Eye of the Skeptic

Eye-blue“Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.”

                                     -Robert Anton Wilson

“No amount of belief makes something a fact.”

                        -The Amazing James Randi


“Faith” should be a four-letter word.  I propose a change in spelling.  “Fath,” maybe.

Those “I’m always right” types absolutely need faith, or else those vicious doubts start creeping in.  Not only will you find faith in the religious mind, calling God a fact, you’ll also find it lurking in the atheist, saying He isn’t.  Come to think of it, anyone who uses the word “fact” so easily must be pretty faithful, at least when it comes to their own nonsense.

One of my favorite “always right” groups to hate is the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), a self-proclaimed “skeptical” organization founded by professional debunker and ex-stage magician, the Amazing Randi.  According to their website, the Foundation “was founded in 1996 to help people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.”  If you look at this statement closely, you’ll see that little demon, “faith,” wearing a lab coat and a clipboard, trying to look casual in the corner.  It presupposes that “paranormal and pseudoscientific claims” are something to be defended against, and presupposition is the very antithesis of skepticism.  It goes against the very spirit of skepticism: a “questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts.”

Although I’m sure most supporters of the JREF are scoffing right now at the idea that their beliefs are grounded in faith, there’s almost certainly one thing they never question: their own senses.

According to cognitive science, vision makes one of the largest contributions to our perception of reality.  We rely on our sight to interpret the world around us, but in reality, it only sees a fraction of what’s there.  The wavelength of visible light ranges between 380 and 750 nanometers, less than 1% of the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  We cannot see X-rays, gamma rays, microwaves, or infrared.

Eye DiagramAnd what we do see is pretty unreliable.  Here’s how sight works:

Visible light reflects off of an object and enters the eye, where it is focused by the cornea and the lens, and beamed into the photo receptors of the retina.  There, the focused light is interpreted by the photo receptors as visual information, which is sent along nerve fibers as electrochemical signals to the optic nerve at the back of the eye.  The optic nerve then sends the signal to the visual cortex at the back of the brain where the information is interpreted as an image.

The monkey wrench in the system is found when studying the causes of visual hallucinations.  So far, three have been identified by Drs. Assad and Shapiro: psychophysiologic (a disturbance of brain structure), psychobiochemical (disturbance of neurotransmitters), and psychodynamic (the “emergence of the unconscious into consciousness”).  All three of these disturbances happen somewhere between the optic nerve and the visual cortex.

And, from what Patrick Henry Winston, a professor at MIT, says, “80% of the input to the lateral geniculate comes from somewhere other than the retina.  A good deal comes down from the primary visual cortex, suggesting that vision is a matter of guided hallucination.”

In other words, the victim of a visual hallucination is relying on the same source of visual information as the rest of us.  Without running medical tests on the brain, the only way to know that what we are seeing is real is the corroboration of another mind.  Reality is apparently democratic.

Even a perfectly functioning brain will have a good deal of hallucination and deletion involved in its visual interpretation of the external world.  While deciphering photons into visual representations, the mind goes through what is called “pre-attentive processing,” where the brain processes the image at the different visual centers along each stage of its path, keeping the parts of the image it deems important, and dropping those that aren’t.  We can see this happening whenever we drive our car.  One glance to the side is all it takes for our brain to recognize the truck in the next lane, but its details have most likely been tossed aside as unimportant.  It’s like the brain says, “What’s that? Oh. Truck,” and stops paying attention.

Visual_pathwayPre-attentative processing plays a much needed role in survival, of course.  When looking down the maw of a tiger, we don’t want to spend too much time studying the gleam of its teeth.  We just need to know that it’s time to run.

Another process used by the mind to interpret visual data is called “closure.”  This function is evoked when a portion of an object is obscured.  Through closure, the brain can imagine the missing information and will fill in the blank, allowing us to make judgments based on incomplete data.

In conjunction with closure, the mind uses “schemas” to interpret data.  These are pre-determined scripts stored in our memory which are re-used to fill in cognitive gaps.  In the instance of running from the tiger, due to your utilization of pre-attentive processing, you probably only consciously recognized a few salient elements of the experience, such as the teeth of the beast and the sound of its growl.  The schemas already present in your memory however, will likely fill in the missing elements, giving you the more rounded memory of a full tiger, running behind you.  This is why no two eyewitness testimonies will ever be the same.

Robert Anton Wilson, in Quantum Psychology, describes an experiment where closure and schemas were found to leave a false memory in their wake:

“I refer to the experiment in which two men rush into a psychology class, struggle and shout, and then one makes a stabbing motion and the other falls.  The majority of students, whenever that has been tried, report a knife in the hand of the man who made the stabbing (knife-wielding) motion.  In fact, the man used no knife.  He used a banana.”

We can already see how our perception of reality is incomplete at its best, or absolutely fictional at its worst.  And we’ve only been looking at the problems inherent in visual cognition and memory.  There’s still the modalities of sound, smell, taste, and touch to be dealt with.

Knowing this, how can a reasonable mind claim to have access to any absolute truth? We can’t even trust our own eyes to deliver an accurate representation of reality.  To be truly rational and objective, we have to question everything, including our own skepticism.  Only then will we escape the influence of that demon called “faith.”

Frater Isla

Frater Isla also writes under the name Joshua Lee. He lives in Albuquerque, NM.For more of his work, visit sittingnow.co.uk .

111 Comments on "Eye of the Skeptic"

  1. Ghostlore | Oct 18, 2013 at 11:29 am |

    “No amount of belief makes something a fact.”

    If you believe that statement then you are confirming its implication.
    Also, James Randi is a dickhead.

    • Frater Isla | Oct 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

      Yup. You got it!

    • Frater Isla | Oct 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

      The pic I made and decided not to use:

      • Ted Heistman | Oct 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm |

        Randi and Daniel Dennet look like the high priests of Ahriman with those big fucking white beards.

    • Self reference always breaks down language to reveal how complicated things really are.

    • bobbiethejean | Oct 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm |

      Randi may be a dick but that doesn’t make his point any less valid. No matter how much I want to believe I have a million dollars, a million dollars is not going to suddenly, objectively, actually appear in my lap.

      • Bad example. Dollars aren’t objective in the first place.

        • bobbiethejean | Oct 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

          The value of a dollar may not be objective but I can still hold a dollar in my hand and show you that it exists. I can prove a dollar’s existence. But believing I have a million of them, subjective value notwithstanding, does not make a million dollars appear in my lap.

          • Ghostlore | Oct 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm |

            What if you believe that one day you *will* have a million dollars? Do you think a person is more predisposed to accomplish or obtain an objective by believing in the possibility of it happening or by not believing in the possibility of it happening?
            Or is the status of every wealthy person on the planet merely chance?
            Action follows thought. Always.

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 18, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

            There is a gaping chasm of difference between believing that someday you will have a million dollars then going out and achieving it versus believing there is currently a million dollars in one’s lap when it can be objectively verified that there is not a million dollars in one’s lap at that time.

          • Schrödinger’s million

          • The Well Dressed Man | Oct 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm |

            As long as we keep the box closed, surely it’s worth at least some fraction of that million…

          • Calypso_1 | Oct 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm |

            If the box has a routing number & the lid is a data connection switch there is always a probability that some ratio (small or large) of a million is in the box.

          • Ghostlore | Oct 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm |

            The initial statement was one about faith, which is what I based my comment on. Pedantry aside, I understand what you are saying. It doesn’t alter the fact that belief can produce tangible, measurable change. Perhaps it may not be quantifiable in any kind of traditional sense, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. In fact, I would say faith is probably paramount to just about any endeavor.
            In any case, it doesn’t change the fact that Randi is still an egotistical dick.

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm |

            Belief can indeed produce tangible, measurable change when it operates within the bounds of reality. I do not deny this. All I’m saying is that believing something to be true doesn’t necessarily make it true.

            And yes, Randi is a dick, unfortunately. I cannot defend him. I tried at one point the guy is just an egomaniacal asshole. Not even going to contest that. 😛 What really turned me off about him was his appraisal of Social Darwinism. I desperately hoped that he was just being a confused old man who wasn’t quite aware of what was coming out of his mouth but I was never really sure. He walked back the statement eventually but I was still left with a sour taste in my mouth. XC

          • Therefore, faith, and the confidence it inspires, can be a good thing. If we required “absolute” proof before we acted, we would never do anything.

          • ultima fule | Oct 19, 2013 at 11:32 am |

            I can create a fake dollar bill with graphics software and a printer, therefore all dollar bills are fake. When will you deluded believers in dollar bills wake up from your subjective fantasy world and face the cold hard scientific facts?

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm |

            I’m going to assume this is sarcasm and not the profoundly idiotic obliviousness (of the actual point I made) that it appears to be.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 21, 2013 at 8:46 am |

            Actually, all dollar bills are not counterfeit. I bet you don’t have gold ink either and that you can’t reproduce images inside the paper and the little colored threads.

          • In what sense is the dollar bill fake?

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 21, 2013 at 8:42 am |

            Dollars are based on faith, what you see in your hand is a symbol of something that is make believe. You are essentially saying “Unicorns are real! Look I have a sculpture of one here in my hand! If I were to just imagine I had a toy unicorn I would be an idiot. I prefer real unicorns!”

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm |

            You are COMPLETELY missing my point. I don’t give two shits about the imagined value of a dollar. The fact is that merely believing I have a million dollars in my lap will not make it happen. You can believe something all you want but that won’t make it true.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm |

            So how to people make a million dollars without first imagining it?

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 8:04 pm |

            I never said you can’t imagine a million dollars, doof. I said imagining a million dollars will not make it suddenly appear in your lap. There is a difference between imagining something then making it happen and imagining something then sitting there like a moron expecting it to happen just because you imagined it.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 22, 2013 at 8:56 pm |

            So its all about timing? Everything that takes a while is complete bullshit but things that happen instantaneously are legit? Really?

            So what are some examples of things that are complete bullshit when they happen gradually but 100% legit when they happen with a snap of the fingers?

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |

            It’s not just a matter of timing, genius, it’s a matter of physics. If I sit here and believe “I have a million dollars in my lap” a million dollars is not going to appear in my lap in that instant simply because I believed it. That is NOT the same thing as thinking “I am going to go earn a million dollars” then actually going out and doing it. One will result in nothing happening, the other might result in the acquisition of a million dollars. How can you not distinguish between simply wanting something to come true then expecting it to come true versus wanting something to be true then going out and getting it? There IS a difference, functionally and consequently.

            Maybe you’ll understand better if I switch analogies: Believe that you are a tree. Believe it with all your might. Believe that you are physically, mentally, spiritually, and moluecularly a tree. Does that make you a tree? NO IT DOES NOT. And don’t give me some bullshit about subjective meaning, spiritual woo-woo, or dressing up like a tree. “Tree” and “human” have two very specific definitions which are mutually exclusive. So no matter how hard you believe you are a tree, that does not make you a tree.

            For the record, there are A LOT of things that cannot happen instantly but can only happen over time like macro evolution or the maturation and death of a star.

            You need to grow up and admit that you’re not Peter Pan. You can’t believe things into reality.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 9:32 am |

            you don’t seem to know how it works and you didn’t answer the question. It actually is a matter of physics. Everything begins as an idea or a possibility wave. Everything any human being ever brought into existence began as an idea.

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 23, 2013 at 11:29 am |

            Oh my fucking tits, I can’t deal with you any more. The point I am making is that simply believing in something or having faith in it doesn’t make it true. That is the ONLY point I am making. Now go away and leave me alone. Or better yet, imagine yourself not being an illogical, granite-skulled oaf. Maybe you’ll prove me wrong and instantaneously turn into Bertrand Russel.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

            Your point is completely meaningless.

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 23, 2013 at 12:34 pm |

            I am presently imagining and believing and having faith that there is a million dollars in my lap. BEHOLD! There is not a million dollars in my lap. There’s your demonstration. Now you try it. Imagine, believe, and have faith that there is a million dollars in your lap. Let’s see if this works. Go ahead Mr. “what rules of physics?” Go ahead. Let’s see you can imagine a million dollars into existence.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

            I can. It will just take a while. It works but just not instantaneously. People have written extensively on this.


            My Dad read that book when he was broke. Now he is a millionaire. I saw him write a check for $250,000.00 once. He is remarkable but not all that unique. As a broke highschool drop out from a tough background he had faith that he would be a millionaire someday. Now he is. Without faith I don’t think he would be where he is.

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

            Ok. The thing you seem to not be understanding is the functional difference between going out and getting a million dollars versus believing you have a million dollars and expecting it to appear before you. For the LAST time…. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.

            I don’t deny what you saying! I do not deny that if you want something you can make it happen through POSSIBLE MEANS. But the mere act of believing something does not equate to consequences. You can believe something and make it happen as your father did or you can sit there hoping and nothing will happen.

          • Ahhhh, so it’s just a matter of time? The exact notion you accused her of earlier and found fault with. At least your trickiness is consistent.

          • but, you aren’t truly believing and having faith. you subconsciously(or consciously rather) don’t believe it is a possibility. Did you know you can travel outside yer body? I have gone through walls because I truly believed it was possible. It actually takes a lot of work or special grace to believe, because of our constant conditioning from the day we’re born. For example, if a baby saw people walk through walls, it would be able to do that, because its conditioning hasn’t molded it much, yet. So, if you knew how to wipe the slate clean of yer conditioning, you could perform what others would view as miracles.
            That is why entheogens are so useful(and demonized in our culture). They have the power to shift perception enough to make moot some of your conditioning.

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 25, 2013 at 8:00 am |

            Did you know you can travel outside yer body?

            One time I rose up out of my body while I was sleeping. I looked down at myself and was amazed. I couldn’t believe it was happening! I made sure to take in all the details of what I was experiencing. When I woke up, I ran to tell my mom about my out of body experience but before I even got out of my room, I noticed something odd. Certain aspects of my “out of body” experience were incongruent with what I was seeing now that I was awake. My blanket was not the same color, my cat was nowhere in sight, my laundry was tucked away neatly into my hamper, it was morning, and my computer was on. All these things were different in my OoBE experience. That was when I realized I probably had not had an OoBE but just a really vivid dream.

            Now you could make up some BS about how “oh, perception of color and events changes when you’re astrally projecting” or you could just accept that it is far more likely I was just dreaming.

          • Yeah, some OoBEs are like that. Yer right, that was more of a lucid dream. But with practice, you can actually leave yer body, walk or fly around and even see people and hear their conversations. I think some people have proved they were able to do this.

          • Her point was actually the same as yours. You deliberately misinterpreted her so you could tell her she was wrong, and then proved you are “right” by saying pretty much exactly what she said. Which suggests that being “righter” or “smarter” is your real goal. You imagine that “righter or smarter” is a fact, and then, in your imagination, you exercise “effort” to make it real.

          • Human beings don’t really bring anything into existence, we merely rearrange atoms.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm |

            I don’t think you said anything particularly profound there. I mean what exists that is not an arrangement of atoms? Are all arrangements of atoms equal? Are things valued in atoms?

            You thought I was arguing that human being can create things ex nihilo?

          • I wasn’t sure. Some people here have come very, very close.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

            I like JRR Tolkein’s thoughts on this. He calls what human’s do “secondary creation”

          • Calypso_1 | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm |

            Many things exist that are not an arrangement of atoms.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm |

            They exist in the imaginal realm

          • Calypso_1 | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:52 pm |


          • In what realm do they exist?

          • Calypso_1 | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm |

            mostly leptonian

          • You, sir, have been more pedantic than I. I bow in respect and concede defeat.

          • Calypso_1 | Oct 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

            oft enough my pronounced pedant is noted.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

            unnoted is that a lepton is an abstraction that exists partly as an explanation of observed phenomena and partly as a model existing in the human mind.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

            Leptons came into existence as a theory.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm |

            Before they were dreamed into existence and tested where were they?

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm |

            They hardly exist?

          • Calypso_1 | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm |

            ideas, nor anything else, are not “possibility” waves. you don’t seem to understand what is actually a matter of physics.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

            What the bleep do you know???!!!

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

            Thanks for taking the time to point that out to me. It must give you a little charge to point out to me that you know something I don’t. I tend to find though that the more you expound on these little observations of yours the less this seems to be the case.

          • Calypso_1 | Oct 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm |

            I cannot account for what you “find”. Nor I am charged by interacting with you, though it is interesting to me that you think this is occurring or that the underlying dynamic is to point out what you don’t know.
            Let us revisit your post I responded to: …[to BtheJ] “you don’t seem to know”. <– were you experiencing a “charge”?

            I will offer you some insight into my personal thought process beyond your oppositional binary stance. I am far more interested and energetically stimulated by recursive feedback operations. The energy supplied is my own, as is the dynamic. That you are being afforded the opportunity to participate is solely for the expression of your own performance boundaries.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

            You appear to use a thesaurus like a 3 year old playing with a box of crayons.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 2:58 pm |

            All I know is that if I tell you something you seemed to not already have known it seems to piss you off.

          • Calypso_1 | Oct 24, 2013 at 1:46 am |

            Not in the least.

          • Ted Heistman | Oct 23, 2013 at 10:10 am |

            Your analogy was that faith or belief is worthless because it cannot be used to instantaneously blink a million dollars into existence. But then you did admit that faith can be used to gradually bring a million dollars into existence. So what else is there that is considered complete bullshit if it works gradually and not instantaneously? Is sculpting bullshit? Is painting bullshit? Is carpentry Bullshit? All these things involve manifesting something gradually. They all entail a type of belief or faith. Maybe not so much if you are merely reproducing something that already exists, but if you are attempting something new it requires more faith or belief. If you had no faith or belief you would never do anything original. So it it seems to me that far from being complete bullshit faith seems to be very important especially in terms of creativity.

          • consciousness is stranger than you think. people have transformed into something Other. Shamans in South America become jaguars, after partaking in DMT. You can’t prove that they have the consciousness of a jaguar, but they experience it. The potential of the mind is limitless. You must broaden yer horizons to see it, though. Not to mention, belief being a prerequisite.

          • bobbiethejean | Oct 25, 2013 at 7:54 am |

            Why would you believe they become jaguars when the sensible, easily provable answer is that they are fuckin tripping balls? Drugs alter brain chemistry which can lead to changes in brain function- perception, awareness, processing, thinking, etc. That makes a lot more sense than “they become jaguars.”

          • the world is both in our minds and outside it. if you change yer mind drastically enough, you may actually change the outer reality. but i’m not going to try n convert you. you believe what you wanna believe is possible. i’m not saying I know everything about this stuff, but I know reality is stranger than the mainstream scientists want us to believe. but, yeah, they probably didn’t create a jaguar body, but merged with the consciousness of another living jaguar. I think animals, particularly cats, have a more “fluid” consciousness.

          • You’re misrepresenting what she said. She didn’t say anything about the passage of time. She referred to making a real world “effort” to make the imaginary thing come into existence.

      • Edgy Fuckwad | Oct 19, 2013 at 5:12 am |

        The only reason that the money won’t appear in your lap is because we live in a consensus reality. It’s possible for you to manifest ANYTHING into this reality but you’d have to change every other mind in the reality first.

        • Only two people have to agree on the “value” of an object to manifest a million dollars.

        • bobbiethejean | Oct 25, 2013 at 7:50 am |

          We do not know for sure if we live in a true consensus reality and there is no way to test that. It’s the same as the Matrix conundrum; there’s no way to prove it, disprove it, or test it. So we have no choice (presently) but to operate under the assumption that we are living in an objective reality where some things are objectively true and others are objectively false because that’s how reality seems to behave (with the exception of some very strange quantum phenomena). Believing there is a million dollars in my lap, even if I changed the mind of everyone on the planet, would still not make a physical mound of matter representing monetary value appear in my lap.

      • Ted Heistman | Oct 19, 2013 at 10:02 am |

        See, here is the disconnect. What if you were colorblind? would you then conclude that everyone who saw more of the spectrum were credulous idiots, who merely “believed” they were seeing more colors?

        Also about this delusion of having a million dollars-Bill Gates had a million dollar trust fund. This allowed him to take risks in business early on that he may not have taken had he been broke.

        A person with “faith” that they have a million in the bank, might be able to achieve similar results.

    • this statement is, indeed, false. and so is that one.

    • Neither believing that believing something makes it a fact makes believing something makes it a fact a fact nor believing that believing something doesn’t make it a fact makes believing something doesn’t make it a fact a fact.

      • Shakynavelbones | Oct 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm |

        That’d make some good lyrics in a hilariously silly headfuck song, methinks.

      • Ghostlore | Oct 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm |

        I was actually going to go into the ‘paradox of the confirmation and contradiction of the implication’ in my original statement but i was too damn tired and it hurt my head.
        You put it nicely.

  2. Dawkins is a much bigger dick-head than Randi.

  3. emperorreagan | Oct 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm |

    I like your posts. Probably second to Gordon at runesoup in this particular vein of thought.

  4. Glad someone posted this. Needs to be said, and said often.

  5. Simon Valentine | Oct 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

    yes, yes fill a space with regular tetrahedrals, ah ha!

    oh sorry wron… wait no that’s a fitting statement.

    e gads!

    anywhoot, retroactive catalysis is a short term, but i’m more interested with this basis we have going. some ‘rational’ component, to be inerrantly fitted? odd that the purportedly inerrant can “magically” comprehend the errant, eh? one would think that one or the other would be impossible, or inexistent! boulderdash rubble! where did i leave my spheres…

    damn this empty space! damn it all up in the nine hells of a mental case! neutron kissing science fiction lovers! fath is a fat planck unit and fat is wonderful too! without fat i should be quite dead!

    gives fudge packing a whole new meaning, ruh huh hoooh *wanders off*

    *yells back*
    and don’t even get me STARTED on dedekind!!!

  6. BuzzCoastin | Oct 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm |

    at the very least
    one needs to examine & verify their beliefs
    holding to unverified beliefs limits experience
    and makes one a puppet of the thoughts of someone else

    • Ghostlore | Oct 18, 2013 at 7:54 pm |

      All action follows thought. That’s not my rule, it’s just the way of the universe.
      Holding on to unverified beliefs has allowed mankind to invent a whole bunch of amazing shit. Like, barring the occasional accidental discovery, everything ever invented. Ever.
      So there’s that.

  7. Thad McKraken | Oct 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

    Fantastic post, and we’re only talking about sight. When you get into the subjective nature of memory, it gets even stranger. Essentially, our memories are largely just shit we made up to fit a narrative we want to believe in and that’s what the past ultimately ends up being after the fact.

  8. Why are people hating on vision so much all the sudden. Of course you can’t see everything. We only see what’s useful.

    “Visible light reflects off of an object and enters the eye…,”
    we see objects VIA light. Vision’s purpose is not to see light itself. If we get to see the whole electromagnetic spectrum, will that be enough? It still won’t be all important information, we won’t be able to see mass or pressure (not to mention the sensory overload)

    I also don’t see how you are saying hallucinations happen between the eye and the visual cortex, it looks like those explanations all come at or after the visual cortex.

    Where you say hallucination, i see powerful parallel processing to get the most usable and informed model of the object you’re looking at using two very powerful analog cameras.

  9. Ted Heistman | Oct 18, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

    This article is the shit! Sorry what I said about Donald duck. You know I caught myself having hallucinations. Really mundane ones. like I would brush my leg against a chair and “see” that it was the dog. But really it was a chair. I guess my brain thought it might have been the dog, so it filled it in as the dog. I also heard something walking in the woods and “saw” that it was a porcupine. But really what I saw was a stump. The stump did not look that much like porcupine, but my brain filled in some pretty exacting details of the fur and anatomy-details that existed only in my mind.

    • Calypso_1 | Oct 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |

      How frequently do you experience this?

      • Ted Heistman | Oct 21, 2013 at 8:49 am |

        are you interested in my bowel movements as well, doc? I had one the other day that was really weird looking. I wish you could have seen it. I’ll have to remember you the next time I take a shit.

  10. love Love
    hate Hate
    doubt Doubt
    have faith in Faith
    (that one popped into my head towards the end of a 10-day Vipassana retreat. I don’t think they were expecting their practice to end up encouraging my faith.)

  11. It’s not faith to promote the use of reason.

    What’s ironic is that James Randi would be the first person to point out that our perceptions are limited, as described. This is how stage magic works, and, by extension, how many forms of fraud work. The goal of skepticism is for everyone to be able to “see under the hood,” so that they recognize deception when it is attempted upon them.

    You may not agree with materialists like Randi on every issue, but the skeptical movement is performing a valuable service in a world where there really are cynical, manipulative people trying to make a buck off the sick, elderly, and otherwise vulnerable (e.g., Peter Popoff). These attempts to discredit “skepticism” generally also undercut the good work that skepticism does on issues that are genuinely important.

    • Ghostlore | Oct 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

      Could not agree more. Like the dung beetle or the amazonian frog eating bat in the natural world, Randi and those of his ilk do indeed serve a purpose.
      Just kidding. I get your point, really. And typically I have no problem with healthy skepticism. My problem with Randi is that he’s let his ego overshadow everything, and that serves absolutely no purpose.

  12. i’m no smarty pants but isn’t this another new-agy ‘there is no objective truth’ type of article???

  13. DR Ouroboros | Oct 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |

    As an unashamed and skeptical believer in the divine and psychic phenomena I will state that nothing can be proven according to the scientific method. Much like court you can only see where the evidence leads you. And still very much like court. The jury which holds the duty and responsibility of deciding what is true and what is false are often a victim of their own biases, ignorance, and sometimes bribery. Scientists are human and have preconceived notions of how things are. If a group of scientists holds a preconceived notion, then countering that ideology can be professional suicide. There are many scientific studies that show psychic phenomena exist. One example: Sony investigated psychic phenomena and found that they could not make profit from it, so they discontinued their research. -As a side note. The energy given off by a ‘healer’ can be measured by modern scientific instruments and the difference between ‘normal’ people is significant. I have personally seen this done.

  14. Faith is knowing, stop fighting go with the flow.

    • Faith is the opposite of knowing. It’s trust in something, typically another’s word. Usually trust (or fear) in/of the authoritative religious creations.

      Knowing (gnosis) comes from experience, and does not require faith.

      • Gnosis is not the same as Scientia or experiential knowledge. Gnosis probably has more in common with faith, than is commonly supposed, especially by most so-called modern Gnostics. The ancient gnostics, who are usually referred to when modern people use the term gnosis, wrote a lot about faith. Try reading the Pistis Sophia(Faith Wisdom) for an example.
        Faith is knowing. It is knowing that which can’t be seen, heard or thought of by the human mind. Jesus said, “I will give you what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what has not arisen in the human mind.” Faith may even be a prerequisite for knowledge. Even for experiential knowledge, because you have to have faith that yer instruments of observation are accurate.

        • notcreastive | Oct 22, 2013 at 11:12 am |

          Hit the nail on the head. Faith is knowing that there are things that you don’t know.

  15. People need certainty to function. Seems to be part of the design. Doesn’t seem to matter much what they’re certain about, or whether or not it has any ‘objective’ truth, (is that still a thing? IDK), just need certainty about SOMEthing… and if its all made-up anyway, what’s the harm, right?

  16. Public service announcement: this article is fucking with your mind. First of all, it doesn’t bother to define its terms, taking it for granted that the same thing is meant by “interpretation” “hallucination” “reality” and even “skepticism” in every context and field of inquiry. The article presents questions that have a philosophical structure but pretends they are scientific questions that are * directly* answerable by appealing to cognitive science (“According to cognitive science…”). The result is that words that have a specialized, technical sense in cognitive science are misapplied to contexts that are not empirical domains of inquiry (or, at least, have not been responsibly and meaningfully translated into empirical questions by the author). The article has to provide a theory of why these specialized meanings apply to the philosophical contexts the article is discussing. Otherwise, it’s just irresponsible gibberish. For example, I know what “hallucination” means when someone has taken LSD and tells me there is a pink elephant. I don’t know what it means when I’m sitting at a cafe people-watching and the author of this article informs me that I am actually hallucinating. If “hallucination” means something technical in visual processing, then the author needs to supply a *theory* of how this technical meaning is applicable to the metaphysical and epistemological questions at hand. But notice that when a cognitive scientist uses “hallucination”in the technical sense, they are referring to the level of the neuron. When the author uses that word, though, it’s used to make sweeping claims about the level of the individual and their everyday lives.

    Also, the article predictably confuses “skepticism” as a method (as it is used in science) with skepticism as a position about knowledge (a philosophical stance) and doesn’t bother to distinguish the two. The first one is warranted in contexts where hypotheses are being tested. In the context of the scientific method, a hypothesis is by definition an assumption. The word “hypothesis”, though, does not meaningfully translate to what I do when I see there is a table in front of me. Again, cognitive scientists and psychologists may sometimes use words like “inference” and “hypothesis” to refer to sense perception AND YET it is not clear what connection these specialized terms have to these words in other contexts. It may be that there is no connection at all–the words merely sound the same but don’t have the same meaning. Once again, an argument needs to be supplied to show why the meanings are commensurate; it cannot be taken for granted without leading to mindfuckery in the reader.

    Lastly, terminological confusions aside, this article assumes empiricism as the only viable theory of knowledge without giving any support for that assumption, i.e. it does not explain why the oh-so-flawed and unreliable senses are the only means of obtaining knowledge. This is the kind of drivel that my undergraduates write in their 101 courses. Resubmit. C.

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