Ghosts and goblins may seem scary on this most auspicious All Hallows’ Eve, but there is also something even scarier about how science now understands time. Ever since Einstein demonstrated that space and time are not separable but form a four-dimensional continuum we call space-time, the scientific view of time has become contrary to our everyday experience of time—namely, that it flows from the past to the present into the future something like water flowing under a bridge. Science now understands that the flow of time is an illusion. This is based on numerous observations such as the following: (1) time and space are intimately interconnected and space is observed to convert to time and time to space; (2) things change in time but they cannot change within integrated space-time, hence events do not take place in time; they simply are; (3) the past, present and future are all equally real making our perception of the flow of time an illusion; (4) motion at high speed slows time as does intense gravity; (5) space is converted to time when a body is in motion, and there is no longer agreement on the concept of “now,” which is difference for observers moving relative to one another; (6) effect does not always follow cause, many times cause is observed to precede effect.
This modern concept of space-time implies that if we had four-dimensional sight we would see things quite differently. Instead of seeing events unfolding before us with the passage of time, we could witness all time displayed before us in its totality. This is analogous to the spiritual concept that everything takes place within the mind of God in the eternity of the now. Unfortunately, we do not possess such four-dimensional cosmic consciousness and instead perceive space as having three separate dimensions and time flowing linearly.
One way to view the modern concept of time is in terms of what is called a “time-line.” The line begins with what has been dubbed the “Big Bang,” and extends from this beginning point of time (and space) out indefinitely into the future. The slice of the time-line that is our now may not be the same for every conscious entity in the universe since both one’s position in space and one’s movement through it change one’s experience of now. For example, if a star goes supernova in the Andromeda galaxy it will be experienced on Earth 2.5 million years later then on a planet in that galaxy since it will take light this long to reach us. In addition, for space travelers speeding along near the speed of light, their clock will be slowed compared to ours and they will experience a different now from us on Earth.
Although the equations of physics work equally well without a factor for time or whether time flows forward or backward, our everyday experience indicates that things are bound by time and seem to follow its rules. Certainly, there must be a basis for time in the laws of physics. The answer to these questions lies in the concept of entropy.
Entropy is a thermodynamic property that is needed to explain certain reactions that occur spontaneously without the expenditure of normal energy such as heat. For example, consider two containers; one filled with oxygen and the other with nitrogen. Now connect the containers by a small tube. Gradually oxygen atoms from container A will pass into container B while nitrogen atoms in B will pass into A. Eventually, the two gasses will become completely mixed. The driving force for this mixing is called entropy. The system goes from a highly ordered state (two pure gasses) to a less ordered state (mixed gasses). Hence, entropy is the driving force causing greater disorder or randomness, and it is ever increasing in the universe.
Our experience of the flow of time is tied inexorably to the constant increase in entropy that we observe. For example, consider a new deck of cards, which comes with all four suits ordered from ace to king plus two jokers. If you throw the deck into the air, it will probably not return to the original order. This is because there are millions of possible ways the cards could fall in a disordered fashion and only one way they could return to their original state. Hence, in all likelihood the cards will become disordered.
One possible exception to the rule of increasing entropy is living systems. They seem to become more ordered with time. For example, consider the difference between an adult homebuilder vs. when he was two years old. As a two year old, he scattered toys and food around the house and now he constructs a house from a pile of building materials. However, living systems do not actually violate the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy is always on the increase. When the results of metabolism of highly ordered food molecules are taken into account, the net effect is still an increase in entropy. Ultimately, all the energies utilized by living organisms go back to the energy of the Sun, which by converting the mass of hydrogen and other elements into energy, is contributing to an increase of entropy in the universe.
Everything appears to move from order to disorder with the passage of time. This experience creates the illusion of the arrow of time. Entropy is always increasing in the universe. Disorder has increased from the time of the Big Bang forward. Therefore, if the time-line for the universe is put in reverse we would see an increase in order as we move towards the past, culminating in a point of maximum order at the initial point of the Big Bang. Since, there was no space-time before the Big Bang, the time-line starts there in a state of maximum orderliness. This point of maximum order is consistent with the spiritual concept that creation begins from a cosmic nucleus consisting of pure consciousness. We perceive creation taking place in time in the direction of the one becoming the many.