Is the universe ultimately made of time or of timeless numbers? In a review of Unger and Smolin’s The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time, Bryan Appleyard discusses the “superstitions and allegories” of science, especially physics. “If, as Unger and Smolin insist, time is real and not simply an aspect of space or of our perceptions, then the laws of physics begin to look even less solid. If everything is subject to time and, therefore, change, then these laws can evolve. They suggest the idea that these laws are eternally fixed is a supersition caused by mathematics – all the insights of maths are timeless and maths is only a human creation. In fact, two of the greatest physicists of all time – Richard Feynman and Paul Dirac – both accepted the possibility that the laws of physics evolve through time. Yet eternal, immutable physical laws, somehow detached from our physical universe, remain one of the primary superstitions of our age.”
What is math about?
The mathematical world. Some philosophers — the Platonists — think math is about a mysterious other realm of eternal and unchanging entities. Others — the nominalists — think math is simply the manipulation of symbols according to rules we have made up. According to James Franklin, they’re wrong. His theory is Aristotelian realism: look around, and you can see math.