The Fact of Uncertainty

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We have a concept of predictability, whereby unlimited potential filters into probability. Anything could happen, at any moment, but it doesn’t. A piece of a broken satellite could careen through my window as I plunk out these words, but I would say that probably is not going to happen. We have translated this process into a belief that, most likely, tomorrow will be like today, unless it’s a weekend in which case it might be like last weekend.

We are intensely overwhelmed by our cultural barrage of information. In a state of shock, we carry on our lives. The time we have is dense with information, and choices demanded by this information. This daily tidal wave of crap and the dire condition of our world, causes our eyes to glaze over, and our state of overwhelm, shock, and helplessness turns into boredom.

It maybe understandable, but it is unjustifiable, this boredom with modern life. It has something to do with leaving the “heavy lifting” to the “experts.” It also has something to do with endless choices in our consumption of goods, entertainments, spiritual exercises, etc. We have so many options for the augmentation of our reality, each of which are just another dollar and couple days away. Amongst the immediate satisfaction from endless variations of shiny bullshit, we have allowed and often endorsed a completely monstrous spectacle of a culture to propagate itself, at the expense of all other cultures and the Earth which sustains us. This culture provides us with many of our operating assumptions or our ethos. So, we are immediately satisfied and never content.

This impasse leaves us where we began, with uncertainty. Uncertainty is the very foundation of any good science. I don’t know something, so I’m going to find out. I’m not going to leave it to anyone else to tell me, because I must taste it for myself. For some reason, the general public looks to “science” to give us answers. How many times have you or someone you are in conversation with quoted a study to give your side of the debate or dialogue greater credibility. It is that in us that desires answers, conclusions and certainty that causes me to raise one eye-brow high. It is the author’s opinion that any worth while science or philosophy, for that matter, in its reaching a conclusion raises at least ten more good questions. Therefore, science is the act of asking good questions.

In quantum theory there is what is known as the Measurement Problem, and the Uncertainty Principle put forth by Werner Heisenberg. The problem is that the more the position and the structure of an electron is measured, the less is known of it’s momentum. This implies an electron becomes observable only when there is an observer present. When the observer is present the infinite possibility of position, or super-position, collapses into the position that is observed. When momentum is observed, the electron behaves as energy and vibration, when position and structure are observed it behaves as a particle. This suggests that this fundamental component of the universe is at play with that which observes. Of course, this game requires that we behave as observers.

The reality we take for granted is in a constant state of collapse, meaning it has collapsed into what we observe it to be, rather than remaining in an infinite state of super-position. In this particular state of collapse, Newtonian physics works to describe the laws that govern the systems of nature. But all these systems are made of something that is essentially unmeasurable. This is how fundamental uncertainty is to our reality, not metaphorically but actually, physically. We as observers cause the our reality to coalesce, as it does.

The certainty to which we cling may have some reliance on physical reality, but it is constructed entirely of our psyche. Our system of beliefs, what we include and exclude, what we are willing to look at and what we bury, all of this is given its life by our illusion of certitude. Uncertainty is, however, the only fact of existence. As John Lilly proposes, “In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true, either is true or becomes true.” This sort of thinking is often used by the spiritual materialists as in The Secret, wherein one can use one’s own power of positive thinking to make favorable life circumstances present themselves. This philosophy is often reduced to a few cheap aphorisms and buzz words, while its practitioners are missing what this is all about, which is asking a good question, and becoming intimate with uncertainty.

Question for dialogue:

What practical good can arise from intimacy with uncertainty?

One thought on “The Fact of Uncertainty

  1. mary sunshine says:

    Would you consider a monthly Mercurious meeting under the stars with discussion of MR queries?

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