Relying on intuition leads nowhere

One of the biggest reasons that people have a hard time believing in evolution is that it doesn’t make intuitive sense. How could my great(X 1000) grandmother have been a monkey? Even given the vast timescale that such changes occurred, it just seems impossible.  In cases such as this, one has to disregard intuitive feelings.     

Why should we ignore our intuition?  The answer is that so much of what we think is reality, simply is not. In this post, I am going to give two examples that show why reality is not what it appears.

The first example comes from Einstein and his theories of relativity.  Although I am sure that most people are familiar with his ideas, it is worth reexamining.  Einstein’s theory of relativity has passed every test that has been thrown at it. However, it just being a theory means that it is subject to refutation. For the sake of argument, lets say that it is fact.

The theory of relativity, at its most simple, shows us that things we take for granted are not always constant. Mass, length, and time all change depending on the movement of the observer compared to other observers. Does this make intuitive sense? Absolutely not. Even having learned these ideas when I was a child, it really doesn’t make sense to me. This is undoubtedly due to humans having evolved to never need to know about or use the consequences of relativity. If we lived in a world where we regularly traveled at speeds close to the speed of light, it might be another story.

The second example of how our intuition does not reflect reality is illustrated by the double-slit experiment. If you are not familiar with this experiment, please take a minute to read about it, or watch the video below.

Just so that we are on the same page, here is short description of the experiment.  Photons act like both a wave and a particle. If you shoot a beam of light at a piece of paper that has two slits that are close together, you will get an interference pattern. This is the same type of interference that you can see with waves in water or hear with sound. Here is where it gets cool (and creepy).  If you shoot single photons (or electrons or protons) at the double slit, you still get an interference pattern. Even if these particles are shot at a rate that is so slow that they cannot possibly hit each other, you still get this interference pattern.

What do the results of this experiment tell us? It tells us that each individual particle is actually interfering with itself. In some sense, the particle is actually going through both slits at once. Therefore, what we think of as particles moving through space are really probability waves that only collapse into a particle when it interacts with something.

These two examples show us that we can’t trust our intuition.  It tells us that what we see is not what we get, but reality is much different. The results of double-slit experiment, like relativity, have no real implications for our daily lives. It is no surprise that our intuition would disagree with these results.  Intelligent design proponents should not trust their intuition in matters of science, but they do. In fact, this logical fallacy of argument from personal disbelief appears to be one of their biggest talking points. It is too bad they can’t ignore their intuition and rely on the evidence.


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