Matter Isn’t What it Seems to Be

November 26, 2019

Given a choice between physics and metaphysics, almost everyone chooses physics. This is a modern habit that is deeply ingrained, and it turns the tables on the religious approach to reality, which put a divine or supernatural entity, first and foremost in creation. But relying on the physical world as the foundation of reality has run into serious problems. Unable or unwilling to return to metaphysics, people are stuck without a viable model of reality.

This becomes apparent if you go to the nub of the physical model, which is matter. For centuries, ever since the ancient Greek concept of the atom, there has been a constant search for the smallest building block in Nature, on the supposition that the world is like a sandcastle on the beach. If you reduce the sandcastle to grains of sand, you know where it comes from. Putting things on a firm foundation is one of humanity’s driving force, and in the physical world, this drive leads to atoms and beyond.

The problem is the “beyond” part, because around a century ago quantum physics discovered that there is nothing like a minuscule grain of sand from which everything is built. Atoms can be envisioned on a chart in physics class as a tiny nucleus surrounded by orbiting electrons. This is a reassuring picture since it makes the atom seem like a miniature solar system. However, this model isn’t the same as reality.

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