A twist to the story of reality is how the modern scientific realization of the nature of reality as a representation of our sensory inputs was known for thousands of years in philosophy and spirituality. The suspicion, or the conviction, that reality is not all that real existed in different branches of philosophy, both Western and Eastern. The Indian and the Zen spiritual lines of philosophy view our senses and mind as actual impediments to an intuitive understanding of the absolute reality behind our experiences. Western philosophy, on the other hand, treats the nature of reality and knowledge as the formal lines of metaphysics and epistemology. Western philosophy also provides the basis of scientific realism in modern physics.
Pillars of Reality
Discussing the nature of reality has the curious effect of casting doubt on its realness. With that ulterior motive, let’s look at the different pillars on which reality rests. Our senses provide the inputs to the brain, which creates a cognitive model that we think of as reality. The cognitive model heavily depends on the other “software” running on the brain, namely consciousness, language and memory. In the absence of consciousness, reality has little significance. Similarly, if the brain does not have a language apparatus to process thoughts, reality cannot be created. Memory is the last essential support to our sense of reality. What does it mean to say something happened if nobody can remember it?
Spirituality also has a neurological basis. Some neuroscientists claim that the faith in God and religion is concentrated in a specific part of the brain; so much so that the faith can be surgically removed! If God lives in a reality that is created in the brain, it is probably not surprising that He can be cut out from the brain. Then again, if the whole reality is in the brain, we may be looking at the wrong places to find a God. There are good scientific reasons for the existence of God from the points of view of neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Furthermore, the concept of God is not in conflict with physics, for there is plenty of room outside the bounds of our knowledge and reality for a plausible God.