Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The Universe. What is it?
One view of the relation between knowledge and objective reality is represented by the above figure. The truth (say, the nature of the Universe)is represented by the X-Y axis, and our understanding of this reality by the curve. Note that while we can only approach reality, it is presumed that this reality exists and is not merely a construction that emerges from our knowledge-seeking activity.
This approach would seem humble enough. We might describe this relationship between the scientist and objective reality as similar to that between the questioner in a game of 20 Questions and the object of his search. In the traditional form of this game, the truth is determined and the questioner seeks it through what amounts to hypothesis generation.
Imagine, however, another way of playing 20 Questions. Rather than the group selecting an answer before questioning begins, in this version the questioning begins and respondents answer yes or no randomly. The only order imposed is the requirement that each response not contradict earlier responses. This poses a bit of a challenge, but a patient and clever group can handle it. Might not this process characterize the way knowledge is produced? Might what we take to be the objective reality of the universe be nothing but a set of internally consistent answers to the questions we see fit to ask of it?