General Question

jackfright's avatar

If time itself was an element of existance (and not independant of it), and the manipulation of time was possible, wouldn't it also mean that we have always been the slaves to destiny?

Asked by jackfright (1180points) May 26th, 2009

And any concept of “free will” a farce?

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22 Answers

arturodiaz's avatar

Either im too stupid to anwser the question or it requires more explanation. But ill give it a shot anyway as it sounds like an interesting question to me.

If there was a big bang and then a big freeze ,or whatever the hell you name it, happens. Then everything would repeat. Life would be developed in the same way as it was in the Big bang before. So we will be making the same actions and having the same thoughts, over and over for all eternity. In that case we have always been enslaved to our destiny and we will always be.

Grisaille's avatar

Yeah. A little more info or an example or two would help.

jackfright's avatar

@arturodiaz depends, from the little i know about the universe, you seem to be referring to the theory where the big bang is a repetitive process, that there is an expansion and then contraction of the universe to begin the cycle again. my personal inclination is with the multiverse concept.

the question is actually more simple, and looking at it from a less ambitious angle; the only assumption made is that time was created during the big bang, and did not exist before it. because this view treats ‘time’ as an product of the bang, the possibility of time being malleable seems even more likely.

which leads to, if time is not a ‘fixed’ element (and it can be manipulated- stretched, sped up and slowed down) and we could travel within it, that it means everything that you are about to do, has been done before by you in the future? hence, us having even less freedom than we’d appreciate.

…i hope i didn’t make it more confusing or nonsensical.

TaoSan's avatar

Ritalin? Meth?

oratio's avatar

I would say that most if not all in the universe is deterministic in the sense that everything needs a previous state in order to happen and exist. Our body and our instincts make up most of what we do everyday in every process that occurs in your body.

Free will seems to be this small window we consider our will and outlook on the universe. I say free will exists, and we are responsible for our actions, but most of everything that happens is out of our hands. We have a predetermined selection of choices we can choose from, and there is no such thing as full freedom. But, we seek to be as free we can be.

As humans we seek to free ourselves from the constraints of life. We invent technology and systems to overcome them. Freedom is relative, but there is free will.

@TaoSan No thanks. To many calories.

TaoSan's avatar


I would say that most if not all in the universe is deterministic in the sense that everything needs a previous state in order to happen and exist

Guaranteed sugar free!

As for the Q, well, quantum theory has it that our human concept of cause and effect may not be a constant. However, cause and effect is a cornerstone of sanity. Seriously, try it. Take spontaneous particle decay for example. Visualize that something in existence pretty much since the bang, and not subjected to any outer influence capable of altering it’s properties, all in a sudden and without any reason decides to age, decay, vanish.

Puny human mind has severe issues with grasping this. We will start to theorize around it, think up factors we might not be able to observe and measure yet yadiyadiyada.

The one thing we can not believe is, that this effect may not have a cause.

Feed that to a speedy mind :)

eponymoushipster's avatar

pass the kouchie on the left hand side…

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

We are not slaves to destiny, we are slaves to the results of Chaos Theory. A quantum fluctuation at any one moment (which is a result of pure probability, and has no cause) by Chaos Theory makes all measurements of the future impossible within a fraction of a second. Any magnitude at this moment, no matter how small, will have immense consequences for the outcomes of similar measurements in the not-too-distant future.

I do not believe in fate, destiny or any form of supernatural guidance. All we have are the situations that Chaos deals out to us, and our self-control in the way we react to those situations.

TaoSan's avatar


Unless we’re all just effects of one huge cosmic butterfly effect of course :D

Welcome to Fluther…

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@TaoSan Thank you. That is pretty much what I am saying though – quantum fluctuations are the reason that matter is not uniform in the universe. In the first stages of the Big Bang, they caused galaxies, stars and planets to form rather than purely uniform matter. Such quantum fluctuations have continued since then though, with varying effects. These are the butterflies. The only difference to the standard idea of The Butterfly Effect is that this butterfly is still beating its wings, and all its innumerable offspring are also beating their wings.

oratio's avatar

So, two identical preconditions will not yield the identical resulting effects because of quantum fluctuation. I can accept that. But at what level are we talking about? I mean our level of perception which is quite low. There is a cube here, a cube there, and not cosmic strings that kind of had enough, and commits particle suicide.

Are we sure there is no cause for particle decay, or have we just no idea?

Also, sanity? I will try no such thing.

gailcalled's avatar

Even if you were talking about exist*e*ence and indep*e*ndent and used the subjunctive in your hypothetical proposal – the manipulation of time were possible – I would still find the sentence too broad, too vague and too confusing.

The discussions of free will vs. determinism have been going on for centuries and tackled by the great philosophers and thinkers. Wondering whether the concept of “free will” is a farce makes no sense under any circumstances.

I am also having a lot of trouble in following the arguments in the answer.

Crusader's avatar

Time is an arrow. Manipulation is not possible.

Steven Hawkins.

jackfright's avatar

@gailcalled the question makes the assumption that time is malleable as spacetime (where it is affected by mass and gravity). if you do not believe it is malleable in the least, then the question has no merit. @Crusader quotes hawkins and says its an arrow. who am i to disagree with that? but the idea that it could be something like a rubber arrow opens up more possibilities.

3 assumptions (for the sake of discussion) were made in the question;
1. that time did not exist before the big bang, and it is a product of the bang.
2. time is flexible. it can be faster or slower, depending on circumstances, it is not ‘fixed’
3. that concept #2 taken to an extreme (to allow for time travel) would mean that there is no free will.

of course, if you strongly feel that there is free will (since it “makes no sense” to wonder otherwise) also inherently means that you do not believe time to be more flexible than Einstein says it is.

i’m beginning to give up as well, i dont think i know how to put it more clearly. @TaoSan and @FireMadeFlesh made some interesting points which i dont disagree with, but isn’t directly related to the question.

gailcalled's avatar

@jackfright: My quibble was with calling “free will” a farce. That seemed to oversimplifly a really complex concept.

And who am I to argue with Hawkins’ and Einstein’s equations, assuming that I could understand them?

jackfright's avatar

i’ll give it one last shot before i forget about this.
if i could sum it up in 1 sentence it would be that;

time travel and free will cannot coexist.

this is because if time were like a straight line that you could move back and forward on, it would mean what is ahead of us already exists. for free will to exist would require the straight line go no further than the present so that it can be defined as we move forward.

@gailcalled how do you mean?

Crusader's avatar

Perhaps the ‘rubber arrow’ theory could be applied int terms of knowledge of Potential futures, and observation of the fixed past, though all influences would be in to present.

Appropriate interpretations of such future events in relation to contemporary time is essential to continued prosperity. Such as in Pompeii where the Prefect inquired about the shaking of the earth to a Christian prophet and a pagan seer. The Christian instructed the Prefect to leave immediately, resulting in the persecution of many of them, the seer, having a vision of the future where Pompeii was a site for archeologists and tourists, related how the city would have ‘many nations visiting, and be a talk of the world’ whose vision of the future was more advantageous to the residents of Pompeii?

TaoSan's avatar

I think y’all are throwing “free will” and causal / temporal paradoxes together…

As for why my and Fire’s arguments are confusing, it’s simply because discussing such issues (temporal lines, spacetime, causal paradoxes) are best discussed on the particle level. (makes it sound more intellectual too :).

And yes, time is an arrow, a really rubbery one though…

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@oratio Quantum mechanics is the best explanation of the universe that we have, and therefore I operate by that explanation. You can presume it is wrong, and it might well be, but you must have a more plausible model to replace it with.

We are talking about every level. Quantum fluctiations are of very small magnitude, but Chaos theory makes them very significant after a short perios of time.

oratio's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Oh, I don’t presume anything about Quantum Mechanics, and it’s probably correct. I can’t say I understand it though. My point was that that the level of perception we have only allows us to see a deterministic universe.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@oratio I can’t say I understand QM either. I have a basic knowledge of the basis and outcomes, but the only study past high school level I have done into it has been personal research reading various resources.
Maybe the level of perception we have gives the illusion of a deterministic universe, but even as a purely philosophical concept determinism is flawed. Determinism implicates that we have no control over our actions, and no freedom of choice, or freedom of any sort for that matter. In that case, we are wrong to blame people for their actions, or to even hold them responsible. But then we have no choice as to whether or not we hold them responsible. Its not that I don’t like the concept, just that to my understanding it does not reflect reality.
I recommend the French movie Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain for an example of chaos theory and how it affects our daily lives.

oratio's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Interesting. But how I see a deterministic universe is that it determines what choices we have to choose from. Inanimate matter has little choice and influence, but sentience do. We cannot choose to do whatever we want, only what we want of the choices available. We are certainly responsible for our actions, but not what choices we are served.

But, that is my interpretation.

Ah, the french. They certainly make some interesting movies. Some really weird ones too in a very french sort of way. My french is a bit rusty though, and I keep inserting russian words now and then for some reason. I made some Parisians very confused last time. “Quoi?”

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