Stuck in the Same Predicament

Stuck in the Same Predicament

"Will Storr says once you realize how difficult it is to identify your own incorrect beliefs you can better empathize with people on the fringe, because they are stuck in the same predicament." ~ David McRaney

Made In Its Image

Ampersand,  Wednesday Wolf

Ampersand, Wednesday Wolf

"Genesis Revised"
by Reed Whitmore, from Fifty Poems Fifty (1970)The Past, the Future, the Present: Poems Selected and New (1990)

In my opinion this concept of the interval, detached as it is from the selection of any special body to occupy it, is the starting point of the whole concept of space.

~ Albert Einstein

Think of an "and" alone,
Nothing before, nothing after, 
Nothing and nothing. 
The "and" proposes a structure, and by the proposing
Is. And makes.
For nothing is nothing, but nothing and nothing
Are spatial, temporal; the structure does it,
A nothing there and here, a nothing then and now,
To and fro in the space-time.

But in grammar we cannot think of this. The
     "and" comes second.
We need something, then "and." 
Or if we are willing to grant, without understanding,
     a precedent "and,"
We still ask to know where it came from.
Grammar, logic, math work in the matrix
Of the space-time. "And" is the space-time. We
     in its matrix
Know what we do in it, where we are in it,
But not it.

This that we don't know we call soul, spirit.
More of it every day is found in the physics lab,
By omission.  
It is what we tend to describe by what it is not.
It is not logical, it is not metrical; it is not
     (as I now propose) grammatical.

Yet it is with us. Our minds seem made in its image,
Each a space-time kit for making a world up.
We cannot conceive of that spirit (the "and")
     a father,
Yet we cannot conceive of it otherwise. In
     Eddington's words,
The breach of causality keeps breaking the chain of
     inference. Sense leads to nonsense.

In the beginning, then, was nonsense? So every
     beginning. So far.
We cannot conceive of a nothing that makes something.
The "and" we say must be physical. Or electrical.
Yet the something is nothing. Nonsense.
We have no grammar for nonsense; we cannot posit
A nothing-something moving between nothings.
Yet I repeat:
Think of an "and" alone,
Nothing before, nothing after,
Nothing and nothing, thereby making

The first day.  

More Like the Mona Lisa than Everything Else

More Like the Mona Lisa than Everything Else

"We tend to explain success and failure is by looking at the attributes of the thing or the person that succeeded or failed. And what I argue – and the Mona Lisa is just a way of illustrating this general argument – is that these explanations are actually vacuous, right? They're logically circular."

~ Duncan Watts

Reasoning Is Suffused With Emotion

Excerpt from “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science,” by Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, April 18, 2011:

The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience. Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion (or what researchers often call "affect"). Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds—fast enough to detect with an EEG device, but long before we're aware of it. That shouldn't be surprising: Evolution required us to react very quickly to stimuli in our environment. It's a "basic human survival skill," explains political scientist Arthur Lupia of the University of Michigan. We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.

Illustration by   Jonathon Rosen

Illustration by Jonathon Rosen

We're not driven only by emotions, of course—we also reason, deliberate. But reasoning comes later, works slower—and even then, it doesn't take place in an emotional vacuum. Rather, our quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that's highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about.

Consider a person who has heard about a scientific discovery that deeply challenges her belief in divine creation—a new hominid, say, that confirms our evolutionary origins. What happens next, explains political scientist Charles Taber of Stony Brook University, is a subconscious negative response to the new information—and that response, in turn, guides the type of memories and associations formed in the conscious mind. "They retrieve thoughts that are consistent with their previous beliefs," says Taber, "and that will lead them to build an argument and challenge what they're hearing."

In other words, when we think we're reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing. Or to use an analogy offered by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt: We may think we're being scientists, but we're actually being lawyers. Our "reasoning" is a means to a predetermined end—winning our "case"—and is shot through with biases. They include "confirmation bias," in which we give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs, and "disconfirmation bias," in which we expend disproportionate energy trying to debunk or refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial.

That's a lot of jargon, but we all understand these mechanisms when it comes to interpersonal relationships. If I don't want to believe that my spouse is being unfaithful, or that my child is a bully, I can go to great lengths to explain away behavior that seems obvious to everybody else—everybody who isn't too emotionally invested to accept it, anyway. That's not to suggest that we aren't also motivated to perceive the world accurately—we are. Or that we never change our minds—we do. It's just that we have other important goals besides accuracy—including identity affirmation and protecting one's sense of self—and often those make us highly resistant to changing our beliefs when the facts say we should.

Read entire article here…