November 23: Reality, Part 1

November 23, 2016

Reality is not what you think.  Objective reality exists, but most people cannot recognize all aspects of it, due to faulty brain function.  Philosophers have confused themselves about different concepts of reality.  For my money, philosophers are the most confused group of humans on earth.

When people say “my reality is not your reality” what they mean is “we have different internal brain models as related to this subject.”  Often, the subject is nebulous and no perfectly objective clarity can be identified: exactly what happened in the past (and what caused it); what to do now to positively impact the future.  Aspects of past and future events certainly may lack clarity, but this is not proof of ‘different realities.’

The observation that all humans are individuals and think differently is either profound or trivial, or maybe both.  Nobody exactly like me, or you.  Nonetheless, objective reality is the same for both of us.

Many examples of faulty brain function leading to ‘unreal’ perceptions exist.  Google ‘line illusions.’  You will find dozens of examples of images wherein your brain will tell you one thing when something else is objectively real.  No amount of trying can make your brain see these images for what they really are.  Here is the thing: I have actually known people who do not accept the reality of these illusions. They will not admit their brain is faulty.



Me, “The lines look slanted but they are parallel.  Jesus.”

“No.  Those lines are slanted.  I can see that clearly.”

Me, “Goddammit.  Look – use a ruler.  Those lines are parallel.”

“I can see the lines are slanted.  I don’t need a ruler.”

Me, “It is an illusion.  Your brain is screwed to the wall!  Here, take the ruler.”

“I don’t need a ruler.  Stop calling me dim-witted.  Go away.”

This is one example of how hard it is for humans to accept reality.

Here’s a second example: I sometimes have gotten “turned around” when hiking, or when driving in a strange city.   Even when I am carrying a GPS and know I have gotten my directions wrong (e.g. objective evidence is at hand), it is effing difficult to turn loose of my internal model (probably created within the past hour or two) and re-orient myself.  This is even though I badly want to change a very recently created internal model.  It is no wonder that internal models that are long-held are almost impossible to change.

Belief in magical events (including religion) and conspiracy theories relates mainly to the brain’s strong desire to make sense of events in our environment, probably in order to avoid anxiety.  Once made part of an internal model, objective evidence of reality will not change the way humans think.  Again, this is not proof that objective reality is an illusion.

Objective Reality: This child has a dog on a leash.  She also believes there are Tommyknockers in the storm drain.  That is “her reality” but it is nonetheless objectively false.

My younger grandchildren (below about 5) believe there are Tommyknockers living in the storm sewer in our neighborhood.  Someone told them that.  For the record, I deny it.  Grown adults believe in religious-related magical events, like dead people coming alive or people turning water into wine, which still somehow baffles me. Again, belief in magic does not disprove the existence of objective reality.

In current politics, people have been slow to acknowledge Donald Trump’s success in part because it does not conform to their internal model of reality.  They were sure that the Republican voters would never nominate Trump.  Next, they were sure he could never get elected.  Now, they say he will be impeached in year 1.  To me, this is strong evidence that people still have not overcome their faulty internal model of reality in the USA.

Next Post: Thanksgiving Recap: My Favorite Holiday


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