20 Mar The True Nature of Reality: In The Mix – Part 31

In The Mix

In our last two journaling exercises, we addressed the concepts of Valid and Invalid Education. The valid system of information is open-ended and welcomes change. The invalid system of information is closed-ended and resists change.

These two systems of information seem to be in direct opposition. The attributes of a valid system of thought sound like a description of science and the scientific method while those of the invalid system sound like more like a description of a fundamentalist cult group.

So which are you?

Which system do you practice? Are you more an open-ended thinker who tends to explore and learn on a daily basis? Or are you a more of a person who knows their beliefs and adheres to them in the face of adversity? Well, if you are like most people around the world, you most likely use BOTH of these systems to manage your understanding of the true nature of reality.

How does one person implement two mutually exclusive beliefs systems into their lives? By definition, a valid educational system of processing information cannot accept the attributes of an invalid system or vice-versa. One system does not agree with the other, and the fundamental principles of each viewpoint contradict each other. How can our brains require evidence to formulate a belief in one situation and then completely negate it in the next?

One clue might be the way our brains are hardwired to think and process information. Our brains gather and make sense of information through the use of a binary function that tends to make us see a colorful world in black and white. This binary function may hold the key that enables us to require strict use of logic while processing one experience and then choosing not to apply those same rules to another experience we perceive as different.

For example, many people categorize known and unknown information differently, thereby allowing one set of rules when dealing with one and an entirely different set of rules when dealing with the other.

If a person has a child they believe is possessed by an evil spirit, they are not going to go to a medical surgeon to have the spirit removed. By the same token, if the child has a broken leg, the parent is not going to deny medical care and rely on a spiritual practice to mend the child’s leg. In one situation, modern medical medicine is abandoned, and the parent calls a priest. In the other, the priest may be called, but the doctor is going to be the one fixing the child’s leg.

What’s Wrong With This?

The problem with adhering to two mutually exclusive systems of thought is that we are rationalizing their use by assuming two different types of reality. We believe science should be used to deal with the things we understand, and that superstitious or spiritual practices should be used to address those things we do not. The truth is that there is only one type of reality that is always the same whether we know about it or not.

From our journaling exercises, we have learned “the unknown” is mostly unknowable because of our inability to perceive it with the five senses. It is also something that is always coming into view as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us. The unknown is not some mysterious abyss that somehow washes away the things we do know. No hidden piece of knowledge is going to make science or medicine suddenly obsolete. In the future, perhaps gene manipulation will make us less prone to being sick or injured, but it is knowledge itself that will get us there.

What about the other side of this equation? Are there examples where using untrue information caused harm to people? Yes, absolutely. How many people have died throughout history based on the rationalization of a region’s religious beliefs? How many lost their lives to a group who believed their race was superior to another? How many epileptics were burned at the stake because, not yet having discovered epilepsy, we saw seizures as evidence of demonic possession?

Even today, I see people dealing with mental illness or severe trauma who are denied the help they need because their symptoms resemble the work of some evil force. Instead of taking them to a professionally trained therapist, they are either prayed for or beaten. I’m not saying that prayer is not important or that it will not help, but if you take your child to the doctor to get their broken leg fixed, then why not bring them to a therapist to receive the help they need? The fact we do not understand something should not be an excuse for assuming there is not help readily available.

Professional Deejays

It seems that we are all professional deejays with two different records on the turntables. One record is Reason and the other is Blind Faith. Our minds have become so adept at mixing these records that we seldom even notice when one has transitioned into the other. A person will demand accurate and provable information in one setting and then totally negate it in the next, all in the name of culture, tradition, or religion.

There is only one ultimate reality surrounding us all. We cannot abandon a reliable system of thought just because we do not understand something. We must keep our minds open and prepare ourselves for new knowledge, always at the ready to throw away harmful or wrong ideas. If we react to unknown phenomena by running to a closed system of thought, then we have effectively short-circuited ourselves from any possibility of understanding that experience. Doing this ensures the unknown remains unknown, but adhering to the principles of valid education allows our knowledge base grow and evolve.

“Doing this effectively ensures the unknown remains unknown.”

In our previous journaling exercise, it seemed pretty clear that we want to implement systems of learning that possess the attributes of a Valid Educational System. What we often fail to realize, however, is that without strong conscious effort, we will fall prey to our natural tendency to have separate belief systems for dealing with information based on our understanding of it.

Will Intelligence Save Us?

How does being intelligent affect the “deejay phenomenon”? Can intelligent people more effectively avoid the tendency to fall into a closed system of thinking? Most people are surprised at the results of research conducted on this matter. Studies show people with higher intelligence are not only unable to avoid recognizing the transition into closed thinking patterns, but their cognitive ability works against them, giving them more ways to rationalize their irrational beliefs and behavior. So smart people do not use their knowledge to avoid falling into invalid systems of belief, but they do use their intelligence to create better excuses for why they choose those false beliefs.


Exercises:

Think about someone who uses valid information to do their work but also adheres to a religion that you do not believe to be true. Write about how you think this person decides when to rely on reason and when to abandon it.

Research shows our brains are hardwired to operate in a binary fashion. There is cognitive error humans fall prey to called a False Dichotomy. A False Dichotomy occurs when we believe that if one option is wrong, then the other choice must be correct. These leads to a cognitive error when we fail to ask, “what else might be true”. Write about a false dichotomy you or someone you know has experienced. Can you think of a situation when a person presented a false dichotomy to influence you to do something for their benefit?

Write about why Valid and Invalid Education are mutually exclusive. What problems ensue if we try to use them both? Does this break any of the rules each system has set in place ? (check the list of attributes listed in exercises 29 and 30)

Give a real life example of when someone’s beliefs about the unknown caused them to make a poor decision.

Name three intelligent people in history who used their intelligence to rationalize away horrible decisions or behavior.

Write about how transitioning to a closed system of thought impedes the discovery of new information, thereby creating a type of cognitive cage that prevents a person from learning.

Is it possible to stop transitioning into closed ways of thinking? If so, then how?

Michael Ken
writingblade@yahoo.com