Limits To Intuition
Intuition helps us discover truth, but it cannot tell us what is true. Our intuition/common sense works very well for life on earth on land, for a radius of about 0.52 megameter (323.11 miles) and for time from a second to 80 years. Outside that, it does not work as well because on different scales, the universe behaves in a counter-intuitive way. For example:
~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70) Quantum Leap: how matter behaves at the atomic level
- to our intuition, the earth appears flat.
- to our intuition, the earth does not move.
- to our intuition, rocks, continents and glaciers are stationery.
- to our intuition, you need force to keep an object in motion. Math and science say that barring friction, force will cause an object to accelerate. It requires no push to keep it going. Think of objects floating about a space station.
- to our intuition, matter never springs from nothing, but if it didn’t your pocket calculator would not work. Particles spring out of nothing all the time.
- to our intuition, my personal CO₂ emission is insignificant. Therefore we need not worry about our collective emissions.
- Our intuition cannot conceive of what Einstein’s claim that space is curved means. We have to understand via math.
Intuition looks at the Mandelbrot fractals and says, those intricate patterns could not arise just out of math. They had to be the result of Intelligent Design even though they are not physical objects.
Where did intuition cut its teeth to learn what sort of thing math can produce all on its own?
- We cannot comprehend of the notion of the beginning of time or the expansion of space. Only a few of us have the skill to grasp them via math. The evidence is mathematical. If you cannot understand the math, or the measurements, you have no business telling those that do, their business.
- We cannot conceive of how undetectable changes given millions of years could add up to transform a four-legged wolf-like creature into a whale. The closest we can come to is noticing how the hour hand on a clock, though we cannot see it move, completes a circuit each 12 hours.
- Let me give you an idea how off your intuition is. Science tells us the evolution of whale from land animals took about 20 million years. That is 200,000 centuries. If the legs of the proto-whales shrunk even 100 microns (3,937.01 microinches) per century (a tenth the size of the smallest division on a ruler), how much would they have shrunk after 200,000 centuries? — 20 metres (21.87 yards). There is plenty of time for gradual change.