Don't Confuse the Map With the Territory
by Cynthia Sue Larson
September 4, 2000

"The map is not the territory." -Alfred Korzbyski

I've been fortunate to exchange emails with one of the twelve men who walked on the moon... the man who founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences... Dr. Edgar Mitchell. Mitchell shares my fascination with the fields of parapsychology and physics, in pursuit of a better understanding of consciousness and the way we interact with this amazing universe.

I was discussing topics of zero point energy and string theory with Mitchell, when he charmed me by reminding me not to confuse the map with the territory. It's so easy for us to be delighted with the mathematical and physical models we come up with to describe this universe... and so easy for us to contemplate the sections where "There be Dragons Here" to the point we forget that our original purpose was to most completely comprehend what is real.

This is something of an conundrum, since the human brain is designed with pattern matching and sorting as one of its main skills. How can we ignore what we think we know (the map) in order to best observe what is real? This is probably the most important single question that anyone seriously pursuing scientific knowledge can address.

I can't say that I know what the answer is, aside from being ever alert to the potential problem... that at some point, the theories and ideas can seduce us into believing we've found the answer... and only much later do we learn that we're holding yet another beautiful map.

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