© T.P.Lolaev

Time as a function of a biological system

T. P. Lolaev, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor

According to fair judgement of the professors Y.Romanov and V.Golichenkov the space-time organization of biological systems is one of their main features1. Its analysis in this connection represents a major problem of a modern theoretic and integrative biology, for space-time organization enables by the most effective way to study and to introduce the structure and function of biological systems merged together. However it is known that in spite of the shown concern to the space-time organization of biological systems, of its fundamental value this problem has not received proper reflection in researches.

The said above is conditioned, in our opinion not so much by subjective as by objective reasons. And first of all by the fact that science up to nowadays operates by postulated concepts of time invented by men and inadequately reflecting objectively real or according to our terminology functional time2. The said concerns as well the relational concept though it is completely right connected with material motion and interactions.

The fact is that from the point of view of the functional concept of time developed by us the objectively real functional time (there is no different kind of time in the nature) is connected not with mechanical motion as simple moving but with motion as quality change, motion as the reason of formation that is originating and disappearing of material objects as such as the result of implementation of their material substances into other subsequent objects. The objectively real, functional time is formed only as a result of consistent change of qualitatively new states of concrete, final material objects and processes (each object is a process). Besides each material process forms its own time in which one it only exists. By the way it is necessary to note that the term “own time” is used in the relativity theory as well but with reference to mechanically moving bodies. To clear up the difference between two notions - “the own time” of the functional concept and “the own time” of the relativity theory-we’ll point out that the latter is measured by the so called “good clock” connected with a mechanically moving body whereas “the own time” of functional concept could be measured only by the ideal (theoretical) clock capable to repeat precisely the rhythms and durations formed by the consistently changing states of the body, object itself.

Thus it becomes clear that the objectively real, functional time is not the universal form of substance being but the function of concrete final material things, phenomena and processes characterizing the duration of their existence. We call the objectively real time functional because the existence of time and all its properties wholly depend on the quality changes happening in objects and processes forming them.

The fact that the objectively real, functional time is formed as a result of consistent change of concrete material object states can be illustrated on an example of a mollusk time reflex formation: “The course of the experiments is as follows: the mollusk receives shocks with low-power current every five minutes. After shock it hides in a shell for a short while and then continues its motion. After the shocks stop the mollusk continues to hide in a shell every five minutes. It proves the availability of time system”3. In this connection we remark first of all that this example is not a proof of the mollusk’s astronomic time counting system, as there is no such time in nature. The mollusk hides in a shell every five minutes not due to the availability of counting systems of postulated nonexistent time in nature but because every five minutes consistent change of definite, strictly identical number of states takes place in the mollusk’s organism. As a result the own time of mollusk is formed in which it lives, exists.

The mollusk reacts not on passed five minutes of astronomical time, but on strictly definite number of states that consistently changed in its organism during these symbolic five minutes.

Functional time is always present as it is derived from material objects, processes from the moment of their origin and up to their disappearance as such4.

From our point of view, one should consider in this connection a man as a convincing example of existence of material objects in their own present time.

It is known that there is a huge set of quality changes in a man’s organism at all levels of his structural organization. It is the complex of these changes that forms the own time of a given man. A man (any living entity) exists always, up to the end of life, in his own present time.

What is considered to be the past of a man is not the past time of his existence (past time as well as future time has no status of reality) but the disappeared states of his own organism. A man, while he is alive, exists in his own present time irrespectively from the changes occurring in his organism, independently from his experience. For a man, as well as for any other material objects, there is no contracted instantaneous present. The instantaneous present exists in a head of a man only and nowhere else.

Functional time is unsubstantial though it has physical sense and physical value as it is derived from real material systems, processes (it is neither substance nor physical field). For this particular reason functional time is irreversible on principle5.

The said above means that functional time can not turn back, even it the processes forming it begin to flow backwards.

For example, if even a material process turned back, its sequentially changing states would generate their own periods of time which would be subsequent in a natural series of numbers and their total number would be a unit more but not less.

So, if a process had been in all nine statuses before turning back (if it were possible) its next status would be the tenth and not the repetition or negation of the ninth status because it would be qualitatively a new status and the time period derived from it would be not the same, not the former ninth but a new one- the tenth period of time.

In other words a total number of statuses visited by the given process and the time periods formed by it would increase up to ten but not decrease up to eight as it could seem to an external observer.

Another example. If all processes in an organism of a man seventy years old of age turned back and he began to get younger from the point of view of an observer, his age would reach 71 in a year but not 69.

As a matter of fact, the point is that due to the development of the functional concept of time the nature of objectively real time has been detected in philosophy and science for the first time. And in its turn it allowed to prove that in reality time is a function of the process, but not vice versa as some scientists used to think.

So, it is necessary to change all the approaches to the research of processes in all spheres of science and practice.

Only in this way it is possible to reveal time regularities unknown before which are so necessary for the solution of both available and arising problems including global ones.

As N.N. Trubnikov has mentioned :”The Epoch put forward the task of taking hold of time. Scientific and technological revolution with its problems and possibilities creates the material basis for its solution”6.

An outstanding modern scientist, the Nobel Prize Laureate I. Prigozhin points out that “the main problem in science is to rediscover the concept of time, to expose it in the foreground”.7

Prigozhin goes on saying that the introducing of the rediscovered concept of time to the equations of dynamics will lay foundation for the beginning of a new stage of scientific and technological Revolution”8.

It should be mentioned that biologists were the first to use the new approaches to studies of time- space organization of biological systems. Due to this biologists managed to find out and use the unknown time regularities of animal development in practice.

Such outstanding biologists as Detlaff, Ignatyev and others measure the processes not in astronomic units ( days, hours, minutes, seconds) but in special units of duration measured with the help of definite processes of the living body under study (that is, in terms of own functional time).

The point is that as Detlaff stresses, the widely used units of astronomic time give very limited information, which suits only for the given kind of organism and the given particular conditions9.

Only the analysis of time regularities of animal development, obtained with the usage of method of relative immeasurable characteristic of duration of an organism development under study has allowed to introduce time parameter into comparative-embryological research for the first time and to make time itself the object of analysis.

So on the basis of the conducted researches T.A. Detlaff has come to a conclusion that for measurement of duration of any period of germinal development it is possible to use duration of any (a certain) period, taken as unit of time at one and the same temperature as measure of time, i.e. it is possible to use the so-called relative immeasurable characteristic of duration of development. Only due to the usage of such method the biologists managed to show that the duration of miscellaneous ontogenesis and miscellaneous periods of development of germs of poikilothermal animals changes proportionally according to the temperature variation in a zone of optimal temperatures10.

As it is known proportionality of changes of duration of miscellaneous processes and miscellaneous periods of development within the limits of temperature variations which are optimal for each kind of poikilothermal organisms is of great value. Taking into account the above mentioned T.A. Detlaff writes: “It won’t be exaggeration, if we say that the poikilothermal organisms couldn’t exist at all without this capacity in varying conditions of an environment. If miscellaneous components of a process complex from which any stage of development is formed changed asynchronously it would result in originating of violations of normal development and at more late stages- in violation of normal functioning of an organism. It is not incidentally that one of the first reactions of a germ to the approaching to the boundaries of optimal temperatures is the desinchronization of separate processes of development. At the beginning it’s usually insignificant and is indemnified at the expense of a reserve of regularized capabilities of an organism…. But at large temperature deviations it oversteps (exceeds) the limits of regulated changes and this results in development of the monsters and death of an organism”11.

From the point of view of biologists, the usage of concept of “the age of a germ” is of great value in publications dedicated to comparative analysis of processes of determination, i.e. acquisition by cells of a germ of new properties providing at least a part of their way to the final goal- to the formation of this or that organ or part of it. In this connection T.A.Detlaff writes: “The analysis of this process represents one of the central problems of experimental fetology and, more widely,- biology of development.

In a large series of publications dedicated to this problem it was revealed, that the determination of presumptive material of the same germs of organs (placodes of sense organs, nervous plate etc.) for miscellaneous kinds of amphibians with and without tails arises at miscellaneous stages of development and it is expressed miscellaneously at the identical stages. Thus it has appeared, that these differences correlate with differences in the age of germs at the same stages of development…

The correlation of a level of determination puts a question on a morphogenetic role of a time factor”12.

Taking into account a new way method of timekeeping of biological processes E.A. Khasanov writes, that: “thus there is a surprising uniformity in development of organisms proving the existence of the internal dynamic laws of development, which cannot be detected at usage of generally accepted units of time measurement ”13.

In connection with all above mentioned it is interesting to note that usage of the called way of the time description by a number of biologists, up to the functional concept of time designed by us, was not stacked within the frameworks of generally accepted ideas about time. Therefore even biologists themselves using as it seemed to them specific units of duration, were inclined to consider them not as units of substantial functional biological time, but as some artificially introduced dimensionless characteristics of development of a living organism under study.

However, it does not detract at all the extremely important value of the indicated researches of the biologists not only for their science but also for other fields of science and practice as well.

The aforesaid, strictly speaking, means that the biologists have discovered a new method of analysis of time regularities of animals development and make use of it in practice. However, in just opinion of T.A. Detlaff, : “…the problem of time definition, in terms accessible to the quantitative registration and reflecting the qualitative peculiarity of the phenomenon under study as well as permitting to reveal with their help time regularities, remains actual and difficult-to-solve for many sciences today”.

In this connection we shall point out that, in our opinion, it is possible to successfully overcome difficulties related to regularities detection both in animals development and in studies of processes, if knowing the nature of objectively real functional time which appears exclusively as a result of consecutive qualitative changes happening in material objects, processes.

Thus, all the aforesaid testifies convincingly that the validity of the functional concept of time, developed by us, has found the indisputable confirmation by the data of science and practice. And practice is known to validate objectivity of the contents of knowledge, to serve as criterion, as standard for checking the truth of knowledge outcome.

In this connection the research of the problem of functional biological time is supposed to open new broad opportunities for the analysis of time regularities and for using them in practice not only in development biology but in all branches of science and practice as well.


  1. The spatial- time organization of ontogenesis. Moscow., 1998. p.3.
  2. See:
  3. The spatial- time organization of ontogenesis. Moscow., 1998. p.30.
  4. T.P. Lolaev About the “gear” of time flow. //Problems of philosophy. 1996. ¹ 1, pp.51-57
  5. T.P. Lolaev The philosophical and naturallyscientific basis of time irreversibility. //Issue of Moscow University. Seria 7. Philosophy. 1995.¹ 2, pp.80-90
  6. Trubnikov N.N. Time of human life. M.: 1987. p.5
  7. /“Search” ¹ 10, March 5-11, 1993/
  8. See: Ibid.
  9. T.A. Detlaff Analysis of temporal regularities of animals development. //Ontogenesis. 1989. V.20. p.647
  10. Ibid. P.649
  11. Ibid. P.649
  12. Ibid. P.655
  13. I.A. Khasanov Phenomenon of time. Part 1. Objective time. M.: 1998.pp.148-149
  14. T.A. Detlaff Analysis of time regularities of animals development. //Ontogenesis. 1989. V.20. p.647