Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Epistemology / Reality /

Falsifying Models of Reality

Mission: to correct our glib trust in models assigned to us by our institutions

This module begins in the midst of points being made in the section among my Thinking Tools: Menu: Centers, Edges, Borders.

Shakespeare had his despairing Macbeth soliloquize about life as “a tale told by an idiot: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Faulkner takes a title from that speech and actually gives a long narration to the mentally defective Benjamin. Benjy quickly convinces the reader of his intellectual infantilism by experiencing events with himself as the center. Riding in a carriage and being brushed by leaves from roadside foliage, Benjy thinks the tree came, then it went away.

Modern astronomy had a hard time developing in geocentric human cultures. The average person, like any dog, chimp, or dolphin, saw daylight, starlight, the moon here, then there, looking this way, then that way … It was only when calendar keepers tried to map their experience in order to track and predict herd migrations, growing seasons, and so forth that troubles were experienced. Sometimes the planet Mars seemed to be going “forwards,” sometimes “backwards.” The difference between modern astronomy and older astrologies is precisely the difference between how the normal person sees the carriage pass the tree and how Benjy saw the tree pass him. Benjy’s model of the universe had himself as an unmoving center; the rest of us learn to put ourselves more to the side.

Is the average modern’s model of reality correct? We’d have to have a correct model in order to know! Some cosmologists have been coming to see Benjy’s perspective as no more distorted than another. Consider this: if society had good models, then society wouldn’t be so easy to fool. Anybody back stage can see the magician’s assistant climb into a box hidden from the audience in order to “disappear.” The audience’s wrong assumptions about the stage are carefully massaged by the magician (more specifically, by the trick’s designer): just as the Church managed the geocentricity of the public: just as the state employs education to keep future taxpayers in the dark.

thanx wikimedia

the mapping of experience onto a tautology

I know of no dog who claims to have mapped experience and that his map is true. No: it’s human institutions that have to defend maps they’ve invested in: have a vested-interest in: even as experience falsifies them. When Ptolemy put the earth at the center of his cosmology, he wasn’t lying. He was trying — quite brilliantly — to map experience onto his inherited geocentric tautology.

Ptolemy's Universe
Ptolemy’s Universe
thanx pbs

Ah, but what about Galileo’s colleagues? What about Galileo’s Church: threatening him with torture for trying (and succeeding) in improving the model? No, no. By that time universities and church had a huge interest in the model that had been taught (as well as “naturally” assumed).

Imagined from outside the earth, with the sun as one focus of an ellipse about which planets, asteroids, comets … spin, each sub-system a focus of its own sub-ellipse, the “retrograde” motions of Mars are no mystery. If you’re in a horse race on a straightaway, and know you’re in a horse race on a straightway, one horse might pass you … then you might pass it. If you’re watching a horse race on an oval track from the grandstand (or the club house) and you know that you’re watching a horse race on an oval from either perspective, you’ll “understand” the changing positions: whether the horses are on the far side of the oval, coming around the final turn, or in the homestretch. If you don’t know where you are or what you’re watching, then all sorts of tricks can be played on you: by those who do know (or at least by those with one fewer distortion than you have). (Anyone with an understanding of Calabi-Yau space could play tricks on Galileo: so long as Galileo lacked that understanding (in a space in which Calabi-Yau space applies, that is).) note

thanx calabi yau space

Yesterday I added related materials to my Centers, Edges and Borders piece. As so often happens once actually writing something, this module has taken its own path; not the path I’d planned. But that’s OK, it nevertheless covers much of the same territory as planned. When I revisit this work I may perhaps manage to work in what here got bypassed. Before returning to other impatient business today, while here, I promise one thing: I’ll try next time to give compelling examples of false models contemporarily promulgated by state, school, and university so clear that even a kleptocrat will have a hard time ignoring them. Probably impossible, given that latter structure, but I’ll try. That after all is a major purpose of managing the media: to make the obvious invisible: even when a scientist is highlighting it. But there’s a clue right there: managed media. Isn’t education compulsory? How real is your choice of school or teacher? Managed courts control what evidence may be admitted.


To test Einstein’s theory of relativity Eddington and team looked beyond the earth to starlight, presuming that no demons were staging the off-earth universe. Ah, but what if there were demons playing tricks? If existence is a trick then no epistemology can help us. We’ll be helpless no matter what we think.

By the way, imagine how much easier a time yesterday’s astrologers might have had with the “retrograde” motions of Mars had they knows merely how far away Mars was (and how much further away was everything else!) Still, the main problem was thinking that Mars was circling while the earth wasn’t moving at all.

2013 04 29 The movie Agora, starring an imagined Hypatia, is marvelous on all this.
I know of no better tricks with space than my own first adult short story, First Week: one of the thousands of writings of mine the fed court censored. When we’re all dead, it will be nearly everyone’s fault: but not mine!


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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