Is Reality Real?
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