Scientific Vision Of Lord Mahāvīra ► [03] Space and Time in the Bh.S ► Space And Time In Modern Science

Posted: 07.07.2009

Space, time, matter and cause-effect are basic concepts of modern science with which it understands and interprets the universe. Physicists have thought of space and time from the very beginning. There have been two views in regard to space and time in science; one the classical view and the other the modern view. The latter has profoundly changed the world-view based on the former. Fritzof Capra has dealt with both the views and eastern mysticism with some detail in his book, 'The Tao of Physics'.[128]

The worldview of classical physics regarding the space and time had been based on Newton's mechano-morphic model of the universe. This model constituted the solid framework of classical physics. It was, as Capra writes, indeed a most formidable foundation supporting, like a mighty rock, all of science and providing a firm basis for natural philosophy for almost three centuries.[129]

The stage of the Newton's universe, on which all physical phenomena took place, was the three dimensional space of classical Euclidean geometry. It was an absolute space, always at rest and unchangeable. In Newton's own words, 'Absolute space, in its own nature, without regard to anything external, remains always similar and immovable.[130] All changes in the physical world were described in terms of a separate dimension, called time, which again was absolute, having no connection with the material world and flowing smoothly from the past through the present to the future. Absolute, true and mathematical time, said Newton, 'of itself and by its own nature, flows uniformly, without regard to anything external.' Thus, Newton had accepted space and time as absolute and unchangeable phenomena.

The classical mechanistic worldview had to be abandoned at the beginning of the twentieth century when relativity theory and quantum theory—the two basic theories of modern physics—forced the scientists to adopt a much more subtle, holistic and 'organic' view of nature.

The discoveries of modern physics brought a profound change in the whole situation in Physics, radically. Two separate developments—that of relativity theory and of atomic physics—shattered all the principal concepts of the Newtonian world view: the notion of absolute space and time, the elementary solid particles, the strictly causal nature of physical phenomena and the ideal of an objective description of nature.

The new concepts of modern physics came into existence due to the extraordinary intellectual feet of one man: Albert Einstein. He strongly believed in nature's inherent-harmony and his deepest concern throughout his scientific life was to find a unified foundation of physics. He began to move towards this goal by constructing a common framework for electrodynamics and mechanics, the two separate theories of classical physics. This framework is known as the Special Theory of Relativity (in1905). It unified and completed the structure of classical physics, but at the same time it involved drastic changes in the traditional concepts of space and time and undermined one of the foundations of the Newtonian worldview.

According to relativity theory,[131] space is not three-dimensional and time is not a separate entity. Both are intimately connected and form a fourdimensional continuum called 'space-time'. In Relativity Theory, therefore, space can never be discussed without talking about time and vice-versa. Furthermore, there is no universal flow of time as in the Newtonian model. Different observers will order events differently in time if they move with different velocities relative to the observed events. In such a case, two events that are seen occurring simultaneously by one observer may occur in different temporal sequences for other observers. All measurements involving space and time thus lose their absolute significance. In Relativity Theory, the concept of an absolute space as the stage of physical phenomena is abandoned and so is the concept of an absolute time.

As far as the interpretation of modern theory of space-time goes, it is presumed that the relativity of space and time in the world of physics is dependent on the velocity of light which is considered to be the maximum and unchanging. The fastest media of knowledge or perception available in physical world is the electromagnetic radiation travelling at the speed of light. Therefore, any event-taking place in any part of the world can be known only through this medium. Thus, the distance between the observer and the observed event will decide the time taken by the observer to know that event. This distance, however, has its importance in temporal calculation. It means that space and time are always relative and interconnected in the world of physics. Besides, as the theory of relativity shows that there is an effect of the velocity of the observer on the measurement of space and time.

When we consider the metaphysical aspect of space, time and matter the theory of relativity has a limited application. This is because the absolute velocity of light can be transcended in metaphysical world, making it possible for an observer to comprehend an event at the same instant it takes place. In this condition the relativity of space and time ceases to exist and their interrelation also gets broken. Now, it is to see how the concept of absolute space and time expressed in the Bh.S is beyond the scope of the Theory of Relativity of physics. This means, the application of the theory of Naya (standpoints) of the Jain logic, which is essentially the view of Physics, makes our passage clear to understand better the notion of the relativity and inter-relationship of space and time. On the other hand, the transcendental standpoint makes it possible to accept the absoluteness and independence of space and time. According to the Jain theory of epistemology, in omniscience (kevalajnana) an observer directly comprehends an event without being affected by the relativity of space and time.

Now, let us conclude the whole discussion in the light of the metaphysical and epistemological explanation about space and time in Jain philosophy. The concept of space as Astikāya (extended reality) makes quite clear that space is an objective reality pervading the whole cosmos as well as the transcosmos. This concept also makes it clear that space can exist in both the forms such as plenum and vacuum. It means that the existence of space does not depend upon the occupying substances. Although space in modern physics is invariably related to the matter occupied in it. It can be safely concluded that as far as the cosmic space is concerned the above view is quite true. But when the transcosmic space is taken into account modern physics cannot ban its vacuum because the field of physics is not directly concerned with the transcosmic space. On the other hand, the propositions of Jain theory of the media of motion and the medium of rest respectively make it clear that the presence and absence of these two media decide the fate of space by making it a plenum or a vacuum respectively. Since, the modern physics does not throw any light on the cosmic principle of motion and rest, it cannot deny existence of such media, which are non-physical in nature.

As a matter of fact while the question as to how the finite space of the universe can exist without anything beyond it, remains unanswered? In modern science, it gets settled once for all through the concepts of the medium of motion and the medium of rest existing in the cosmic space and being absent in the transcosmos.

As regards we shall have to consider the two different schools prevailing in Jain tradition. One tradition that considers time as only the mode of other substances, both living and non-living and does not give a status of an independent substance to time. Time, in this tradition is the innate aspect of each substance. It is responsible for the mutation of substance. Because of this nature, time is related with all the five extended realities including space. This is why Jain philosophy accepts space-time relation. The other view accepts time as absolute, which is flowing from infinite past to infinite future continuously and is of an atomic structure.

Share this page on: