There are few people who provoke my brain more than the late Robert Anton Wilson. In the collection of clips above, RAW gives an analogy of why quantum physics seems so strange to us, telling the story of how his home address at one stage was classified as being in three different suburbs by different agencies:
Remember, we invented the lines on the map. But quantum physics seems confusing because a lot of people think we didn’t invent the lines, so it seems hard to understand how a particle can be in three places at the same time without being anywhere at all. But when you remember that we invented all the boundaries, borders and lines just like the Berlin Wall, then quantum mechanics is no more mysterious than the fact that I live in three places at the same time.
…Any model we make does not describe the Universe, it describes what our brains are capable of saying at this time.
The end of the video also has a wonderful passage about how we all live in our own reality tunnels. And while I think RAW was a little off in equating the different ‘truths’ as given by relativity and quantum mechanics with the ‘truths’ that people collect during their lives, the concluding paragraph is, I think, spot on:
We think this is reality. In philosophy that’s called naive realism: ‘what I perceive is reality’. And philosophers have refuted naive realism every century for the last 2500 years, starting with Buddha and Plato, and yet most people still act on the basis of naive realism.
Now the argument is ‘well maybe my perceptions are inaccurate, but somewhere there is accuracy – the scientists have it with their instruments; that’s how we can find out what’s really real’. But relativity and quantum mechanics have demonstrated clearly that what you find out with instruments is true relative only to the instrument you’re using, and where that instrument is located in space-time. So there is no vantage point from which real reality can be seen; we’re all looking from the point of view of our own reality tunnels.
And when we begin to realise that we’re all looking from the point of view of our own reality tunnels, we find that it’s much easier to understand where other people are coming from, or the ones who don’t have the same reality tunnel as us do not seem ignorant or deliberately perverse or lying or hypnotised by some mad ideology. They just have a different reality tunnel, and every reality tunnel might tell us something interesting about our world, if we’re willing to listen.