A Case for Chronons

Chronons are the discrete quantum of time. In other words they are the smallest (or indivisible) length of time. Naturally, if we think chronons exist, then we must hold that time is discrete.

Admittedly, if we say chronons exist we have the following weird result: Two balls, each with a 10cm diameter, are moving in opposite directions each at the speed of 10cm per chronon.

The two balls at some time, t1

It’s possible, then, that the two balls pass each other without ever being next to each other.

The two balls one chronon later, at t2

Because the balls moved between these two positions at the speed of a chronon, there wasn’t point between t1 and t2 at which A and B were next to each other. We’ll call this the “strangeness argument” for later reference.

Consider the following argument in favour of the existence of chronons based off the following 2 premises:

  1. Time is continuous, not discrete. In other words, time is infinitely divisible (there isn’t any minimum span of time that cannot be further divided).
  2. Let t0, t1 and t2 be points in time with t0 before t1 before t2. If we were a time t0 and are now at time t2, then at some point we were at time t1

Now assume we’re at some point in time, tn. Let tm be some point in time after tn. Since time is continuous (by 1. above) there exists some time tk with tm after tk after tn. By 2. we need to pass tk before we get to tm. But since tm was some arbitrary point after tn, it follows that we can never move forward in time past tn, since we’d always have to pass another point in time first. In other words, there isn’t any next point in time, so we can’t move to it in order to move forward in time.

Now of the 2 premises I think the first is the least likely to be true. Either way, if we deny the second premise, we keep time continuous, but it may as well not be. Let me explain.

Assume 1. is true and 2. is false. So we skip points in time when moving through it. In fact, we must always skip some range of points every time we move through time, because if we didn’t, 2. would be true for that range and then we wouldn’t be able to move through that range. Let’s even assume, for generality sake, that we don’t always skip by the same amount every time we move. But now, assuming 1 and not-2, time is almost indistinguishable from discrete time isn’t it? To see this we can note that the strangeness argument still applies. Say the balls are diagonally next to each other (like in the first picture above) at tn and the next point (the point we skip to) in time is tm. Now assume that the balls travel at 10cm per tm-tn moments of time. Then we have the same strange outcome we did when time was discrete. So rejecting 2. hasn’t done anything to remove the strangeness of discrete time.

It might be said that if we exist at ranges of time instead of points in time we might remove the problem. However, when the range is moving we still need to know how to move it’s boundaries which raises exactly the same problem (with a single point) we originally had. So that won’t help.

One of the premises must be false if we are to move through time, but both are susceptible to the strangeness argument. Although, because not-2 is slightly more strange than not-1 I think we should deny 1. Which means chronons exist!

Enabling, not burdening

When we read the Bible we can see a pattern in the way God deals with those he saves. In the Exodus, God saves the Israelites and then gives them the law, telling them how they are to act as God’s people (Ex 20ff). Similarly, when we are saved as Christians we are called to repent from our sin and turn to God (eg. Romans 6, James 2:14ff).

Now initially I can sympathize with the person who gets the impression that God is, in some sense, “trapping” his people. Like he’s imposing these rules after they get saved.

But once we think about it a bit we realize that both Jesus and the authors of the new testament are quite clear that repentance is a central aspect of being a Christian. In fact, the definition of Christian is someone who trusts in the power of the resurrection and follows Jesus as Lord according to Paul (Romans 10:9). A Christian is someone who believes and repents and follows Jesus according to Jesus himself (Mark 1:15, Mark 8:34) and if a Christian claims to have faith without deeds then whatever that faith is is dead without deeds according to James (James 2:14ff). Also, Peter (and YHWH) sees it like this: the one who calls us is holy, so be holy like him (1 Peter 1:15-16).

So far from trapping or burdening the person once they believe, repentance is part of the belief in the first place!

Recently I’ve been thinking about this and there seem to two more things we can add by way of interpreting the whole “giving the law and expecting good works” thing:

  1. Far from burdening us, God is showing us how we were designed to live in the first place. By giving us his law, he tells us exactly how we were designed to relate to him and to our neighbor. So really, God is enabling us to reach our full potential (excuse the cliché) and lifting the burden and corruption imposed by sin (this thinking fits quite well with Paul’s thinking in Romans: we are no longer slaves to sin, but are able to honour and glorify God [as we were made to]).
  2. We read many of the 10 commandments (for example) individualistically not realizing that God is enabling not only us but a whole community to follow him and his precepts. So while we might be bleak because now we shouldn’t steal, murder, etc. God has placed a punishment for anyone who does that to us too. So we should be thanking him for imposing this order on his community so that we can feel safe. Just like in Martin Luther’s prayer on the 6th commandment (“do not murder”), where he said, “I give thanks for such ineffable love, providence, and faithfulness toward me by which he has placed this mighty shield and wall to protect my physical safety. All are obliged to care for me and protect me, and I, in turn, must behave likewise toward others.”

Burden of Proof

It’s heard on the lips of of some atheists that they, unlike us theists, don’t bear the burden of proof in the question of God’s existence because they merely lack the belief in God. The theists bear the burden of proof, however, because they make the claim that God exists. I agree with this reasoning […]