What’s real #2

Posted on August 15, 2011



That’s what they tell us, that’s what  a famous scientist (Hawking and his ‘model dependent realism’ ) and a famous comedian (Colbert’s and his ‘truthiness’ ) tell us is the answer to the question “What’s real? or what’s true?” Answer: It all depends!”

In a way you already know this. You already know that  the ANSWER you get to most questions all depends on who you ask. If you ask about President you get one answer. If you ask a Democrat you get a different answer. If you ask a Christian  about Heaven you get one answer, if you ask an atheist you get laughed at. For instance many Democrats  see big Corporations as heartless money  machines. Whereas Mit Romney, the Republican presidential candidate yelled at a heckler: ” Corporations are people you get one Stephen Colbert makes that very clear on his program The Colbert Report as he makes fun of different people’s point of view. For instance Mit Romney responding  to a heckler pronounced that  “Corporations are people.” Colbert had a field day with that…

But Stephen Hawking isn’t a comedian – he’s a world renown scientist – is he saying what’s true or real all depends on who you ask? He says that since we can’t have direct access to reality – the messages our brains get are filtered through our senses… our brains construct  or create images of reality out of the light waves hitting our eyes. One person.s brain sees a delicious meal, another sees a squirming, green slug. One economist looks into the future and constructs a happy image of the future, another economist looks into the same future as sees disaster. The two economists construct different realities, because they hold different biases – or different models – different mathematical assumptions and cherry pick different bits of information from the flood of data available. That what Hawking means when he talks about ‘model dependant realism’. He’s saying that the reality we ‘discover ‘ or construct  depends on the models we use  – the mathematical assumptions and selective bits of data – we use to construct it.

Lets see if we can construct a simple model to help us better understand  what ‘model dependant realism’ and ‘truthiness’ are all about. If you don’t like our proposal maybe you can construct your own and play with it.

What we’re going to do is propose a model of all models, a model of everything –  a meta-model. Yes, we’re being a bit arrogant but lets see how it works out.

First, a model is supposed to be similar to but simpler than what it represents – like a model ship or model plane.

But notice when we want to model the unknown – like the future – we’re blind. We have to wait til the future arrives to judge how similar it is to our model.

First we propose that we build models – assumptions – about three kinds of worlds or experiences. World #1 deals with the so-called natural world – the world that studied and modeled by the physical sciences like physics and chemistry. The most famous model  – or system of assumptions and observations – about World 1 is Einstein’ model of relativity, and his mathematical model E=mc2.

World 2 deals with your internal or psychological world. There are lots of models, one of the most familiar, but more or less obsolete. models is Freud’s set of assumptions and observations claiming that much our of thinking, feeling and behavior are tied to repressed sexual urges. What do you think of that. What’s your model that helps you make sense of human behavior? Why do you do what you do? because there’s a little you siting in your brain operating the controls. Or is most of your behavior controlled from outside, from the situation you’re in, by group and cultural forces pulling the strings?

Posted in: Sciencing