Unfortunately, the truth, as I am going to explain it, will most likely make you uncomfortable. The truth will not feed your ego, build your confidence, or reinforce your faith in science.
The truth, despite many claims to the contrary, is that we actually know very little about the truth.
I will start with the little I do know, and it is this, “cognito ergo sum”, “I think, therefore, I am”. Descarte’s famous quote sums up, in a few words, everything that I know as absolute truth. I perceive and form opinion. I observe and assess. I experience and evaluate, compare and assimilate based on all my previous experiences. The opinions I form will be dependent upon what I have observed prior and what information I have been socialized to accept as truth. However, the only thing I really know is that I have this experience. I do not know for sure you also experience this (the truth is, you could be a robot), but I know it happens for me.
Beyond this, there are many claims of truth, for which I will explore. But please bear in mind, the absolute nature of the claims depend upon current technology and the accumulation of observation, experience, and opinion formed by those deemed worthy of forming such an opinion. As far as I’m aware, there are no experts who claim to be omniscient, wherefore we must always consider that there may be variables uncontrolled for and information left out.
Biological scientists have attempted to expand upon Descarte’s truth to try to explain the mechanisms involved. Many claim that vibrating waves and particles interact with our awareness and are experienced based on the frequency of the vibration. Labels have been assigned to aspects of, what have been called, “biological systems” to assist with the communication of these concepts. “Baroreceptors”, for example, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “pressure”. “Chemoreceptors”, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “chemical stimuli”. “Electromagnetic receptors”, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “infrared radiation, visible light, and magnetic fields”. “Hydroreceptors”, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “humidity”. “Mechanoreceptors”, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “mechanical stress or mechanical strain”. “Nociceptors”, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “noxious or potentially noxious stimuli”. “Osmoreceptors”, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “the osmolarity fluids”. “Photoreceptors”, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “sense of position”. “Thermoreceptors”, are said to correlate with our experience of, what has been labeled “temperature”. According to many, there is no experience beyond what is capable of being picked up by these receptors (or assistant technologies). According to public opinion, these receptors tell us the truth about what “is”. Unfortunately (brace yourself), there is no evidence that the mechanisms convey to us anything that resembles what actually “is”. The biological systems are said to produce an experience based on the vibration of particles interacting with receptors and the subsequent biological processes. The truth about what “is” cannot be deduced from this, it simply confirms Descarte’s claim that we experience and form opinion. Similar to the concept of the “Matrix”, if we choose to believe we are experiencing reality, then our reality is real regardless of what actually “is”. This is at the root of all we know, but for the sake of moving on in our exploration of truth, let’s assume the reality of our experience is a given.
The Beginning of the Material Universe
The next set of truth claims involve “the beginning”. The two commonly held opinions are “from nothing, God created everything” and “from nothing, the Big Bang created everything”. One is called “religion” and the other is called “scientific fact”, but both make the same claim. This claim contradicts Einstein’s “truth” that “energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another”, but for the sake of exploring further, let’s ignore that. The “Big Bang” theory was proposed by physicists and astronomers and is based on the idea of “gravitational pressure” and how gravity interacts with “matter” and “antimatter”. It relies on “laws” of astrophysics and is said to describe the origins of all of reality. To try to get a better understanding of this “truth”, let’s explore the “scientific facts” about gravity. First, “little g”, or the observed “G-force”, was believed to be “constant” with regard to the “the law” of acceleration until it was realized that acceleration actually depends on mass size and distance, wherefore it cannot predict acceleration through space or on different planets. Due to this the “the law” was revised. From here, Newton’s “Big G” became “the law” as the “universal gravitational constant”. However, “Big G” has not actually been observed to be constant when measured. Further, it predicts that without an external force, two objects traveling along parallel paths will always remain parallel and never meet. Particles that start off on parallel paths, however, are sometimes observed to end up colliding. Due to this, the “the law” was revised and Einstein’s general relativity became “the law” stating those objects are still traveling along the straightest possible line, but due to a distortion in space-time, the straightest possible line is now along a spherical path. This, however, predicted that the attractive force of gravity pulls all matter together, wherefore subsequent to the “Bang” the expansion of the universe should be observed to slow. This has not been observed, however, and instead, recent evidence confirms the expansion of the universe appears to be accelerating. To explain this, another revision is now necessary and a few theories have been proposed. What seems to be the common opinion now is that 96% of reality is actually unknown and undetectable substances called “dark matter” and “dark energy”. Making this assumption is said to be the only way to confirm general relativity is still a “scientific fact”. Again, the “truth” about “Big Bang” and the evolution of the universe is currently relying upon the assumption that with all our technology, we are capable of only observing 4% of what “is”. The remaining 96% is some mysterious “other stuff” that we know nothing about. So much for getting clarification of truth through astrophysics.
So, the truth about the material universe as presented by the scientific community and accepted by public opinion is obviously lacking, but it goes further. When observed on a smaller scale, “truth” becomes even more confusing. The matter supposedly created by the “Big Bang”, which evolved into the total of our material reality, has actually been observed to act as both matter and energy when viewed on a quantum level. It has further been observed to act in spooky and “entangled” ways that defy all our previous held “truths” of physics. Quantum physicists report evidence that particles can instantly communicate with each other, even when extremely far apart, that photons pop in and out of existence, and that the observer is actually an influential factor in the perception of matter. There is currently no commonly accepted theory that unifies the observations of astrophysics with quantum mechanics.
Evolution of Life
Despite the lack of concrete evidence with regard to the nature and origin of the universe, for the sake of further exploring truth, we can assume the absolute nature of material reality as a given in order to delve deeper. From here, we will explore the truth about what has been called “life”, or the “origin of species”. Darwin’s “theory of evolution” is based on the fact that all species that exist (at least on planet earth) are genetically similar. This “truth” assumes that all forms of life have a common ancestor and that differentiation has occurred due to “natural selection”. There seems to be little as to theory of how non-living matter and energy originally became that first life form, however, again, for the sake of delving deeper, we will accept it as a given. “Natural selection” assumes that over great lengths of time genetic mutations, or changes to the genetic code, happened as a natural aspect of evolution, as expressed through the first organism’s subsequent offspring. It is claimed that the mutations that were beneficial to the organism in it’s environment allowed the organism to be fruitful in reproduction, whereby encouraging the transmission of that mutation in that environment. It is further claimed that the mutations that were harmful to the organism in it’s environment interfered with reproduction, preventing the transmission of that mutation in that environment. This is referred to as “survival of the fittest” and is said to explain how very small differences in genetic code resulted in the extreme diversity of species. This seems to be the public opinion with regard to evolution that has existed over the past hundred years. It seems to be widely accepted because of it’s simplicity. But is it actually true?
The new science of Epigenetics now has researchers digging deeper into the mechanisms of genetic expression and inheritance than was previously possible. What they report finding seems to imply that the truth of evolution may not be so simple. While it is observed that the genetic codes of all earth’s species are similarly structured, it is said that the actual expression of genes are observed to be very different between species and even among members of the same species. This suggests that it is not simply mutations that result in differentiation, but the dynamic nature of the expression of each gene in the code sequence. For example, a comparative analysis of gene expression between humans and primates found that there were more than 800 genes that varied in their methylation patterns among orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Despite these apes having the same genes, methylation differences are said to account for their phenotypic variation. Further, although humans and the great apes share 99% of their DNA, so far, there are known to be 171 genes that are uniquely methylated in humans which have directly correlated with advanced cognitive abilities. This evidence suggests that similar gene sequences can actually be expressed in very different ways. Further, the evidence suggests that gene mutations can either be expressed to some degree or silenced based on the specific circumstances of each individual organism. This evidence, therefore, seems to negate the assumed “truth” that gene mutations are responsible for evolution of life and the differentiation of species on earth.
Further, epigeneticists are now reporting evidence that gene expression is dynamic and influenced by all aspects of the environment. The expression markers are said to change regularly within a single lifetime as a result of environmental stimuli. Additionally, the epigenetic markers are said to be transmitted between generations. This new evidence now leaves open to question every possible variable imaginable as being influential in the development and life of the organism, even those mysterious unknowns (“dark matter”, “dark energy”, “god”, “chi”, “cosmic rays”, etc).
I warned you what I had to say about truth was likely to make you uncomfortable.
The Progression of Time
Finally, it would not be a thorough exploration of the truth of reality without discussing the aspect of time progression. As I stated above, there are currently no commonly accepted theories that unify the observations of general relativity and quantum mechanics, but that does not mean there are no theories. A theory that has been said to unify and explain these conflicting observations assumes first that the progression of time, as we perceive it, is illusory. To put this in context, Einstein first proposed a thought experiment with regard to how this applies to acceleration through space. He claimed that perception of time, relative to time on earth, slows down the closer one travels toward a black hole. The thought experiment concludes that an organism traveling as such would return to earth, in the future, having aged very little, while similar organisms on earth would have aged as expected. If we are to assume the perception of time progression as illusory, then the truth of reality could be such that, observed from an outside perspective, everything in our reality began and ended, was created and destroyed, started and finished without following the slow progression we experience. In this sense, the total of the reality experience is only perceived by our conscious awareness, in increments, as the progression of time, but time itself, would not be factual. Some researchers who are attempting to unify general relativity with quantum mechanics, are claiming just that. If this is the case, the foundational principles of all the “truths” explored above would also be negated. Without time progression as a given, perception of expansion and evolution would also be illusory.
So, is any of this truth? How can you tell? When we have no choice but to accept given after given to try to understand what we’re observing, how can we ever know anything for sure? When “scientific facts” often don’t live up to their predictions, how can we trust? There are many claims about the truth of reality, and many people who pose themselves as experts capable of making such claims. As for me, however, I trust that I perceive. I trust that I observe and form opinion. Beyond that, I humbly admit that I am ignorant with regard to the truth.