Why the universe seems so strange | Richard Dawkins | Summary and Q&A

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Why the universe seems so strange | Richard Dawkins


Science, especially quantum theory, challenges our intuitions about reality, and our brains, evolved for survival in the "Middle World," struggle to understand the true nature of the universe.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory?

The many-worlds interpretation suggests that there are multiple universes existing in parallel, each with its own set of outcomes, and these universes are mutually undetectable except through quantum mechanical experiments. This interpretation is embraced by physicist David Deutsch because it provides a solution to the mysterious assumptions of quantum theory.

Q: How does our understanding of reality differ from that of other animals?

Our understanding of reality is shaped by the limitations and perceptual biases of our brains, which have evolved to survive in the "Middle World." Different animals perceive and interpret reality differently based on their sensory modalities and the environments they inhabit.

Q: Why do solid objects like rocks appear and feel solid to us?

Rocks feel solid to us because our brains have evolved to perceive solidity and impenetrability as useful concepts for navigating the middle-sized world. The reality is that rocks are mostly empty space, but our brains construct the notion of solidity to assist us in interacting with our environment.

Q: Can we train ourselves to understand concepts that are outside the scope of our evolutionary experience?

It is unclear whether we can fully break out of the limitations of our evolutionary development and comprehend concepts beyond the Middle World. While it is possible to expand our understanding through education and training, there may be aspects of the universe that are forever beyond our grasp.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Quantum theory is accurate and true, but the assumptions it relies on are so mysterious that even experts find it difficult to fully comprehend.

  • The queerness of modern physics is just an extreme example of how science challenges common sense and conventional wisdom.

  • Our brains evolved to navigate and understand the "Middle World," a range of sizes and speeds relevant to our survival, but are not equipped to comprehend the very small, the very large, or the very fast.

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