First and foremost, please be aware that, throughout this article, I will touch on several subjects which, if truth be told, I am no expert on.
In this first part, let’s quickly review — in a very straightforward manner — a few concepts, principles, and theories from a mixed bag of areas, starting with a bit of Philosophy and Psychology.
Please, buckle up your seatbelts — this will be a bumpy ride.
Philosophers have been, for a long time, debating the Epistemological Problems of Perception. In brief, they ask how we could be sure about the external world if everything is based on individual perceptions of experience — which include, by the way, illusions and hallucinations. Do we perceive anything outside our minds at all, or is everything we understand as real merely a collection of mental images?
In Principles of Psychology, philosopher and psychologist William James says that reality means simply relation to our emotional and active life . Whatever stands in a certain relation to us is understood as real. Therefore, whatever we can conceive becomes real.
 Principles of Psychology, William James, apud On Multiple Realities, Alfred Schütz.
Furthermore, James says that reality has an infinite number of different orders, which he calls sub-universes — such as the sub-universe of physical things, the sub-universe of science, the sub-universe of mythology/religion, the sub-universe of our own personal opinions, and so on. And although everything we understand as real ultimately refers to one of the sub-universes, whenever we are dealing with one of them, we are somewhat disconnected from the others, somehow unconscious of their relationships.
According to James, the distinction between real and unreal is based on mental processes. Reality is grounded on beliefs and disbeliefs. Our individual interpretation of experience — which relies on the sub-universes we cultivate and how we navigate between them — shapes our reality.
Decades of research have shown us that “memory distortions are basic and widespread in humans, and it may be unlikely that anyone is immune”. Not only memories can be contaminated, but they also can be manipulated through misinformation, memory selection, and suggestive tricks. This happens because, whenever we recall something, we’re actually reconstructing the events by mixing actual memories with elements that we have learned after the event and others that, according to our perception, are generally true.
On top of that, besides reconstructing events that we have experienced, we also fabricate entire memories, i.e. we believe in events that haven’t happened at all. Thus, that memory you have of something you think you’ve experienced actually might be simply something you read in a newspaper, watched on TV, or heard incidentally at the office — and which your brain decided to adapt, painting you as the new leading character.
Simply put, our memories are mere narratives, and we’re unreliable narrators. A good friend would advise you to not trust yourself so much.
Let’s jump for a minute into Quantum Mechanics.
The Superposition Principle, a fundamental principle of Quantum Mechanics, states that physical systems have, at any given time, different states superposed, a hybrid of more than one state. For example, any quantum particle can be in multiple places and have different configurations simultaneously. I’m sure you have already heard of that intriguing cat that, within a box, is alive and dead at the same time.
The Superposition Principle is interpreted in different ways by different scientists. Let’s look at two of these interpretations in particular.
Many Worlds x Copenhagen
The Many World Interpretation says that, at every point in time, the universe splits into a multitude of existences in which every possible outcome actually happens in parallel.
Coming back to Schrödinger’s cat, according to the MWI, the cat is always both dead and alive at the same time. If you’d try to open the box, you’d only see one of them, though, because each cat, the dead and the alive, are in different branches of the universe.
The Copenhagen Interpretation, on the other hand, says that, although quantum particles exist in all of their possible states at once, when we observe them, the wave functions collapse, i.e. they are kind of forced to choose a single state. In other words, the act of observing the particles interferes with their state. That being so, the cat is only dead and alive at once while you do not look at it. If you do, it is forced to assume a single state, i.e. it is only dead or only alive from that moment on.
Many argue, though, that the Copenhagen Interpretation is undermined by the fact that Schrödinger’s equation, a key point in Quantum Mechanics, doesn’t allow waves to collapse, which is an essential element of this interpretation.
The Multiverse Theory defends that our entire universe is not the only one but simply one of many, perhaps one of an infinite number of universes. Each of these universes is called a parallel or alternate universe, and together they constitute the multiverse.
The theory appears within different areas of physics and philosophy, but the most prominent one is the Inflation Theory. According to this theory, a particular event must have occurred when the universe was very young, making it go through rapid expansion, inflating to become immensely larger than before. Although the expansion might cease in specific universes, it continues in others. As a result, the multiverse is in eternal inflation.
Where the Many Worlds Interpretation says that different states exist in different branches of a universe, the Multiverse Theory says that countless — perhaps an infinite number of — universes exist in other regions of space-time, and each may have its own laws of physics.
Some argue, though, that both theories are different sides of the same coin.
Lastly, just a quick reminder of what history, the field of study, really is.
Fables Agreed Upon
Today, we all know very clearly — I hope — that history is not entirely based on facts. As noted in smarthistory.org
“evidence surviving from the past is vast, fragmentary, and messy. Historians must make decisions about what to include and exclude, how to organize the material, and what to say about it. In doing so, they create narratives that explain the past in ways that make sense in the present. Inevitably, as the present changes, these narratives are updated, rewritten, or discarded altogether and replaced with new ones. All history, then, is subjective — as much a product of the time and place it was written as of the evidence from the past that it interprets.”
History is not only a construction but also a simplification. It’s a patchwork of narratives whose each piece merely reflects the ideals and beliefs of the different storytellers involved in the sewing process. Not to mention, of course, the role of political, religious, and cultural leaders over the process, people who have the power to deliberately manipulate it — to a certain extent, at least.