Ask Dr. SETI ®
by Ed Chatterton
from the January, 2014 issue of Penn Central,
the monthly newsletter of Central PA Mensa,
used by permission
Because Dan Duda and I share a common interest, I am always intrigued by his articles. Because he is so much more knowledgeable than I, I almost always learn from them. His recent description of quantum weirdness (Does the Universe Have an Agenda?) re-ignited my thought, and the new contemplation has given me a new insight.
I have always been and tried to be skeptical. My first grade teacher called my grandmother to complain that I had made many of my classmates cry by telling them that there was no Santa. I sanctimoniously felt my superiority to those who relied on faith as a foundation of their beliefs.
Recently, however, in thinking about quantum weirdness, I have been humbled by the sudden discovery that some of my beliefs are based on faith. I have no problem with the proposition that humans have not evolved to grok particle/wave duality. I am not confident we will escape extinction long enough for evolution to grant us that complete understanding. However, my recent insight is that I have always had faith that the understanding in principle is available in a Platonic sense, and that it is consistent with the evidence. I have always had faith that truth contains no inconsistencies.
Since I view theism as obviously internally inconsistent, I have let that particular description of ultimate reality join Santa in the set of things I believe to be false. But, like poor Euclid, I have insufficiently examined my axioms. The consistency of reality for me has been a self-evident truth, so obvious and basic as to escape my critical evaluation.
Quantum weirdness seems to challenge the consistency axiom, and because it doesn't occur to us that the axiom might be false, we conjure up interpretations of the evidence. Since I am unable and unwilling to discard the axiom, I must continue on that path.
I am not tempted to dismiss the consistency axiom because to do so would force me to give up my entire understanding (such as it is) of reality. Yes, reality is absurd in some respects, and quantum weirdness, Godel's theorem, and perhaps other phenomena for me are intractable paradoxes. But like Linus needs his blanket, I absolutely need my consistency, logic, and some order to survive until the end.
My insight, then, is an explicit acceptance of the axiom of consistency. I have faith (ugh) that it is true. If the axiom is false, then I will have to join Linus in the padded cell.
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this page last updated 4 January 2014
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