Blogs by Willie Maartens
REALITY OR WHAT?
8/8/2006 9:13:52 AM
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What is reality then?
Do we know reality? Well, in fact no – we only perceive reality as best we can with our five severely limited senses! However, there is an objective reality out there, but we view it through the spectacles of our beliefs, attitudes, and values.
As Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Lord Chancellor of England (1618-21), a lawyer, statesman, philosopher, and master of the English tongue, once remarked, “The human understanding is like a false mirror, which receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolours the nature of things by mingling its own with it.”
Thinking is a mental activity of a trial-and-error nature that precedes physical action. It occurs when the next step to be taken is unknown because some difficulty interferes with action.
Thinking is a complex activity. It consists of three elements: percepts, concepts, and generalisation, together with the processes that relate them, induction, and deduction. There are also subordinate processes such as classification and the production of hypotheses.
All thinking starts with perception, and perception is the process whereby sensory stimulation is translated into organised experience. That experience, or percept, is the joint product of the stimulation and of the process itself. Relations found between various types of stimulation (e.g., light waves and sound waves) and their associated percepts suggest inferences that can be made about the properties of the perceptual process. Theories of perceiving then can be developed based on these inferences.
Before Newton there had been two opposing trends in 17th century science; the empirical, inductive method represented by Roger Bacon (1220-1292), an English Franciscan philosopher and educational reformer, and the rational, deductive method represented by Rene Descartes.
Isaac Newton (1643-1727), in his Principia, introduced the proper mixture of both methods, emphasising that neither experiments without systematic interpretation nor deduction from first principles without experimental evidence will lead to a reliable theory. Going beyond Roger Bacon in his systematic experimentation and beyond Descartes in his mathematical analysis, Newton unified the two trends and developed the methodology upon which natural science has been based ever since.
Wherever there has been science, there have been attempts at careful observation. The ancient Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384-322 BC), for instance, recorded the heartbeat of a chicken’s embryo while it was still in the egg. After Aristotle, the path of science was clouded for almost two thousand years. A few advances were made in Alexandria where the Arabs contributed their numerals, and in India where the symbol for zero was invented. The method of induction, however, was almost forgotten in the preoccupation of that time with the dogma of religion.
Then Roger Bacon reawakened an interest in experiment. He declared that facts should not be accepted until they were verified. As a Franciscan monk, Roger Bacon gave a religious interpretation to the search for knowledge, declaring that its purpose was to know the ‘Creator’ by the evidence of the external world. He called on scholars to break the bonds of custom by recognising the indispensability of experience.
Although no immediate reform followed the work of Roger Bacon, he opened the way for the work of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who lived in England over three hundred years later. Francis Bacon re-established the inductive method. Although not a major scientist, he was nevertheless, one of the most effective advocates of science who ever lived. Knowledge must begin with observation rather than with generalisation, he believed, pointing out that, ‘… what in observation is loose and vague is in information deceptive and treacherous’.
Nevertheless, neither mathematics nor physics (no science in fact) can entertain the qualitative notion of ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ (or good or bad), the qualitative notion of values and morals.
Reality is about values and morals in the first instance. Therefore, the vertical dimension completely disappeared from the scientific maps. Our science has become a flat, two-dimensional science (a one-dimensional map); it took the inflated balloon of reality and then flattened it like a sheet of paper!
James Gleick in his book Chaos: making a new science, (1998:278-279) wrote, ‘The choice is always the same. You can make your model more complex and more faithful to reality, or you can make it simpler and easier to handle. Only the most naïve scientist believes that the perfect model is the one that perfectly represents reality. Such a model would have the same drawbacks as a map as large and detailed as the city it represents, a map depicting every park, every street, every building, every tree, every pothole, every inhabitant, and every map. Were such a map possible, its specificity would defeat its purpose: to generalise and abstract. Mapmakers highlight such features as their clients choose. Whatever their purpose maps and models must simplify as much as they mimic the world.’
So we must clearly understand that we absolutely have to simplify (abstract, classify, and generalise), but the moment we start to do precisely that, at that exact moment we start to move away from reality again!
God, how wonderful is your creation and how stunted our perception, our understanding! Thank YOU!
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MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS - Monday, August 21, 2006
FOR THE LOVE OF KNOWLEDGE - Sunday, August 20, 2006
THE STORY OF THE GNOME AND THE GENOME - Saturday, August 19, 2006
KNOWLEDGE AND FAITH - Thursday, August 17, 2006
CULTURE AND HUMAN RIGHTS - Monday, August 14, 2006
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FOR THE SAKE OF LOVE - Thursday, August 03, 2006
WHAT IS MIND? - Monday, July 31, 2006
THE MENTAL DEPRIVATION OF ATHEISM AND SCEPTICISM - Friday, July 28, 2006
ATHEISTS AND ARROGANCE – IS THEIR ANY DIFFERENCE - Thursday, July 27, 2006
I REALLY WANT TO KNOW - Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Do you Know? - Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Liefdesdroom - Monday, July 10, 2006
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SORRY FOR THE DEBRIS - Wednesday, July 05, 2006