I received this the other day. It's a perfect example of the sort of pseudothinking that people use when attempting to rationalise their religion. Of course, religion is irrational, and cannot therefore be rationalised. Hence the below:
Sent: Friday, October 08, 2004 10:00 AM
Subject: My bed does not exist...
Every night, I turn out the lights in my bedroom and I fear that my bed is no longer there. I'm sure of it! Sure, I can lay down in it and sleep in what seems to be my bed, but I can't see it, so it cannot possibly exist.
What do you think? Just because I can't see my bed, I have to refuse to believe it exists -- even though it's effects can be felt in my life.
It would really suck if, at the end of my life, I'd find out that my bed existed all along. I guess my question is, just because I believe my bed doesn't exist when I cannot see it, does that actually make it not exist...or does my lack of belief not really decide whether or not my bed exists?
Please help me understand this question/problem. You seem to have experience with this type of deep thinking.
Thank you very much, friend,
Sent: Monday, October 11, 2004 2:54 PM
Subject: RE: My bed does not exist...
Hello, and thank you for your message.
The problem here is in the mistaken belief that if you cannot see something, it cannot exist even if it can be detected in other ways. This is not the case, which is why virtually no one subscribes to this theory. After all, though you cannot ordinarily see oxygen, there can be no doubt that it exists. A cursory evaluation of the science behind vision would provide the answer:
you see an object because light reflects from the surface of that object. If you remove the light, you can still detect the object with your other senses. You can measure the object. Most importantly, you could bring in any stranger off the street, any impartial judge, and put them in your room. Turn off the light, and they will still be able to detect the bed in a variety of ways.
This means that the existence of the bed has been confirmed by an impartial witness, and the bed therefore most likely exists. It is just as silly to deny the existence of something when that thing's existence can be proved as it is to insist upon the existence of something when that thing's existence cannot be proved.
So here's what it comes down to:
your bed exists even when you cannot see it because:
The laws of physics (which can themselves be independently proved) state that of course you cannot see your bed when the lights are turned off. This is normal. If you could see your bed when the lights were off, this would be abnormal. So your entire concern is based upon a lack of understanding of the nature of the universe, but this can be resolved through study of the relevant sciences.
the existence of your bed can still be scientifically measured even though you cannot see it. That is, you can say with certainty that your bed is x meters long by y meters wide by z meters high, and you can measure this even in darkness. You can confirm that your bed weighs n kilograms whether the lights are on or off. You can confirm that objects supported by the bed when the lights are turned on do not fall to the floor when the lights are turned off. You can confirm in countless other practical ways the existence of your bed without having to rely upon blind faith in its existence, and this is what separates the real from the imaginary.
all of your findings can be confirmed by an independent and impartial witness or peer. You can measure the existence of your bed, and then a stranger can measure the existence of your bed in a similar or different fashion, and all data will correspond. That is, if you confirm that your bed is x meters long by y meters wide by z meters high, and that your bed is made of wood, you can theorise that your bed weighs n kilograms. If I then measure the weight of your bed, my findings and yours should correspond. If they do not, then either your theory or my measuring technique is incorrect and must be revised. In any event, however, the act of measuring the object proves that it exists. If you presented this theory that the bed exists, has x, y, and z dimensions, and should weigh n kilograms, but were unable to produce the bed, it would be silly of me to believe you because I could not confirm the existence of the bed.
Anything which exists can be measured, thereby proving its existence. If it cannot be measured, it cannot be proved. If it cannot be proved, only someone incredibly gullible could believe in it.
If I made the claim that I had a billion dollars, would you believe me? Would you not need to see evidence before you could believe me? Or would you take it on faith that I had a billion dollars? And if you took it on faith, would you lend me two hundred dollars if I asked? After all, I could certainly pay you back because I have a billion dollars. Would you stake so much on the unproven claim of a stranger? And that's only money. Here, we're talking about something serious. After all, how well you sleep seriously influences the way you lead your life, and you definitely sleep better with a real bed than with an imaginary one.
:: It would really suck if, at the end of my life,
:: I'd find out that my bed existed all along.
Let me turn that around. Suppose that you spent your life believing that your bed did exist when it actually did not. No one else could see it, no one could prove that it existed, no matter what you claimed, and yet somehow you believed that it was real. You tried to convince yourself that you could feel it under you, that your bed was more comfortable than anyone else's, even though you frequently had cold and uncomfortable nights, which you wouldn't have if your wondrous, comfortable bed did exist. In fact, everything that a bed is supposed to do, your bed did not. Oh, some nights might be less uncomfortable than others, which you took as evidence that the bed must be there, but ultimately your bed was never actually real. And yet still, for some reason, rather than just accepting this and getting another bed, you insisted that your bed existed. How would you feel if, eventually, you realised that you had been spending all of your nights on the uncomfortable floor for nothing?
And worse still, suppose you never did realise. Suppose that you spent your whole life depriving yourself of comfort, sleeping on the cold, hard floor convinced that your bed was real, and not understanding why it wasn't as comfortable as it should be.
Let's take it a step further. Suppose that you paid rent for this bed. Suppose that the salesman had sold it to you telling you that it would be the best night's sleep that you had ever had, that he had one just like it at home and it had really made his nights better, and that those people who didn't have one never really got a good night's sleep. And for some reason you accepted this, even though you could not see the bed. You could see your friends' beds, and they seemed very well rested, but for some reason you believed that yours must be better because it said so in the brochure, and the salesman had assured you that it was true. So you go through life paying for a bed that's not actually there, maybe you join a club where other people who have also bought nonexistent beds share their experiences. You go to seminars wherein you hear all about the remarkable benefits of your nonexistent bed, even though medical science has said that by sleeping on the floor you're doing yourself more harm than good. And even though an ever increasing number of people are giving up on the invisible, intangible bed and getting themselves real beds, and benefiting from things like orthopaedic mattresses and waterbeds, you still cling to the belief that yours is better, though there is no evidence at all to support the salesman's claims.
How much would it suck to be the person who's been duped into buying a nonexistent bed, spending their whole life sleeping on the floor just for the hope of some imaginary benefits that no one has provably ever experienced, and that science says cannot exist? And as to finding out at the end of your life, look at it this way: would you subscribe to a program that assures you that you spend your entire life accumulating AirMiles which you can only redeem once you're dead? No one has ever returned from the dead to tell you that they didn't actually get their AirMiles, so it must be true, right?
I hope that this helps.