Is Reality Real?

04/18/2016

Everybody I talk to is so certain of just about everything. It certainly gives the impression that no one is wrong about anything.  So, here’s a little pop quiz for those who think that they know everything.

What is a table made out of? If you answered wood, that’s fine. If so, then what is the wood made out of? In other words, what is the essence of matter? For those of you who answered the atom, very good. So what, then, does the atom mostly consist of?

Answer: Its 99.9% empty space. Show of hands. How many got that right?

Back to the original question: What is a table made out of? Best answer: Mostly empty space.

Then, what is reality you might ask. Good question. Karl Pribram, a neurophysiologist and physicist, says that we exist in a virtual reality matrix where our brains construct reality by interpreting frequencies that are projections from beyond space and time. In other words, the physical world is a projection from the quantum world. With regards to how we actually view our reality, science says that 2-D optical impulses are sent to the brain where they are converted into 3-D holographic images. So, where is it that we actually “see” an object? Perhaps, you can now see where I am going with this (no pun intended).

Sleep studies show that we roll over in bed at night, sometimes a lot. After all, we wake up in a different position than when we fell asleep. Since we’re asleep, who tells our body to roll over and why don’t we ever fall out of bed? For that matter, how would we even know where the edge of the bed is, since our eyes are closed? Obviously, we don’t understand what consciousness is and therefore we lack an understanding of who and what we really are.

Then there’s the curious case of our belief systems. Given what was just said, do we even have an accurate view of life? How can one make enough sense out of our perception of reality (since that’s all that it is) in order to make proper decisions (e.g. in order to be able to differentiate between right and wrong). Consider this: science has discovered that decisions are made in our mind even before we are consciously aware of them! So, who really made the decision?  Who are we?

One of the wisest men in history was the Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates understood that no matter how much he knew, his knowledge would be dwarfed by what he did not know. Today, science has confirmed what Socrates knew intuitively. That is, reality is not understandable. As Einstein said, man will never be able to grasp the magnitude of the Universe and we now can appreciate why that is. The source of matter, and therefore the origins of reality, can be traced to the quantum world. It’s a world that we cannot penetrate. We can only theorize what it is like and what kind of natural laws might operate therein.

So you can probably see why I am a little skeptical when people tell me with absolute confidence that they know an answer to a particular question. As a Greek philosopher once said, “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion” – and now we know that atoms are basically empty space as well.

Aside: Of course, there is no such thing as empty space as what we’re really talking about here is a quantum field.

Life is truly an enigma which scientists are still trying to figure out. As astrophysicist Martin Rees noted, “Life is the most mysterious of all the wonders of creation because atoms have been assembled in such a way so that they can ponder their own existence.” However, because we have a very limited understanding of reality, we can ponder our existence all we want but I believe that our opinions are just that – they are opinions, and not facts. After all, how can you prove something, indeed anything, that you do not understand in the first place? If you believe otherwise, please enlighten me.

 

“In the world of physics…the shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper…the frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadow…”

   – Arthur Eddington, astronomer, physicist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This post certainly isn’t Shakespeare.  However, it is about a tragedy, a modern-day version.  That is, politics rarely results in anything productive. Today, with all the backroom deals and secret handshakes, the world is upside down. As Shakespeare put it, there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.  That said, a little background is probably in order.

 

Historical background

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was carved up by the victors (the Western Powers). They took a magic marker to the map of the Middle East and completely redrew all the boundaries. As a result, countries like Syria and Iraq were created out of thin air.

Further, the British were given a mandate by the League of Nations to administer certain occupied territories in the Middle East which would be used, for among other things, to create a Jewish homeland. That mandate is referred to as the Palestine Mandate, with Palestine referring to what is now the combined areas of Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. The original term of Palestinian referred to anyone then living within the boundaries of this new territory of Palestine, including Christians and Jews.

Fast forward to 1967, at which time various Arab countries attacked Israel in what would become known as the Six-Day War. Those Arab countries, which included Jordan, were on the losing side of that war and as a result Jordan ceded to Israel those lands west of the Jordan River (the West Bank). To the victors go the spoils, or so they say. Ever since, there has been an international dialogue to have Israel give the West Bank to the Palestinians to create a new and separate Arab state.

 

Making a bad situation worse

Today, the world is stuck with the political deals that the Western Powers made with each other at the end of World War I. Unfortunately, there is no way to unwind what has already been done and moving forward with a reasonable solution has proved to be elusive. So, as world leaders answer the clarion call, it would be good to remember a few salient points:

  • There has been a lot of discussion of returning the West Bank to the Palestinians, as if there ever was such a country. However, there has never been a country of Palestine – not in modern times and not even in ancient times. So, creating an Arab state for the Palestinians would not be a case of returning the West Bank to them, but rather it would be creating a Palestinian state for the very first time in history.
  • The Palestinians are not the only group in the world without a homeland. There are significant minority populations in any number of countries who have never had their own homeland. For example, the largest minority population in the world is actually the Kurds (who also live in the Middle East). However, there has never been any talk of giving them a homeland.
  • If Israel is forced to give up the West Bank, it could set a dangerous precedent.  If that were to happen, who might be next? Is it possible that America might be asked to return the Southwestern United States (stretching all the way from California to Texas) back to Mexico, since it was acquired as a result of the U.S./Mexican War.

Unfortunately, a precedent such as this would likely have an unexpected ripple effect. So, is there a reason why the world is hell-bent to make a bad situation worse?

 

The run-up to WWWIII

Although the status quo is far more palatable to me than the solutions offered up so far, I do have a proposal that might end the stalemate. Actually, it wasn’t very difficult to come up with it either. That is, simply have Israel give the West Bank back to Jordan. Yes, the very same Jordan that the West Bank used to be a part of. Jordan is a pretty stable government and they can probably be counted on to keep the peace.  Besides, a majority of the people currently residing in Jordan are actually Palestinians!

Despite its appeal, this proposal will no doubt fall on deaf ears. That’s because there is more money to be made from war than from peace. World War III anyone?

 

Epilogue

While we’re at it, let’s return North America (Canada and America) back to the Native Americans, have China return Tibet to the Tibetans and give North Korea back to South Korea.  Who would like the task of breaking the news to Kim Jong-un?

 

“The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”

      – King Hussein of Jordan