The mind of man vs. reality
Why Occam’s razor and coincidence don’t matter
We live by reason. The mental justification for something to be or to be done has to be acknowledged. Of course, often it is something so ingrained that we don’t even really think much about it. Experiences and memories play a part of this for an individual. But there is within the social order a sharing of ideas that comes into play. We accept notions or ideas because someone said or communicated something. This can be very dangerous.
Our tribal nature precludes us to value the integrity of other’s thought and communications. If someone tells you that danger lurks over the hill, you are inclined to accept that as true because group cohesion is based on the idea of survival. The desire to excel and thrive is even more so. If someone said something that was shown not to be true then this reduces trust. The reason for something not to be true does not change the fact that the information was illegitimate. Bad information is a problem even if it is not catastrophic.
Then there is the issue of what is truth. Can somebody’s truth be somebody’s non- truth? Well, gee, that does not make for social cohesion or unity, does it? What about the individual? Serious conflict between the individual and the group is never a good thing.
If society says the world is flat and somebody says that it is round, then, is there a problem? Only if people care enough. If society says that an idea about the world is foundational to their worldview then challenging that fact is a threat to society. This makes one very unpopular with the many even if they are correct (i.e. Galileo).
But is there a correct point of view? Is the earth round and not flat? Is that true let alone The Truth? It is certainly a different idea but is it correct in detail? I would say no. Round or flat earths are not true.
So why am I making such a fuss about logic and epistemology? Is there really a big problem here? I believe there is. If we don’t challenge what we think and what we know then we are dead in the world. The universe is a big place. It is complex and embraces a vast range of scales from the sub-atomic to the inter-galactic. Of course, this is overwhelming and maybe of no practical benefit. The value is realizing that what we think we know is at best an illusion. There is always something more. Yes, even that which is staring us in the face and we interact with every day is a mirage (maya). If we don’t understand the whole truth of something then we will tend to change the half truth that we do know into something that naturally glosses over the unknowns that we have little or no awareness of. How convenient is that for our perceptual bubble?
Still you might say, is not this just the natural state of man’s mind? How can we know about something that is not known? In our minds, we live in a illusion. The world outside of our minds – the body, the local environment and the entire universe are absolutely real and true. There is no partition hindering connectivity. We choose to think the map is reality.
So what is it that separates the mind from everything else? Is the mind alien to the real world? Of course, that is silly but we choose to accept that mind, thought, language and memory are accurate reflections of things that are not them (e.g. everything else). This means that your rational understand of anything has huge limits and, if you don’t know that, the problems you encounter will be huge.
Without going into the weeds about some specific example, I want to mention Occam’s Razor and coincidences (“coinkidinks”). It is advocated by some that the middle-ages philosopher Occam opined that the simplest explanation for something was probably correct. Is there a problem here? A lack of complexity is not truth. I don’t know anything more complex and quirky than cellular biochemistry. How does that fit with the virtue of simplicity of thought? The lack of complex thought about something is a sign of something . . . but not of the truth.
And then there is everybody’s favorite, coincidence! If two things can be linked by a thought then there must be direct a causative relationship between the two. Now I will admit that according to the nature of quantum physics, subatomic particles have connections to one another that are hard to fully fathom at the scale that we experience reality but the idea that one thing causes another through direct action is unprovable as well as illogical. Selected things do not exist in a simple universe where, like dominos, the action of one thing causes the action of another.
Now I would like you to take this idea I am presenting and just consider any action, be it personal, interpersonal or social, and apply what I am saying to relationships with people or big questions about social policies or scientific debate. Now consider having a serious thought about something you don’t really understand. Does the emotional investment in your thought or memory have value to you? Does it put you on the right side of the fence and increase your social acceptance? Do you really want to seek to understand things deeply? Are your thoughts driven by assumptions or axioms that you don’t really own but have been put there for your ‘convenience’? Is your truth easy to get to because it was paved by others who want to ‘own’ your mind? The red pill or the blue pill are both very easy to swallow but the outcome is literally day or night. It is yours to choose.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. – Albert Einstein