What’s real #6…?

Posted on August 19, 2011


We introduced a basic building block or mini-model to help explore the question what’s real or true. We


proposed, after Hawking, that packages of truth or reality depend on models or contexts filled with particular assumptions and sensors  that  construct packages of truth or reality to fit those particular beliefs,  biases, and bits of experience. You plus a gieger counter  ‘see’ a chunk of uranium differently than you alone – which image is real? Both are real in their particular context. You plus  a microscope are going to ‘see’ a drop of water differently from you alone, a Republican is going to hear an Obama speech differently than  a Democrat and also get a different message from Rush Limbaugh’s talk show.

So the mini-model consists of a ‘context’ – a set of explicit or implicit (unconscious) assumptions and detectors or sensors that construct packages of truth or realityy. You have different degrees of confidence in different packages – different degrees of trust. It will take a lot of surprises ( exposure to radically different contexts) to get a tea party Republican to change their particular ‘truth’ about Obama than it will to change that of a moderate Republican or an independent.  Our model assumes that to maintain your sanity, at any given time,  you must have high (blind) trust in most of the packages of truth or reality. We presume that you can only mentally and emotionally afford to doubt –  attempt to unwrap and reconstruct, one or two packages at any given time.

Ship at sea

It’s like repairing a ship at sea – in order to repair one defective or rotting plank you must assume – trust – that the other planks and the ship are sound. Otherwise you’re mentally or physically running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.  Similarly, as you sail through life you  must blindly trust most of the people you know – family, friends, colleagues, “experts” . doctors. mechanics, druggists, other drivers, cooks, cops, teachers, etc.  You  can only doubt or suspect a very few otherwise you’d  be  afraid to make a move.

We are currently facing uncertain times. For many  of us the doubt/trust ratio in our lives – our contexts – is increasing resulting in anxiety and stress, and sense the unravelling of previously trusted packages of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ about the future, our jobs, our mortgage, our pension, our banks, ….in brief. our future! We are learning what an import role context – our  assumptions and models of realityy play – in helping us walk into that  future with confidence.

So critically examining  too many of the contexts, our  trusted and unconscious assumptions, beliefs and biases that help hold your packages of truth and reality together is both difficult, uncomfortable and  such self-doubt can be dangerous. It’s much easier to critically examine the explicit and implicit assumptions of others.  One way to do so is to ask them three or four ‘whys’ in a row – to every answer they give you ask another ‘why’. In doing so you gradually expose, and they encounter,  their own ignorance, their own blind assumptions.

In brief, it is the contexts  and their  blind and trusted assumptions that hold our packages of truth and reality together. It is these assumptions – formal or informal models – that help us construct and maintain our realities, that make up what Hawking calls  ‘model dependant realism.’

Can you think of an example of a package of truth that you or one of your acquaintances trusts, and then propose a context that would be strong enough to change that package. Hint – recall how the package of reality known as George Bush used to be highly trusted but gradually became a different and flawed chunk of reality as the economy melted – a different context served to unwrap and expose a different truth, a different George Bushy? And now several years later he’s  different George Bush – smaller, less real. This is an example how the passage of time automatically establishes different contexts – a different temporal context – and how many – most? – of our formally trusted turths or realities change. Now list a few truths or realities that don’t appear to change with the passage of time or when placed in a different temporal context?

Ships at sea: flickr.com/photos/62204715@N08/5820522903

Posted in: Sciencing