We are so familiar with seeing, that it takes a leap of imagination
to realize that there are problems to be solved. But consider it. We
are given tiny distorted upside-down images in the eyes, and we see
separate solid objects in surrounding space. From the patterns of simulation
on the retinas we perceive the world of objects, and this is nothing
short of a miracle. R.L. Gregory2
This important conversation begins on a weekend in a summerhouse outside
MURAD: I really feel I know all of you after reading your letters. It's
like we're old friends, meeting after a long absence and just picking
up where we left off. You asked just the right questions. In fact, I hope
as we talk and share ideas, you'll find the answers are more simple and
precise than you can imagine. To explain a few technical matters I brought
pictures and diagrams. Now, who's going to ask the first question?
IBRAHIM: I'd like to start first since I don't know much about the subject.
I've read books that say, our lives are only composed of images that have
nothing to do with the external world. Is that true?
| Even though the process of hearing
is regarded as a very natural thing, a complex process is involved
as can be seen in the diagram below. Sound waves strike the ear and,
after passing through various stages, are converted into electric
signals which afterwards reach the brain by way of the nerves. Sounds
are perceived in the hearing center of the brain. Actually, the brain
is insulated from sound; that is, what we call the hearing center
in the brain is a place of complete silence. But, within this silence,
we perceive every outside noise and every conversation around us.
This is an amazing mystery.
MURAD: That's right.
IBRAHIM: Well I'd like to know what this image is then.
MURAD: Ibrahim, isn't your specialty biology?
MURAD: To understand this subject, it's necessary to know how our five
senses work. We all remember high school biology but since you, Ibrahim,
are advanced in that science, starting with the sense of sight, can you
tell us how the five senses work?
IBRAHIM: Technically speaking the sense organs are part of a very intricate
system that'll take hours to explain. Each organ has its own complex system.
Volumes have been written about the way the ears make hearing possible,
alone. But it's possible to at least explain this complex system in a
What we call external stimuli, that is, an outside effect stimulating
our nerve endings such as light, sound, taste, smell and hardness, reach
our sense organs the eye, the ear, the tongue, the nose and the skin.
Here the first stage begins: the nerve endings receive the stimulation
and convert it into an electric signal that can be transmitted by the
nerves. In the second stage these electric signals are carried to the
relevant centers in the brain related to sight, hearing, smell and taste.
In the last stage, when the brain perceives these signals, it gives the
The stimuli coming from an object or from some food are converted
into electric signals and, after passing through a series of processes,
reach the brain to be perceived in the 'smell' center.
MURAD: Ibrahim, you explained it well. Yes,
the system works in this way but at the cognitive stage of perception,
that is, the stage when we understand what it is we sense, the system
becomes much more complex. For example, we're sitting here looking at
a pond. The signals of the senses create impressions belonging to the
pond and its surroundings... Impressions from the surrounding area such
as the smell of flowers, birds singing, the texture of the table and countless
elements that form the images come together. The impression is then compared
with information stored in our memory and the relevant center of our brain
makes sense of our surroundings.Now Ibrahim, would you tell us what operation
takes place when we see that tree over there?
IBRAHIM: It's simple. The information about
the tree, that is, its color, distance, and dimensions are carried to
my eye by means of light. Inside the eye, this information is converted
into an electric signal and fed to the nerves, and then the nerves transport
this information to the brain's sight center. These signals reach the
sight center and the brain perceives them as a tree.
Someone who thinks that he is sitting and conversing with friends
in a bright outdoor place is like someone watching a cinema screen.
The friends sitting with him and the vastness of the view he sees
around him are images formed in the sight center of his brain. He
has no relation with anything outside his brain.
MURAD: Is this tree standing over there
now or is it in the brain's sight center?
IBRAHIM: It's in the brain's sight center,
AHMED: Just a minute. Okay, the impression
of the tree may be in my brain but the tree is standing over there! I
can go and pick a fruit from it or lean against it and sit in the shade.
MURAD: Let's not rush it and look at the
subjects in order. Think for a moment about everything that makes a tree
a tree its colors, branches, leaves all are perceived in the sight
center of our brain.When we touch a tree or pick a fruit from it we experience
an impression of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, sent to the brain
from all our five senses.We never have a connection with anything outside
our perceptions. Without the sense of sight we can't see; if we don't
have the sense of hearing, we can't hear. In fact, the things we perceive
in our brains by means of the senses make up much of our whole life.
AHMED: Okay I accept that. But look. I'm
reaching out and taking a bite of cake and eating it with pleasure. Once
I've eaten the cake it gives me energy. Would it be right to say that
I have no connection with the reality of this? Can we taste something
without having anything to do with its reality?
MURAD: In fact, earlier in the example of
the tree the question was answered. The cake, the tree and the table are
in the cognitive center of your brain. But don't worry!We'll find examples
later that'll make this clearer! But to sum it up now; everything we know
about the world is composed of signals communicated to us by our senses.
Apart from the information of those signals carried to the brain, we can
never give an answer to questions like, ''What is the reality of these
things like?", "Does reality and what we perceive have exactly
the same quality?''It's not possible to go beyond our senses and get outside
them. For this reason, throughout our whole lives, the world we see in
our brain is perceived by the sense organs. Look, what the famous philosopher
Bertrand Russell in his book The Problems of Philosophy emphasizes in
situations which results from grappling with this problem.
While sitting in a garden, just look around; the trees, the grass,
the sun in the sky, the chair you are sitting on, the table you
are resting your arms on, the glass you are touching... All these
things are actually objects you know by means of your sense organs
and perceive by your brain's interpretation of electric signals.
Before we go farther it will be well to consider for a moment what it
is that we have discovered so far. It has appeared that, if we take any
common object of the sort that is supposed to be known by the senses,
what the senses immediately tell us is not the truth about the object
as it is apart from us, but only the truth about certain sense-data which,
so far as we can see, depend upon the relations between us and the object.
Thus what we directly see and feel is merely 'appearance', which we believe
to be a sign of some 'reality' behind. But if the reality is not what
appears, have we any means of knowing whether there is any reality at
all? And if so, have we any means of finding out what it is like?3
AISHA: I can give an example.I'm studying
in the computer department, so this subject is a familiar one and I find
the topic interesting. In countries where technology is highly developed,
a lot of entertainment and education media have been created. And you
know computer programs make up a great part of it. These are able to create
a three-dimensional image in the brain. Today the principal aim of these
3-D computer games, so fascinating for children, is to give the illusion
of real life in an imaginary setting by stimulating the five senses. Education
in some professions from NASA astronauts to architects and engineers is
done by the use of three dimensional imaging, called simulation. In simulation
flight training, a pilot can't tell the difference between real flight
conditions and simulated conditions, created by the computer. The subject
of many great science fiction films we see is the idea that human life
is constituted of impressions or virtual worlds formed in the brain.
Aisha's right. The world of science is no different. Ten years ago, no
one would even dream of this topic. Now, of course, it's a major theme
of discussion. There has been so much work in this area that it's getting
easier and easier for a computer to form a non-existent world out of electrical
signals and to have human beings experience a desired impression by means
of these signals.A great deal of physics, atomic and biological research
topics are shaped by this technology.
MURAD: You're so right! Developments in
technology produce new examples that help people understand this subject
more quickly. But I must make it clear that it's easier to grasp this
subject by approaching it with an open mind. Even if we didn't know any
of the examples you gave, nothing would change because the situation is
extremely clear to me. But it's possible that a person who had never thought
about this subject before will at first find it a bit strange. To learn
that something we have accepted from birth as true, is, in fact, very
different from what we have believed it to be, will cause various reactions
in people. But if someone's basic aim is to learn the truth, he must accept
the truth without resistance.For this reason, the examples we experience
every day will assure that we grasp this reality much better. Besides,
it's not enough just to explain the subject technically. We must go beyond
this and look at the results.
AHMED: I've understood what you said up
to this point. But I'm curious about where this subject will lead us.
It's a little difficult in a moment to get used to a subject that's so
MURAD: I think that all of you have understood
the situation we find ourselves in.Anyway, it's not so hard to understand
since it's a clear truth accepted by science.But since it's necessary
for you to come to a definite opinion on this matter, let's look at it
again from a different point of view. Now, Aisha, can you tell us about
a dream that deeply affected you and that stayed in your conscious memory?
While asleep in your bed with your eyes closed, you can find yourself
in a colorful forest and you can feel intense fear as you run away
from the wild animals chasing you. Your dreams can be so vivid that
you don't know you are dreaming until you wake up.
AISHA: Just last night I had a dream that
really struck me. I was being attacked by wild beasts in a forest.I was
terrified and running as fast as I could along a rough trail when my foot
got caught in some brush and I fell. The animals came closer.I ran into
a hut, slammed the door and locked it.Now the beasts were trying to get
to me from the windows. I picked up an iron bar, trying desperately to
defend myself and to escape. At that point I was awakened by a car horn.
When I realized it was only a dream, I took a deep breath and was relieved.
MURAD: What's the difference between what
we experience while awake and our dreams?Maybe you never thought that.Maybe
it never entered your mind, but dreams will help a lot to understand this
subject. Even if a dream is extremely vivid while it takes place, from
the moment we immerse ourselves in daily life, the dream loses its clarity
and effect.Someone, who woke up in a sweat from a nightmare a little while
ago, soon eats breakfast with none of the disturbing feelings his dream
evoked. Or a child who is awakened for school in the midst of a pleasant
dream, quickly forgets the delight of the dream by the time he washes
his face. The events in a dream are sometimes so vivid that often, when
people awaken, they wonder whether or not the dream was real. In fact,
technically speaking, there's little difference between the world we experience
while awake and the dreams we have while asleep. In the course of a dream,
a person can experience anything that happens while awake; he can talk,
eat, breathe, run, laugh, cry, feel pain and so on. The dream world is
a copy of the every-day world. Therefore, people react to events in dreams
as though they were real.Sometimes they wake up screaming from a frightening
dream and don't want to wake up at all from a pleasant one.
AHMED: Last month I had a vivid dream too.
In my dream, I was driving along the shore in a motorboat cutting through
the water as I went. My friends gathered on the shore, admiring the new
boat. I stepped on the gas to impress them. I remember very well the vivid
smell of the sea, and the strong wind and cold spray of salty water on
my face as the high powered speed boat sped through the water. Occasionally
I had to wipe the mist of the seawater spray from my glasses. Suddenly,
the boat struck a rock and began to sink.I jumped into the sea and swam
to shore with great difficulty. Then I woke up and was sweating profusely.
After that dream I wasn't able to get into a motorboat for a while.
There is no difference between what we sense in a dream and what
we sense while awake. We hear the voices of a crowd; we fall into
the sea and experience the excitement as we struggle with the high
waves all around us. We experience things as if they were really
MURAD: The events in your dream were very
vivid, weren't they? Now try to remember the details of the dream. For
example, Ahmed, can you distinguish the sounds, colors, smells - and the
emotions you felt as you drove the boat such as fear, hunger and joy
from what you experience in a waking state?
AHMED: Probably not.
IBRAHIM: I also had a dream the other day
I confused with real life. That evening I wanted to go to bed early because
the next day we were going to go to the Islands to have a meal with my
family. My sister went to sleep in her own room. Since I was tired, I
immediately fell asleep. In my dream, I asked my sister to wash and iron
my new shirt. I stood there myself and watched her ironing my shirt.When
I got up in the morning, Asra had placed the shirt in the place I wanted,
and I wasn't quite sure if it was real or I was dreaming.Had my sister
really ironed my shirt or was it a dream?I thought for a minute and decided
that it was real, then I went to thank my sister. When my sister acted
surprised, I realized that all this had happened in my dream.
MURAD: Yes, sometimes dreams can be so vivid
they're confused with real life. Besides, I want to remind you again,
there's no difference between what we see while dreaming and what we see
while awake. In both states, we have the same reaction to the same stimuli.
For example, we sense the full taste while eating, we feel fear and flee
from dangerous situations, and feel joy in a happy situation. Although
from time to time we experience unusual things, our reactions are the
AHMED: I totally agree. Even that time in
the sea when I was swimming and trying to save myself I remember how cold
the water felt.
MURAD: But even more interesting is how
it is that we see the things we experience in dreams. Ibrahim, can you
tell us where we see our dreams?
IBRAHIM: Easy. We see dreams in our brain.
I mean, just as we experience everything in daily life in our brain's
cognition center so do we experience them in a dream. Technically speaking,
there's no difference.
MURAD: To this point you've listened to
what's been said. So Ahmed, tell us: how is it that, at night, with our
eyes closed, such a clear and colorful world is formed in the dark recesses
of our brain? How does the sun shine, and how are flowers so colorful
and the sea so blue?How can we see these things with our eyes closed?
Don't we need our eyes to see?
In this film, a journey is made through different dimensions by
means of special images created by a simulator.
The hero of the film goes into the simulator and, without going
anywhere, he finds himself in a totally different world.
The hero's body is in a twentieth century simulating device, but
he finds himself in the nineteenth century. He thinks everything
is real, but the cars, the people, his own clothing, even his own
appearance are actually composed of impressions projected to his
brain. None of them is real.
In recent years, many movies have been made about this reality.
The scenes you see above are from just one out of hundreds of such
films in which people are connected to a computer and live in a
completely different world made up of impressions that seem very
real. These films help us to grasp this obvious and important reality
which most of us have not considered before.
AHMED: I don't have a clue though I know
the dream I had seems to be proof of that.
MURAD: Even if we don't receive a stimulus
from outside, in other words, even if our sense organs are really unaffected
by stimuli we call the world elements such as light, color and dimension
we can still see and feel.In order for a world to be formed by means
of the operation of all these perceptions, we have no need of the signals
that our sense organs bring from the outside. What sees is not the eye
and what hears is not the ear. If all these perceptions were produced
artificially and transmitted directly to the relevant center in our brain,
we would eat a cake that didn't exist, we would go to a country that didn't
exist, we would smell a flower that didn't exist and we wouldn't perceive
that all these things were imaginary.
AHMED: What do you mean?
MURAD: When we're full, our stomach sends
a signal to our brain. If the same signal is sent to the brain without
having eaten, we would still feel full. As in the earlier example, imagine
that you're looking at a tree. There are signals related to the tree that
your eyes send to your brain. If we were to artificially produce the same
signals, and transmit them to the relevant nerves, we would see the same
tree without eyes.
IBRAHIM: The earlier examples of a virtual
world explains this matter completely. Look, in order to understand this
matter better, let me expand the topic with a few more examples.As you
know, with the advance of technology, devices called simulators are used
in many fields. A life-like but imaginary environment is created and accessed
by the use of a helmet, visor and a glove to make the connection. Those
hooked up to the connections can experience an environment as if it was
real. In a simulator, the fingers of a person wearing the glove are stimulated
by a mechanism which sends signals from the finger-tips to the brain and
the person thinks, for example, he's petting a cat. There is a similar
mechanism in the helmet. In order that the impression appears more realistic,
signals go from the helmet to the person's brain, and as a result, the
image of a cat is formed in the brain. The person also hears the sound
of a cat. In this way, the appearance, the sound and the feel of a cat
are perceived completely. Without there being a single cat to be found,
the person really feels that he's petting a cat.
AHMED: Now I understand.
AISHA: Me, too. Just think. If someone came
to me while I was having the dream I had, and said, ''Don't be afraid.
It's only a dream and not real. What you see is only in your mind and
you're safely in bed."I doubt if I would believe him. Yes, now I
understand much better; scientifically and logically there is no difference
between what I see in a dream and what I see while awake. It's already
common for people to experience computer generated virtual reality. I
saw a movie about virtual reality the other day. It was about the same
thing we're discussing now. The heroes of the film were hooked up to a
computer, found themselves transported to different places. For example,
they thought they were in a gym doing Oriental martial arts but in fact
never moved from the chair in front of the computer in that small room.
One of the characters tried to explain to the person hooked up to the
computer that what he was seeing was really just illusions. The film's
hero didn't believe it, and he was only convinced when the computer images
Above we see a simulating device. Wearing a special pair of glasses,
a person sees unreal impressions and a glove gives him the sense
that he is touching things that are not really there.
IBRAHIM: I saw that film too, but I didn't
think of it from that angle.
AHMED: Murad, I see the point too, but can
you give more examples to help us understand better?
MURAD: Sure! Let's go back to your dream.
When you were swimming did you feel the coldness of the water, the buoyancy,
taste the salt?While swimming, did you feel the exertion and then the
fatigue? And did you hear the sounds of waves, seagulls, and other details
your senses picked up during the dream?
MURAD: Were you convinced that what you
were experiencing during the dream was really happening?
MURAD: Our experience of life in the real
world, like the images in our dreams, is even more convincing. The impressions
we perceive are so many, so clear and detailed that many people lead their
whole lives believing they have some connection with the reality of all
they see. But the same thing is also true for your dream as in your dream
you thought you had some connection with the sea or the chair where you
were sitting. If you think carefully for a moment, you'll understand that
the things you experience in your dreams and the life you live while awake
are composed of the same impressions.
As can be seen in the picture, the hero of the film demonstrates
super-human feats when he has to; he can even fly through the air.
Although he experiences these things in a highly realistic way,
they are actually imaginary impressions created in the brain by
the computer. Although the hero thinks he is experiencing these
exciting adventures, he is actually sitting in a chair.
AHMED: I understand this but when I wake
up from a dream, I come back to the real world which is in the same place
where it was before I fell asleep. So, it is obvious that there is a world
existing apart from our impressions. Right?
||In the film, the actor in the
leading role is sitting in a chair connected to a computer, as can
be seen in the picture above. Nevertheless, he can practice oriental
martial arts (as can be seen in the middle picture) and he can move
fast enough to outrun a bullet (as in the bottom picture). Everything
is so realistic that the actor is very surprised when he opens his
eyes and finds that he is sitting in a chair. This proves that to
make a person experience a place or a situation there is no need for
concrete external reality.
MURAD: What we call the material world is
a place we know little about and in fact, we may never understand. Apart
from what our senses pick up and our impressions, we can neither see nor
feel matter. From the day we open our eyes, we're always affected by impressions.
Everything that makes up our daily life school, family, toys, food,
a bus, friends, a scenic view, home, the workplace in other words, everything
is composed of a film playing in the brain. Because a person will never
be able to get outside of his senses, it's not possible to see what's
outside. For this reason, everyone actually lives an entire life relating
to impressions of the world that are in his brain.
In a dream, a person can do everything you see in the picture above:
he can talk on the telephone, work at the office, ski, read a newspaper,
take a trip, and play with a child. Despite the fact that the person
is having a dream, everything seems highly realistic. The same thing
is true for the real world. In fact, both what is experienced as
a dream and what is experienced as real life are all impressions
perceived in the brain. This is an important reality worth considering
because we live with it every day of our lives.
AHMED: But people go to the moon and I can
get on a plane and go to another city. Doesn't that mean that space exists?
MURAD: Basically, ideas such as space, depth,
size also form a part of an impression. It's possible to understand this
with the help of some simple examples. In your dream, did you see the
moon and the stars? Or, as in your dream, did you get in a boat and go
for a ride?
MURAD: The moon and stars in your dream
are in the same space as the stars you see while awake. Is that right?
AHMED: Yes, but...
IBRAHIM: Can I answer that? I studied this
in an Optics course. What we call space is a kind of three-dimensional
seeing. What stimulate the sense of space and depth in an impression are
certain factors such as perspective, shadow and movement.
MURAD: True. The kind of impression called
space in the science of Optics is part of a very complex system just as
the impression of color is, but to put it simply we can say, basically,
that an impression that comes to our eyes has only two dimensions. That
is, it has height and width. The fact that the dimensions of an impression
meet the eye at an angle and that the two eyes see two different impressions
at the same time, causes the sensation of depth and space. Every impression
that strikes one eye is different from the impression that strikes our
other eye from the point of view of elements such as light and position.
When the brain brings these two impressions into one picture, we get the
sense of space and depth. Come on, let's try an experiment in order to
understand this better. Ibrahim will be the subject.
MURAD: First, stretch your right arm and show us your index
finger. Now, focus your eyes on your finger and open and close your right
and left eyes one after the other. Because two different impressions strike
your two eyes, you will see that your finger changes place or slides slightly.
Now, continue to focus your eyes on your right index finger and bring
your left index finger as close as possible to your eyes. You will notice
that the finger closer to you has formed a double image which proves that
an impression of depth different from that of the farther finger is formed
in the system of perception. Now, while you are in that position, if you
open and close your eyes one after the other, you will see that the closer
finger changes place more than that farther finger because the difference
between the two impressions striking the eye has been increased.
Do not let concepts such as space, size and depth deceive you; you
perceive their existence in your dreams also. Just as in real life,
you look up at the sky and see the moon and the stars in a particular
special relation to yourself; in a dream you see them in the same
relation. Actually, they exist in the 'sight' center of your brain.
IBRAHIM: Yes, you're right.
AISHA: I did it too. It occurs to me now
that the same technique is used in making a three-dimension film. An image
shot from two different angles is projected on the same screen. Viewers
put on a pair of special color filter or polarized filter glasses. The
filters in the glasses receive one of the two images and the brain brings
these two together making a three dimensional image. Is that right?
MURAD: Right! Now, let's try another experiment.
Aisha, close one eye and look around you. You continue to have an impression
of depth, don't you?How is it that a clear impression like three dimensions
can be formed on a single, two-dimensional retina? The answer to this
lies in the elements of depth that operate when you look with one eye.
The way a sense of depth is formed on a two-dimensional retina is very
much like the technique used by an artist trying to get a realistic sense
of depth in a two-dimensional picture. A few artists are very successful
in achieving this sense of depth. There are a few important methods that
go into its formation; these are: positioning one object on top of another,
the perspective of atmosphere, texture, linear perspective, dimension,
height and movement. I brought some pictures to illustrate.
MURAD: Putting images one on top of the other is an important
method of creating the sense of depth. Ahmed, it's your turn for an experiment.
Now, take one of these two pens in one hand and one in your other hand.
Hold them a little distance from your eyes but don't put them on top of
each other.Now, move one pen a little farther away and close one eye.
Without looking with both eyes, it's very difficult to know which one
is farther away, isn't it?
AHMED: Yes, you're right.
MURAD: Now, with one eye closed, bring the
two pens close together and place one in front of the other. Now you can
measure space and depth much better, can't you?
MURAD: The famous American psychologist
James J. Gibson was one of the first to understand the importance of change
of texture in the sensation of depth.The surface we walk on, a road, or
a field full of flowers is actually a texture. The textures close to us
are more detailed while those more distant appear indistinct. For this
reason, it is easier to make a judgment about the distance of an object
which is placed on a texture.
In a three-dimensional film, two different images
taken from two different angles are projected on the same screen.
With the help of special glasses, a three-dimensional image is obtained.
Although the viewer does not actually see a three-dimensional image
on the screen, technology can give the impression of three-dimensionality.
In a similar way, a person is deceived in thinking that he is observing
a three-dimensional world around him.
AISHA: As you were speaking a sunflower
field I saw yesterday came to my mind. Putting all these things together,
I understand much better why the field appeared so vast.
In these pictures it can be seen how painters
give the impression of depth and reality to the picture by the use
of shadow and perspective. All of these pictures are on a flat surface
but the lines are made so as to give the impression of depth.
MURAD: And when the elements of shadow and
light are brought into the picture, the three-dimensional image is complete.
For example, the reason we admire a painting is because of the sense of
reality and depth, and the use of shadow and perspective. Perspective
arises from the perception that things in the distance appear to the viewer
as smaller in relation to things that are near. For example, when you
look at a landscape painting, the trees in the distance appear small and
the trees that are close appear big. Or the image of a mountain in the
background is drawn smaller than the image of a person standing in the
foreground. In linear perspective, an artist uses parallel lines. Train
tracks joining on the distant horizon gives the sense of depth and distance.
AISHA: So it appears that what we call depth
and space is an impression formed in our brain.
MURAD: True. You see, because these elements
are applied in art and that details come together, a realistic and convincing
world emerges, formed from our impressions.
AHMED: You mean like the way we used to
watch snowy images on black and white television and not get as involved
in the action? Now we go to the cinema and, if the film is well made,
we get caught up in it and feel as if it's real. The other day I went
with my family to a three-dimensional film about dinosaurs. They gave
us each a pair of glasses. The dinosaurs looked so real to me that I reflexively
reacted when they jumped out at me.And I couldn't persuade the children
that they weren't real.
When you look at these pictures, you get a sense of depth and
space. For example, in the picture on the right there are trees
close to you and farther away. But this is really a two-dimensional
picture and all the trees are located on the same surface. With
the use of perspective, an impression of depth has been created.
Similarly, we can say that the impressions we relate to throughout
our lives are actually on one plane.
MURAD: Right Ahmed. The more intricately
the details of an impression are woven, such as light, shadow, and dimensions,
the more realistic it appears and deceives our senses.And so we react
as if three-dimensional space and depth is real. But every impression
is formed on a single surface as on a frame of film. The sight center
of our brain has an area of one cubic centimeter; that is, as small as
a chickpea. All those things we see in the distance such as far-away houses,
stars in the sky, the moon, the sun, airplanes and birds in the air, occur
in this small area. In other words, there is technically no distance between
an airplane which you may say is thousands of kilometers up in the air
and a glass you can reach out and take with your hand. It's all on a single
surface in the brain's center of perception.
AHMED: I understand too. There's no longer
any doubt that space and depth are particular to the brain just like sight,
sound and taste. But what does this change?That is what I can't understand.
I mean, what difference does it make if everything is an impression in
MURAD: Then answer these questions. With
what evidence can we claim that we have a relation to a material world
outside our perceptions?Do we have any proof that we're in touch with
the reality of things?
In the picture on the left, there is a distance between the person
standing and the airplanes over his head. But the glass held by
the man on the right appears much closer in comparison to the plane.
Actually, both the planes in the distance and the glass in the man's
hand are on one surface. There is no distance between the people
and these objects. Each image is in the brain's center of cognition.
AHMED:Give me a moment to think about that.If
we look at what we've talked about so far, it seems there's no proof.
But isn't it true that these images arise from concrete, absolute material
MURAD: Ahmed, what is it that which you
call absolute matter?
AHMED: It's just anything that has mass
and volume; something that I can hold in my hand, see with my eyes; that
exists separately and occupies space.
MURAD: So is that car parked up there a
MURAD: What qualities make that car a material
AHMED: Things like the metal used in its
manufacture, the colors and then its size and weight.
MURAD: In that case, if we go back to what
we were talking about earlier, if we take away from the image of the car
our perceptions that have given us the feelings associated with that perception,
such as color, hardness, depth, what's left?Or, let me put it this way.
If we cut or temporarily interrupt the nerves going from our sense organs
to our brains, what do we have?
If a computer is connected to the brain and electric signals are
transmitted from the computer to the brain to create the sense of
touch, even if there is no actual act of touching, the person thinks
that he is touching something. Such a sensation is easily created
with a simulator.
AHMED: Nothing at all.
MURAD: Here's a quote from Bertrand Russell
that relates to what we've been talking about.He says, "As to the
sense of touch when we press the table with our fingers, there is an electric
disturbance on the electrons and protons of our fingertips, produced,
according to modern physics, by the proximity of the electrons and protons
in the table. If the same disturbance in our finger-tips arose in any
other way, we should have the sensations, in spite of there being no table."4
That is, when you think you're touching your car, it's an impression that
comes from the signals sent to the brain by the protons and electrons
in your fingertips.
It is possible to explain this subject with dreams. Ahmed, is there any
material reality in the impression of a car we see in a dream? If you
see your own car in a dream, won't you be able to say the same thing?
AHMED: I accept what you're saying. From
this we understand that the reality of that which we call matter is completely
unknown to us.
MURAD: True Ahmed, no one can know matter.
Everything called matter is just an impression to us. Our perceptions
send us sensations which form impressions such as color, light, taste,
smell but beyond these they don't send us information about what we call
matter. For this reason we can never know what the world outside ourselves
is really like. And science has reached the same conclusion. Those who
claim that everything is composed just of material substance, when it
comes to proof, have no answer to give. Because throughout our whole lives
we see only mental images and, because our entire world is composed of
these images, it's not possible for us to describe or explain anything
called matter which exists in a place outside our senses. This would be
like a person blind from birth trying to describe color. He's never seen
color so he can't describe it. Someone who tries to give a definition
of matter is just making suppositions.
|According to Ibrahim's example, when a person looks at the
moon, the telescope or the view in front of him, he is actually looking
at images on the same plane. However, these images can lead a person
to believe that they are in different spaces. If you looked at such
objects disposed in space and scratched your lower eyelid as Ibrahim
did, you would see that the objects do not remain fixed but change
IBRAHIM: Murad, something I experienced
the other day comes to my mind. Two friends and I were in front of our
summerhouse watching the full moon with a small, fixed telescope. I said
to my friend, "The moon is a beautiful sight. It's amazing that it
shines so brightly being so far away. You can see even the craters and
mountains on it even thousands of kilometers away."While speaking,
my lower eyelid began to itch. When I started to rub it, I saw the moon
moving in various directions. I moved away from the telescope. With the
other eye closed, I continued rubbing my eyelid. The summer houses, my
friends, the sea from one end to the other and all the houses in the estate
moved in various directions as my eyelid moved. If the moon were really
so far away, could it too be moved so much by such a simple action as
rubbing an eyelid? My friends, the shore, the houses in the estate and
the sea appeared to be at various distances away. But everything as a
whole was moving as a result of the simple action of rubbing an eye. Now
I understand that I was mistaken when I thought that I was looking at
something outside myself and objects I understood to be in the distance.
In truth, the moon, other objects and even me are on the same plane. All
of these things are only a three-dimensional impression formed in my brain.
MURAD: Very good! Now, let's repeat once
more. A person walking on a street is, in fact, walking on a street in
his brain and the cars that pass him are in his brain. If we are walking
along an empty street and, as Ibrahim did, gently rub our lower eyelids,
we will see this clearly. The street and the trees move in various directions.
This is the movement of the impressions in our brains. Just as a picture
we are watching on television moves when we try to adjust the antenna,
so we have the same kind of effect here. We are like a person in our brain
sitting in front of a television: whatever image is being shown, that
is what we watch. Whatever we do, eat, walk on the street, go to school,
meet with friends, our whole life is as if we were watching a video cassette.Images,
sounds, smell, taste and touch are all sensed in the brain. In other words,
we experience our outside world in our inside world. We spend our whole
lives in the little house in our brain and we watch the outside world
on the television in there. We experience all these things in a one cubic
centimeter cell in our brain. We lead our lives without ever leaving that
IBRAHIM: For example, the fact that a person
who is color-blind sees the world in different colors is proof of this,
MURAD: I think you understand this subject
very well. Yes, as you said, because a person watches these images throughout
his whole life, he perceives the world according to the perceptions that
are given to him. If the sense organs are damaged, a distorted perception
occurs; for this reason, a person who is color-blind cannot know real
color. People with a seeing disorder sees a blurred world.
AHMED: I understand.
MURAD: A person
cannot get outside these impressions throughout an entire life.Therefore,
to claim that the things we see are the way we see them and to think that
we have any connection to their reality is illogical and of no use.
IBRAHIM: Murad. There's something I want
to ask. Are there many people who know about this subject either in the
past or in the presence?
MURAD: There are countless
people. Not only in the world of ideas, but people working in scientific
fields such as physics, atomic theory and astronomy, and well-known scientists
whose names we often hear have understood this subject in one way or another
and have come to their own interpretations. Materialist thinkers
such as Marx and Lenin also studied this subject in their day and understood
that it posed a great threat to their materialist views. For this reason,
no matter how well they knew the truth, they tried to take
measures to suppress it as they realised that accepting such a view would
not be to their own advantage. If you like, I will give you the relevant
sources. You do some research and tomorrow we'll talk about what you've