This is a computer acronym from the days of the advent of graphical interfaces. It stands for What You See Is What You Get, and is often pronounced “wizzy-wig”. It easily slips off the tongue, and like most good acronyms, like Radar and Sonar, reduces a complex and wordy concept to a short, readily understandable word. In addition, if you’re my age, it will bring up fond memories of Flip Wilson on TV.
For atheists, though, I think it sums up our naturalistic worldview quite nicely, with little tweaking or explanation, especially when contrasted with the religious viewpoint. What Your See Is What You Get vs. There’s More Than Meets The Eye (TMTMTE). Wysiwyg vs. Tim-tim-tee.
Atheists see only the natural world, accept it for what it is, with all the good and all the bad, but accept it nonetheless, because to not accept it can only lead to depression and insanity. To not accept it is to hold hope that reality isn’t real, and that an elusive fantasy of some sort is out there, hidden from view, which can only be experienced by those who happen to have met the rules of attaining that fantasy, as set down by the particular dogma of the particular religion they happen to adhere to. For atheists, there is something psychologically deficient in that world view. Acknowledging that the natural world, as best as we can understand it, is all there is, is far healthier, psychologically, than believing in a magical, mythical world for which there is no evidence, and which, for all practical purposes, doesn’t exist.
Consider the alternative. TMTMTE. Somewhere out there, (no one has any idea where) there is a different reality, a different plane of existence, in which those things we know about the material, natural world are only the tip of the iceberg. When we die, if we’re good, we get to go there, yet most scriptures are exceedingly vague about what and where “there” is. At best it’s a nice place, one where everything will be wonderful, and where we’ll get to be wonderful ourselves in this wonderful existence along with everyone else who is wonderful, and, to boot, we’ll get to exist this way for all eternity. Really. Could I be more vague, you ask? I defy you to find a more specific description of this version of reality anywhere. Oh, if you’re a Muslim, and you happen to kill enough people, and then commit suicide, you get to spend that eternity having sexual relations with 72 eternally virginal virgins, but even that specific characteristic it not certain.
Remember, WYS is just the tip of the iceberg, according to most religions, yet none of them can very accurately tell you what the bulk of the iceberg is made of, what WYG actually is.
But who knows whether all this is true? When you come right down to it – no one! No one knows, because no one has ever traveled to this alternate reality, and come back to tell us about it. Sure, lots of so-called holy people say they know about it, but at its base, all knowledge comes from certain writings left us by unknown humans many milllenia ago, at a time when there was no such thing as scientific thinking, and everybody was simply guessing, writing down their best guesses, and convincing others that they were right. Some of those writings have survived to this day, but how do we know that others didn’t write down their best guesses, only to have their writings fail to survive? We know that many other best guesses did survive, but didn’t seem to catch on in the minds of humanity, so those writings have been relegated to the dustbins of history. What makes one man’s guess better than another’s?
With WYSIWYG, we know that we don’t base our knowledge and understanding of reality on wild ass guesses, but on real, observed phenomena; scrutinized, analyzed, and confirmed by the best minds we have. The data and the phenomena are all still here, right in front of us, to continue to be observed and confirmed, repeatedly, ad infinitum. The natural world, by definition, is all there is. What we see is what we get.
We also know that we don’t know a lot of the details, but we seem to have been able to erect a framework upon which future discoveries and advances in knowledge will be applied. The sciences are that framework – physics, chemistry, biology and others – and so far they’ve been pretty good at supporting what we already know.
With WYSIWYG as a basis for our reality, we live in a certain world. We know that we will one day die, and hence what we make of our life is all too precious to waste, in hopes that it will be better when it’s over. We know it because we see it every day, and we don’t need faith in some unknown world to understand what will happen to us when we die. We appreciate every waking moment, and even those when we are asleep. We don’t assume that we can live a neglectful, mundane existence, and then somehow make it up by confessing our sins on our deathbed. We look at the world around us, and appreciate the full grandeur of its beauty and magnificence, know that it is finite, and appreciate that if we don’t take care of it now, it will not be around for our children.