Edge.org is a website founded with the sole purpose of joining the greatest minds of this world together to make the extraordinary happen. To do this, a question is asked every year, about the world as we know it and how it can change, and everyone is free to answer it. Over 15 years of opinions, thoughts and ideas are stored in this site, the online version of the ‘Reality Club’, the famous group of intellectuals that came together to discuss the questions they couldn’t answer. Currently, and due to its popularity, many well-known scientists answer it every year to motivate everyone to think about the world around them.
This year’s question is:
What scientific idea is ready for retirement?
Many famous scientists have contributed to this project with their ideas, some examples being:
Richard Dawkins, biologist, professor at Oxford and author; who believes that essentialism is obsolete. This is a term used to describe the way humans think of everything belonging to a separate fraction, with nothing being able to exist in between. Like what happens when people argue about abortions, saying that at one point it isn’t human yet, but at another it is. It is supposed to be gradual, where it is a quarter human, then 3 quarters… where the distinguishable point in which an embryo becomes human can’t be discerned completely
Irene Pepperberg, author, researcher and lecturer at Harvard University; believes human superiority is not true. Although it is true that humans are special, other animals are too. Humans can’t detect very slight changes of temperature like some snakes, we can’t see ultraviolet light like bees, and we can’t migrate for hundreds of kilometers by using an ‘internal GPS’.
Azra Raza, professor in Medicine in Columbia University, New York; says that cancer research in mice is not useful. Cancer develops differently in mice than in humans, and adding human cancer cells to rats would involve injecting drugs to suppress an immunological response, which would affect the results. Altogether, results from such experiments don’t provide an accurate depiction of a drug’s usefulness.
To answer the question, in my opinion, the term reality is no longer practical. The definition of reality is “the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them”.
However, nowadays, with all these theories about alternate universes, or quantum physics, I feel like we no longer know what is real, what really happens, but rather what we think happens or what data use for our calculations.
The theory of multiverses and infinity, where every possible outcome to a situation happens but in another universe, is mindboggling, because even though to us there is only one reality, if this theory is correct, there is another one of us whose reality is different. So who is right? Are we both right? But how do we know the answer?
Another example of this situation is virtual reality, having a world online. You can play a game on the internet, build a house in it, etc. but once you go offline, is that house really there? It’s not physical, at least in the traditional way, but more like an idea stored in chips and computers.
And every time a new theory is thought of, when calculations go wrong or results given don’t agree with predictions, theoretical values can used, so we are not actually describing reality, but our reality where we idealize every quantity to get an understandable result.
With these manipulations of reality, we can’t really know what actually happens and what we hope/believe happens, so reality is no longer real.
If you want to share your opinion, go to www.edge.org and answer it yourself!