Reality Has A Nature

It appears that reality has a nature: we observe particular behaviors and arrangements and not others. Gravity, for example, is such that at the Earth’s surface we fall with a speed that increases 9.8 meters per second every second. Not 9.7, or 2,765 or 3.4, but 9.8.

We observe that sand has a particular angle of repose and that, for the same sand, the angle is always the same. We observe that water waves move at certain speeds in deep water and slow down and grow taller in shallow water. Certain clouds, when moving over the Earth, generate sparks we call lightning. Lightning changes the air around it so that it makes thunder. The stars we see in the sky have an average spacing that could be, but isn’t, very different: stars could be so close together that we couldn’t tell them apart; or there could be just two visible in the entire sky.

We observe that life is possible on Earth. That division into two sexes is common. That division into reproductive species is common. That exact copying (like perfect symmetry) is hard; that some of the differences in imperfectly copied creatures make creatures that make copies better than others. That if something does make a copy that itself makes copies, soon there will be many of them.

Reality has particular characteristics, and not others. These characteristics are enduring; that is, we find that the ways that the world worked yesterday apply today, and, when the future comes, that the same ways still apply. Apparently, one characteristic of reality is that it operates according to laws that, as best we can tell, don’t change. We can imagine a world where this wasn’t the case, where one day things fall down and another they fall up, but we have discovered that our world is lawful. We have further discovered the particularities of some laws, that gravity on Earth yields accelerations of 9.8 meters per second squared. We have never found a behavior that is not lawful. We haven’t discovered the laws describing all behaviors, but so far we have never discovered a behavior that doesn’t follow a law.

Reality has a nature, and one of the most useful characteristics of that nature, and to me interesting, is that its lawful.