The essential question that first comes to mind is not if a concept can be shown to be real but instead, how do we know what is real and what is not, and thus, how do we define real? It is my belief that reality, the quality of being real, is an extension of truth, thus, begging the question of what is true. For the purposes of this essay let us take truth to be the wide consensus of society as a whole with regard to morality, the law and religion.
Therefore on one hand is only what is physical and tangible real or is truth as we know it – that of both the concepts that we study and physical objects – real. If only physical objects such as atoms and bacteria are considered real, we eliminate many truths considered real by a majority of society. One example of this is religion. While the different forms of religion such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism are disputed as to which is the true religion, there is a large and general consensus as to the presence of a God.
Of course, there are atheists who claim that there is no God but they represent a minority and thus personally assuming that seeing as morality comes from religion, the law accepts religion and is based on morality and there is a wide consensus of society that God exists, let us take it that God exists, and is real. Thus, God, an intangible being, one that no living person has evidence of seeing, despite many claims of visions, is real and true yet not a physical object.
This same argument can be applied to scientific theories, supporting my belief that theories do not need to relate to physical objects in order to be real, as in general, truth and reality arise from the intangible as well. On the other hand, how can we truly know that scientific theories are real as many such theories have been disproved to date? For example, Newton’s laws of motion were shown to be real only at the scale in which humans lived and the earth existed.
However, Einstein and the theory of relativity later proved that these laws would be inapplicable when placed in regard to different scales. This raises two issues, the first being that scientific theories pointed at tangible objects such as transport with regard to motion can be proved to be false and thus, not true. This implies that we can not only conclude that theories regarding the intangible are not real, but that theories in regard to physical objects may not necessarily be real as well as they have been disproved.
This can be extended to argue that although the theory of relativity is held to be accurate today, it is possible that in the future, that theory may be disproved, thus rendering it not a truth and thus, not real. Secondly, how can we know that what is true at our scale applies to other scales relative to ours? What this implies is that even if a scientific theory is taken to be accurate and applicable beyond doubt, has the theory of relativity made it uncertain as to whether this theory has taken into account all scales and relatives, thus rendering it a truth and real?
Therefore, in conclusion, I believe it is this doubt that forces us to view all scientific theories sceptically, not just ones with regard to physical objects as even those are fallible and it is my personal view that scientific theories that have been accepted by society, after the examination of a scientific board, are real, regardless of their regard to the tangible or intangible.