Friday, March 28, 2008

Doggerel #145: "We Make Our Own Reality"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This entry in the series is a bit of a departure, since this is a silly claim as well as a buzz phrase designed to avoid debate. One of the most common sources of this claim is gross misunderstanding of quantum mechanics, where the woos claim that our observations allow us to choose how the outcome of some event is affected. Of course, this isn't true, since it's not consciousness or desire that affects stuff, it's the inherently active act of observing something that affects it. When you're dealing with very small things like photons and electrons, it doesn't take much to change the outcome.

It seems to me that knowledge would be impossible if reality was so easily molded by people's whims. Woos would never encounter me, just the straw men they invent. I'd never have an excuse to go on a foamy rant. If we created our own realities, I would think we'd all be in our own perfect solipsist worlds, and we'd never interact with each other, and we'd all see different results even if we could witness the same events. Which would kind of make communication pointless. But I don't see that sort of thing happening. The universe looks pretty consistent to me, and I'm not about to languish in solipsism.

The attitude conveyed by this doggerel, though often intended to empower people to feel in control of their lives, quite easily leads to blaming the victim. "You got mugged? Your fault for not keeping a positive attitude, or because you secretly wanted to be mugged." My attitude: The mugger's at fault, and just wishing for less crime in the world isn't going to help. Thinking that you can just wish your life better can quite easily serve to make your motivation ineffective. If you want the world to be a better place, you'll need to do something outside your head. Don't make your own reality, act to change the real world for the better. Just make sure you think things through.


Dikkii said...

I wish you hadn't done this doggerel. It was the central idea for a fantasy novel I had once, and although I'm horribly lazy I still entertain the vague hope that I'll get it out there one day in the next twenty years.

Anonymous said...

Now here's what gets me about this. The big hole that I always bring up is the obvious "why do I suffer if I can remake the world?" question.

Their answer, as you noted, is one of two things. Either it was my "negative attitude" (I expected something bad to happen) or "my subconcious desires".

The problem with the first is I am constantly surprised. Numerous times I've expected one thing and got another. I might expect a green light and get a red, or vice versa. Clearly my concious expectations aren't to blame here.

So here's the big issue with blaming "my subconcious". Effectively they aren't arguint that I ALONE create reality so much as me and some doppleganger personality warring with each other. So which is it, and how did this "subconcious" get assigned to me to begin with? If all that matters is conciousness, then subconcious has to be considered a seperate entity (after all, they deny that brains are needed so that they are inextricably linked doesn't follow).

So total solipsism is out and out impossible from our observations. The life raft of that whole ideology, "the subconcious", is just confessing there are "at least two" wills out there deciding what reality is and they contradict each other. However, if they are contradicting each other, reality should never be consistant from moment to moment. Also, how does "reality" decide which will is the "winner" of any contest?

Lastly, and I loathe to state anything having to do with that wretched hive of non sequiters that is Objectivism, but at the very least reality has to exist if at least for us to say human brains "shape" it, and for us to exist "in".