Thursday, July 3, 2008

Reality is an illusion

So then, it's been a while since I've posted anything here. There's no particular reason for this, other than because I haven't really had anything to say. I feel I finally do but it isn't about programming or gaming, so bear with me.

Right now, my mind is of a scientific persuasion and I have been contemplating the nature of scientific enquiry. I know this isn't anything particularly new but I have an urge to write about it and I may have something to add to the age old description of what makes a scientist (or I may not... I don't know yet :)). So on with my ramble. I may wander to a point eventually.

I think I need to start with the title. It is part of one of my favourite quotes from Einstein and the full quote is 'Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one'. It was part of my choice of name for this distinguished blog :) I've had a reason to think on it some more recently though and I think I have come to a line of thought that is at least new to me and relates this illusion not just to reality (which can easily be seen from just a quick glance over both quantum physics and relativity) but also to our description of reality, the laws and theories of physics. These are in a sense the ultimate illusion of reality as they give us a way of predicting things, making observations and generally increasing our knowledge. However, the only way we come up with new theories and laws is by questioning the currently established set and saying 'are these correct?'. Our description of how reality works is only ever expanded upon by attempting (and succeding) in showing that the current description is merely an illusion that fits the current observations of the greater illusion.

So, with the idea of reality as an illusion, and our description of reality as a higher-order illusion I turn now to the question:
'Is this correct?'
This question can be applied to any form of opinion, belief, idea or theory. It is this introspection that a scientist constantly requires and that a faith lacks. A true beliver starts from the assumption that they are correct and bases all ideas and conclusions on that. Even if they are later shown by evidence to be wrong with their initial assumption they will have become so used to the idea that they are right that it isn't themselves who are wrong, but everything else. A scientist starts from the assumption that they are wrong. If later on someone else (or themselves) shows that this is indeed the case, there is no shock or disappointment because they already knew that. It can just be taken in stride, examined and a better (but still wrong) idea can be put in place.

Applied to this post and my ideas, I have to say that no, I am not correct. What I'm saying is most likely complete nonsense, and the furthest I could possibly get from the truth. However, it is a starting point and it explains some things. So why bother? Curiosity and the thought that even though you are wrong, where the idea takes you may be interesting and, more importantly, slightly less wrong than the previous explanation. And it is this desire to be less wrong that expands the knowledge of the human race.

p.s. I know this post is kinda weird. It also doesn't flow particularly well. It was just something I was trying to get sorted in my own head and I think it's succeded on that front. If anyone wants, I can try and clean this up at another point but for now it's been sitting in my head for months and I'm gonna leave it as it is ;)

1 comment:

random guy said...

I've heard about the quote but never knew what it meant, so thanks for the explanation. Now, regarding the so called illusion, I read an article on the, it was a theory that out 3D space is actually a projection of a 4 dimensional surface that exists on the edge of the Universe, meaning that we don't exist 'here', but on out there, on the margins of space and time and out notion of 'here' is just an illusion.
It is a very interesting thought indeed.
Btw, here's a neat diagram of how science and religion work :)