Apr. 30, 2015

Bonfire of the uncertainties

Quantum physicists are challenging our supposed insights into science. They postulate that we live in a hologram, 11 dimensions or a computer algorithm. They follow a path trodden by St Augustine of Hippo, who proposed we might live in a dream or a bubble and depicted in the movie 'the Matrix.'

In the past, conventional wisdom and scientists proposed that: the earth was flat; the firmament turned around the earth and that the continents were static.

As Buddha and others have wisely opined, "Nothing is certain." So how does such a conclusion impact our daily lives?

It is easy to accept such things on a macro scale, say by suspending our certainties about the nature of time and space. On a practical level that has little impact on how we behave. How about questioning what we believe about some of the following?

- The future temperature of the planet is largely dependent on human activity (or not).

- All GM crops should be banned?

- Left or right wing politicians would make a better job of running the country.

- Government indebtedness is a good or a bad thing.

- The best way to treat crime is punishment/rehabilitation

- Immigration is a good/bad thing

On a more personal level we might be less certain about:

- Our love is forever

- Our neighbor is nice/ an absolute rotter

- The police/courts are to be trusted/or not


You can see that we all want to cling to our certainties about all these things. Persuading anyone to change from what amounts to their prejudices about such and many other matters is hugely difficult.

So what to do, if we really cannot be certain about anything?

- We can sit around meditating and theorizing about life and avoid as much action as possible. Picking any action has a good chance of it being the wrong one.

- We can go with the conventional wisdom and keep up to date as much as we can on new insights ideas and discoveries. Any views and action we take is likely to be wrong , but at least many will agree with us and we will fit in with the crowd.

- We can satisfy our need for certainty and ignore any evidence to the contrary on our views and act accordingly. Ignorance is bliss.

What we cannot do is to truly know that we are right and others are wrong. How annoying is that?

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