Reality or Bunk

Hey there,

As a bit of a philosophical addendum to yesterday’s post about physics, I have a quick thought or two.

To recap, Brian Greene, physicist extraordinaire, says that despite the commonsense perceptions of people everywhere concerning everyday objects and their interactions with them, interactions which indicate that the future relies on the past and not the other way around, the quantum truth is quite the opposite. Using clever experiments and photons, scientists have proven (says Greene) that as far as quantum is concerned, the past is contingent upon the future. The past– that part of time which lies behind us (or in front of us, since that’s the only part we can see… never mind)- is contingent upon– conditioned by and dependent on- the future– that part of time which, in the classical mundane way of thinking, hasn’t happened yet.

And I don’t buy it. I mean, honestly, mixing up the future and the past? What’s next?  Where does it end with these people?

Actually, it’s got me thinking about how we classify reality. To give an example from a couple of hundred years ago: Some yuppie (or the contemporal equivalent) is in a bookstore in the 17th century when he happens to see a book by Galileo on the celestial bodies. He picks it up and flips to a random page, where he reads that, against all evidence to the contrary, the sun does not rise in the sky. Rather, the sun is the one motionless body in our solar system, and the planets all move around the sun, including the earth. What he sees when he looks east in the morning to see the sun creeping over the horizon is something like an illusion.

Is this young man wrong, then, to comment on the sun’s passage across the sky in a sonnet to his sweetheart? I don’t think so. He is describing the way that things really are- the sun really is moving across the sky, just as the sun truly is ‘anchored’ in the center of the system and the earth revolves around it. Both of these things are true, albeit true in different ways. Maybe it’s just a perspectival thing.

In the same way, I don’t think that any findings as can be found with these quantum experiments will cancel out the reality that seconds, minutes, and days wait their turn patiently to happen in a nice orderly manner, and nobody is contingent on anybody after them…

As my dear late grandmother said “Reality’s reality; it’s got to be what it is.” Or something to that effect.

-Daniel

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