I think it is in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ where someone says something about believing six impossible things before breakfast. It seems I am believing improbable things rather. As The Firesign Theatre says: “Everything you know is wrong”.

I am reading rawhter rancorous research about the brain that isn’t reassuring.  Our ability to accurately remember things is not even close to what we think it is. Rather than being a like a CD to replay when we want it,  our long term memory is composed of past and present elements; the mind puts it all together each time in a slightly altered memory, making objective memory nearly impossible.  It is kind of like making the same dish that never comes out exactly the same way. There is bad news for attention too; we are deluding ourselves how good we are at being minding traffic, hearing something important while in a noisy room. Worst of all are cellphones which basically destroy any other cognitive endeavors while we operate them. Even hands-off cellphones diminish our ability to attend to traffic.

Some curious research suggests when we try to talk to people who are set in their beliefs (ex: trying to talk reason to an anti-vaccination parent, a Trump supporter, or a non-believer in evolution/global warming etc.)  their brains light up in the same areas and in the same way as being physically attacked. This means attempts at dialogue/reason have about the same chance as telling a person to thinks sensibly when they are being lunged at by a lion.

Cognitive bias is so strong and subtle it sheds doubt on our abilities to see anything objectively.

The cerebral cortex has conned itself into thinking its in charge and make all the decisions. Meanwhile the emotional parts of the brain run amok making up rubbish and basically running the show.

Oh the pain. Oh the discouragement.

My science training tells me to be open to changing my beliefs when the facts say otherwise, even when I want to hold onto cherished dogmas and comforts. This stings, but even more  when you feel you’ve been conned.  Enough says my hummingbird brain for all this ‘everything is relative” nonsense. Give me some simple black or white convictions. Alas, more research says when facing ambiguities or pointlessness we create ersatz solids and make meaning out of nothing.   Oh well.  I can take comfort in some simple Truths like tea is lovely and I can refrain from going on to prove black is white and perish in the next zebra crossing.

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