Cause And Effect

We are a fictional Tralfamadorian, from the novel Slaughterhouse Five. We don't experience time like humans, for us it happens all at once. Here is the universe, which exists as a four dimensional object in totality. Rather than "moving" through time, we picture the universe like an elaborate scuplture, a rotating snowflake showing all past and all future.

Now we can see certain shapes here. Some appear similar to others. We see a light switch flicked on and that makes a nice shape, and a light bulb lights a little further along. Humans would see one thing as coming before the other, perhaps one thing causing the other, especially because similar events/shapes have occurred earlier. In fact, look, there, the same switch-switched shape and the same light-on shape a little later on.

We can see the same two shapes close to each other sometimes, so we can predict, using probability, that when the switch is clicked, the bulb might well go on. To us Tralfamadorians, the whole thing is just a shape and no part of it necessarily came "first" or "last". Even right at the end of the universe, someone has flicked a switch and the shape has been crudely sliced off before the light bulb lights, but nothing philosophically problematical has occurred.

In fact, despite the similarity of certain shapes in the universe, we can't really say that the two parts are necessarily connected. In fact, look, there's the shape of someone flicking a switch but the shape of the bulb coming on just isn't there. Perhaps the switch wasn't connected or something? Who knows. Is this annoying to us or problematical to our science? Not at all. A shape is a shape. Sometimes we see the switch shape and then, a little later, the bulb-on shape. It one of several shapes in a universe of pretty shapes.

Oh, here's a philosopher asking us if effect can precede cause. What is meant by 'precede'... what's that, 'bring about'...? Creation of part of a pattern by another part? This doesn't make sense, everything is already created. We can see it all before us. A pattern is a pattern.

Ah, you're talking about prediction, well why didn't you say! Well we can say yes, sometimes I'll see a pattern that will lead to another more frequently. The first part of the switch switching might not always lead to the light bulb coming on pattern, but there will be some sort of universal probability of the link, which you can calculate accurately at the end of time.

But, yes, some patterns that look similar (never identical, of course) do occur spread throughout the universe.

Does that answer your question?

Well perhaps that's all that is to be said about cause and effect.

But wait, there is another point because now we're looking at the far start of the universe. Remember that we can see it all, all of time from start to end, but at the start, the universe sort of balloons. The whole thing is sort of trumpet shaped from the start of the universe to the end. The dome on the left there, that is where time started. Can we even say that time started? The word start implies the existence of time. If something started, there must be a sequence, and sequence implies a cause. All of these words are dependent on time, which is merely a dimension in our total view of the universe.

Okay lets not use words 'start' and just use our four-dimensional eyes. In a universe like this, how was time created? We can see one shape. It is timeless. Also, it doesn't make sense to use the word 'created', that's another word that is dependent on time. It just is here.

All of the laws of physics are here too, even the ones that defined the shape and properties of time and space. Of course, they can't appear before time existed because the word before implies time, but at the start of the universe we do see some unique and interesting patterns. Can we Tralfamadorians say more?

Copyright © 31 May 2015 by Mark Sheeky