The Heat Death of the Universe was first proposed by Lord Kelvin in the late 19th century. It is a conjecture that the universe is expanding and will continue to expand until all the thermal energy of the universe is expended causing all physical processes to cease.
This faulty and uninspiring mental image of the universe has been a part of the cultural milieu of the scientific community for so long that it has become a part of the popular culture’s understanding of Reality and is rarely challenged.
This apocalyptic vision originated from the observation of physical and chemical processes under specific, local conditions and then extrapolated to include the fate of the entire universe.
“It’s just the abyss, dear. Try not to gaze into it”
We call this kind of analysis empiricism, which is a bottom-up approach to knowledge. While empiricism is a powerful scientific tool, it has its limitations.
the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. Stimulated by the rise of experimental science, it developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, expounded in particular by John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.
Physics gives us knowledge when observing concrete (physical), local systems. We can control and submit these local systems to scientific experimentation. We fail sometimes to realize how little we can observe about the universe. From our tiny perch on this small planet whirling about in the vastness of space what can we really know for certain about the fate of the universe?
I am currently reading Jonathan Haidt‘s book on a search for the underlying causes of the cultural wars and partisan tribalism. Professor Haidt writes that purpose of his book is to heal some of the misunderstandings between the left and the right:
Our righteous minds made it possible for human beings-but no other animals – to produce large cooperative groups, tribes, and nations without the glue of kinship. But at the same time, our righteous minds guarantee that our cooperative groups will always be cursed by moralistic strife. Some degree of conflict among groups may even be necessary for the health and development of any society. When I was a teenager I wished for world peace, but now I yearn for a world in which competing ideologies are kept in balance, systems of accountability keep us all from getting away with too much, and fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means. Not a very romantic wish, but one that we might actually achieve.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Introduction Haight p xiii
We talk about mechanical (scientific) time, psychological time (time as our minds perceive it), and physiological time (the time of bodily processes). But are any of these things really Time with a capital T?
Psychological TimeandPhysiological Time
Time seems to fly by when we are enjoying something and it seems to slow down when we are standing in line or at work. We are often startled to see that our mind’s estimate of the current time does not match the clock. We don’t trust out minds to tell us the correct time or even the correct passing of time. We tend to dismiss psychological time as not real.
But, whether time seems to go fast or not, we cannot escape our biological clock. It keeps on ticking to its own time, whether we like it or not. And since physiological time appears to have some one to one connection with mechanical time – we think that is more real than psychological time.
Mechanical (Scientific) Time
As communication and transportation technology grew over the past two centuries, reliable mechanical time became increasingly important to our everyday lives. We rely on our clocks and by extension, our computers and phones to tell us the correct time. We plan our days and our nights by the dictatorship of clock time. It is so much a part of our mental framework that we often confuse clock time with Time itself.
Mechanical or scientific time is clock time. We measure space in yards or meters, but we don’t confuse the measuring stick or other device such as our car’s odometer with the road we are measuring or the houses we pass by. Space is something we think is separate from its measurements. So, why is it that don’t we think more expansively about Time?
What happened to philosophical time?
Philosophical time belongs to a branch of philosophy called metaphysics. Many scientists and secularists believe metaphysics is an illusion or a construct of the brain. Science replaced metaphysics and anyone who challenges that fact is considered anti-scientific. To them, if metaphysics belongs anywhere it should be studied as a psychological disorder.
But is this true? Has science truly and finally replaced metaphysics? Is philosophy dead?
The concept of essence is so fundamental to how we view our individual existence that it not only affects our understanding of how we came into the world and how we will leave it, it also affects how we order and live our lives. How we arrived at this divide requires a look at the historical development of ideas concerning our experience of reality.