Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Archive for July 2008

Cooking Facts : Self Deception.

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Kisagotami was a young woman whose first child died suddenly somewhere around his first birthday. Desperate in her love for the child, Kisagotami went from house to house in her village, clasping the dead child to her breast and asking for medicine to revive her son. Most of her neighbors shrank from the sight of her and called her mad, but one man, seeing her inability to accept the reality of her son’s death, directed her to the Buddha by promising her that only he had the medicine she sought. Kisagotami went to the Buddha and pleaded with him for medicine. “I know of some,” he promised. “But I will need a handful of mustard seed from a house where no child, husband, parent, or servant has died.”

Slowly, Kisagotami came to see that hers was not a unique predicament. She put the body of her child down in the forest and returned to the Buddha. “I have not brought the mustard seed,” she told him. “The people of the village told me, ‘The living are few, but the dead are many.”‘ The Buddha replied, “You thought that you alone had lost a son; the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence.”

Kisagotami’s story resonates, not just because of our sympathy for the horror of losing a child or because of our fear of a world in which such tragedy is possible, but because we all, like her, feel that our situation is unique and that our emotional pain requires relief. In the privacy of our own minds, we are aggrieved and single-mindedly self-centered. We still seek absolute gratification that is intolerant of frustration. The Buddha helped Kisagotami find happiness not by bringing her dead child back to life, but by changing her view of herself. The inner development he alludes to is a development beyond the private childish perspective of “me first” that we all secretly harbor.

Source : psychologytoday.com

I particularly like this line “we all feel that our situation is unique” which shows the egocentric mind of ours. Thinking about it, i feel human psychology is a funny thing and i will tell you why.

Consider a student who didn’t do his homework and the teacher asked him why. He will mostly give the answer – “I did not have enough time to finish it up” or  “I did not know how to do” or “I totally forgotten about it” instead of plainly admitting that he is lazy.

Or let’s take another scenario.

The boyfriend broke up with a girl and she was unhappy. When her friends asked her why they broke up, she will mostly say “i realized we are not suitable for each other” or “our relationship is getting dull and boring and time to move on” or “i do not have feeling for him anymore” instead of admitting that he dumped her for another girl.

As i have written before, the subconscious mind operates very differently from the conscious mind. Human psychology work the way it is simply because we are a social animal and it is not a mystery that psychology and evolution are closely linked (evolutionary psychology). Because we are social animals, our psychology is bound by psychological conditions such as peer pressure, cognitive dissonance and psychological bias. (I will write a post about evolutionary psychology + social group psychology soon). From a subconscious mind point of view, being dumped is a horrible thing to happen because it indicates that she is a social outcast as the male prefer other female over her. Same goes for being lazy. People hate to be labeled as lazy because it indicates he/she does not contribute to the society.  The subconscious mind will inherently resist all these negative interpretation and replace it with an ‘artificial ego’.

How does the mind do it? We accomplish this by unconsciously cooking facts and consciously consuming them.

Now, why is this psychological cooking-facts-system is important? Few reasons.

  1. As mentioned, since human being is a social animal, we are bound by psychological conditions like peer pressure or cognitive dissonance which demand us to ‘think alike’ as with other people in the social group. This is what you called as – culture. We do not like to be degraded and seen as useless by our peers and society, therefore, we cook facts in attempting to convince other people and ourselves that we are not useless in any way. (Hence, we have office politics where people refuse to accept responsibility and pushing blames around – “It’s not my fault! I did my part well, but the other department screwed it up“.)
  2. To protect ourselves from devastating mental breakdown just like the story above where Kisagotami refuse to believe that her child is dead. (amazingly, chimpanzee exhibit a similar behaviour too. when a baby chimp dies, the mother will keep carrying it around for the next few days, refuse to accept that the chimp is dead.)
  3. A form of motivation. When experience make us feel unhappy, this psychological immune system cook facts and shift blame in order to offer us more positive views. (For instance, “Matt doesn’t love me anymore, but it’s ok. I will find a more worthy guy who will love me more.”). However this is where an optimist and pessimist are separated. As i have written here before, we can always choose the angle of our perception when judging a matter/subject/issue. Optimist will naturally be motivated by the cooked facts and choose to stay strong and finding alternatives while pessimist will stay in the death loop of cooked facts and remain in the state of avoidance.
  4. Inescapable, inevitable, and irrevocable circumstances will also trigger the psychological immune system. For instance,  we will forgive our siblings for behaviour we would not tolerate in a friend. Why? Because friends come and go but siblings are part of us and there’s not much we can do to ‘unstuck’ them from us. Hence, we it comes to a situation where we have no other alternatives to take, we will cook reasons out and convince ourselves to be content with the situation. (“My brother shouldn’t cheat the girl like that! But well, since he is my brother, i have to forgive him“)

Can you think of a situation where we cook up facts or reasons to convince us of something? I could, because i’m sure we do it all the time.

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Written by elan85

July 30, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Psychology

Logical Fallacies : Part I.

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Recognizing and Learning logical fallacy is one big step towards critical thinking. Logical fallacies are basically bad errors in reasoning, hence, flawed. Part 1 out of 4.

  • The Relativist Fallacy

Ronn : Belief in Santa Claus are false. There’s no evidence to suggest that they exist, and plenty of evidence that they don’t. So, it does not make sense for you to believe in them.

Nnor : Well, that Santa Claus do exist may not be true for you, but it’s true for me because i believe in it.

What is “it’s true for me” supposed to mean, exactly? Suppose that a man come to you and say ‘I believe that Paris is the capital of Germany’ and insist that he is right, does it mean that he is REALLY right? Suppose that a group of people proclaim that UFO exist, are they really right? Sometimes, we instantly know what the truth is (former example), and many times, we never know (the latter).

When we do not know something, it’s not the problem with the reality or nature. The truth has always been there. Rather, it’s the state of ignorance in our mind. Hence, to understand truth, we need to look very objectively, not subjectively. We always think highly of our personal opinion, but yet our personal bias, opinion or point of view do very little to understand the reality.

  • The False Dilemma

Ronn: Either we invade Neverland or we allow Neverland to take over the world.

Nnor: I don’t agree with war. It’s not necessary to solve conflict by using aggression. Besides that, Neverland may not have any intention to attack us at all.

Ronn: Either you are with us or against us. It seems to me you are opposing us and want Neverland to attack us. You’re not patriotic.

It’s common to argue like this : Either A or B. If A is false, therefore B must be right. But sometimes we are presented with argument that insist we have just two mutually exclusive choices – A or B – when in fact there might be wider range of options.

We often see this in Creation vs Evolution arguments on the origin of life. Often, people try to put down sides which they oppose because if Creation/Evolution is wrong then Evolution/Creation must be right.

Imagine if we live in a Matrix world controlled by computer. What will that be – creation or evolution?

  • Loaded Words

Ronn: So, how was the tennis match last night?

Nnor: Rafa Nadal was lucky enough to win the first set but Federer played extremely well  and his effort were well rewarded in the second set.

Both equally strong tennis rival, but one was lucky to win a set while the other won because his great effort paid off?

This fallacy is often used by politics and media for propaganda purposes. It is possible to influence the outcome of a judgment by the deliberate use of prejudiced terms or words. Words can be easily manipulated to conjure up an  influence on people to be more favourable or more hostile towards a subject. 

It is common for human being to unleash this form of bias as we often have our own preference or favorite on something.  Imagine a situation when two person got themselves into a debate and both of them insist that they are both right.

Ronn : Why are you so stubborn and keep insisting to implement this flawed idea?

Nnor : No, i’m not stubborn. I’m just firm with my idea. You on the other hand is a pig-headed fool for simply dismissing this wonderful idea.

Whether it is Firm, Stubborn, or Pig-Headed fool, all of them have the same level of meaning…. Just different level of ‘correctness’ and prejudice in the words used.

  • Emotional Appeals

Ronn : How can we achieve world peace? What can we do to bring us together?

Nnor: Most of the troubles of this world are caused by people thinking it out, instead of responding naturally with warmth and humanity. We should ignore these facts about Third World dictatorships, and reach out with love in our hearts and treat every single human being as our kin and siblings. We need to start loving and understand each other more.

When emotions becomes the means of deciding the soundness of an argument, this steps over the boundary of good reasoning. While it might be appropriate to show pity to a convicted criminal, it is certainly not sound procedure to let pity affect our judgment of whether he did it or not.

Emotional Appeals do not just limit itself to positive emotions but also negative emotions such as fear. One good example would be CERN’s The Large Hardron Collider.

There were several people who claimed this gigantic machine is dangerous of creating a blackhole and sucking everything on Earth inside it (due to physicist attempting to understand what has happen several seconds after Big Bang). Hence, several petitions were formed to against the construction LHC. A subjectively-imposed fear does not stand side by side with good reasoning.

David Hume put it succinctly, telling us that passion moves us to act, whereas reason directs the course of those actions. Emotion, in other words, motivates us to do things, but reason enables us to calculate what to do.

  • The Complex Question

Ronn:  ‘Is your stupidity inborn?’

Nnor : NO! Errr ..  i mean ….

If the answer is Yes , that means he admits that he is stupid. If NO is the answer, he still acknowledge that he is stupid.

When several questions are combined into one, in such a way that a yes-or-no answer is required, the person they are asked of has no chance to give separate replies to each, and the fallacy of the complex question is committed.

Lawyers often deploy this method as a means to confuse witnesses or defendants. Take for example:

Ronn : ‘Why did you make your wife alter her will in your favour? And why did you then go along to the chemist to buy rat poison? Why did you then put it into her coffee, and how did you do it without attracting her attention?’

The complex question is a very effective as a means of introducing the semblance of democracy. It enables you to give people a sense of choice over their destinies. But when you think harder, you will realize the choices are in fact, pretty limited. For instance:

Ronn : Nnor, would you prefer to buy me a new iPhone or a PSP for my birthday?

Nnor : Errrr……………..

Written by elan85

July 25, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Philosophy

Idea From Karl Marx

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I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine on the world’s economic system. It all started out when he talked about Milton Friedman’s idea on free market. Friedman believes that the best form of economy is when the government do not intervene with the economy and leave the market completely 100% free. Basically, no welfare, no subsidy, no social services. The market should be left on its own alone, which will result in striving competitions and the ‘invisible hand’ will put everything into places nicely.

And i immediately thought of Karl Marx, the man who opposed free market aka capitalism. Contrarily to popular belief, Karl Marx is not an ‘evil guy’ who spread ‘evil’ ideology (whenever the word communism is mentioned, we automatically think of Karl Marx). Most people do not have clear idea of his philosophies and more importantly, Karl Marx did not established the so called evil communist nations (Lenin, Stalin, Mao). Just because some murderers loves eating apples, it doesn’t mean that every apple lovers are murderers.

Let me share with you briefly how did Marxism begin.

Max Weber, a German sociologist, wrote a thesis (in his work The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) arguing how the rise of Protestantism (with other form of Abrahamic religions) have influenced heavily on the economic institutions throughout the history. You might think – religion had an impact on the economy systems? I must be kidding.

Actually, it is pretty much similar to Steven Levitt’s work in his book Freakonomics, where he argued that there is a correlation between legalized abortions and crime rates – basically, legalizing abortions will reduces crime rates. When i first read the abstract of the topic, i kept wondering how two seemingly unrelated subjects could have influenced each other. But once i read in detail, i immediately got the idea that there are many things in this world which we can’t just use ‘common sense’ to perceive them. After all, common sense is what told the ancient people that the Earth was flat and the Earth is at the center of the universe.

Back to Max Weber’s work, he argued that the emergence of religion has resulted a form of ‘acceptance’ by people that the existence of different social classes is justifiable. If you’re born rich, you’re lucky because it is God’s will. If you’re born poor, you have to accept it because it is also God’s will. Plus, everyone should obey the ruler because he is the God’s representative (or something along the lines). Hence, the serf and feudalism system emerged where the poor people (peasant) work at rich people’s farm (landlord) and everyone is expected to accept this destiny gracefully.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the legendary French leader has once said :

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.

Rebellious by nature, after reading work from Weber (and also Feuerbach’s work The Essence of Christianity) Karl Marx denounces religion as the ‘opium of the masses’- just like opium, it actively control their will and make people obsessive with it without questioning these beliefs. It is the most destructive force to humanity.  Karl Marx also believes that as long as people project their longings onto God, people would passively accept material conditions and injustice in the real world.

Now, what is this ‘injustice’ Karl Marx was talking about? It is basically the injustice between the rich and poor and the injustice between employer and employee … something which most people will neglect or will accept without questioning. 

Suppose that a girl, let’s call her Kelly, works at a bakery shop. She spends 12 hours a day in the shop baking cakes and the shop will sell the cake at $10 each. Suppose that the shop manage to sell 30 cakes a day, that means the daily revenue will be $300 daily. However, she is only paid $60 daily for her wages ($5 an hour).  The rest of $240 will be kept by the bakery shop owner. This is how capitalism works.

Therefore Karl Marx argued, if Kelly is the one who did all the work for the shop why is she not paid her full value or perhaps sharing profit with the owner of the bakery shop? The owner of the shop afterall, did nothing but only giving instructions on what to do and merely having ownership of the shop. Kelly is the one who did all the hard work.Karl Marx criticized this economic system and called it a form of ‘exploitations’ where the rich people exploit the poor people as modern-time slavery.

Let me explain more about exploitations using back the same bakery shop example. The cake is sold for $10. Suppose the cost for making that cake is $2 and in a fair and square world, the remaining $8 profit (for each cake)should be divided between the owner and Kelly, making it $4 for each person. However, in the capitalism world which is driven by profit, the owner or employer will want to maximize his/her profit. So, how will the owner maximize the profit? By giving a minimum wage to Kelly, which is $5 every hour, and the owner keeps the rest of the profit for himself/herself. If Kelly is not happy with $5 wage, the owner can simply kick Kelly out and find another person who is happy to receive the minimum wage. That’s the ‘cruelty’ perceived by Karl Marx with capitalism.

Karl Marx is extremely critical with the people for accepting this ‘injustice’ by default. Why are owners entitled  to profit derived through our sweat? Because they own the property, we respond. But why should we accept this legal system? Marx asks. Why did we not reject such unfair system? Why do we have to follow the ruling class’  beliefs, laws, culture, religion, morality and patriotism? Since human being is the most fundamental aspect of the economy, shouldn’t the economic system emphasizes on the population? Why do we have to divide and categorize people into so many classes? Can’t we all be a classless society where we are all equal?

This is the most fundamental reasoning of Karl Marx and the essence of Socialism.

 My view.

Capitalism still wins. What Karl Marx did was to point out at the weakness of capitalism. However, reversing weakness does not necessary give you strength. Karl Marx is certainly a fascinating guy with some glowing idea and philosophy of his own. What he missed is he didn’t take account of human’s nature in engaging in competition and our relentless desires to achieve the unachievable (hence invention and innovation). Putting it shortly, human being gets bored easily and we always crave progressions.

It is not difficult to understand the difference between capitalism and socialism. Capitalism focus on individual’s benefits where individuals are motivated by his/her own interest. Socialism focus on collective benefits where individuals are motivated by social, groups or community’s interest.

Since capitalism is so effective, it is pretty self-evident to me that human being are inherently selfish and we always put our self-interest first before the social group or community.

Written by elan85

July 22, 2008 at 1:28 am

Posted in Economics, Philosophy

Buddhism Philosophy

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Human get miserable when we cannot control things.  We agonize when our dreams do not come true. We get upset when we do not get the things we want.

The truth is, we can not fully control our life for there are simply too many factors not in our control. However, we can control what we expect from life. Man knows no objectivity, only from the difference between what is, and how he expected things to be.

Buddha says that life by default, is an endless strings of problems. Once a problem is overcame, another problem will spring into existence. Problems never cease to exist due to two reasons.

1. The expectations we have on ourselves and the environment around us.

2 The continuous desire to control and manipulate things around us.

For these reasons, we consistently suffer both physically and mentally. Hence, Life Is Suffering. Problems are problematic because we choose to see them as problems. As long as one controls his expectations, he will never experience misery no matter how miserable his life for others may looks like.  (Do not take the word suffering too literally. It is just a metaphorically way of saying that we are trapped in a reality which is not in accordance with the Nature.). Therefore Buddhism strives on contentment.

This is very true as i sometimes wonder why my friends get upset over a matter which i would have normally brush off as something of no-big-deal. It is because when you look at a matter, you can view it from different angles and perspective, hence giving yourself different interpretation from other people. It is just something like – is the glass half full or half empty? Both views are correct, but you are using different mind set to view the matter.

Same goes for Money. How do you view money? Some people view money as a measure of their success or how great their achievement is. Some people view money as a basic necessity and does not need it to bring satisfaction. Some people needs money to fulfill their endless demand of high end purchases. There is no right or wrong, just different mind set perceiving the matter.

Therefore, Buddhism philosophy is more about achieving realization by attaining the right mind set which go accordance to the Nature. So, how do you know whether the path you have chosen is right or wrong? Buddha once observed that human being usually behaved in either one of the two extreme end. Buddha said that the wise is the one who could see the picture of both end and chose to stay in between. He called it The Middle Way.

When it comes to morality’s Right or Wrong, there are also usually two groups of extreme end people. The first group is a group of highly influential people who spread the idea of morality and impose the reality of ‘What is Right and What is Wrong’ to the common people. And another group of people are basically ignorant people who do not know what to believe in and are mentally (subconsciously) ready to be manipulated by the influential group. Hence, we have religions, where a group of common people come together and irrationally believing that there’s an invisible man in the sky and at the same time, being controlled by the fear of condemnation and devils. Religion claimed that humanity is worthless without morality, and therefore religion is essential.

The core belief of Buddhism, as we know is to be One with Self and Nature. In Buddhism world, there are no Gods, no devils, no miracle, no magic, and perhaps more importantly, no irrational beliefs. When you misstep the path, the nature does not judge or get disappointed with you. You have only failed yourself for not being in harmony with Nature. There is no divine being who will punish you for your disobedience. You will have to discover the big picture yourself and seek The Way. Buddhism takes a more introverted approach and emphasize highly on self-examined and self-exploration thoughts. Buddhism guides you but do not insist to you What is Right and What is Wrong because there is no right or wrong in Nature, only different perception of reality within us. It is just like i can never force a person to like reading science books and insist it as the Truth – rather, i can only give my opinion and ultimately, the person has to discover the joy of reading science book himself/herself in order to truly appreciate what science can bring to humanity. That’s exactly the Buddhism Way – self-realization. 

Reincarnation

Buddhism do not believe in reincarnation in the sense of resurrection. Again, reincarnation is a pretty metaphorical way of Buddha explaining how the Nature works. After we die, we neither phase out nor we will get resurrected. Remember the Middle Way? We are always in between of everything.

Suppose that i die and my body is laying on a field. Overtime, my body will rot and fertilize the grass, becoming its source of energy and other animals who feed on my dead body. In some sense, i play a part in nurturing these lives. Then a cow graze the grass, and in turn, the grass which was nurtured by my body, now nurture the cow. When the cow was eaten by another human being, i played a role in nurturing this eco-system which will nurture other people.

Hence, Buddha said the Nature is tangled in a big web of relationships between different entity. And it is a big cycle which will keep going on and on and on. In some sense, the Nature keeps ‘reincarnating’ itself and i will play a part of it even after my death.

Karma

What goes around, comes around. Karma is sort of a philosophical science idea created by Buddha to gauge human’s intention. Every time a person acts, he/she will release an amount of intention. Since the Nature is tangled in a big web of relationship, no action is independent on its own – that means, every action has a returning consequences.

The main idea of Karma here is to take responsible and become One with yourself. Many times when problems occur, we are quick to blame other people or other factors and examine ourselves last. As i have mentioned before, Buddha believes that we are responsible for ourselves and for our thoughts. It is a way for Buddhist to think about before unleashing their intentions.

Remarkable Buddha’s quotes

  • All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.
  • All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.
  • Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
  • Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.
  • Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.
  • Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
  • In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.
  • In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

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PS: To understand more clearly what Nature is all about (from a comedic point of view), i recommend you George Carlin’s video below. George is truly an intellectual comedian who i really admire.

PPS: If you like George Carlin, i strongly recommend another video from him over YouTube – Religion Is Bullshit

Written by elan85

July 15, 2008 at 6:35 am

Posted in Philosophy

Life : Just Perfect

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Earth is said to be a perfect place for life because it has water, oxygen, ozone, the right distance away from sun (ideal temperature and sunlight), the moon (stabilizing tidal), far away enough from Milky Way’s super massive black hole (avoiding radiation) and a long list of other factors. Hence, scientists have called Earth as the Goldilocks’ zone because everything is just right and nice for Life to exist. Should one of the essential elements do not exist or different in value, the entire Life system will collapse like a crumbling building. For instance, if Jupiter is only half of its size today,, Life on Earth would be impossible because Jupiter will not have a big gravity field strong enough to hold up asteroids and meteors in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. Earth would then be bombarded by asteroids and Life will have no chance to evolve over the million of years.

Some people argued that this ‘perfection’ proves God created Earth & human being. But in this age of Reasoning, i call this lazy way of thinking… It is a bad habit to just skip over mysteries and attribute it to divine or super power. No, you don’t skip over mysteries and call them mysteries. You tackle them instead.

Most people think that the Elements (water, oxygen, sun) fits into Life. Life is the grand design and elements are the components which make Life the way it is. It is just like the car is the grand design and human creates car components (steering, wheels, engine) to complement and fulfill the grand design. Without a car, an individual component like steering or wheel become useless and serve no purpose at all in the universe. Hence, people have the idea that there must be a creator orchestrating this grand design.

But think harder, what if Life does not work the way as we thought to be? What if it is the other way round? What if Life fits into the Elements instead? It is simply means Life depended, evolved and was built up utilizing these Elements.

Water itself is a special element. Oxygen is another special element. The existence of these Elements do not specifically exist solely for Life but it also serves other purposes in the universe. Every single Element is special. Even if it didn’t help to form Life, water will still serve other roles in the universe. Through emergence theory, the natural force build up Life via a process by combining all these elements which could fit nicely together. This process is known as Evolution. Should the environment or condition can’t provide sufficient conducive Elements for Life, the process will fail and Life will not exist. Look at the Moon, Venus and Mars.

So, yes, life itself is not a grand design. But the question whether Life is just a byproduct of chemical-Element-reactions or Life itself is one of the main goal of the Universe is still up for debate.

Organic vs Mechanical

Do you know that our body is actually powered by electricity? Whenever we use our brain to think, electrical pulses is exchanged between neurons. Whenever we walk around, electricity helps muscle contraction and allow us to move our body. Heart would not beat without electricity. The organs communicate with the brain via electrical pulses. And the most fundamental thing which made us the way we are, atoms and molecules, are also powered by electricity. It make sense that electricity play such an important role in Life since its one of the Four Fundamental Forces in the Universe.

(Now, there are two ways to see it. Either you will see that God created electricity as part of his design or you will see the force of Evolution utilizing electricity as a mechanism to make Life works.  The mind find meaning on what it seeks. If you believe in God’s existence, whatever you see or think will naturally be related to God and you will become more convinced of his existence. Else, if you believe in a natural world, everything you see is natural without needing a divine being for Life to happen. Obviously, i believe the latter.)

It’s just like how a car works. If one of the essential component is missing from the car, whether its engine, steering, wheel, gear or etc., the entire car system will not work. The car works the way it is because all these components come together and fit nicely together. Or using back electricity as example, if we have never discover the art of manipulating electricity, this blog will never exist because there are simply no other ways to power up computers, hence denying the possibility of computer’s existence.

Then you might think – if human created car and computer, wouldn’t it be logical that a God should exist to assemble all these components together and designed Life?

That’s where most people’s common sense is off. How could you compare organic objects with mechanical objects? Basically, same concept, different background.  Organic objects are natural, Mechanical objects are designed and created. Organic objects are governed by natural forces, Mechanical objects are governed by human being. If you throw a seed on the garden, a flower will grow naturally and go through its life cycle without needing any guidance. If you throw a car on the garden, the car will just stay stagnant there for eternal time and becomes rusty. All common sense.

Written by elan85

July 8, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Filling In The Gaps

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I’m sure we all know what a blind spot is all about. But let’s just try it out here for fun, shall we? Close your left eye with your hand and slowly move your head towards the screen focusing on the characters. At certain distance, the black circle on the right will vanish. That’s a pretty big blind spot.

However, isn’t it astonishing that despite unable to see the circle, we could still see the straight line and green background? If blind spot is ‘indeed blind’, wouldn’t it make sense that we will not be able to see anything  or total emptiness on the region? The blind spot is an area which is insensitive to light hence .. blind. Yet, there’s no dark spots in our vision and we almost have a perfect vision.

As to my understanding, this is a trick deployed by the brain to compensate the imperfectness  design of our eye. Our brain perceive the pattern of our vision and ‘predict’ what the blind spots will see and just slip in the predicted image. Basically, filling in the gaps. That’s why we could see the line and green background but not the circle.

On one midnight, while being drove home by a friend after a night-out, i thought i saw a tall man standing on the side of the road from the corner of my eye. But when i turned my head and look directly on the object, i realized it was actually just a telephone booth standing beside a tree.

If i am a superstitious person, i would have believed that’s a manifestation of spirits. But as a person who believe there are logical reasons for everything, i know that’s actually a combination between Pareidolia and my blind spot. (Pareidolia is a psychological condition which caused a tendency to see images of human faces or body in a very vague image.) Again, my brain is doing the duty of filling in the gaps albeit fooling myself.

Is this the only situation which our brain fills in the gap? I don’t believe so. I also believe this is how the ‘follow your guts or instinct’ work – The brain constantly fills in the gaps without your conscious awareness.

There is one day i was walking around a housing area, eating a freshly made burger and contemplating about life. Suddenly, i heard some footsteps running towards me from behind. I was startled and my first instinctive reaction was – Oh-no-a-dog-is-chasing-after-me-because-it-wants-to-eat-my-delicious-burger. (amazing how much information is processed in a split second). So, when i turned my back, i was preparing to defend myself against a dog. To my surprise, it was just an elderly man doing his evening jog. Apparently my instinct was wrong.

For the next few minutes, i kept asking myself why the heck i thought it was a dog instead of an old man? Not long after that,  I figured it out, and it’s a very simple answer actually – because i have the knowledge that there are quite a number of dogs in that area (house dogs and a few stray dogs), and i naturally and instinctively linked them with the activity i was doing – which was eating the burger, hence created the false idea that a dog was chasing after my burger. Yes, pretty irrational thought i guess, but hey, it’s not like every human being is irrational. So, i guess i’m still pretty normal.

I believe the way how filling in the gaps work echoes the philosophy of Evolution – it is not perfect and perhaps will cause some error in the way of how we think and perceive the reality but nevertheless is good enough to keep us surviving the world.

Written by elan85

July 2, 2008 at 6:29 pm