Really in Mine, Not Really in Yours

Professor Richard Dawkins, who is famous for his concept of the “meme”, attempted to explain “why the universe seems so strange.” His talk is featured in TED. The way he perceives our world seems to be closely related to some concepts that we have discussed in class.

Dawkins quotes a sentence from J. B. S. Haldane, a famous biologist, to introduce his arguments: “My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” Dawkins seems to want to evaluate our capabilities of perceiving the world. In fact, Scott McCloud also notices our inability to “perceive the world as a whole” in his book, “Understanding comics: the invisible art.” In other words, no one can perceive the world clearly and thoroughly to intuitively realize something like everything is made of atoms. Since we hardly can perceive the world as a whole, some intuitions like “the Sun is going around the Earth” had stood for a long time before being debunked by some sophisticated and state-of-the-art instruments and technologies. According to Dawkins, “science has taught us against all intuition” and that’s why it makes us to realize that the universe is so strange if we believe in science.

Bats’ concept of reality should be very different from ours!

Dawkins uses his term, “Middle World”, to depict the world we live in. We are only trained to live in the Middle World. We are never trained to live in “the world of atoms.” That’s why when we discover something that the Middle World doesn’t teach us, we are simply shocked. In fact, Dawkins concludes that the Middle World is only a “narrow range of reality.” Therefore, how other species perceive the world should be very different from ours. Actually, it is intuitively understandable that they perceive their world in the ways that suit their living conditions. They only need to understand what they need to know to survive. If they are able to understand our sophisticated reality thoroughly, they still don’t need to because it is absolutely unnecessary for them. In contrast, we try to understand them because we desire to know them better to satisfy our curiosity, deal with them and even make use of them. Therefore, our concept of reality should be very different from theirs.

Dawkins proposes that we may want let the children get used to this strange world by allowing them to play some computer games that are designed to simulate it. It reminds us of his own concept, the meme. We seem to shape each other’s understanding of the world by spreading the ideas about it. In other words, our perception of reality is based on our own perception and others’ ideas as well. It is again probably due to the fact that we are simply unable to perceive everything about the world. To satisfy our curiosity, we have to rely on others for some ideas that we don’t perceive.

In order to avoid seeing the strangeness of the universe, we can stop discovering new things and know less. However, since we always want to know more, we just have to accept the fact that this universe is queer.

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