myself - If the world is indeed a four-dimensional block ('frozen') universe, what should I do? Deny Mindowski's view (which is proved by the experimental evidence) simply because I do not like it?
There are two Petkov essays that argue for the 4D block universe, they are: Relativity, Dimensionality, and Existence and Is There an Alternative to the Block Universe View?
Up until I found the book by Petkov, the best description of the block universe by a well-known physicist that I knew of came from Brian Greene. Here he is 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
Greene continues on and says this:
In this way of thinking, events, regardless of when they happen from any particular perspective, just are. They all exist. They eternally occupy their point in spacetime. There is no flow. If you were having a great time at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, 1999, you still are, since that is just one immutable location in spacetime. It is tough to accept this description, since our world view so forcefully distinguishes between past, present, and future. But if we stare intently at this familiar temporal scheme and confront it with the cold, hard facts of modern physics, its only place of refuge seems to lie within the human mind. 2
And of course, the reason it looks like things are moving around is because our consciousness is moving through the blockworld. And Greene thinks so too. In the following where he says "our conscious experience seems to sweep through the slices", he could just as well have said "as our consciousness moves through the blockworld":
Undeniably, our conscious experience seems to sweep through the slices. It is as though our minds provide the projector light referred to earlier, so that moments of time come to life when they are illuminated by the power of consciousness. 3
Of course I will say that it is our soul that is moving through the blockworld. So we have proof for a human soul. This projector light idea is also referred to as the moving spotlight theory.
Also in Greene's book, there is this helpful, if mind-boggling example. Greene takes the case of a being named Chewie, in a galaxy far, far away, in fact 10 billion light years away. If Chewie is not moving relative to the Earth, Chewie will see what is happening "now" on the Earth, although it will take 10 billion years for the light to reach him. But if Chewie is moving away from the Earth at 10 miles per hour (he has a big stride) Chewie will see what happened 150 years ago. If Chewie is moving toward the Earth at 10 miles per hour he will see what will happen 150 years in the future. This just goes to show that the past, present and future are all out there at once.
Greene also has done a PBS Nova video on the subject, see: The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Illusion of Time http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/fabric-of-cosmos.html#fabric-time (This may not be available outside the US.) But then there is a copy of it on youtube, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qu9XaF2K10.
Then 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. 4
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.
Next up, here is a quote from an online article by Professor James Woodward in his online article, "Killing Time" where he quotes a physicist Hermann Weyl:
... one is led from the absence of absolute simultaneity to the view, that in Weyl's  words, "Reality simply is, it does not happen" That is, the past, present, and future all objectively exist. It is all fixed. 5
Woodward is quoting Weyl from Weyl's book: Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science. 6
Then there is a paper by physicists J. Brian Pitts and W. C. Schieve. Recall that to say that the universe is a block universe or a blockworld is to say that the whole universe, past, present and future simply exists, it simply is. Or you can say that the whole universe is superdetermined. So here is what the authors have to say about superdeterminism:
One also knows that the experiments violating the Bell inequalities are compatible with the orthodox relativity if one is prepared to embrace "superdeterminism" ... .
However, this view's demanding philosophical underpinnings, such as
its denial of (libertarian) free will and evident need for an
all-determining Agent to correlate the initial conditions of the
world, might limit its appeal ...
That "all-determining Agent" would be God and as they say, this view "might limit its appeal". :-) They also say:
On the other hand, the 3 major monotheistic traditions all have (or had) strands that affirm theological determinism: Pharisaic Judaism , Reformed/Calvinist Christianity, and Islam. That there might be a natural affinity here is suggested by the language (e.g., () about events being "already 'written in a book'." The resemblance to Psalm 139:16 (NASB) cannot be accidental:
Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. 8
Here is a quote of physicist Robert Geroch on the blockworld taken from the paper "Reconciling Spacetime and the Quantum: Relational Blockworld and the Quantum Liar Paradox", by physicists Stuckey, Silberstein and Cifone:
There is no dynamics within space-time itself: nothing ever moves therein; nothing happens; nothing changes. In particular, one does not think of particles as moving through space-time, or as following along their world-lines. Rather, particles are just in space-time, once and for all, and the world-line represents, all at once, the complete life history of the particle. 9
In that paper, the authors go on to say this:
When Geroch says that "there is no dynamics within space-time itself," he is not denying that the mosaic of the blockworld possesses patterns that can be described with dynamical laws. Nor is he denying the predictive and explanatory value of such laws. Rather, given the reality of all events in a blockworld, dynamics are not "event factories" that bring heretofore non-existent events (such as measurement outcomes) into being. Dynamical laws are not brute unexplained explainers that "produce" events. Geroch is advocating for what philosophers call Humeanism about laws. Namely, the claim is that dynamical laws are descriptions of regularities and not the brute explanation for such regularities. His point is that in a blockworld, Humeanism about laws is an obvious position to take because everything is just "there" from a "God's eye" (Archimedean) point of view. That is, all events past, present and future are equally "real" in a blockworld. 10
There is another mind-boggling subject in modern physics called quantum mechanics. It appears to be even more crazy than special relativity and physicists have come up with many different ways to interpret what is going on. The very most recent one is called the relational blockworld interpretation of quantum mechanics. It is radical in that it starts with the blockworld concept. A description of this interpretation can be found in some rather advanced physics papers. These papers do, however, include "islands" of fairly plain English that ordinary science-minded people can understand. 11 Physicist Mark Stuckey is one of the proponents of the relational blockworld interpretation of quantum mechanics and he has a five part series on the subject starting with this page: https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/blockworld-foundational-implications-part-1-time-dilation-length-contraction/ It is less painful than the original relational blockworld interpretation of quantum mechanics papers but still is basically for physics literate people. But once again, you will find "islands" of fairly plain English.
For a discussion of the blockworld and time and space generally by philosophers, see the book Time and Space 12 by Barry Dainton. I ran into this book when I was reading papers on the relational blockworld (RBW) interpretation of quantum mechanics. One of the quotes they have in several of the RBW papers is this one:
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. 13
Physicist Max Tegmark talks about time in this little article from the Express. The article mentions another physicist, Julian Barbour. Barbour has written a book called The End of Time that contains nearly the same idea.
Here we have another article from the Express where a philosopher, Bradford Skow, from MIT supports the idea in a book called Objective Becoming. The hardcover of this book was published in 2015 by Oxford University Press and is available at Amazon. A paperback version is due in January 2017. I found his table of contents on the net: http://web.mit.edu/bskow/www/objective-becoming-ch1.pdf. Then there is a press releast at MIT for the book.
Here is another scientist who backs the blockworld concept. It comes from the book, Hidden in Plain Sight 1 by Andrew Thomas. I picked it up for 99 cents as an ebook at Amazon. Chapter 5 is entitled "The Block Universe". Here's a little quote:
...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. 14
Inside the Andrew Thomas book he mentions how he:
first became aware of the full, extraordinary implications of the block universe model in 2006 when I read a superb Scientific American article by Paul Davies entitled That Mysterious Flow. I suspect that for a lot people - not just me - the article was a revelation. 15
The block universe is mentioned in this strangle little article on Forbes.
Presentism and eternalism are discussed in the context of Christian theology in this series of three web pages:
Here is an article where some physicists propose that the future must influence the past. It is very nearly the standard block universe idea. http://gizmodo.com/basic-assumptions-of-physics-might-require-the-future-t-1796730487
Here is a mild article about the block universe idea: Has Next Tuesday Already Happened?". Here is another: Was Einstein Wrong? Both are from Adam Frank at NPR.
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".
2. 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".
3. 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".
4. 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 November 22, 2016). (I don't have a physical book so I can't give you a page number. In a Kindle, look starting around location 1761.)
5. Woodward, James, "Killing Time", Foundations of Physics Letters, VoL 9, No. 1, 1996, See also: http://physics.fullerton.edu/~jimw/killing-time.pdf, p3. (accessed November 6, 2016)
6. Weyl, H., Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1949 and 2009, http://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Mathematics-Natural-Science-Hermann/dp/0691141207"
9. Geroch, Robert, General Relativity from A to B, University of Chicago Press, 1978. http://www.amazon.com/General-Relativity-B-Robert-Geroch/dp/0226288641".
10. Stuckey, W.M., Silberstein, Michael, Cifone, Michael, April 2008, "Reconciling Spacetime and the Quantum: Relational Blockworld and the Quantum Liar Paradox", Foundations of Physics, Springer, Volume 38, Number 4, April, 2008, pp348-383, http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/3776/1/RBW_FoP_Final_Version_07.pdf, p7. (accessed November 6, 2016)
11. "Deflating Quantum Mysteries Via the Relational Blockworld", http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0503065v3.pdf, by Stucky, W.M., Silberstein, Michael, Cifone, Michael, October 28, 2005, (accessed November 6, 2016).
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).
"Quantum to Classical Transition per the Relational Blockworld", http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0605105v2.pdf, by Stuckey, W.M., Silberstein, Michael, Cifone, Michael, 2006, (accessed November 6, 2016).
"Unification per the Relational Blockworld", http://arxiv.org/pdf/0712.2778v4.pdf, by Stuckey, W.M., Silberstein, Michael, 2007, (accessed November 6, 2016).
"Reconciling Spacetime and the Quantum: Relational Blockworld and the Quantum Liar Paradox", Foundations of Physics, Springer, Volume 38, Number 4, April, 2008, pp348-383, http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/3776/1/RBW_FoP_Final_Version_07.pdf , by Stuckey, W.M., Silberstein, Michael, Cifone, Michael, April 2008, (accessed November 6, 2016).
"Genuine Fortuitousness, Relational Blockworld, Realism, and Time", http://www.johnboccio.com/research/quantum/Dan.pdf by Peterson, Daniel J., December 13, 2007, (accessed November 6, 2016).
"An Argument for 4D Blockworld from a Geometric Interpretation of Nonrelativistic Quantum Mechanics", http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/3214/1/BW_from_NRQM.pdf and http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0605039.pdf by Silberstein, Michael, Stuckey, W.M., Cifone, Michael, 2006, (accessed November 6, 2016).
"Being, Becoming and the Undivided Universe: A Dialogue between Relational Blockworld and the Implicate Order Concerning the Unification of Relativity and Quantum Theory", http://arxiv.org/pdf/1108.2261v3.pdf, by Stuckey, W.M., Silberstein, Michael, McDevitt, Timothy, 2012, (accessed April 18, 2017).
"Relational Blockworld: Providing a Realist Psi-Epistemic Account of Quantum Mechanics" http://www.ijqf.org/wps/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Stuckey-et-al-2015-Revised-v2.pdf Stuckey, W.M., Silberstein, Michael, McDevitt, Timothy, 2015, (accessed April 18, 2017).
14. Hidden in Plain Sight: The Simple Link Between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, Thomas, Andrew, Aggrieved Chipmunk Productions, 2012, around location 1084 of this ebook, (accessed December 16, 2016).
15. Hidden in Plain Sight: The Simple Link Between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, Thomas, Andrew, Aggrieved Chipmunk Productions, 2012, around location 938 of this ebook, (accessed December 16, 2016).