How Objective is the World?
Gosh, it’s pretty darned objective, all right. But is that an objective observation? Isn’t it more like a gut feeling that we have spent several millennia attempting to rationalize?
What then are the measures of its objectivity? The world does very often seem to be impervious to our desires. The world does seem to extend very far beyond our ken. The world seems to be a buzz with activity occurring well outside of anyone’s purview. The world seems natural almost to a ‘t.’ Have I missed anything?
Yet, none of these measures is even barely quantifiable. One might surmise that objectivity is an all or nothing proposition. A miss is as good as a mile. That would put the burden of proof on the objectivist – an onerous burden.
The best evidence for the world’s objectivity is anecdotal in nature. For instance, history must be real because we can precisely record it with film. But then consider the Kennedy assassination. What precisely was recorded? How do we know that it was not a staged event, and that Jack and Marilyn have retired to a village in the jungle? All that we have are probabilities, and how objective are they?
Consider a library full of printed books. Each one must be objectively real because we can take anyone of them and compare it precisely with its copy at some remote library. Those two books could be shown to remain as fixed objects down through the millennia. Isn’t that close enough to a measure of absolute objectivity? How could that happen in a dream world?
In an immaterial world an artifact is not as real as the idea it represents. The character of Tom Sawyer is more real than the books representing that character. Why then in such an ideal world might there be a misspelling of Tom’s name in one of the editions? Why would there be typos in our dreaming of Tom Sowyer (sic)? Isn’t that proof that we are not dreaming?
If physical objects just represent ideas, why do they get scratched and dented? The problem is that if there were no scratches and dents, rather than thinking we were dreaming, we would probably think we were in heaven. The scratches, dents, and typos are a very significant part of what makes this world seem natural. They serve a very important cognitive function. Virtual reality workers strive to reproduce them. Spell checkers of the future may have a ‘typo’ option to give documents that authentic look. The fact that creation comes with a built-in ‘typo’ function should impress us with the ingenuity of the creator. But, instead, when our new car is scratched we are more likely to curse. Next time be more appreciative. Realize that the joke is on us. We already are in heaven, but God wants us to wonder about it. As we spiritualize the economy, self-repairing artifacts will begin to appear, but we may have to pay extra to get the ‘lead out.’
Am I being too facile? No doubt. The world is an ‘external’ manifestation of our collective memory. Where would we be without memory? The dent in my fender is the trace of a traumatic memory, a personal reminder that physics is not just a good idea. It is the law. It is the imperfections that individualize and personalize the world. Cosmetic surgery is not everyone’s ideal. Physical death may be a small price to pay for our memories. Let us not be too facile about the depth of the logic that goes into creation. We still have many lessons to learn.
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