Touching The Limits Of Knowledge
Cosmology and our View of the World


What is Reality?
Lead: Kelly Cornish & Dan Freund
Summary by Billy Donoghue:

What is reality? Possibly the most difficult question to try and answer, maybe an unanswerable question? None the less, it was a question, tackled head on by the members of INCO 796. I'm not going to spout off definitions of reality that anyone could find in the dictionary, and probably no one could make much sense of. Everyone has a definition of what they think reality is, and most people's are probably very similar. This is how the discussion got going, people for the most part agreeing what "reality" is.

This however led to an interesting point: is reality what we can sense (touch, hear, smell ectÉ)? If it is, does that mean that a blind person's reality is totally different from someone who can see? Or are all our realities different from one another's? Do our minds create what we think is real? It is clear that the topic can be quite mind-boggling.

One of the great questions that was brought up was, "is the universe real, or is it just what we want to believe?" We can of course look out into the night sky and see stars and planets, we can then use our laws of physics to determine how far away they are, and how big they are, and other such "physical" quantities. But who is to say that our physics and mathematics are correct in the first place? The idea was brought to the attention of the group that maybe we as humans invented math and science to "fit" our reality. If we one day meet intelligent beings from another planet, would they also think E=mc^2. Are these laws we claim to be "universal" really fundamental through out all space and time?

The discussion soon led to the very heart of the seminar. Is God real? Did the Big Bang really happen? Reality could be just what we make of it. Maybe there is a concrete reality, but individuals just perceive it differently. For instance, some people look at the world and see more of the tragedy and hate, whereas another person observes a more compassionate and loving reality. Who is right, someone who says God is real, or someone who believes God doesn't exist; does God have to exist to be real? Again, it becomes a mind-boggling dead end.

Did we find the answer to the question of all questions? Of course not, after all we only had an hour and forty five minutes. However, I'm sure that the discussion will someday help everyone understand their own reality.

May 8, 2000