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You sure?

1 April, 2006

There sure seem to be an awful lot of people who are certain these days.

  • Certain that my country is always right.
  • Certain that abortion is always wrong.
  • Certain that my particular group of people have an absolute right to live in a particular patch of the Middle East.
  • Certain that people who do wrong will go to a place called Hell.
  • Certain that killing people who don’t believe the same as me is the right thing to do.

But we can’t really be certain about anything.

Last century, we used to think that we had the atom sussed. It was something infinitessimally small, like a little solar system made of tiny billiard balls whizzing around a nucleus. But it was hard, concrete, tangible.

Now we know that’s wrong.

Quantum mechanics shows that we cannot predict what an individual particle is going to do. We cannot know where it is or how fast it is going.

It also doesn’t always seem to be a particle; sometimes it acts more like a wave.

And, there is an absolute limit to the amount of information we can have about matter.

So, even the basic particles that the universe is made up of are unknowable and unpredictable.

How can we be certain about anything else? 

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