Friday, 30 January 2009

The God that Time Forgot

It is a somewhat common claim by creationists that the concept of time is a huge problem to atheists. Just days ago, for instance, Kirk Durston used this same argument in his debate with P.Z. Meyers. The "Argument from Time" may have different varriations. Durston's argument went something like this.
"When did time start? What created time? In order for time to start/be created, there had to be a time prior, which was 'timeless'. The prime cause/creator, then had to be timeless"
Ray Comfort makes a similar claim about the "timelessness" of God:
"Time is a dimension God created, to which He subjected man. With God there is no time. He dwells in "eternity," a dimension of which we have no comprehension. You will go into eternity when you "pass on" from the earth."

However, the way I see it, time creates a bigger problem for Creationists than for us atheists.

Consider how we measure time. Surely we can count the seconds ticking away on the face of a clock, but our ability to measure time goes deeper than that. As conscious beings, we can measure time in our head. That is to say, we have the ability to "feel" the passage of time. You might not know exactly how much time has passed since you got up this morning without checking your watch, but you have the intrinsic knowledge that it's in the realm of "past". You know that it happened prior to the current instant without refering to a clock. Our minds have the abiliy to sense the passage of time, however inaccurate timepieces they may be.

Now let us consider God. God is supposedly omnipotent. There is supposedly no limit to God's abilities or capibilities. Argubly, God is a concious entity (it is claimed that we cannot know the "mind" of God, after all), and his omnipotence, then, applies to his cognitive prowess as much as it does to his other aspects. It follows that we cannot posess a cognitive ability that God does not, him being omnipotent and all. God, then, should be able to sense the passage of time, just as well - if not better - than we can.

Creationists like Ray and Durston claim that God existed "before time", in an era of "timelessness". It was during this "timeless" era that God decided to create the universe, giving birth to energy, matter and time itself. Being a conscious entity, the creation had to have been a conscious effort on God's behalf. If God was conscious before he created time, then he would have been able to measure the passage of time in his Godly mind before he had even created time. This is an obvious logical contradiction.

"But time didn't exist, so he was unable to measure it in his mind!" the Creationists will cry. But that is unallowable if God is conscious and creation was a conscious act. For example, imagine God thought to himself "Gee, it's awfuly boring sitting in this vast nothingness. I think I'll create the universe for some entertainment." If God was conscious - and he would have to be to think such a thing - then in his mind, he would know that a certain amount of time elapsed between him fist muttering "Gee" and ending with "entertainment".

The bottom line is if God is conscious and the creation a conscious act at all, God could not have existed in a "timeless" era. There are two ways Creationists could ratify this problem. One is to change their mind about the nature of time: that it has no beginning or end, that it exists independently of God or Nature - in which case it ceases to be a problem for anybody. The second, more likely way a creationist would try to dodge the logical hurdle they ran themselves into is to say that the genesis of the universe was NOT a conscious act, and that (at least prior to creation) God himself was not conscious.
But if this is the case, why need God? With an unconscious Creator/creation you can claim no theistic or deistic explanation for the origin of the universe. The best you could get away with is a pantheistic explanation - that the universe IS God, however it came to be.

Time, then, is far more of a problem for Creationists than it is for atheists. Claiming God created time leads to a logical contradiction, and trying to avoid this contradiction gives no support to the idea that a theistic/deistic God exists in the first place. Quite to the contrary, it supports the idea of His nonexistance.

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