Stephanie L. Burns

Cosmology Class Notes


What is Reality?

Presenter: Melanie Dodge


Webster's 3rd Edition Dictionary says Reality is:

"The quality of state of being real"

"Something that is real"

"The active nature or constitution of something"

"The actual state of things"

"What has objective existence"

"What is not a mere idea (fact)"

"What is not imaginary, fictitious or pretend"

"What exists necessarily"

"What is neither derivative or dependent"


Random House Unabridged Dictionary adds:

"Resemblance to what is real"

"Something that constitutes a real or actual thing, as distinguished from something that is merely apparent."

"Something that exists independently of ideas concerning it"

What is Reality?


Dr. Moebius suggested that the dictionary definitions were a dance with words, that we can imagine reality and imagined reality is real. We can use our four senses and intuition to know it. We can only come close with mathematically knowing it. The question is, can we define it?

Scientifically we describe data with a model, getting closer and closer to reality but never reaching it.

We often mistake symbols for reality.


Does it all come down to mathematical models or is a metaphor a model? Are indigenous cultural models, models?

Do we believe everything outside of science is not a model?


When you are setting up a model you can never prove that the model is good or that it is true. You can disprove but never prove a scientific model.

Indigenous belief supports the idea that everything is related. Science seems also to be proving that now.

Dr. Moebius = M

Student = S

M-We now have a prediction that supports that idea but cannot prove it. Up to this point indigenous and scientific belief overlap but there is a fine line and people sometimes step out of the scientific realm to prove the existence, for example, of God.

S- We are hung up on our scientific and mathematical models. Einstein said that because of this it is difficult for us to think outside the box - that we need to look at the inductive, experiential and non-scientific models that govern our daily lives.

M-In science there is a critical mass of evidence that proves a model but we can never prove beyond the shadow of doubt. We can show relationship.

S-Where does the illusion of scientific certainty come from?

M-Scientific certainty is not illusion, rather assumptions and conclusions.


Reality is progressive.

Progressive reality - POMO - assumes each person has his or her own individual reality.

Plato's cave:

Prisoners in a cave see a limited reality, they see only shadows of the outside world therefore their reality is only what they perceive the shadows to be.

Virtual Reality:

As computers get better and faster we can reproduce virtual realities within virtual programs. You may put on goggles and enter the world of the computer.

S-Our experience of reality is perceived reality and there is a reality outside of this perceived reality.

S-There is something that is true.

S- What about color, like the color blue.

S-What is the reality of the color blue? Do we all see it the same?


S-Is there a reality that has this blue in it or is it only real in our perception?

M-In physics I can measure color with a spectrometer and say, "Oh - this is the color blue."

S- Isn't there something in the color blue that is blueness?

M-Frequency measure is true.

S-Perception of blue as a measure is also true.

M- In science you start with a question and go from there to see what you come up with. Science is a process by which we walk forward slowly toward things that are true.

S-Is blue sometimes or all the time blue?

S-Science says color is a reflection - therefore without light it would not be blue but the potential for blue is there.

M-The chemicals are there; therefore it is blue with or without light.

S-Is there really an underlying reality that we can understand?

S- What we perceive is reality and then there is a greater reality that we will never understand.

S-Science says what you see and touch is real, but yoga says that you can smile into organs and heal them - that visualization can produce an effect.

S- Our experiences color everything. Perception colors reality. Our perception is our reality and there is a greater reality that mine is only a part of.

S-I cannot see that the table is moving particles all the time and I do not operate on that level of reality all the time or I'd go crazy.

S-There is truth below perception and all the ways we use perception.

M-Does it make sense to talk about an all encompassing reality?

S-Reality is a process.

S-To believe that there is something true out there is an act of faith.

S-What is, is, regardless of what we think and feel about it and yet what we think and feel and do about the isness has an effect on what is.

S-What about the context of our lives? Can we understand anything without context?

S-The heart of the problem is that when we use language or logic we take things apart, we define, we separate out.

S-In our effort to understand with our heads or with logic, we separate what we are trying to understane from our experience of it and thus reality as a whole or Holistic Reality.

S-Definitions of reality end up excluding. We can't put reality into words and describe it with in the context of our language.

M- Can we talk about the properties of reality perceptually, independently and all be talking about the same thing?

M-We cannot truly separate things because when we test things and cut them apart they are not really separate. The small pieces dissolve into waves.

S-of "everythingness."

S-We want to know about reality because it bothers us, because we have a longing to know, because it keeps us interested in questions and answers, because we want to find meaning and because there is always something beyond what we think, know, understand, experience and believe.

S-Pragmatism tells us we are destined to understand.

S-Is there criterion to answer in knowing or understanding? Does it matter?

S-Is virtual reality real inside a computer?

S-Are dreams real or virtual realities?

S-Insanity is socially constructed.

S-So is reality.

M-Our perception of reality is a part of reality and we can't seem to take ourselves out of the picture.

S-We are having trouble communicating because our models and assumptions are between worlds - where we have been and where we are going.

S-Can we define reality with words or only experience it?

S-In our experience we are experiencing everything, the whole, whether we are aware of it or not. But when we try to define it we cannot.

S-When does probability collapse and become something we can describe?

M-In Quantum mechanics you can describe something as a wave function or a particle, depending on which way you decide to observe it. You collapse it into either one and you have interacted with it and created an entity that you can describe.

S-Reality cannot be collapsed. We lose the "fuzzy feeling."

S-As long as we are part of reality we have different definitions.