I watched a Horizon programme recently on the nature of reality.    It was a surreal experience.

A babel of learned professors.    They looked like the kind of person Ian McEwan described in Solar as frequently thinking that topics of conversation were ‘beneath their intellect.’      I’ve often thought topics were very boring, but previously it hadn’t occurred to me that this was because they were ‘beneath my intellect’.   I must try this thought next time, see if it lightens the moment of tedium.    You can imagine:   So I don’t know whether it would be better
to take the car and pay for the parking, or take the train and walk from the station, or maybe there’s a bus…   what do you think?    Reply:   Actually this question is below the level of my intellect…

The distinguished scientists   showed an experiment where a beam of light is shone through a hole.   It leaves a shadow.     Then they shone the beam of  light through two holes.    It cast 3 shadows.   No reasonable explanation could be found for this.   While they were examining this phenomenon, the light decided it didn’t want to be examined, so it reverted to just casting two shadows.   (I’m not making this up.)   (No pussycats here.)

I began to wonder if this programme was a spoof to see if you were paying attention.     But the eminent professors were all deadly serious.    From the light experiment they conflated a whole extravaganza of suppositions including that there existed in some unreachable dimension somewhere else, immeasurable alternative realities to our own.   For this vaunting extrapolation there was no proof whatsoever.   None at all.

I reflected how the body scientific generally sneers at religious dogma, such as the virgin Birth, Christ risen from the dead, etc.   What difference is there between the unprovable religious theory (leap of faith required) and the unprovable scientific theory (leap of faith required.)    Does man have an irresistible compulsion to believe in something – anything – outside himself?   Do philosophers never get fed up hanging about all day wrestling with unlikely scenarios, (ABOVE the level of their intellect) and have a sudden urge to do something practical, like chopping wood or scrubbing floors?

The programme concluded that Reality was ‘a continuing conversation with the universe’.     I thought, No, it isn’t.   Reality is what you know to be true, and can prove (or at any rate, it cannot be disproved.)     But there are unsatisfactory elements within that statement.   (I’ve read too much philosophy.)   What is truth, as someone famously asked, and there was no  answer.

I consulted the Ministry of Practical Sense and Doing Things.    You have to pick your moment to question the Minister.    He’s irascible and down to earth and doesn’t believe in wasting time on pointless speculations.   He is however the master of the prompt and pithy sound-bite.   His definition of the nature of reality?   Something you can poke.