“All I know is that I know nothing” argued the deep ancient philosopher Socrates. His argument is based on the fact that one cannot know anything with absolute certainty; they could only know something with a fractional amount of confidence. Socrates had written this quote nearly two thousand years ago. With our vast advances in modern technology, science, mathematics, and equipment to record data, over the last two millenniums, one would assume that we would long grow this view of not knowing anything. However, with the vaster amount of knowledge, we obtain we somehow gain the unveiling of new unknown knowledge. The famous phrase answers breed more questions, suggests that we are in a never-ending loop of certainty about reality. Could Socrates be right after all? Do we actually know anything about reality?
On a very simple basic level of understanding, questioning reality seems a bit too radical, irrational and just plain stupid. The world would simply be what it is around us; the nature of the objects would be according to our senses. However, as science progressed by, we realized our senses aren’t always right. In fact, we have found many flaws in human perception such as the McGurk effect, which is an illusion, occurs when the auditory component of one sound is paired with the visual component of another sound, leading to the perception of a third sound. An example of this McGurk effect is a when McGurk asked his technician to make a videotape with the audio syllable “ba” dubbed onto a visual “ga.” When they played the tape, McGurk and McDonald perceived “da.”
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Confusion reigned until they realized that “da” resulted from a flaw in human perception. He tested it out with children and other subjects who received the same results to realize that even simple human perception of sight and sound can be twisted and tricked. Many other physiological experiments show flaws in human perception such as the blind spot our eyes cannot observe an image correctly, or and certain waves sound and sight waves) our senses cannot pick up. With this said, the common view that reality is just the objects picked up by our senses has to reconsider.
With these facts, and experiments we can conclude a more detailed truth of reality really is. But what if these facts weren’t entirely true? In the modern debate between an absolutely defined universe, and a shady universe you can never be completely certain about, two applications that are always brought into the light, the aspect of science and the aspect of religious beliefs. Religion is often seen as the scapegoat to answers. In religious beliefs, the answer to the question is a matter of faith or leap of logic to the belief itself. The answer is not questionable and is often accepted blindly as the absolute truth for the reason of events. Obviously for skeptical human beings religion cannot be accepted as the sole answer to all the questions. So one would turn into, what most would consider, a completely logical field called science. Science, which is based on repeated observation and tested results, is often considered the logical answer to finding the holy grail of the absolute truth. Science is seen as the answer to what essential reality really is; it’s seen as the wooden stake through the heart of Socrates’s philosophy stated above. It provides us with a detailed explanation of our known concepts of reality.
The McGurk effect for example is an application brought about in scientific inquiry and test to prove that ordinary realizations of sensory can be flawed. However, is it possible that this overseen absolute truth bringer, science can be flawed also? Science even with its repeated tested applications, believe it or not, has some uncertainty behind its hidden absolute truth. We can take a brief look at science history to see its various see the uncertainty of its absolute truth. One of the most looked into fields of science looked at is physics, which is considered to be humans’ explanation of the mathematical nature of the physical side of nature. In the late 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton had described a physical explanation of the universe; he described the physical motions of all objects in the universe by starting out with set definitions, he had observed. From set definitions of gravity, force, distance, and motion, he was able to define and predict how all (known) objects were able to move. James Maxell two centuries later was able to finally add to Newton’s famous laws by describing the properties of waves such as light, and sound in discrete formulas that all agreed with Newton’s work.
Towards the 19th century, Scientists everywhere finally thought physics had reached its peak. Scientists had finally believed that with the combination of Newton and Maxwell’s law they had a complete description of the universe around them. They had tested observations that support all their claims and felt pretty confident in knowing the absolute truth. However, these straightforward “facts” were all twisted and morphed in the beginning 20th century, when Marx Plank completely changed the field of modern science. Planck introduced a stunningly simple, yet strangely unsettling, concept: that light (or any other electromagnetic radiation, such as infrared, ultraviolet, or X-ray) must carry energy in discrete quantities.
Astounded and inspired by Plank’s discovery, scientists of the 20th century spend the next few decades looking closer at the behavior of atomic and subatomic particles. Sooner or later after looking closer to the concepts of light, a world-renowned genius, Albert Einstein discovered the photoelectric effect in which he described energy transfer via light in the form of photons. He was one of the first physicists to acknowledge that particles could only obtain certain discrete energies. This radically went against Newton’s laws that were completely set in stone. Albert Einstein came up with the theory of relativity which placed all particles to have a speed limit at the speed of light. He also proposed that when going to near speed of light speed all of Newton’s laws of physics break down. Einstein was also able to explain Newton claimed force of gravity by describing the universe to be located in a fabric called space-time.
This radically disproved newton’s idea of gravity being an instantaneous unexplainable force. Maxwell’s scientific contributions were completely proven wrong in the 20th century when scientists started to go into quantum physics. They had to set completely new laws to describe waves, which also had properties of particles and vice versa. Some of these laws that were proposed are completely about uncertainty. There is even a principle called the uncertainty principle where one cannot accurately measure the position and velocity of a subatomic particle. The laws of quantum mechanics aren’t set in stone; their laws are based on probability. Nobody can be absolutely certain of what the nature of the particles could do.
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