I just finished watching a 1996 movie, Phenomenon, with John Travolta and a couple of other well-known actors. It is a fascinating watch and really draws on the belief that we only use a small portion of our brain for daily living. This is a myth. See this article and this one too. But that is not the point of me writing today.
I watched part of a television series called Brain Games tonight that showed how our brain manipulates reality for whatever reason. Although the scientist on the show indicated that this was a result of needing to survive so we build indicators to help us predict the outcome and awareness of our environment. This show coupled with an audio book that I am going back through a second time called, You Are Not So Smart, and the book basically slams our high and mighty opinion of ourselves using the results from various scientific experiments. Additionally, National Geographic published an article this month entitled “Why do many reasonable people doubt science?”. This article written by Joel Achenbach reiterated what I have been wrestling with:
“Even for scientists, the scientific method is a hard discipline. Like the rest of us, they’re vulnerable to what they call confirmation bias—the tendency to look for and see only evidence that confirms what they already believe.”
Joel goes on to defend scientist because he believes that peer review trumps any bias that scientist bring to the table. But he fails to see that the bias is not just a personal bias, but that it infects entire organizations so that any dissension, new idea, different conclusion from the data, etc… will never be reported for fear of being outcast from the community. Which is interesting because one of the sources for his information talks about this being the reason that we don’t go against the expectations of our social community in terms of beliefs or dogmas. We like social comfort.
Again, this is not the point of this blog post tonight though.
After watching Phenomenon I am left with a motivational itch to change the world for the better. But then I think, what do I really know? After all, I deceive myself without even trying to, I only look for things that confirm the reality I have built for myself and disregard anything that doesn’t reinforce that reality, and I am skeptical of just about everything that I encounter as factual or dogmatical (new word, see I invented a word!) within my world view.
But still the itch remains.
I often feel like I am the only one who sees both sides to every argument. That I am the only one who is not afraid of the truth and what it might reveal. Or that I am the only one who is truly willing to change my beliefs in light of new evidence, studies, data, logic, etc… But I can’t be alone, right? I mean the psychological evidence is that I am as dumb as a box of rocks and that if I don’t rely only on data to inform my faith, beliefs, worldview, perceptions, presuppositions, etc.. then I am no better than the people who were afraid of the world not being flat any more. I am the voice crying in the wilderness, “make way the path of self-righteous” as I walk alone towards the end of my days.
I do not want to be that guy. I want live a life that is so important to the advancement and understanding of life that generations 2,000 years from now will read about me and remember me still. Ah, but Cesar was ambitious and we see what that got him – stabbed in the back by the members of the senate.
I hope that is not my fate. If I succeed in no other area, then maybe my legacy or the dreams of grandeur that I have will live on in my children. I hope I can at least start the first leg of the race, but the reality is that people like my dad and sister are already carrying the torch for me. I am a product of their influence and my children will be a product of mine – for better or worse.
On a side note, I have wondered for the longest time if I am not going to end up being some sort of antichrist figure, that God created me for this purpose. Would that be a life worth living?