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Wide-ranging, but not very clear, examination of time
on 12 April 2013
This is a wide-ranging book in which Anthony Peake discusses the nature of time. He mentions the work of philosophers, physicists, neuroscience researchers, and parapsychologists, and cites interesting cases involving apparent precognition and other temporal anomalies. His own speculations seem to draw heavily on those of other writers, and appear quite eclectic. However, in some respects, he seems to embrace mutually contradictory notions. For example, in his chapter on 'The Physics of Time', he states that it's the act of observation by a thinking being that brings matter into physical existence (p. 103). This seems to imply that the physical world is a creation of consciousness, and that consciousness itself doesn't require physical matter (e.g. a brain) to exist. But in his final chapter, he seems to suggest that consciousness and the brain are inextricably linked, although he doesn't go as far as to say that consciousness is simply a by-product of electro-chemical processes in the brain.
More generally, I found a lot of Peake's book unclear. To some extent, that may reflect a lack of clarity in the theories or assertions of the people he cites. For example, he refers to the ideas of a philosopher called Peter (or Pyotr) Ouspensky. According to Peake (p. 69), Ouspensky proposed that time exists as a curve of the fourth dimension. Now, this sounds like self-contradictory nonsense, because anything that's curved must exist in at least TWO dimensions! However, I don't know whether Ouspensky really described time in that way, or whether the unfortunate wording can be laid at Peake's door.
There are points where Peake seems to beg the question - i.e. to presuppose the existence of the very thing (time) that he's trying to explain in non-temporal terms. For example, on p. 116, he refers to "multiple times flowing backwards and forwards". Now, 'flow' is a type of movement and, by definition, must take time!
There are some factual errors in Peake's book. On p. 116, he states that a molecule is the smallest part of an element that can exist independently. However, that status belongs to atoms, not molecules. On p. 164, he refers to Alfred Binet (1857-1911), describing him as a "psychiatrist". In fact, Binet was a psychologist, not a psychiatrist.
In Chapter 19, Peake refers to the suggestion, by the psychologist Richard Wiseman, that when dreams seem to predict real-life disasters (such as that at Aberfan, in Wales, in 1966), these may be chance events, based on the fact that so many people regularly have dreams. Peake asserts, incredulously, that Wiseman is suggesting that in the UK, every night, at least 2,000 people will experience such a seemingly precognitive dream (p. 260). However, on the basis of what Peake himself reports, it seems that Wiseman DIDN'T suggest that. The figure of 2,000 was a conservative estimate (based on a time when the UK's population was about 45 million) of the number of people who, once in their lifetime, might have remembered a seemingly precognitive 'disaster' dream. (It's possible, of course, that someone might remember more than one 'disaster' dream in his or her lifetime, or not remember any. But it seems that, for the purpose of illustration, Wiseman kept his calculation simple, by basing it on the assumption that each person would remember only one such dream in his or her lifetime. Of course, in terms of Wiseman's argument, the vast majority of these 'disaster' dreams wouldn't appear to predict external events.)