Jeremy Côté


Incompatible Ideas

Imagine I were to tell you that a circle and a square were really the same thing. Not in some fancy word-finesse, but that they are literally the same thing.

Most people would deem such a proposition ridiculous, and even go so far as to show me that I am wrong. A circle and a square would be drawn in front of me, and you would look at me triumphantly.

In this simple scenario, there’s no way I can convince you that a circle and a square are the same shape. It’s not possible, therefore, you don’t see many people arguing about circles and squares being identical.

However, we do see people arguing and debating about what kind of fundamental world we live in, and I’m not referring necessarily to a bunch of physicists. I’m talking about people who cling on to ideas like souls and free will. The former is basically a relic in science now, but the latter is quickly losing favour as well.

The problem is that these sorts of ideas are rampant in modern society, yet people don’t see how these ideas are in conflict with our fundamental ideas about reality. If we accept that our fundamental ideas are correct, then we can’t have things like souls or free will. It can certainly feel like it, but they are fundamentally illusions. These situations are basically just like that of me saying a circle and a square are the same thing, simply more complicated. However, because the situation is more complex, it’s easy to not see the connections between ideas that make certain concepts not reconcilable with our fundamental ideas of the universe.

We could always be wrong, but overthrowing the existing paradigm requires one to have a new model that is able to explain everything we know about the universe while being consistent with everything else we know. This is the hurdle that needs to be overcome, which is why many “novel” ideas aren’t likely true in the universe.