Is reality real?

I like to ask people who believe in reality the following question: “What is the one single piece of evidence that convinces you that reality is real?” The answer is always easily debunked. For example:

“Evidence”: Reality is real because I can sense the world around me.

Answer: Senses have been known to fool people, quite often.

“Evidence”: Reality is real because if I base predictions on my understanding of it, they are generally accurate, so my understanding of it is probably pretty accurate.

Answer: Predictions are not evidence.

“Evidence”: When people from entirely different backgrounds and personal histories and different parts of the globe compare notes, they find that their realities are fundamentally the same.

Answer: Since when is a sample size of “2” acceptable for anything?

“Evidence”: Reality is internally consistant.

Answer: So are mirages.

“Evidence”: Math based on simple observations of the universe requires reality to be real.

Answer: Since you don’t understand the math it would be all to easy for you to be fooled by this.

For more on how reality is not real, see this post by S. Fred Singer

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9 thoughts on “Is reality real?

  1. So how are you defining “real”? Give me an example of something that fits that criteria so I can understand the rules. We use the world “real” in everyday parlance to mean something in particular. I can have an “imaginary friend” or “real friend.” The line of delineation being that a “real” friend is someone that others can see, meet, speak to and interact with. But if you throw our experiences out as proof then what is there to even determine the basis for real?

    It’s a mental game, though, right? I don’t think it matters if reality is real. We could be someone’s dream or a computer program or in the matrix or some alien’s ant farm, but whatever all that is if it can’t be called “real,” it is as untestable and verifiable as any sort of god would be. What we do know is that, whatever it is we are in, (the semantics of this is a little challenging) functions in ways that are testable, verifiable and consistent. This allows us some means of determining things like whether or not stepping off the top of a 5 story building is a good idea or a bad idea. There are consequences to disregarding certain apparent facts and that’s how we determine what is “real,” in a way that makes sense to day to day functioning.

  2. This is like when after the Fukushima disaster, Greg had a post about how solar power is much more deadly than nuclear, right?

  3. In order to really get this you have to click through to the awful post in the link and see how awful that is. Really awful.

  4. If things aren’t real, then what is the alternative and what difference would it make in how we act even if we knew that reality wasn’t real? We’re still stuck in the middle of it regardless.

  5. Daniel J. Andrews:

    “If things aren’t real, then what is the alternative and what difference would it make in how we act even if we knew that reality wasn’t real? We’re still stuck in the middle of it regardless.”

    I tend to agree with your sentiment. However, as The Matrix may or may not have taught us… I guess it’s theoretically possible that if our reality *wasn’t* real, we could potentially exploit our evidence for *why* our reality isn’t real as a means towards understanding what is *actually* real.

    …And potentially kill whoever is allowing us to live in paradise. For some reason.

  6. A major part of Singers article was commenting on IPCC Fig. 9.5b, and says that the gap between models and actual temperatures is attributed to AGW, as if the scientists were simply hand waving.
    Please look at the IPCC 2007, Vol 1, The Physical Science Basis, Figure 9.5a (this figure is also Figure TS.23 in the technical summary). With both natural and anthropogenic forcings, the models do a great job predicting the measured temperature trend over the 20th century!
    Singer is simply omitting relevant information. So it is easy to say reality isn’t real if you omit real things from reality.

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