Friday, March 12, 2010

Belief systems and perceptual blindness

Do you have passionate beliefs?
Are you 100% sure of what you believe in?
Are you unable to see the other point of view?
Chances are you're suffering from perceptual blindness.
I looked at this phenomenon in an earlier post. Today I've extended the possibilities of perceptual blindness to include belief systems. How else can we explain the fact that highly intelligent beings who possess large amounts of knowledge adopt positions of absoluteness in their minds regarding their beliefs?
Philosophically speaking there is no absolute truth. From that theoretical premise we should be wary to realize that there is no such thing as absolute knowledge and we can never have all the facts within our grasp no matter how many facts we posses, the big picture always remains partially obscured.

My position on any of my beliefs is that I'm at best, 99% sure that I'm correct but never dare to consider that I'm ever 100% correct. That would be as arrogant as it is foolish.

Let's for example consider the current issue of climate change. There are the believers who are 100% convinced and there are the skeptics who are not convinced by the arguments in support of this phenomenon.
When we try to pin down the causes of climate change and whether it is man made or not, the believers might admit that they aren't 100% sure but even 95% probability is good enough. When we adopt an opinion, an idea or an ideology or worse a religion, we give ourselves up to perceptual blindness.
But I don't want to just talk about climate change itself.

Let's consider another example that's in the news. The vatican is reeling from scandal after scandal of priests that have in the past sexually abused boys under their care. Up till now, there has been a silence that I would describe as perceptual blindness to the issue. Now, somebody is attempting to grapple with the problem and has decided that maybe it's celibacy that's at fault. But what about all the stories that have been surfacing all over the world? The need to protect the integrity and reputation of the church has no doubt created a perceptual blindness that is capable of ignoring the welfare of the victims. The perceptual blindness manifests itself in the adoption of the "big picture" which puts the survival of the Catholic church above the welfare of it's victims. A perceptual blindness that the Catholic church isn't strong enough to withstand scandal.

Here's another example, the so called "church" of Scientology. The less said the better but I can't neglect to mention that when a business scheme (scam?) describes itself as a religion purely for the sake of avoiding paying taxes, then we have perceptual blindness, not by those who manage the business but by those who cannot see Scientology for what it really is.

It would be fair to say that my opinions are the ones that are suffering from perceptual blindness and I can't argue with that because I don't have 100% absolute truth at my disposal.
The strength of my argument is that I know that perceptual blindness exists and unlike those who are absolutely sure they are correct, I always have at least 1% doubt which is available to any new information that might change my opinion.The fact that I'm aware of perceptual blindness puts me just ahead of those who refuse to acknowledge it's existence. The possibility that I might be wrong puts me above those whose belief systems do not allow for any shadow of a doubt.
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Jeannie said...

Perceptual blindness is likely necessary to our survival. We simply can't manage all the information we are bombarded with so we ignore much of it. Disregard that which doesn't match our preset paradigm.

Sometimes this keeps us from seeing truth. We often think it's all or nothing rather than a misinterpretation of our perceptions.

Religion has a tendency to be dogmatic. You must accept it all as is or be a heretic.

Jen said...

Don't we have the freedom to separate the wheat from the chaff?
I can subscribe to a belief system, but not buy in 100%. I can handle being called a heretic. Isn't that what independent thought is?
So, I can think for mysef without subscribing to everything that the herd believes.

Those are the kind of people I admire.

beamish said...

I'm convinced that there is an absolute truth in that a statement is either true or it is not. It is absolutely true that 1 + 1 = 2. It is absolutely true that President Obama is an imbecile. And so on.

What is the purpose of critical inquiry if there is no absolute truth to arrive at?

Lexcen said...

Jeannie, good point.

Jen, independent thought is dangerous and can lead to social pariah status. I'm glad you're not afraid to think.

Beamish, Gödel's incompleteness theorems...
Heisenberg's uncertainty principle...
Science and mathematics tells us a lot about absolutes.
As for Obama, maybe you're confusing incompetence with stupidity?

beamish said...

Incompetence and stupidity have a great deal of overlap. Contemplate this: Obama is even too stupid to write the stupid things he reads off of a teleprompter.

It can be "absolutely true" that I'm in my car (location) whether I'm parked or blazing down the road at 100 miles per hour (velocity), which seems to turn Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (location and velocity can't be measured similtaneously) on its ear with a simple shift in sematics and definition widening of "location" to me where I'm sitting rather than where the car "is" as it's zooming down the freeway.

But such language games are ultimately humorous or absurd distractions. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle holds because of the absolute truth nature of reality. You really can't be moving and in a static place at the same time.