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The Rise of Immanent Metaphysical Time

CAN TIME CREATE WORLDS?

By Jason M. Morgan | October 2023
Jason M. Morgan, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, teaches history, language, and philosophy at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan. He is the author, most recently, of Law and Society in Imperial Japan: Suehiro Izutarō and the Search for Equity (Cambria Press, 2020).

UFOs are back in the news. Television stations have broadcast grainy footage of lozenge-shaped objects zipping through the air. Navy and commercial pilots claim to have witnessed strange aircraft performing impossible maneuvers at impossible speeds. Congressional hearings have featured testimonies about vessels of unearthly origin that have crashed on our planet. “Biologics,” one purported expert tells us, were recovered from the crash site. Those biologics were not human.

Whether extraterrestrials have been visiting Earth, I don’t know. Many people adopt a similar agnosticism. But expand the inquiry a little and ask if they think we are alone in the universe, and agnosticism often gives way to almost poetic musing. “Hmm, I don’t know,” I’ve heard many say. “The universe is a big place. There must be other lifeforms out there somewhere.”

The temptation to this kind of thinking is not hard to understand. The next time you are outside at night, look up at the starry sky and let your mind wander into the wondrous vastness above. Given the size of the universe (size seems almost silly in this context) and the fathomless deeps of cosmic time, anything seems possible. If we evolved on this planet, then surely other planets have played host to similar dramas. Primordial lifeforms, there as well as here, could have battled through eons of change and punishing environments to achieve consciousness, even intelligence.

But if we continue along this route, eventually we run into rough patches in this kind of expansionist justificationism. Yes, the universe is big, and time is long. But on more sober reflection, do these really add up to better odds for evolution?

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