What We See Is Determined By What We Know

The philosophical inspiration for Light-Years.net comes from the introduction of  “The Day the Universe Changed” (subtitled "A Personal View by James Burke")

It is a British television documentary series written and presented by science historian James Burke, originally broadcast in 1985 by the BBC and released in the USA on PBS in 1986.  I recorded it years ago and have watched it several times.

The title comes from the philosophical idea that the universe essentially only exists as you perceive it through what you know; therefore, if you change your perception of the universe with new knowledge, you have essentially changed your view of the universe itself.

James Burke on camera in front of the sun "rising" over the desert sands:  “Let me tell you a joke.  Somebody apparently once went up to the great philosopher Wittgenstein and said, ‘What a lot of morons people must have been back in the Middle Ages, to have looked every day at the dawn, and to have thought that what they were seeing was the Sun going around the Earth.  Well, as every school kid knows, the Earth goes around the Sun, and it doesn’t take too many brains to understand that.’

“To which Wittgenstein replied, ‘Yeah, but I wonder what it would have looked like had the Sun been going around the Earth.’

“The point being that it would have looked exactly the same.  In other words you see what your knowledge tells you you’re seeing.

“What you believe the Universe to be and how you react to that belief in everything you do depends on what you know.  And when that knowledge changes, for you the Universe changes.  That is as true for the whole of society as it is for the individual.  We all are the result of what we all know today.  What people knew yesterday was different and so were they.

“Through history every time the knowledge changed, and with it our view of the Universe, something was also created that would help to make us the way we are in the modern world today, with our distinctive way of thinking that makes us us and not some other bunch with a different view.”