“Perhaps in putting together our picture of the world there are many paths we could have taken. How, though, could we ever tell? We can think of each experiment and its interpretation as a fork in the road. Decision by decision we are pushed into new regions in the space of possibilities. Before long, we have ventured so far in one direction that it is all but impossible to go back. Our search for truth has carried us out along a single branch of the tree of knowledge until we are so far out on a single twig at the end of a certain limb that we are powerless to imagine how it could be otherwise.
Perhaps the patterns we discern are neither universal nor arbitrary, but the result of the intersection between our nervous systems and some kind of real world. Borrowing from Kant, we might begin to explain the seeming effectiveness of science and mathematics like this: We have these wired-in neurological filters (Kant called them the “a priori”) constantly sifting the barrage of sensory impressions. Then it is the result of the sifting that we study. All else is ignored. Thus the patterns we find tell us as much about the filters as about the filtered. There is something a bit tautological about this. Perhaps when the phenomena of the universe seem to obey mathematical laws, it is because one product of the nervous system - mathematics - is recognising another: the filtered sensory impressions. We are seeing the shadows of our own brains.”
Fire in the Mind
Penguin, London 1997 (p 6/324)
“It is necessary to keep reminding ourselves that all knowledge of our environment from which the world of physics is constructed, has entered in the form of messages transmitted along the nerves to the seat of consciousness. Obviously, the messages travel in code. When messages relating to a table are traveling in the nerves, the nerve-disturbance does not in the least resemble either the external table that originates the mental impression or the conception of the table than arises in consciousness.
In the central clearing station the incoming messages are sorted and decoded, partly by instinctive image-building inherited from the experience of our ancestors, partly by scientific comparison and reasoning. By this very indirect and hypothetical inference all our supposed acquaintance with and our theories of a world outside us have been built up. We are acquainted with the external world because its fibres run into our consciousness; it is only our own ends of the fibres that we actually know; from those ends, we more or less successfully reconstruct the rest, as a palaeontologist reconstructs extinct monsters from its footprints.“
Sir Arthur Eddington
In Ken Wilbur
Quantum Questions (p185)