What Does It All Mean?

Human beings, or homo sapiens sapiens, as anthropologists jokingly like to call us, are generally thought to be more intelligent than other animals and most vegetables. One side effect of this intelligence is consciousness. This consciousness makes us think that we're some kind of superior beings, destined to build huge cities and dominate the planet. Actually, consciousness is basically a chemical process, like photosynthesis or Alka Seltzer. The only thing remarkable about consciousness is that it thinks it's remarkable. In fact, consciousness is the amazingly unique ability that humans have to think that they're amazingly unique. Of course, this means that at the time of this writing, there are about 5 billion of us all thinking we're totally unique.

Another side effect of our intelligence is that we believe in something called reality, and we have a model of reality in our heads that we use for deciding not to walk in front of busses and things like that. Most of us think of reality as lots of hard physical objects scattered around in space. This is probably because as children, we bumped into many of them. However, that model is based just on the information we get from our five senses. We've built scientific instruments that can extend the range of our senses. We can see far into space and record microscopic behavior and measure invisible radiation. But even with all those instruments, we can perceive only a tiny fraction of all that's happening out there in the universe. So for us to come to any conclusions about what reality is like is as absurd as peeking through the keyhole in the front door of a huge mansion, and trying to deduce the color of the toilet paper in the master bathroom.

This doesn't mean that speculation and scientific investigation are bad. Intellectual curiousity has brought about some of humankind's most important achievements, like nuclear weapons and lava lamps. Of course we should speculate and investigate and philosophize and come up with theories about how things work and why things are. We just shouldn't be too smug about it.

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