The B-Theory of Time, Rationality, & Knowledge

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

June 17, 2015

In my last article I demonstrated that if a committed atheist rejects the logical conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument by appealing to the B-theory of time, then they must also reject Darwinian evolution as an explanation of primate biological complexity.[1] It follows that if one thinks evolution is true, they must reject the B-theory of time and deal with the conclusions and rational inferences of the Kalam. That is to say, if one affirms evolution, they must also ultimately affirm the existence of God!

This is scientific reason to reject the B-theory of time and the eternal block universe. If that’s not enough, there are other reasons to reject this theory of time as well. There are also philosophical reasons to affirm the A-theory of time (which is also the common-sense view of time), and, in this article, I will specifically point out what I think is the best reason to reject the B-theory of time as it is ultimately self-refuting.

The main focus of my master’s thesis at Biola University was to demonstrate that we have good reason to think the human soul exists. I provided evidence that human nature is much more than just the physical. Part of my case hinged upon proving that humanity possesses libertarian free will (LFW). Moreover, I demonstrated that LFW is an essential ingredient if one is to engage in the process of rationality. Here is the argument I based my master’s thesis on:

Tim Stratton’s Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism[2]

1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.

2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.

3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.

4- Rationality and knowledge exist.

5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.

6- Therefore, the soul exists.

7- Therefore, naturalism is false.

8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.

With this argument in mind, allow me to make one more objection to the B-theory of time: LFW is illusory if the static theory of time is true; therefore, rationality is illusory, too. This is because if the B-theory “block” is eternal, then it exists agelessly with no beginning. If it is not metaphysically necessary and eternal, then it “popped” into being all at once fully formed. Either way, all moments/slices/positions of the block are already set. They are all equally real. In the same way that there is no authentic process of biological evolution (change over time) on the B-theory, there would also be no genuine reasoning, which requires dynamic time to engage in the process of rationality.

Now, hang on tight because this is about to get weird! If the eternal block universe and the B-theory of time is true, then everything is set (or frozen) eternally in the block of space-time. If this eternal frozen block of space-time is reality, then persons are better thought of as “frozen worms” stuck in a certain position in the block.[3] Since dynamic time is illusory on this view, so-called “moments” are just “slices” of the block (seconds are thinner slices than minutes). It follows that the “person” reading this article right now is just a “slice” of the frozen worm in the block. It is a different slice of the worm that ate breakfast yesterday. You are literally not the same thing that existed last week and the slice of you that currently exists at the “tomorrow moment” on the block is different than the slice reading this article. In fact, if the B-theory of time is true, you have no control or choice as to what you are going to do or think tomorrow or next year. It is already set in stone and eternally frozen in space-time.

All of these “slices” that are in the “prior” position on the block are different slices of the “person” making the choice or decision at different coordinates on the block. In the same way that an innocent defendant in front of the judge is a different slice than the guilty slice that robbed the bank, the slice of the frozen worm deriving a conclusion is different than the one considering competing hypotheses and deliberating between them. Therefore, just as the process of evolution is illusory on the B-theory, so too would be the process of rationality (which requires not only dynamic time, but also libertarian freedom to choose the best explanation). It seems that continuity of first-person identity is a necessary condition of LFW. It follows then, that if the “slice” deciding isn’t even the same one taking action, I don’t see how libertarian freedom could be anything but illusory on this view.

We can demonstrate this with the following deductive syllogism based off of my Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism:

Tim by the Biola Fountain1- If the eternal block universe and the B-theory of time is true, then libertarian free will does not exist.

2- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.

3- Rationality and knowledge exist.

4- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.

5- Therefore, the eternal block universe and the B-theory of time is false.

To make my point stronger, I like to think about the B-theory “block” as a frozen aquarium. Imagine that everything in the aquarium is in a fixed position and is as old or ageless as the aquarium itself. If the frozen four dimensional spacetime “worm” called “Tim” exists in a fixed position in the block of ice, and the “right end” is just as ageless (or the same age) as the “left end,” I just don’t see how libertarian free will is anything but a misconception on this view. Moreover, the way we “behave” on the B-theory is causally determined by the position in which we happen to be eternally frozen inside the block. It does not seem that we have any choice or control over the position we happen to be eternally frozen in.

To help visualize, imagine going down a twisting and turning water slide at the swimming pool. The shape of the slide causally determines my movement. If the slide veers to the right, it is impossible for me to turn to the left even if I want to. It seems to me that although God’s knowledge does not stand in causal relation to our actions[4], the shape of all that is “frozen” inside the block would stand in causal relation with my subjective illusion of self-consciousness and my actions.

For this reason, not only do I think that evolution is illusory on the B-theory of time, I also believe that libertarian free will, rationality, and knowledge, are all nothing but misapprehensions if the B-theory of time is true, and these are good reasons to freely choose to reject the B-theory of time.

Let me make my case stronger with a logic-based deductive syllogism:[5]

1- For any cause C, its effect E must not be in existence independently of it, without eviscerating the meaning of the terms “cause” and “effect.”

2- On a B-theory of time, nothing in the B-block is dependent upon anything else in the B-block, as each so-called “effect” is equally real with every so-called “cause” “simultaneously”, such that every “effect” is in existence “prior” (to use temporal language) to the “occurrence” of the “cause”.

3- Therefore, on a B-theory of time, there are no true cause and effect relations, and any impressions thereof are merely illusory.

As Steve Williams said, “This applies to reasoning as well, so B-theory defenders have themselves auto-refuted from the get-go.” I completely agree! The process of rationality requires a genuine A-theory of time. The process of rationality entails the properties of being able to think of and about competing hypotheses, deliberate between them, and the ability to infer and affirm the best explanation via the laws of logic (the order is important). Therefore, a rational entity must also possess at least two other attributes: intentionality and libertarian free will. Moreover, this seems to require dynamic time (A-theory) to go step by step through this process.

It’s not just evolution that requires the A-theory to be true, but if anyone thinks they are rational, or have come to rational conclusions that bring justified true belief (knowledge), then the A-theory seems to be the only option. If one claims they possess justification for their beliefs, they must reject the block theory of time (one might appeal to the “evolving block theory” posited by George Ellis which is ultimately based on the A-theory).[6]

In conclusion, allow me to reiterate what I established in my last article. It is not a good idea to affirm the B-theory of time just to resist the theistic implications of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. As, William Lane Craig says, affirming the B-theory of time “has a very high price tag!”[7] 

Here’s the bottom Line: You cannot conclude a model of reality which destroys the very method you used to reach your conclusion. This is the epitome of self-refutation and appealing to the B-theory of time and the eternal block universe commits this exact logical fallacy. As I always say, any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

Stay reasonable (Phil 4:5),

Tim Stratton


NOTES

[1] See my article The Kalam, Evolution, & the B-Theory of Time

[2] I will soon devote several articles to this argument. In the meantime, you can get a glimpse of it here: http://freakengministries.com/stephen-fry-humanism-incoherence/ . Also, here is a video where I present and defend the premises of my Freethinking Argument Against Naturalismhttp://vimeo.com/97290020

[3] William Lane Craig, Key Philosophical Issues for Apologists, Craig described that if the B-theory were true, persons would be more like a “worm” in the block of space-time which could be “sliced” into moments. Read more here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/four-questions-to-make-your-brain-hurt

[4] See my articles on Molinism: http://freakengministries.com/the-petals-drop-why-calvinism-is-impossible/

[5] A special thanks to Steve Williams for coming up with this argument while defending my thoughts during a Facebook debate. Also, thank you to Dwight Stanislaw and Darian Pike for some “peer review” and suggestions to tighten it up.

[6] George Ellis proposes a spacetime model of an evolving block universe, where the future boundary of spacetime represents the present time, and changes as time evolves along timelike worldliness. This “growing block” model is based on the A-theory of time and thus cannot escape the Kalam’s conclusion. http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fyoutu.be%2FIt6Me78dal8&h=6AQEUoqET

[7] William Lane Craig, Questions From Facebook, Podcast where Dr. Craig interacts with my Evolutionary Argument Against the B-theory

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim is currently enrolled at North-West University pursuing his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics, history, and biblical data.

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