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Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)

Posted by George 
Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 28, 2010 11:50AM
The other day I was lying in the grass with my loved one, looking at the big wide sky-blue sky above me, full of puffy nimbus clouds that look like something made of cotton balls and Elmer's Glue, and with good old Mr. Sun to its side, its warmth mirroring that of our love.

But as I lay there with my lover in my arms, I suddenly realized I had been fooled.

There was no such thing above me. The "sky" does not exist.

Think about it. What are the properties of this supposed object, "the sky"?

1. It is blue during the day, when the sun moves through it from east to west.
2. During the night it is black, since there is no Sun to allow us to see its blue color. But at these hours, it has millions of stars.
3. Clouds move through it, as do "winds" (another mythical object, but one which I have to time to debunk).
4. A variety of living beings and machines are claimed to "fly" through it: birds, airplanes, balloons, gliders, bats, etc. (But note that not all things that fly do so in the sky; have you ever seen a fly in the sky? I don't believe so.)

What object could meet these criteria? No such thing could exist.

But what about the atmosphere?

My partner almost seemed half worried, half dismissive when I put words to these thoughts. "Oh come on," she said. "The sky is the atmosphere." To which I proceeded to give some serious thought.

It seemed for a few moments a recomforting thought. There was a sky after all-- it is our atmosphere, that mass of air around our planet, held there by gravitation, which contributes so much to making life on Earth possible, and thus the bliss of having my lover in my arms. And it is true that the sky has many of the above-mentioned properties. The clouds indeed are in the atmosphere, and the above-mentioned living beings and machines fly through it (if what an airplane does can truly be called "flying"; does a submarine "swim"?).

But consideration of the further properties sent a shiver to my spine. Is the Moon in our atmosphere? No. If it were, the gravitational pull between it and the Earth would be such that they would collide into each other, possibly eliminating all life on Earth, and ending this happy moment in the grass and under the Sun along with it.

The thought of having the smallest part of the Sun or any star, much less millions of them, inside our atmosphere, and the horrible fate this would entail for personkind, proved too painful, and I had to seek comfort by hiding my head in the breast of my loved one and her delicious aroma for a few minutes.

Once I regained my composture, I took some courage and decided to examine the rest of the implications of the already discredited enough idea that the sky is the atmosphere:

1. Is the atmosphere blue? Certainly not, I thought. If it were, there would be a blue tint to everything we see.

But this proved to be more problematic. What is "blue", after all? So-called "color" may be biologically-constrained, but is ultimately a cultural construction. Saying that the "sky" is "blue" is "true" because of the categories our culture provides us for constructing percepts out of our sensory experience. Other cultures have no such concept as "blue"; thus, it can't be an objective fact about the "sky", or anything for that matter, that it is "blue".

2. Somebody might object about this last point, and bring up the issue of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. My girlfriend, a chemist, did so: "you could actually measure the wavelengths of light in question, and that's an objective fact." No, it isn't, I said. These instruments have to be tuned and adjusted to produce the "right" answers; and the tuning procedure involves using our cultural categories of color. They point the instrument at something blue, and then they adjust a dial until it reads "475 nm". This is circular.

3. Thinking about how some exotic culture removed from ours, say in the mountains in Papua New Guinea, may experience the "sky" and its "color", I decided to ask myself some progressively more hypothetical questions: what if I were aboard the Space Shuttle, looking down at the Earth? Would I be able to see the Earth's "sky"?

Certainly not. But I could indeed see the atmosphere, by all the debris and crap and suspended chemical substances that our "industries" put there. If the atmosphere were the "sky", then I would have been seeing the "sky". But this experience is as far removed from "seeing the sky" as you could ask for.

4. Certainly, all of the living beings and machines mentioned above, plus the clouds, are in the atmosphere. But these are not the only objects in our atmosphere. I, with my increasingly distressed lover in my arms, occupy space in the atmosphere. But I am certainly not in the sky (my beloved, impatiently, begins to make noises about my head being firmly in the clouds, but this is merely metaphor, which I ignore).

5. Let us retake the case of insects, briefly mentioned above. The fly that my partner idly swats at while we revel in the park is certainly flying, but it is not in the "sky". It's simply not high enough. How far high would be "enough", then? I ask the nearest skyist, my partner, who just gives me a funny look, evidently uncapable of answering my question. How can there be a "sky", if its limits can't be delineated?

Is the "sky" the refracted solar rays in the atmosphere?

A "friend" (who after this incident, I have decided to distance) suggested that the "sky" consists of "refracted sunlight", which gives it its "blue" "color".

This clearly won't do. First of all, then it would mean that there is no sky at nights; no sunlight to refract. Second, it again mentions that faux property, "color", which as we saw above, is highly questionable.

There are bigger problems with this nonsensical identification of the "sky" with "refraction of sun rays". The "sky" is, supposedly, an object or area, occupied by other objects, as discussed near the beginning of this essay. "Refraction of sun rays" is a process, thus a very different sort of entity. Think about it. Would anybody take you seriously if one were to walk up to them, and tell them "Look at that big white cloud in the big refraction of sunlight above us"? No. I tried it with my girlfriend, and she said something about me beginning to freak her out or something; I was too deeply in thought to listen to her.

But why?

It became clearer and clearer; I was dragging around an ages-old myth, intellectual baggage from an age long dead, which our culture has refused to rid itself of.

This was the pressing question. Go out to the closest fashionable mall in full Christmas shopping frenzy, stand in the middle of the crossing of two busy corridors, and look around you. Dozens of people walk around you, all of them, skyists. How could this be, that in this day and age all these people walk around with caveperson ideas? What force makes them all believe in a "sky"?

Who benefits from this widespread belief? Could it be the liberals with their "science", trying to keep the full knowledge of their discipline of "heliocentrism" from us? I really don't know. I will have to think harder about this..
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 28, 2010 11:56AM
[www.youtube.com]

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 28, 2010 04:16PM
And just what happens to your "lap" when you stand up? It seemingly ceases to exist! That's what happens to it! How can that be? How can a thing just vanish into thin air?

The only possibility is that when you stand up, God keeps your lap safe for you until you need it again. When you sit down, He gives it back to you. It's obvious!

eye rolling smiley

Actually, George... Was that piece a commercial for Taoism?

Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 29, 2010 01:59PM
Interesting, but I don't see how that relates to the sky.
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 29, 2010 04:40PM
The word "sky" is simply a convenient label for the cumulative qualities of the universe that we think of as "sky". Just like the word "lap" is a label for a certain quality of our bodies in a certain situation. A label is not the same thing as whatever it is trying to describe. It never can be. No matter how you try to define a thing, its real nature will be something else or even many other things that also can't be perfectly described. Labels are just a convenient way to communicate about the world around us but they are imperfect. Trying to treat the label "sky" as if it should be something that can be weighed or measured or limited or defined is literally like trying to grab the air with your hands. Wait a second! Oh my gosh! You can't grab air with your hands... so... it must not exist! eye popping smiley

Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 29, 2010 08:42PM
"Sky" is a figure of speech, like "sunrise"-- the sun doesn't actually rise, the earth turns, but from our point of view it appears to rise, so we use the shorthand term for it. The sky is really the atmosphere and the space beyond, but it looks like a blue dome over us so we go with the traditional word.

BTW, there is a blue haze over everything, but it is so subtle you don't notice it at short distances. Mountain ranges that are miles away appear progressively lighter and bluer.

"God" is also a shorthand word for things that are more complex than they seem. Einstein used the word to mean the basis of nature and various teachers use it to mean the ultimate background of reality. Some people still use "God" in the primitive, literal way that ancient people used the words "sky" and "sunrise."
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 29, 2010 09:54PM
Quote

Actually, George... Was that piece a commercial for Taoism?

I don't get the connection.

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 29, 2010 10:08PM
The idea of there is no sky, there is no me, there is no you, etc., is kinda Taoist.

Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 29, 2010 11:38PM
I'm not so sure about that exactly. There are similar ideas though in Hinduism.

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/2010 11:39PM by Kairos.
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 30, 2010 03:08AM
Quote
The idea of there is no sky, there is no me, there is no you, etc., is kinda Taoist.

Of course, these things are manifestations of a single underlying reality. By separating them in our minds we bring the world of appearances into existence. This is what is meant by saying, "you create the material world," or "the world is within you."
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 30, 2010 05:05AM
Sure, but is that actually taoist?

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 30, 2010 05:16AM
"Of course, these things are manifestations of a single underlying reality." -linc

And isn't that single underlying reality what the whole focus of Taoism is about?

Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 30, 2010 05:21AM
Yeah, but I'm not sure if taoism deals with the illusory nature of reality. Its been quite a while since I read the tao te ching though. Taoisms closest approach to reality might be described as flowing like water.

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/30/2010 05:22AM by Kairos.
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 30, 2010 05:29AM
It's possible that I've just listened to too many old Alan Watts tapes.




"There is no spoon..."


Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 30, 2010 05:42AM
Alan Watts was mostly into Hinduism, so that's probably where you heard the ideas.

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
April 30, 2010 06:53AM
He dealt with Taoism too. I think his main focus was more on Zen than Hinduism though. But yeah, I could be mixing my Eastern philosophies.

Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
May 03, 2010 07:07AM
Alan Watts discussed all the Eastern philosophies, plus Western science. In one lecture he says, 'I'm not a Buddhist, nor am I spokesman for any particular philosophy, nor am I a salesman or evangelist. I'm just an entertainer who enjoys talking about these ideas because I find them fascinating.'
Re: Does the sky really exist? (LEGITIMATE SCIENCE; PLEASE READ!)
May 03, 2010 04:21PM
"Alan Watts discussed all the Eastern philosophies, plus Western science." -linc

I know. I've read several of his books, albeit a rather long time ago, and listened to dozens of his taped lectures. KPFK still plays them on Sunday mornings and very late on Thursday nights.

There is no one but Allah, George my brother consult with Holly Qura'an briefly surely you will be able to find out the answer in it..Best of Luck
Pretty good. Will there be more? If not that's understandable; if so, I look forward to your handling of the Van Allen belts & Auroras.
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