Proof Without Certainty

10/14/2013

My last article, “What Do you Think You Know?” produced a firestorm of controversy on all sides.  That’s the way it should be.  My point, that many people missed however, is that what we think that we know can only best be described as proof without certainty (thank you Ashley Montague).  That’s because the search for who and what we are is based on scientific inquiry that by definition is unsettled.  That’s the very nature of science.

Everybody says that they know this or they know that.  They’re so positive that they’re almost convincing.  Certainly, they are convincing to themselves.  Then, one day, they become just as convinced about the new theory du jour.  Take Richard Dawkins for example.  He told the TED conference that now he has proof that evolutionary theory is correct.  The implication from his statement is that he must not have been positive in the past even though he said that he was.  How can you take anyone like that seriously?

As science ventures further and further into the unobservable, its theories become less and less reliable.  As scientist Robert Lanza said, “We have failed to protect science against speculative extensions of nature, continuing to assign physical and mathematical properties to hypothetical entities beyond what is observable in nature.”  So theories concerning, say, evolution, gravity and black holes are just that – theories. Evolution, for example, has not been able to demonstrate the core tenet of its theory – the existence of transitional fossils.  Then there’s gravity.  We see the effect, but with apologies to my friend Albert E., we don’t have a clue how it works – which means that we really don’t know what it is. As for black holes, they only exist, so far, on the chalkboards of theoretical physicists.  At least, physicist Andrew Strominger understands the dilemma as he admitted that, “A singularity is when we don’t know what to do.  What’s so embarrassing about singularities is that we can’t predict what’s going to come out of it.” However, I would ask a different question  and that question is this: Does a singularity even exist?

Generally, people’s thought processes work like this.  They ask themselves what they believe in? That’s not so much a question I suppose as it is a belief system that’s already been implanted in their mind (perhaps even subconsciously). We’re in love with our beliefs, even in the absence of emperical evidence and despite the fact that we don’t have the experience to form our own opinions on most questions. Even great minds have developed many important ideas from other people, rather than through a scientific process. For example, Copernicus was heavily influenced by Pythagoras and hermetic writings.  We should be looking for information to help us form an opinion but instead we look for data to support a preconceived notion.  Is it any wonder, then, that in the end we come to the conclusion that our “evidence” constitutes incontrovertible proof.  How convenient.

So what then constitutes reality? Well for starters, perception is reality.  What seems real to you or what you convince yourself is real is in fact a real experience, since the mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is vividly imagined. But what does science say is real?  Max Planck, the father of quantum physics, believed that behind the forces of the universe is “The existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”  Albert Einstein referred to Planck’s mind  as “a spirit… manifest in the laws of the universe.  Famous theoretical physicist David Bohm developed a theory of what he called the implicate and explicate order to explain what reality is.  Michael Talbot, in his book “The Holographic Universe”, described Bohm’s theory this way, “Our brains mathematically construct objective reality by interpreting frequencies that are ultimately projections from another dimension, a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time:  The brain is a hologram folded in a holographic universe!”  In other words, what we perceive as our world is merely a projection from a different reality, the Unseen or the Source if you will, which is located beyond space and time.

Just because you can observe life and have thoughts about what it all means doesn’t mean that you understand reality.  We are simply processing our sensory experiences according to what I call Morpheus’ Law.  As Morpheus said in the movie The Matrix, “If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”  That’s all that our perception of reality is then – an interpretation of electrical signals.  As for what we call reality, Einstein himself referred to it as an illusion.

Leading theoretical physicist Jim Gates disclosed that scientific equations which describe the fundamental nature of the universe and reality contain embedded computer codes (the same type of binary codes which your computer utilizes), with the implication being that we live in a virtual reality matrix.  Even our DNA is encoded. Nobel Award-winning physicist Francis Crick developed his famous “sequence hypothesis” which states that the chemical constituents in DNA function like symbols in a computer code. This sentiment was echoed by, of all people, Bill Gates who noted that, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”  So how then can you know beyond a shadow a doubt that your thoughts are even your own?

Imagine. Your body has trillions of cells and each one of these cells is as complicated as a city.  As scientist David Eagleman stated about the brain, “Trillions of synaptic conversations hum in parallel, that this vast egglike fabric of micron-thin circuitry runs algorithms undreamt of in modern science, and that these neural programs give rise to our decision making.”  Yet, people’s beliefs imply that they understand the very nature of these algorithms that apparently are so far beyond human comprehension.  So how can we be so sure of our opinions when science hasn’t even scratched the surface in understanding the basic fundamentals of life?  How are we sure about the brains interpretation of the electrical signals it receives (within this virtual reality matrix) when we can’t even fully explain how the brain works?

Amongst all of the uncertainty, ideologues rule the day since they by definition are always certain. However, as David Bohm put it, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”  And so it goes…as a species, man has seemingly proven everything and yet is certain of nothing – that is, until the next new theory comes along.

“What a life in science really teaches you is the vastness of our ignorance.”

     –David Eagleman

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17 Responses to “Proof Without Certainty”

  1. Arkenaten said

    Having an open mind regarding such issues is fine.
    And I agree, nothing should be set in concrete and forced upon people without due consideration for their welfare.

    Maybe we could ask the various religions that currently cause massive social divisions and upheaval around the globe to back of?

    Maybe in areas where there is no hard and fast evidence we should be encouraged to use common sense?

    Thus, what is the likelihood that a deity, as per the bible/torah.Koran etc, created humans?

    What is the likelihood that humans coexisted with dinosaurs who were all vegetarian, once upon a time.

    What is the likelihood there was a global flood that annihilated all life bar one family and humanity began again via a series of incestuous couplings?

    Maybe is we started with such basics and put in abeyance all the stuff we have no die-hard answers for we could (re) discover our humanity?

    • chicagoja said

      Maybe. And maybe you should be a role model for everyone else. By the way, your absolutely right about the massive social divisions within society which is caused by too many competing ideologies.

      • Arkenaten said

        I believe I wrote religions; not ideologies.
        Let’s start with the superstitious/supernatural things first, shall we?

      • chicagoja said

        Why? My point is that all ideologies are somewhat responsible for the devicisiveness in the world.

      • Arkenaten said

        Democracy is an ideology also. Are you suggesting we scrap this?

        I think that perhaps you are concerned that this might affect you own supernatural leanings?
        It is impossible to prevent personal; belief, if this is what you are worried about, but certain practices -especially religion – would not be institutionalised.

        If we are to have a level playing field then one has to find common ground to begin with.

        A neutral stance regarding such beliefs would be the best approach – initially. Then, as evidence presented itself maybe we could begin to adopt ideologies that arose from such evidence.

      • chicagoja said

        I agree with your comment about a neutral stance. As a side note, I’m not in favor of democracies.

      • Arkenaten said

        Really? What do you suggest as a workable alternative?

      • chicagoja said

        I’m a “republic” kind of guy.

      • Arkenaten said

        Sorry, I may have misunderstood you neutral stance comment.

        You would still be in favour of dismantling organised religion then,yes? At least until it could be established which one, if any, was the right one based on it tenets/claims.

      • chicagoja said

        I’m not in favor of religion, however I’m in favor of a person’s right to be religious if that’s what they so choose. While I’m in favor of dismantling a lot of things, there is frequently more danger in the dismantling process than there is in leaving things alone.

      • chicagoja said

        No, I’m not in favor.

  2. Tim Miller said

    It shouldn’t come as any surprise that people get upset when their sense of certainty (rather than the sense of certainty of someone else) is called into question. I only started my blog to address this very idea, the importance of uncertainty.

    While your two recent posts mostly address scientific uncertainty, I’ve been unable to focus on anything other than religious uncertainty, and it might do to paste a quotation from a post on the various wills and motivations God was given by humans who during the American Civil War:

    “Wisdom can also be found by examining the sentiments of Confederate Grace Brown Elmore, who wrote, ‘I find no consolation in religion. I cannot be resigned. Hard thoughts against my God will arise, questions of His justice and mercy refuse to be silenced…. Sometimes I feel so wicked, so rebellious against God, so doubtful of his mercy.’ Like many of us, Mrs. Elmore believed religion a source of consolation, justice, and mercy; seeing very little of this reflected in her own experience, and not understanding why God would have willed the South to lose, she begins to doubt God, and feel rebellious towards him. Yet she is doubting not God, only her idea of God; and she is not rebelling against God, only her idea of God. And wisdom lies not in questioning God, but rather one’s thoughts on God, indeed one’s version of God, and questioning and rebelling against one’s own certain self.”

    • chicagoja said

      Thank you for your comment. Other than the last two posts, religious uncertainty has actually been the topic of many of my posts. Given your interests, you may want to check out one or two to see if there’s anything of value for you. The problem with religion and their concept of God is that it’s, for the most part, inaccurate and therefore people wind up doubting God. Who wouldn’t under those circumstances?

      • Tim Miller said

        That’s just it–so much of religion as it is presented today is made to fail and create doubt. It’s an odd thing to observe, religion being turned into everything else which nowadays can be tracked, added up, & put into a spreadsheet, as if it were a batting average or a sales report.

        The essence of the religious experience seems to be something which cannot be expressed with the help of reason, and so has to be accepted through faith–& anything accepted on faith cannot cancel out other or competing notions which are also accepted on faith, and which also cannot be proven through reason. In a wonderful sense, the weakness of faith is its strength, and nobody has any reason to argue religion with anyone, since so much is uncertain & is better that way.

        But then I wonder–in a world where the traditional Personal God isn’t quite what we’ve been told, where does that leave devotion? And if we suppose God is entirely a mystery beyond reason and human knowing, where does that leave practice? And if this mysterious God created human beings with these limitations in terms of expressing and understanding something like Ultimate Reality, inevitably leading to the wars, intolerance and cruelty history is filled with–is this even a God worth acknowledging, worshipping, or even talking about?

      • chicagoja said

        All excellent thoughts. I can see that your a thinker and a seeker. In between reason and faith there is what I refer to as the world of intuition. It’s arguably a right brain process as opposed to the reasoning and logic of the left brain. This process can be triggered by many different types of life experiences (e. g. looking at the awe-inspiring beauty of nature). That is, you can intuit things about the painter from the painting. Once a person comes to the understanding, or belief, that there is a creator, it’s irrelevant what we call it. It’s irrelevant if we worship it. Even if it doesn’t fit our vision of what God should be like, it’s still relevant. As I said in one of my posts, maybe we should just call it Bubba so in that way people would stop having unrealistic expectations of the Creator. Obviously, there is what people would refer to as evil in the world. Some of that is faulty thinking associated with free will but beyond that there is true evil in the world. That’s the origin of the Lord’s Prayer where man prays to “our Father who art in heaven” to deliver him from evil. Ultimately, man’s search for God is really a search for himself. Obviously, we should keep looking.

  3. Tim Miller said

    I can understand your point, how better off we’d be if we realized we aren’t the center of the general universe, or of any deity’s concerns; that it doesn’t matter what we call Bubba; that we have unrealistic expectations of whatever the divine is; that the search for God, in many ways, is just a search for oneself.

    But that’s just me; and much of my interest in religion is trying not to focus on what I believe & presenting it to others, but in turning to others. & these others are either unable or unwilling to (& so probably never will) have these same realizations, & no mass destruction of organized religion will ever happen.

    So what about them? How would you approach them, if at all? The problem of evil is really it–assumptions of justice & fairness that are constantly battered by the reality of experience, where both good & bad things seem entirely undeserved in any caculable way.

    So there’s the near mysticism of not wanting to name or talk about God too much; but then the billions of suffering & dying who don’t have that luxury, & who can’t or won’t live without the solace or comfort they think religion will bring.

    Does it just come down to the attitude you brought out in your last post’s comment section, something like openness to all views, compassion to views, & empathy–which only seemed to infuriate the certain folks who were most at odds with you?

    • chicagoja said

      George Orwell said that the truth is a revolutionary act. So when you speak the truth you will likely get attacked from all sides. As German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, the truth is first ridiculed and then it is violently opposed. As for the masses who need the warmth and comfort of religion, that’s as it should be. Everybody is at there stage of personal development for a reason; we are exactly where we are supposed to be. Anyway, you can’t save the world because it’s not savable. All that you can control, and all that you are personally responsible for, is yourself. So live life by being true to yourself and in the process help others along the way.

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