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Perception

Our perception of the world is based on 5 senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight in order of proximity.

Taste requires the perceived objects to actually be inside your mouth.

Touch requires you to be physically in contact with objects.

You can smell objects at a distance if they give off some kind of chemical that can be carried through the air to your nose where a reaction takes place.

Hearing is possible from a much greater distance, but it requires a medium, such as air, through which sound can travel until the waves reach your eardrum.

Sight gives us the greatest reach since light can travel immense distances and does not require a medium through which to travel. Light from stars millions of miles away travelling through the vacuum of space, can be perceived through sight. With one eye in a stationery position we can only perceive in two dimensions so that everything appears as a flat plane. The second eye has a slightly different view of objects and therefore gives perspective and depth so they image appears to be 3 dimensional. Moving the eye also gives a different perspective, which enables viewing in 3 dimensions. As light penetrates the eye through the lens, a chemical reaction takes place on the retina at the back of the eye, which transmits a series of electrical pulses through nerves. At the end of the nerve another chemical reaction takes place in the synapse to pass the message on to the next nerve in the chain and so on until the impulse reaches the brain. The brain learns to unscramble these pulses adding depth and turning them into 3 dimensional images. So it is actually the brain that interprets what we see given the information available.

 

So what we see as what we think of as the real world is in fact the best job the brain can do to unscramble the continuous pulses and reactions it receives into some kind of meaningful information. So the 3 dimensional world we think is out there, is actually being reconstructed inside our brain. The brain can be fooled by optical illusions, seeing what does not exist. Even the world of dreams can appear to be as real as the world outside.

 

Our actual receptors are very crude by comparison to what they could be reporting on. We don’t have x-ray vision; we cannot read each other’s thoughts; we cannot hear the music of the stars.

 

In fact we are only able to perceive a tiny fraction of what we know about. Our ability to perceive visible light can only detect a very small proportion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Electron microscopes and radar telescopes, for example can increase our range artificially. Geiger counters and spectroscopes can enable us to detect radiation and waves that our senses cannot detect.

 

The universe that we can perceive is in fact part of a much greater reality. God can see the whole, but we are constrained to 3 dimensions, which we can only partially and inaccurately comprehend. As the Bible puts it, ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). One day, with our new spiritual bodies and enhanced senses we will be able to perceive and know so much more than we can in these mortal bodies. There is a lot to look forward to in the next life.

 

We perceive our world and our universe as solid 3 dimensional material, and yet when it is examined at the atomic level, there is nothing there. For example, a diamond, that we would regard as pretty solid, if it could be viewed with a powerful enough microscope would appear to be something like single golf balls in the middle of billions of football pitches, each with 14 pinhead sized bundles of energy flying around the edges of the fields and nothing in between. Hydrogen gas would be an even smaller ball with one bundle of energy flying around. So our perceived physical reality is literally empty space. Everything in our universe is so empty that we have to wonder if it’s really there, and yet it appears to be. What we consider to be so real is in fact a virtual reality created for our benefit by a Higher Being. It is a place for us to develop and grow into who we really are after which we will leave this virtual reality to enter the real reality, the Eternal Kingdom.

 

There is so much more in this universe than we can perceive with our senses and yet some people think we know about all of it. The dimensions inhabited by the One who could create this universe are so far beyond our comprehension, that we have no way of being able to understand it. This is why we walk by faith. He knows the end from the beginning. Outside of our 3-dimensional universe the future is as clear to Him as to us looking at a map.

 

What we think of as reality is only contained within 3 dimensions, but there is a much greater reality outside of our physical perception.

 

We see our universe as it is at a point in time. We actually can only perceive the present within immediate proximity. Sound travels at about 330 metres per second. So if I hear a sound from 100 meters away, I am actually hearing what happened 0.3 of a second ago. If I look at the sun, I am seeing what happened about 8 minutes ago, which is the time it takes for light to travel the 93 million miles to the Earth. When I look at the stars, I am seeing what happened at the very least 4 years ago and in most cases hundreds or thousands of years ago.

 

So, as we start to examine the universe, we have to recognise we are perceiving it in a very inaccurate and fragmented way by making the best use of the information available to our senses to build up a picture that we call reality. Hundreds of years ago, people thought the earth was flat and the sun and moon went across the sky, which is what is actually perceived. By means of instrumentation and mathematics, we now have a different understanding of the solar system, although it belies what our senses tell us. We still talk of the sun rising and setting even though that is not what actually happens.

 

So let us now take a closer look at the universe, not as we perceive it, but rather what we have come to understand from careful instrumentation, observation and calculation.

 

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