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Have you ever asked yourself what is real? Have you ever wondered if you were real or if your life was real? Most people have; I know I have. But what is reality anyway? Have you ever truly wondered? Let’s start our journey to find out with the definition. The definition of reality goes like this:
Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined to exist. In a somewhat wider definition, reality includes everything that is or has been, whether or not it is observable or even comprehensible to the mind.
Wow, that’s pretty breathtaking isn’t it? It’s also fairly spectacular because it states that our reality includes not only the stuff we can see and measure, but also things we can’t see or even understand. As weird as that sounds this has actually been confirmed by scientists working in the fields of quantum mechanics and string theory. One of the startling facts these scientists have uncovered is that we actually live in a world of 11 separate dimensions. Of these 11 dimensions, we only have direct contact with 3 of them. The other eight are curled up and attached to the 3 we move around in, but we have no direct knowledge of them. So one interesting fact we have now uncovered is that our reality includes a lot of unobservable, and immeasurable stuff.
We still need to find an answer to our question, though. What if we took a poll? Polls seem to be one of the favored ways to get peoples’ opinions on everything today so let’s explore that tactic.
If you took a poll and asked any group of people what they think constitutes reality you would no doubt get a variety of responses. You would find some people who would say that reality does include those things which are unseen. These unseen elements would be in the realm of the spiritual or supernatural. These people would also tell you that you can’t see these things or directly know them, but they are part of our reality nevertheless. You would also get people who would say that reality consists only of what you can see and touch. “If I can see it, it’s real.” You would also likely get an opposite response such as “If I can’t see it, or measure it, it doesn’t exist.” Can these sorts of opposing opinions cause problems? Unfortunately they do, particularly concerning religious beliefs, and especially about the existence of the Christian God.
Tell an atheist or agnostic you believe in the Christian God and then ask them if they believe. None of them will agree with you of course. They will more than likely tell you that there is no proof that God exists. They may even ask you “Since you believe in Him why don’t you prove that He does exist.” On the face of it this all sounds reasonable, but remember our definition of reality. Our reality is also made up of things that no one can see or even understand.
Some atheists have taken their non belief in the Christian God to a new level. Dr. Richard Dawkins, author and scientist, not only doesn’t believe in God he thinks the Christian God is a cruel joke. To be fair, Dr. Dawkins is well respected as a scientist, and is probably a fairly decent person, but for such a smart man his views on reality and man’s place in it are extremely closed and narrow. He is also pretty bitter about the notion of a Creator God as this famous quote of his demonstrates.
”The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
In all frankness, Dawkins thinks he is the smartest person in the room. He is convinced beyond reason that the mechanism of Darwinian evolution can account for not only the creation of the universe, but also the creation and diversity of life on planet Earth. He tells anyone who will listen to him that macro evolution is a fact even though he knows that what he is saying is a lie. He is aware it’s a lie because he doesn’t know or have the slightest clue of any mechanism that supposedly runs macro evolution. You would think that Dr. Dawkins would know the answer to that question, but he doesn’t. Ask him to explain the mechanism that created the first replicating organism on Earth. If you asked him he couldn’t tell you, because he doesn’t know the answer to that either. If he doesn’t know the answer isn’t he exercising faith in Darwin the god of evolution? Well, yes he is! What does Dr. Dawkins think about faith? Here’s a quote on faith by the good Doctor.
“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”
Well there you go. Rock on Dr. Dawkins!
Now back to his quote on God. I particularly like the way he states with authority that God is… “the most unpleasant character in all fiction…” Dr. Dawkins has got his facts confused. It is God who is in fact real and Dr. Dawkins who is the fiction. Let me explain.
The God of the Bible is described as a transcendent, spiritual being. He is also described as the creator of our universe. His transcendent nature also makes Him wholly independent of our space time. He can enter into it at will, and certainly has at various times, but he exists in a realm outside of and independent of it.
Remember our reality consists of everything that is or has been, whether or not it is observable or even comprehensible to the mind. How does all this fit into our question of what is reality? To start to answer that question let’s take a closer look at our universe and its very nature. We’ll start by digging way, way down.
On the subatomic level reality gets more than a bit fuzzy. In fact it gets downright weird. Let’s first look at the nature of matter. All material objects are composed of atoms. The material objects could be the Earth, people, buildings, steel, or anything at all. It doesn’t make any difference what we are looking at everything is composed of matter. The periodic table, which is a table of all the elemental matter known to science, consists of just 103 elements. These elements are the building blocks of everything around us. Each element in the table is composed of tiny groups of very specific particles called atoms. These particles are so small they are invisible even to the most powerful of microscopes.
Atoms are also composed of even smaller particles. An atom’s core is composed of two of these particles, neutrons and protons. The atom’s protons have a positive charge; the neutrons have no charge. The glue that holds the protons and neutrons together is one of the fundamental nuclear forces called the strong force. This elemental force is so strong it is, on a human scale, incomprehensible. In addition, a cloud of electrons surrounds the core of each element’s atom. Depending on the element, the number of electrons orbiting a particular atom varies from 1, which is Hydrogen, to 103, which is the element Lawrencium. Another fundamental nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, holds these electrons in their orbits around their atom.
The forces on these particles all work together in a special way to make up what we perceive as our reality. When you touch something with your finger, say a tabletop, your brain tells you, “I can feel the tabletop”, so you conclude with confidence that the table is real. But is that what really happened? In fact that’s not what happened at all. When you perceive you have touched the tabletop what really happened is the electrons orbiting the atoms in the cells of your finger just get very, very close to the electrons orbiting the atoms in the wood of the tabletop. When both sets of electrons get close they are then repelled by the electromagnetic force. Your brain interprets this interaction of electrons as you touching the tabletop. But that never happened, you really never touched anything. You can see how this works by getting two simple magnets. Lay them facing each other with the positive pole of one magnet pointing towards the positive pole of the other magnet. Then try to move them together. What you find is they can never touch, they are repelled by the electromagnetic force. What this means is you can never ever come in contact or touch anything. Your sense of touch and therefore your sense of what is real in our universe is just an illusion, a mind trick.
The classic representation of an atom you saw in school textbooks was that of a circular space. At the center of the space were little balls that represented the protons and neutrons. A little bit out were little balls orbiting the protons and neutrons that represented the electrons of that atom. Let’s take a closer look at this. If we look at the true scale of the simplest element, hydrogen, some very strange truths emerge. Hydrogen consists of one proton and one orbiting electron. If the hydrogen atom’s proton were one thousand pixels wide the one orbiting electron would only be one pixel wide. The distance of the electron from the hydrogen’s one proton would be, at this scale, eleven miles from the proton. The other weird thing is that protons and electrons are composed of mostly nothing. In addition to that, our hydrogen atom, at the scale we are describing, is made of mostly nothing, empty space. This translates into the fact that what we perceive as solid matter, whether it’s a steel bar, an airplane, and even you, is mostly composed of empty space, nothing!
This now gets even stranger. The atom’s proton and neutron also have no definite locality. They’re here and not here simultaneously. The same is true of an atom’s electrons. They have no locality either. Orbiting electrons are basically a cloud of objects that are both here and not here at the same time. All these particles randomly wink in and out of existence. The other fact of this Alice In Wonderland reality is that the simple act of a human being observing the behavior of any kind of matter actually influences the matter being observed; weird but true. This was confirmed by Thomas Young in his famous double slit experiment. Light was known to have two properties; it was both a particle and a wave. Depending on what Young wanted to observe in his double slit experiment, the light particle obliged him and delivered the exact result he desired. If he was looking for his experiment to produce a wave pattern of light, the light cooperated and produced one. If he wanted the experiment to produce a particle pattern of light, the light again obliged him and produced one. The implications of this are staggering! Your very thoughts can literally control your reality. Life really is a dream!
So what is real in our universe? The sunning answer is that nothing is real! All matter is composed of stuff that is mostly composed of nothing, empty space. The stuff that we perceive as real is in fact not even there. It winks in and out of our space time. So the truth about reality is that life really is just a dream. Who knew that when the classic do-wop tune “Life Is But A Dream” was released by the Harptones, that the Harptones were in fact quantum physicists masquerading as musicians.
© Richard Woodling 2013