A forum member recently shared the Carl Sagan quote, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”  Sagan is credited with popularizing that slight rephrasing of an older quote by Marcello Truzzi:  “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

These quotes assume an objective universe, which is a rather biased way of looking at reality — and not particularly accurate.  In my opinion this viewpoint is misleading at best because it assumes that claims about reality are observed rather than created.

What is proof anyway?

Proof (or evidence) is an artifact of viewing reality through an objective lens.  However, proof is not a facet of actual reality.  Reality just is.  It does not need to be proven.  Reality is secure enough in its own existence that it doesn’t care whether some being proves or disproves what it is or provides evidence to support one theory or another.  If you think reality cares about proof, you could also say it derives a sick satisfaction from all the false evidence that’s been tendered in its name over the last few millennia.

Instead of proof what we really want is truth.  And a good first truth to accept is that it’s only the squishy, lens-peering beings that require proof, which is actually a subjective experience.

Experience vs. proof

Since you cannot prove that objective reality actually exists, any proof you attempt to stack upon that assumption is merely a house of cards.  You can get some mileage out of that approach, but the whole stack always remains in doubt.  You can never feel 100% secure about statements that all trace back to a single, unprovable assumption.  So in terms of discovering ultimate truth, this path is necessarily a dead end.  It goes off track in the very first step.

I’m not arguing that you can’t get some useful results from pursuing the lens of objective reality.  Certainly you can.  However, whenever we discuss proofs, we must not forget that we’re still dealing with a lens and not with reality itself.  To mistake the lens for reality is to make ourselves partially blind.

If not proof, then what?

Let me suggest a replacement for the quote Carl Sagan popularized:

Extraordinary experiences require extraordinary creativity.

Proving reality is nonsense.  Reality is not something you need to prove.  It will go right on existing with or without your permission.  Reality will only make your feeble attempts at proof look silly in the long run.

Instead of trying to prove reality, see it as something you experience… something you help create.  Your involvement is to participate in the experience by expressing yourself creatively, not merely to passively observe.  You don’t need gravity to be proven to you.  Just experience it.  Create with it.  If you feel compelled to measure gravity, then measure with the intention of expanding your creative capacity.

Proving subjective experience

All experience is subjective, and subjective experience requires no proof.

If I say to you, “I had a very interesting psychic experience the other day,” and you say, “I don’t believe in that stuff.  Prove it!” then I’ll politely excuse myself to locate a more interesting conversation partner.  In my view you’ve made a perfectly acceptable choice regarding the type of experience you wish to have in this reality, so who am I to run afoul of your creativity by trying to “prove” that what you’ve created is wrong?  Your decision is perfectly valid.  At the same time, I’ve chosen to welcome certain types of experiences that may not be compatible with your choices, so there isn’t much potential for an interesting conversation to develop around this topic, at least not one I’d care to pursue.

On the other hand, suppose that after hearing that same statement from me, you reply, “Wonderful.  Tell me about it.”  Perhaps we’ll find that your creative energies and mine are in sync, and we can share a lot of cool ideas that will help both of us grow and expand.  This is exactly what happened when Erin and I first met.  Our first in-person conversation was about lucid dreaming, mostly with me asking her questions for two hours.  I’d never had a lucid dream before meeting her, and I didn’t even know it was possible for me, but through our conversation Erin showed me how to create that experience.  It wasn’t long before I had my first lucid dream, which lasted maybe 5 seconds.  Then I gradually improved from there.  Imagine missing out on all those incredible dream experiences because our conversation never made it past “prove it.”  Erin probably would have written me off as a hopeless nudnik and ran the other way.

At its core, proof-seeking is rooted in fear, self-doubt, and low self-esteem.  What if I believe something that turns out to be false?  What if I make a mistake?  What if I stray too far from the herd?

You don’t need social permission to pursue what genuinely interests you, no matter how “out there” it may seem.  Just enjoy the experience.

Proof-seeking is a phony pursuit anyway.  Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, people will cling to their pre-existing beliefs for emotional reasons.  Have you ever met a truly logical person who lives based on proof?  Of course not.  But you’ll meet plenty of people who pretend to live this way.  A deeper glance at their lives will show that it’s far from a kingdom of reason.

I’m sorry to disappoint those who ask me to prove the existence of lucid dreaming… or astral projection… or even how much income I earn.  Those people will be waiting a very long time because I don’t care to prove anything.  That would actually do people a disservice by feeding their fears instead of helping them move through their fears.

Experience and create reality

Experience your life.  Create your life.  But don’t waste your time and energy seeking proof.  If something interests you, then pursue it for the subjective growth experience.  Pursue, attract, and create the experiences you want to have.  Once you get into the habit of doing that, you’ll notice how much time and energy the proof-seekers expend chasing their own tails — and how fear-based that entire pursuit really is.

Discuss this post in the Steve Pavlina forum.

© 2007 by Steve Pavlina. If you find these ideas helpful, please leave a donation for Steve so you can enjoy the spirit of giving too.