New Scientist Asks: Is There Such A Thing As Reality?


Last week, New Scientist magazine featured a special edition on reality. What particularly caught my attention is the accompanying video appearing on their website, which you can view for yourself here. The description states:

“Is there such a thing as reality?

It’s easy to take reality for granted: after all, science does a reasonably good job at describing the world in an objective way. But what does science have to say about the concept of reality itself?

One approach would be to identify what is most fundamental in the universe. Using this reasoning, everything around us can be broken down into molecules, which in turn are composed of atoms, which in turn are made up of smaller and smaller components. So what would this process finally uncover? And is this mysterious precursor the ultimate basis of reality?

In this animation, we look at two ways of defining what is real and look at what lies at the heart of the universe. To find out more, read our full-length feature, “Reality: The definition“, or check out the rest of our special issue on reality.”

The video maintains that what is most fundamental in the universe are math and numbers since everything can ultimately be broken down into something simpler. Furthermore, we are told, numbers are constructed based on “a concept known as an empty set, better known as ‘nothing’.” It draws the following absurdity of a conclusion: “That means that if math really is what is most fundamental in the universe, the reality is ultimately based on nothing. Which is to say that nothing is what is real.”

This is the kind of nonsensical pseudophilosophy that one might expect to see from Stephen Hawking or Peter Atkins. Both men might be brilliant scientists in their respective fields. But neither is a philosopher — and when they attempt to weigh in on philosophy, it shows.

As Oxford’s professor John Lennox notes in God and Stephen Hawking (page 333),

“What this all goes to show is that nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists. What serves to obscure the illogicality of such statements is the fact that they are made by scientists; and the general public, not surprisingly, assumes that they are statements of science and takes them on authority. That is why it is important to point out that they are not statements of science, and any statement, whether made by a scientist or not, should be open to logical analysis. Immense prestige and authority does not compensate for faulty logic.”

Check out the video for yourself. I swear I’m not making this up!

Cross-posted from Uncommon Descent.

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