I agree it has been misled by the math, more specifically the focus on whatever information that can be extracted. I disagree with Smolin's position though.
He is working from Big Bang cosmology, that the universe emerged from a singularity and built out from there, as process.
Yet the BBT has a very basic flaw in it, with lots of subsequent patches, Inflation, Dark Matter, Dark Energy.
When they first realized that redshift increases proportional to distance in every direction, it appeared that we are at the center of the universe. So it was changed from an expansion in space, to an expansion of space, because Spacetime!
Which totally ignores the central premise of Special Relativity, that the speed of light is constant in every frame, since if intergalactic light is being redshifted, it isn't constant to intergalactic space. If it were, than the speed of light would have to increase, as space expands, which would negate redshift.
The premise of redshift requires a stable speed of light, as the metric by which this expansion is being observed and measured. More lightyears. Which means the speed of light is still the real ruler, the denominator by which this expansion is being judged. If the speed of light were the numerator, than it would be a "tired light" theory.
I've put this point out to various sites and sources over the last 25 years and they basically cross themselves and walk away. The profession settled on the BBT and if you want to have a job in cosmology, you basically have to swear fealty to BBT.
Space, on the other hand, is defined as three dimensional, but that really is just a mapping device, the xyz coordinate system. Like longitude, latitude and altitude.
If you remove all physical properties from space, it still has the non-physical qualities of infinity and equilibrium. Infinity, because anything to bound it would only be its own definition, not that of space.
Equilibrium is implicit in Special Relativity, as the frame with the fastest clock and longest ruler would be closest to the equilibrium of the vacuum. The unmoving void of absolute zero. As opposed to a frame moving at the speed of light, where the clock has stopped and the ruler shrinks to zero.
So space is the absolute and the infinite. Zero to infinity.
What fills space is this energy and the forms it manifests. Where the energy radiates toward infinity, while the forms coalesce toward equilibrium. Resulting in these cosmic convection cycles we refer to as galaxies.
So my argument would be that space is the basis and time is an effect, like temperature, pressure, color, sound. Frequencies and amplitudes. Time is frequency, events are amplitude.
It is just that since it is our digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems processing the energy, while the central nervous system sorts the forms, those most focused on the product of the mind, information extraction, signals in the noise, only see form, with math as its most distilled. For them it's order or chaos, rather than form and energy.
It has been shown that multispectrum light "packets" do redshift over distance, as the higher frequencies dissipate faster, but that would mean we are sampling a wave front, rather than observing photons traveling billions of lightyears, which goes to whether the quantification of light/energy is fundamental, or a consequence of absorption/detection.
Which goes to the issue of whether the information is synonymous and fundamental to the energy, or is there some distinction.