Reality Distortion Fields and How to Deal with Them
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Reality Distortion Fields and How to Deal with Them • Posted: Feb 28, 2018 11:29:43Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

The issue of “Fake News”, or disinformation, is increasingly being talked about as the Mueller investigation progresses and 2018 mid-term elections approach. It’s an interesting topic, a concerning topic. It’s also not a new topic. The problem of distinguishing fact from fiction, truth from untruth, and clarity from distortion go deep into human history, probably to the beginnings of language itself. People do not readily perceive nor understand the world we share with equal precision and insight. For the most part, understandings we do share are the result of negotiation. For example, let’s call this color red and that color blue. Agreed? Agreed.

When and where the notions of evidence and proof came along is anyone’s guess, but certainly Plato, with his character Socrates, attempted to elaborate on the idea that “truth” exists beyond negotiation, and that “reason” can bring us closer to understanding what that truth is, what it looks like, and how it works. Succeeding thinkers have reasoned that thinking and negotiation alone would never give us a complete understanding of truth. Thinking must be tested against the actual workings of the physical phenomenal world if we are to achieve a really complete understanding of truth, they wrote. And thus, empirical science was born.

Alternative schemes to common or mutual understandings have also come and gone, and come back again. Feelings, emotions, visions, and imaginings, as well as trust and belief, and deference to threat, power, authority, tradition, law, and suspicion have all helped to shape our individual understandings of what happens around us. Social psychology noted during the 1950’s that just listening to the opinions of others can prompt us to question and even alter our perception of things, things right there in front of us. In one experiment by Solomon Asch: whether a line drawn on a piece of paper is shorter, longer, or the same length as another line right next to it on the same piece of paper.

For many of us, innate desire to harmonize with those around us can and does bend our thinking toward mutual agreement. We quite naturally fall under the influence of our immediate group’s “reality distortion field”, a collection of commonly held understandings we ourselves add to and strengthen with almost everything we do and say.

A perennial “outsider”, like myself or even Donald Trump, may be less caught up in “the general flow of things”, but I can assure you that we too inhabit our own more customized reality distortion fields.

So, what is the answer? Who is right and who is wrong? What is the real reality, the real truth of things?

I think we need to go back to those early thinkers. I think we should again take seriously the prospect that truth exists, independent of what we or our friends think or wish to believe, or what voices of authority dictate. I think we should trust that actual truth is demonstrable, verifiable, reproducible, and may eventually prove only partially understandable during our lifetimes. Finally, I think we should recognize that our own personal experiential and thoughtfully considered understanding matters only if it constructively contributes to a rigorous evolving process of checking and verifying a collectively larger foundational understanding of what is true and what isn’t true. In that sense, we should not be afraid to think independently, nor explore and critique the result of other people’s experiences and thought. Independently proving something is true can be quite satisfying and rewarding. Becoming a reliable source of verified well considered information is a time honored method of increasing one’s social value. But, on the other hand, advocating for things that others can reliably and demonstrably prove false is a good way to become known around town as a complete asshole. So, consider what you advocate for.

To my mind, the ancient story of the five blind men encountering an elephant for the first time pertains. We can either go off the deep end unto oblivion, untethered by evidence of the elephant before us, or hold tight to the reality afforded us by the universe we inhabit, our strange new friend the elephant, which many of us are still, quite earnestly, trying to more fully and completely know and appreciate.

Alternatively, of course, cutting off access to the elephant, information about the actual workings of the phenomenal world, as in rewriting textbooks, hiding or destroying data and research results relating to climate change, drug safety and effectiveness, and the environmental impact of exploitive industrial practices, or cancelling funding for research into the causes and possible mitigating factors for gun violence, thus leaving us to argue public policy based solely on conjecture or what is supposedly written in the Bible and Koran, is very clearly one of the ways those fearful and denying of the truth are working to control the reality distortion fields nearly all of us are increasingly being forced to function within.

Learn to think clearly, my friends, and choose wisely. It may prove to be the last real choice we get. Because, by limiting our access to the actual truth, and feeding us lies and nonsense, the increasingly powerful hope to someday make most, or even all, of our choices for us.

The pertinent questions to always ask are: How do we know that? Followed closely by: Un huh, and how do they know that?

When the answers to those questions don’t make sense, you can reliably conclude there is need for you, personally, to do more research.

Get that brain of yours working and become a reliable source of verified well considered information yourself, not just another blind man or woman following a crowd of rumor inspired, troll manipulated, unthinking, so called citizens.

Monday, February 10th, 2014
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