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Swarms of locusts in Madagascar, or clouds of elementary particles, without sound, odor, flavor or color? Reality is harder to pin down than you first might think. (AFP/Getty Images)

Science Sees Its Own Reality In Life's Hall Of Mirrors

by Alva Noë
Nov 22, 2013

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The Bible says God created the heaven and earth. God made the great swarms of living creatures. God created us.

Science dismisses this story. It is a fairy tale. But science goes much farther. God is an illusion, yes. But so is the world we fancy that he created.

Swarms of living things? Human beings? Heaven and earth? None of this is real. Not really.

What there really is, for science, are only things made up of smaller things made up of smaller things made up of smaller things.

Bumble bees and dune buggies, mountains and snow drifts, lions and tigers, boys and girls — apparent variety notwithstanding, these are all one. Like everything else, they are clouds of particles, without sound, odor, flavor or color.

The variety is in our heads. We are confabulators and the world we think we know and share is, at best, our figment. A grand illusion.

But what about us? What is a brain but a cloud of particles? If the world is a figment, an image or a confabulation, then whose image is it? And where and what is this image, this fantasy, anyway?

We started out with things made up of smaller things made of of smaller things. We end up, it seems, with figments inside of figments.

The religious creation story is almost impossible for those raised outside the confines of religious communities to take seriously.

Is the same true of the story of physics?


You can keep up with more of what Alva No is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @alvanoe

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