What is the connection between imagination and reality? This question is particularly relevant to scientists because they are tasked with defining theoretical models to describe the reality our world.
The problem exists because by definition reality is independent of the mind and any abstract mechanism it can create concerning it. Therefore only way we can be sure the theoretical models created by the imagination have any connection to reality or physicality of the world we see and touch is by connecting it to what we can see and touch.
This would be true even though they make accurate predictions of all observable events in the environment it describes.
For example Quantum theory makes extremely accurate predictions of particle interactions based on mathematically generated probability functions. However it also tells us that particles do not exist until a conscience observer looks at them. In other words it is tells us that reality is completely dependent on the mind because it assumes the act of observation by the mind creates the physical reality of the particle world.
However this also it means there can be more than one reality because if it is completely dependent on the mind each individual mind can create one suited to its needs.
This presents a problem for science because as mentioned earlier it is tasked with defining a unique existence or set of facts describing the world in which we live.
However if existence is only defined by the mind as quantum mechanics suggests then identifying the unique existence of our world would be impossible because each mind can contain many different ones.
Einstein was often quoted as saying “If a new theory was not based on a physical image simple enough for a child to understand, it was probably worthless.”
He realized for science to make a claim that they have organized the natural world into a single set of patterns or laws that describes its reality they must be able to physically connect the independent models developed by our minds and imaginations to the world that exists outside of it.
For example Newton in a letter to Bentley in 1693, talks about a conceptual problem he has with his gravity theory by rejecting the action at a distance that it requires.
“It is inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter without mutual contactâ€¦That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking can ever fall into it.”
However Einstein realized he could explain this by extrapolating the physical image of how objects move on a curve surface in a three-dimensional environment to a curved four dimensional space-time manifold to explain how gravity “may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum” in terms of a curvature in space and time. This allowed him to understand the “reality” behind gravity based on a physical image formed by the reality of what we can see and touch in our three-dimension world.
In other words he was able to connect the world he created in his mind and imagination to the “reality” of our three dimensional environment in terms of a physical imaged formed by the observable properties of our world.
Unfortunately many of today scientists seem to be ignoring the lessons taught to us by Einstein. They chose to look for reality only in terms of abstract mathematics instead of the physical imagery given to us by the reality of what we can see and touch.
One reason may be because it is easier to alter an abstract mathematical environment to conform to an observational inconsistency than it is to alter one based on physical imagery.
For example Quantum theory makes predictions based on the random properties of a probability function. However because its abstract properties are not connected to any physical images of our world all observations no matter how inconsistent they are with the physical world it is describing can be incorporate into it.
This is in sharp contrast to the space-time environment defined by Einstein in that projecting the physical image of objects moving on a curve surface in our three-dimensional environment physically connects it to a four-dimensional space time-environment
For example a mass that was repelled by gravity instead of being attracted by it would contradict the physical model define by Einstein and would be extremely if not impossible to explain according his model because that would mean that we should observe objects rolling up hill in our three-dimensional environment. In other words because he defined gravity in terms of a physical image based on how objects move on a curve surface in a three-dimensional environment it makes observations like two masses gravitational repelling each other impossible to incorporate into it.
If however if some observation happened to contradict the complimentary principal of quantum mechanics such as simultaneously observing both the particle and wave properties of mass it could easily explained in terms of the fact that its probability functions tell us that anything that can happen eventually will. This makes it impossible to find an observation that would contradict it because it tells us the even the impossible is possible if we wait long enough. However this can only happen in an abstract environment which is not bound by the physicality of our observational world because in that world we observe that some things just cannot happen.
But why should science put in the effort to understand the physical reality of our world when both the abstract mathematical foundation of quantum mechanics and the physics imagery of Einstein’s theories make very accurate predictions of future events based on the past.
Because the mission of a science is to define reality which can only be done in terms of what we perceive in the world around us which is not, by definition abstract.
Copyright 2013 Jeffrey O’Callaghan