Ever since men became capable of free speculation, their actions, in innumerable important respects, have depended upon their theories as to the world and human life, as to what is good and what is evil. (Russell 1945, 2)
Theories or models about the world and human life take various forms: religions, scientific theories, statistics, philosophical paradigms, or even the language we use every day. These models are representations of reality and are essentially a form of analogy, with some models delivering richer, more reliable information than others. Analogies are central to the way humans think. Language is steeped in tropes (that is, figures of speech)--some apparent, others not at all... . . .
BUT IT'S ANALOGIES ALL THE WAY DOWN|
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: 'What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.' The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, 'What is the tortoise standing on?' 'You're very clever, young man, very clever,' said the old lady. 'But its turtles all the way down! (Hawking 1988, 1)
The human mind is essentially a black box. That is, we can see the inputs (sensory data) and outputs (behavior, fMRI, etc.), but we don't really know how it works inside. Although we can study the inputs and outputs and try to reconstruct what must have happened in between, often times our only recourse is self-reflection. But if you've ever sat in a barber's chair between two mirrors, you know the strange effect the two mirrors facing each other create. Each mirror will reflect an infinite sequence of progressively smaller reflections of the image on the other mirror. In many ways, some-thing similar happens when you turn your awareness upon itself. . . .
FIRST-HAND, IN-BUILT, AND EPISTEMIC HAND-ME-DOWNS|
How do we know reality? How do we know that we aren't, say, in 'The Matrix'? French intellectual Jean Baudrillard claimed to have had difficulty differentiating between cable news programming, video game simulations, and the military-media narrative presented as the Persian Gulf War (Baudrillard 1995). Baudrillard's claim may seem a little over-the-top, but it's not totally off the mark. This is one of the basic epistemological questions that philosophers down the ages have attempted to answer, and because we don't literally have the 'red pill' that will take us out of the Matrix, we can only say with Descartes "I think, therefore I am." (Descartes 1996). Fortunately, the very act of 'doubting existence' implies that there is an existence to doubt. And given that something exists, we can do our very best to simply make sense of it. . . .
REASONING: OUR TOOL FOR LEARNING|
The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. (Paine 1975)
How best do we deliberately seek out anomalies in our lives and use them to re ne our models of the world in a way that makes our understandings richer and more accurate? . . .
Hypnosis is the black sheep of the family of problems which constitute psychology. It wanders in and out of laboratories and clinics and village halls like an unwanted anomaly. (Jaynes 2000, 379)
Hypnosis is a trance-like state usually induced by a procedure comprised of a series of preliminary instructions and suggestions. It's an induced state of consciousness marked by increased suggestibility and receptivity to direction conducive to effecting behavioral change. Hypnosis effects these behavioral changes via the application of persuasive speech, that is, rhetoric. . . .
EPISTEMIC HAND-ME-DOWNS: MEMORY, RHETORIC, AND HISTORY|
Any assessment of the accuracy of memory requires some record of the to-be-remembered events themselves. One way to get those records is to obtain immediate first-hand accounts of experiences that are likely to give rise to vivid recollections later. On the morning after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, it occurred to me that shock of hearing about this disaster might be just such an experience for many Americans. With this in mind I asked a number of Emory undergraduates to make written records of how they had heard the news on the previous day. Three years later, we compared their still vivid recollections of that experience with those records. I expect to find errors -- at least minor ones…As you will see, the actual results far exceeded my expectations. (Neisser and Harsch 2000)
Less than ten percent of those surveyed by Neissar and Harsch had recollections that still matched their written records, but what's scary is the confidence each had that their memory was correct! . . .
THOUGHT CONTROL VS. FIRST AMENDMENT|
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. (Hermann Goering, quoted in Gilbert 1947)
Words like freedom, patriotism, and security evoke strong emotional responses, revealing our paradigms--paradigms that are handed down to us, that many of us accept without question, that hide contradictions and blind us to anomalies, which can be lethal. . . .
THE HELPLESSNESS PARADIGM|
He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures. (Nietzsche 1961, 137)
Authority and power love to foster helplessness; it makes the act of domination much easier. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Rockefellers were the most powerful family in the world, and they began to practice philanthropy to promote their own particular worldview. . . .
Conspiracy is as natural as breathing. And since the struggles for advantage nearly always have a rhetorical strain, we believe that the systematic contemplation of them forces itself on the student of rhetoric. Indeed, of all the motives in Machiavelli, is not the most usable for us his attempt to transcend the disorders of his times, not by either total acquiescence or total avoidance, but by seeking to scrutinize them as accurately and calmly as he could? (Burke 1962, 166)
An old joke goes, "just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you." So given all the tricks and lessons of the mind that we've previously covered, how do we make sense of things? . . .
THE INFIDEL REVOLUTION|
"I believe in Plexiglas," Hall said. (Associated Press, CNN 2008)
After a firefight, when his commander asked him whether he believed in God, Jeremy Hall, a 23-year-old Iraq war veteran, said "no," that he believed in Plexiglas. The Humvee on which Jeremy was a gunner had taken several bullets in its protective shield. Hall is an anomaly for those who claim that there aren't any atheists in fox holes. . . .
POLITICS AS PRO-WRESTLING|
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. (Mencken 1956, 29)
The champion, a very powerful man, walks down the ramp to the deafening sound of thousands of fans cheering his name, holding up signs with his name and catch-phrases. The challenger, follows in a like manner albeit with a smattering of boos thrown in, but with his own followers and signs held up. Upon reaching the platform, both men ready themselves for battle, watching the referee for the signal to begin. Some of the fans know the ' fix' is in, while others think it's real. There is a promoter behind these men who in essence owns them and who runs the show and benefits from it. This narrative could well be describing a United States presidential election debate instead of a professional wrestling event. . . .
THE CENTRALIZATION OF SYMBOLOGY AND
THE PARADIGM OF TYRANNY|
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. (Butler 1935)
Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (aka ' The Fighting Quaker' and 'Old Gimlet Eye') was, at the time of his death in 1940, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. In 1934, he told the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional Commission that he had been approached by a group of wealthy industrialists to lead a military coup to overthrow the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. . . .
CHANCE AND FINANCIAL ANOMALIES|
Western philosophy begins with Thales. (Russell 1945)
Thales was a pre-Socratic philosopher from the ancient Greek city of Miletus. Aristotle hailed ales as the founder of the school of natural philosophy--the first person to investigate the true fundamentals of matter. Not one to be trifled with, when ridiculed by his detractors that his poverty was proof that his philosophy was useless and impractical, ales set out to prove them wrong. . . .
The absence of proof is not proof of absence. -William Cowper (1731-1800)
Knowledge changes over time. Ptolemaic cosmology gave way to the Copernican view of the universe. Lamarck's worldview over-took the Creationist's view of biology, which, in turn, was replaced by Darwin's. Quantum mechanics has superseded Newton's classical mechanics. The cognitive revolution in psychology has left the behaviorists in the dust. Every time, a new model, offering more intension, control, predictability and falsifiability replaces the old, less scientific one. At the heart of these revolutions is anomalistics. . . .
| |Here's the BUZZ...
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Gov. Jesse Ventura
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Dr. Thomas Szasz
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, State University of New York Health Science Center
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Retired FBI Counter-Intelligence Expert, Best-Selling Author, and Leading Authority on Non-Verbal Communication & Body Language
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David Gordon, PhD.
Editor, The Mises Review
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San Diego, CA
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Olympic Gold Medalist
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(aka the WWE Heavyweight Champion Kane)
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Tea-O-Conned: The Hijacking of Liberty in America
Anomaly: Revolutionary Knowledge In Everyday Life
Say Uncle!: Catch-As-Catch Can Wrestling and the Roots of Ultimate Fighting, Pro Wrestling & Modern Grappling
AUTOMATICITY: Smoking Cessation
The Hypnotist: Healer, Head-Hacker, & Headliner
now available at Amazon.com!