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Alright, enough delay… It’s time to talk about time.

Time is a very strange little guy. In a sense, it is a motion whose force we cannot control. We are shoved along in its flow, unable to swim upstream. But what is most surprising about time is that it is not constant. The faster you move relative to someone else, the slower time passes for you relative to that other guy.

This isn’t really news to most folks. Time dilation and special relativity in general feels a bit like science catching up to the idea that you feel younger if you go for a jog or a drive. It’s surprising in that it really is measurably true and not simply a gut feeling.

The direct consequence of time dilation is that time has to have an observer. In essence, to measure how much time has passed, something must be measured by something else. That something else will generally measure the first something with something in its frame of reference, just to keep the number of somethings reasonably small.

The standard example is to imagine a pair of twins, the elder gets into a spaceship traveling at nearly the speed of light to the sun and back. From the perspective of the twin on the earth, the trip will have taken 16 minutes, give or take. But the traveler on the spaceship will perceive substantially less time passing. The fun part here is that the younger twin could suddenly become the older twin with nearly no effort on his part.

Time can play other tricks with itself. Take for instance a lump of clay. If that lump sits on the ground, it will take eons for that lump to be covered by dust and sand until enough collects to form limestone, which then will take eons to build up enough layers to generate the heat and pressure to turn that clay into a hardened rock. It will then take eons for that mountain to erode away exposing the clay rock.

That china in your kitchen cabinet from Crate and Barrel is probably only a few years old. If you asked it how old it felt, you’d likely get a much older answer, by a few eons at least. This is the biggest problem with the young earth / old earth debate. If you ask the earth how old it feels, it will likely have a very different answer than God. It doesn’t mean either of them are wrong or lying; you can’t ask two different observers the same question expecting the same answer and still claim to be a scientist.

“Science” these days is riddled with these kinds of inconsistencies. How can you claim to say how long it took to form the Grand Canyon if you don’t know what it looked like before there was a river there? How can you calculate the original carbon content of a sample based only on its current ratios? I’ll buy that you can estimate such things; everyone knows that science isn’t an exact science. But how can you do anything more than guess at the quality of your estimate? If it’s just an educated guess, shouldn’t we call it something else, maybe Mysticalculus?

When it comes to the age of the universe, I simply don’t know how to handle the claims that folks throw around. You might convince me that “mankind” is a viable observer. Before mankind, you’ll maybe get me to agree to animals. I suppose prior to that there were still plants. But at some point you’ll run out of life, do you expect me to call a rock an observer? What makes me believe a lump of clay can tell time if it can’t even be bothered to breathe. What about before the earth? Should I trust the sun’s pocket watch? And who is your observer before the sun?

When you tell me the age of the universe, who is the observer? Do you understand yet that the only way for this to be a bigger sham is for it to cost three easy payments of $19.95?

Posted with : Bare with Me