Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Relative Understanding

UPDATE: Previously the link to Craig's video didn't work - sorry! Hopefully now fixed.

Today is a bit of a different post - it's a bit of a philopshical bent.

I discovered this website by Craig Freshley the other day - http://relativeunderstanding.com/ - which has quite an interesting theory about perception and about how easy it is for me to understand something else.

The short version of the theory goes "What you see depends on where you sit. Understanding is always relative and never absolute." - the medium version goes on to explain how a persons level of understanding of something else depends on how close it is (both physically and relative in time i.e. something from today vs something from a century ago), how close its volume & duration of existence (i.e. it's easier to understand something that lives for a hundred years than a radioactive isotope that survives for a fragment of a second) is to the person, and how the person experiences that item. For example, you can understand heat better than you can understand a radio wave, because you can sense heat, whilst a radio wave you can only understand through the use of a tool such as a radio.

I'll freely admit that I was cynical about the theory, it seemed far too simple and, well, basic, to work.  I expected to be able to punch all kinds of holes through it.

But I couldn't.

Sometimes - just sometimes - something really simple works.

This video about truth by Craig is also really interesting.

For the rest of this post I've (with Craig's permission) copied one of his posts, titled "There is a lot we don't know" which is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.


Let’s face it. We cannot know everything. There are limits to what we can understand.

I suspect that some of you reading this already disagree with what I have written so far. Some of you think so highly of human ability and human potential that you are apt to believe that actually, we really can know everything. If not now, then someday, we will unlock every mystery of the universe.

I don’t think so.

There is nothing in our human experience to support such an assertion. It is a fun and very uplifting and very self-serving assertion, but when you look at the evidence it’s ludicrous. Our history has been one of continuously discovering new things; continuously realizing that what we thought was true, isn’t. Even within very specific defined fields of study, no one has ever been able to claim that everything is known, ever, about a particular subject.

First of all, our intake portals are limited. We can see, hear, taste, smell and touch. That seems like a lot. We intake vast amounts of information through those portals. Yet how do we know what we are missing? I know that we have developed incredible technology to translate things to fit our senses and to magnify things to fit our senses, yet there might be huge amounts of data that we are missing. How would we know what we are missing?

Second, the universe is really, really big and really, really old. Stuff out there is a long, long way away from us spatially and chronologically. Even if we haven’t experienced it first hand, we are all familiar with the image of a ship leaving port, sailing out to sea, and getting smaller and smaller until disappearing altogether. Our ability to understand what’s happening on the ship’s deck is pretty significant when she’s at rest next to the pier on which we are standing, but as the ship pushes away from the pier and heads to sea our ability to understand what’s happening on deck decreases. And before too long, we haven’t got a clue what’s happening out there. There is a point at which we can’t even see the ship or know where it is or even that it’s still afloat.

So too with knowledge. As things become really far away in space or time, relative to us, we know less and less about them. Things really, really far away: we know nothing. As things become really big or really small, relative to us, we now less and less about them. Things really, really big or really, really small: we know nothing.

For me there is an edge of knowledge in all directions; only so much I could possibly know. It happens at the point where the scale becomes so large or so tiny that it is impossible for me to study and gain more knowledge. Now I know that the edge moves due to technical advancements and due to the sharing of knowledge. Still, there is an edge.

Although we are apt to claim, “If we can’t detect it, it doesn’t exist;” actually, it’s just that we can’t detect it.

I believe that things do exist beyond our detection. A lot of things. And I challenge anyone to disprove this assertion.

Thanks for reading - for more about the theory of Relative Understanding, head over to http://relativeunderstanding.com/


  1. I often had the discussion with myself that if I were to get three wishes one of them would be to be fluent in every language ever created. The philosophical debate that I would have with myself afterwards would be, what would I do with the information of languages that can never be proven to have ever existed on this planet? Think about that for a moment, but just in theory alone there are so many things that aren't even relative to this planet and that has nothing to do with religion or ideology, just scientific fact, that other things do exist outside of anything we can see, or even adapt to. I am off to pick through your friends site, thanks for sharing this.

  2. I agree, we will never know everything, and sometimes, as I dig through history, it seems we will never know anything useful, or more appropriately, we will never understand ourselves well enough to do the correct things.


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