Imagined Realities, Evidence & The Singular

“An ‘imagined reality’ is an addictive mental drug that humans are infatuated with. It cures the frustration brought about by the constraints of the actual reality. Like a physical drug, it could cure pain and make life in prison more tolerable, but it could also take away life if used excessively. It brings communities with a shared spiritual belief together but it can also lead to terrorism and hatred…

…Imagined realities can consume the oxygen in the room. Galileo was put in house arrest when the imagined reality of a geocentric world flattered the egos of the dominant forces in society. The lesson is not to promote hypothetical entities, like extra dimensions or wormholes, as the centerpiece of the mainstream of theoretical physics for half a century without a shred of experimental test for their existence. The best way to maintain a sanity balance is to adhere to experimental tests as our guide, first and foremost in physics. Physics is a learning experience, a dialogue with nature rather than a monologue. Our love of nature is not abstract or platonic, but based on a direct physical interaction with it.

-Avi Loeb, “For the Love of Evidence.” October 30, 2022

“Patapsychology begins from Murphy’s Law, as Finnegan called the First Axiom, adopted from Sean Murphy. This says,and I quote, “The normal does not exist. The average does not exist. We know only a very large but probably finite phalanx of discrete space-time events encountered and endured.” In less technical language, the Board of the College of Patapsychology offers one million Irish punds [around $700,000 American] to any “normalist” who can exhibit “a normal sunset, an average Beethoven sonata, an ordinary Playmate of the Month, or any thing or event in space-time that qualifies as normal, average or ordinary.”

In a world where no two fingerprints appear identical, and no two brains appear identical, and an electron does not even seem identical to itself from one nanosecond to another, patapsychology seems on safe ground here.

No normalist has yet produced even a totally normal dog, an average cat, or even an ordinary chickadee. Attempts to find an average Bird of Paradise, an ordinary haiku or even a normal cardiologist have floundered pathetically. The normal, the average, the ordinary, even the typical, exist only in statistics, i.e. the human mathematical mindscape. They never appear in external space-time, which consists only and always of nonnormal events in nonnormal series.”

-Robert Anton Wilson, “Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal.” February 20, 2011

There’s an interesting tension between these two views. Yes, having beliefs based on evidence is a good idea. However, evidence supports generalizations that do not tend to be true, it the absolute sense that Avi Loeb wishes to establish his views.

So, we need a healthy bit of skeptism. Some ideas are useful for living our lives. But, the trick is to reimagine them and discard ideas when they are no longer useful. We aren’t terribly good at letting ideas go, particularly when we have spent so much effort believing in them.

Perhaps the solution is to keep our imagined realities and identities small, and take care to be able to walk away from them when they no longer serve us well.