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Notes from the Shower

Originally posted as a Note on Facebook, April 30, 2009, at 3:53 pm

I don’t know about you, but I get some interesting ideas in the shower. This is what I was thinking about this morning.

We have senses that tell us about our environment. Current theories suggest that these evolved over time and were passed on because they gave the organisms that possessed them an advantage over those that didn’t.

It stands to reason that if we had evolved in an environment with different circumstances, our senses would have been different. For example, we don’t have a lot of x-rays here on Earth, so having sense organs to detect them is not necessarily beneficial. If we lived on a planet orbiting a star that emitted huge amounts of x-rays that made it through our atmosphere, it could be a benefit to perceive them. Plants would maybe evolve a chemical (like chlorophyll) that would turn x-rays into usable energy.

The point is that we have senses that allow us to perceive our environment, but not necessarily everything present in the environment. We can’t sense x-rays directly, but we know of their presence because we can detect their effects.

Actually, most of the forces in the universe are invisible to us. We can sense a relatively small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum directly, and we can devise ways to perceive the rest of it mechanically and electronically. But we can only detect the other forces (gravity and the strong and weak nuclear forces) by their effects. As far as I know, we can’t measure them directly.

So, starting from that point, it’s easy to wonder if there might be aspects of our reality that we cannot sense directly and whose effects are difficult to observe.

Some have suggested that the pineal gland in the brain (right behind the center of the forehead) can receive information not apparent otherwise. Could those in our society that “see” things that others don’t, “hear” voices that aren’t there, be using developing senses that the rest of us don’t have? Can we imagine what it would be like to develop a new sense? I think that it would feel like we were losing our minds.

There are many stories of things that don’t make sense from the standpoint of our five physical senses. Would they make more sense if we had other ways to experience reality? Other contexts within which to place these experiences?

At any rate, that’s what I thought about in the shower today.

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