Archive for October 19th, 2007

Observations on Observation

Posted on October 19, 2007. Filed under: Philosophy, Science, Spirituality |

I got into a mini discussion over on Anthony‘s blog the other day, during which the question “What is observation?” came up. I really wanted to know the answer, as science appears to base many of its theories upon observation. I would love to wholeheartedly embrace science because it is just so much fun, but my beliefs often counter its premises.

“Empirical Evidence”; “The Scientific Method“; and “Double-Blind Studies”; are all terms used by scientists to form theories. An experiment must be verifiable and reproducible if we are to trust its results.

I see “Science” and all its sub-specialties as one of the games we can play–should we choose to do so–during our time on earth. The supposed “conflicts” between scientific and spiritual theory are best left to another discussion, but what the “Scientific Methodists” believe (for the most part) about reality is that the rules made up and/or agreed to in the game translate to ultimate reality.

There is as much belief and faith involved in the practice of science as there is in the practice of religion. Again, another discussion, but I often ask myself to conceptualize a universe or reality that is “beyond the game”. Where the “rules” don’t apply. The place where we make up, or at least read, the rules before we begin the game.

A few closing words about observation. I link to a short video here. There are literally hundreds of “optical illusion” videos “out there on the web”–an ethereal concept indeed–but this one caught my interest regarding observation. I watched it about seven times, and could not talk myself into seeing the inside of the mask as concave rather than convex. So, what does that say about my “power” of observation? Granted, I’m only able to use one of my senses here. If I were in the same room with the mask, and allowed to touch it, “obviously” it would become “just a mask”.

But the striking thing in this film, for me, is that the narrator does insist we “know better” than that there is a fully formed face on the underside of the mask. The only way I would “know better” is from having had experience with handling a mask in the past, and assuming what I’m seeing on the video is in fact a similar mask. That, or I could decide that I trust this man implicitly, and he would not lie. Therefore, I am not seeing what I am seeing.

All I can “know”, at this point, is that there is something I trust more than observation to define my reality.

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