Invisible atoms and old texts
Lastly, have you ever seen an atom? And yet, if all of our abilities to actually see an atom (i.e. through an electron microscope) were destroyed, I'm guessing you'd still believe that atoms are real because of the 'testimony' or 'written record' of others who had seen them in the past; am I wrong?I love this question.
Two guys were sitting around, postulating about the smallest possible particle that could exist. They called this concept the "atom", meaning "indivisible". What is the smallest piece of stone that can still be called a stone be like? How about the smallest part of this table leg, or the contents of this glass of wine? There wasn't an electron microscope in sight as this thought experiment was performed by Greek philosophers Democritus and Leucippus in 500 BC. They came up with a theory that it was the different sizes and shapes of these "atoms" that caused different physical properties such as "hard" or "liquid".
It turns out that their theory didn't hold up when examined using the scientific method. Other theories were proposed, and tested, and as early as 1897 there were insights that the "indivisible" atom had to be comprised of subatomic particles.
Ernst Ruska invented the electron microscope based on knowledge that electrons possess a wave aspect, magnetic fields could manipulate electrons, and that the shorter electron waves would magnify more than ordinary light waves. You couldn't happen to invent an electronic microscope without understanding electrons!
But even with this microscope could we not see an atom. That had to wait until Erwin Muller invented the Field ion microscope in approx. 1951.
How cool is that!
If we were to lose all our scientific knowledge, there we would be on square one with Democritus and Leucippus, postulating about things we can't see, and slowly performing experiments to understand (again) what it is that makes up our universe. If we were to lose all copies of the bible, no amount of sitting around postulating would re-create it. That is why I can believe in atoms though I can't see them, but not, by extension, the contents of a very old book.