Lawrence Krauss on Caveman Common Sense

Theoretical Physicist and Science Educator
The physicist argues that our common sense is based on evolutionary imperatives that have less to do with the universe as it is than with what our ancestors needed to do to survive in a hostile wilderness.
  • Transcript


Lawrence Krauss: We evolved as human beings a few million years ago on the Savanna in Africa and we evolved to escape tigers, or lions, or predators.  And so what makes common sense to us is the world on our scale.  You know, how to throw a rock or a spear or how to find a cave and we didn’t evolve to understand quantum mechanics.  And, therefore, it’s not too surprising that on scales vastly different than the kind of experience we had as we were evolving as a species, that nature seems strange and sometimes almost unfathomable, certainly violates our common sense. Our sense of what is common sense and what's intuition. But as I like to say, the universe doesn't care about our common sense.  We have to force our ideas to conform to the evidence of reality rather than the other way around.  And if reality seems strange, that’s okay.  In fact that’s what makes science so wonderful; it expan ds our minds because it forces us to accept possibilities, which, in advance, we may never of thought was possible.

I've said that scientists love mysteries, and we do.  That’s the reason I'm a scientist.  Because it’s the puzzles of the universe that make it so exciting.  Now it is true that we want to solve, resolve those and solve those puzzles.  That’s part of the fun of doing science is solving puzzles, basically.  But each time we do, new questions arise.  And I think for many of us, just as in our lives, the searching is often much more profound than the finding. It’s the searching for answers through life in some sense that make life worth living. If we had all the answers, we could just sit back and stare at out navels.  And I think what makes the search so exciting is that the answers are so surprising.  The universe continues to surprise us in ways we never would have imagined.  Well beyond our own imagination in advance, and that’s all we have to keep exploring the universe.  We can't just sit in a room and think about it because every time we open a new window on the universe were surprised.  And that makes the whole process incredibly exciting.

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd