“Remember than one one's conspiracy is another man's business plan.”
“Climate change (both sides) is all about politics.”
Phi Beta Iota: We are at the intersection of ideology, social conditioning, weak education, and the culmination of decades of power politics that have produced a severely retarded i.e. damaged collective psyche. The collective intelligence movement can be regarded as a healing counter-cancer within this larger cancerous world non-brain. The nuclear-tsunami in Japan is an opportunity for delving deeply into everything that can be known. It is an opportunity to re-evaluate the known risks of nuclear power; to re-examine climate change from a holistic perspective including a rigorous look at all human processes that could be contributing to the environmental degradation of the Earth; and to establish an analytic model as well as a road-map for addressing both climate change and nuclear proliferation with the non-violent dissemination of knowledge.
I focused on the science and engineering (or lack thereof) and Fulano is focusing on the political froth and folly around it, and how it is used for generating misdirection and illusion in the socio-political arena (which is consistent and universal – witness all the AGW noise for another “science”-based web of manipulation). I like what Fulano is saying, and mostly agree (with the usual caveats).
This represents the intersection of ideology, social conditioning, and weak education with the real world. Fulano's comparison with “Sorcha Faal” is apt, and represents the fractionated – even atomized – consciousness of our damaged collective psyche. In fact, we could make an extensive list of intentional disinformation agents, one that could offend every “true-believer” around.
It is important to remember while that these folks probably represent a looney-bin fringe as far as their content is concerned, the exact same sort of process thing is happening well within the established and accepted order of the “mainstream,” except that it's called, for instance, “partisan politics,” “economics,” “democracy,” and the like. That establishment process has its own list of disinfo guys, some of whom are highly placed in governments (including our own) and other institutions.
Remember that one man's conspiracy is the next man's business plan. It reminds us that we should always be wary of what we believe (especially if powerful forces seem to be behind it), and always be careful to distinguish personal direct experience from random thoughts, beliefs and ideologies, and collective trance.
Another caution is to recognize that there are lies within lies within truths within lies (and so on… to every permutation). Often both sides of a social proposition can be espoused and manipulated by one party in the power-seeking struggle (again, AGW is a good example), with the goal not truth through certainty, but power through confusing the other guy's' conversation.
Books, we are told, seek to instruct or to amuse. Indeed!…The true antithesis to knowledge, in this case, is not pleasure, but power. All that is literature seeks to communicate power; all that is not literature, to communicate knowledge.
Thomas de Quincy, Letters to a Young Man, iii.
Yet another caution is that all of us, consciously or not, make compromises with the authentic expression of our personal truths and integrity so we can survive in our social and cultural worlds. It's part of our genetic behavioral firmware (“algorithms”).
It's wise to be agnostic on the content details, and rigorously skeptical about the process whereby cultural and social norms are propagated. For instance, it's wise, if somewhat sad, to use as a first-order standard for anything we hear that the teller is more likely than not to be misinformed or intending to misinform. And so, just as a coincidental tidbit that is crossing my desk at this very moment, I am adding this message into the fray, keeping in mind that “denial” is just another kind of belief (a counter-belief).
“Denial” is an obsolete term with absolutely NO explanatory value. An index search of my evolutionary psychology library finds no reference to the term “denial” (see my library list on the end). However, “Freudian Defense Mechanisms” were mentioned in Pinker's HOW THE MIND WORKS.
Pinker explains that the modern scientific explanation is “completely different” than Freud's. The modern answer is that people are lying when they offer technical arguments against, say, climate change. Climate change (both sides) is all about politics.
We are political animals. How could it be otherwise?
[pp. 421-423, HOW THE MIND WORKS, Steven Pinker, 1997]
The playwright Jerome K. Jerome once said, “It is always the best policy to tell the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar.” It's hard to be a good liar, even when it comes to your own intentions, which only you can verify. Intentions come from emotions, and emotions have evolved displays on the face and body. Unless you are a master of the Stanislavsky method, you will have trouble faking them; in fact, they probably evolved because they were hard to fake. Worse, lying is stressful, and anxiety has its own telltale markers. They are the rationale for polygraphs, the so-called lie detectors, and humans evolved to be lie detectors, too. Then there is the annoying fact that some propositions logically entail others. Since some of the things you say will be true, you are always in danger of exposing your own lies. As the Yiddish saying goes, a liar must have a good memory.
Trivers, pursuing his theory of the emotions to its logical conclusion, notes that in a world of walking lie detectors the best strategy is to believe your own lies. You can't leak your hidden intentions if you don't think that they are your intentions. According to his theory of self-deception, the conscious mind sometimes hides the truth from itself the better to hide it from others. But the truth is useful, so it should be registered somewhere in the mind, walled off from the parts that interact with other people. There is an obvious similarity to Freud's theory of the unconscious and the defense mechanisms of the ego (such as repression, projection, denial, and rationalization), though the explanation is completely different. George Orwell stated it in 1984: “The secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one's own infallibility with a power to learn from past mistakes.”
The neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga has shown that the brain blithely weaves false explanations about its motives. Split-brain patients have had their cerebral hemispheres surgically disconnected as a treatment for epilepsy. Language circuitry is in the left hemisphere, and the left half of the visual field is registered in the isolated right hemisphere, so the part of the split-brain person that can talk is unaware of the left half of his world. The right hemisphere is still active, though, and can carry out simple commands presented in the left visual field, like “Walk” or “Laugh.” When the patient (actually, the patient's left hemisphere) is asked why he walked out (which we know was a response to the command presented to the right hemisphere), he ingenuously replies, “To get a Coke.” When asked why he is laughing, he says, “You guys come up and test us every month. What a way to make a living!”
Our confabulations, not coincidentally, present us in the best light. Literally hundreds of experiments in social psychology say so. The humorist Garrison Keillor describes the fictitious community of Lake Wobegon, “where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Indeed, most people claim they are above average in any positive trait you name: leadership, sophistication, athletic prowess, managerial ability, even driving skill. They rationalize the boast by searching for an aspect of the trait that they might in fact be good at. The slow drivers say they are above average in safety, the fast ones that they are above average in reflexes.
More generally, we delude ourselves about how benevolent and how effective we are, a combination that social psychologists call beneffectance. When subjects play games that are rigged by the experimenter, they attribute their successes to their own skill and their failures to the luck of the draw. When they are fooled in a fake experiment into thinking they have delivered shocks to another subject, they derogate the victim, implying that he deserved the punishment. Everyone has heard of “reducing cognitive dissonance,” in which people invent a new opinion to resolve a contradiction in their minds. For example, a person will recall enjoying a boring task if he had agreed to recommend it to others for paltry pay. (If the person had been enticed to recommend the task for generous pay, he accurately recalls that the task was boring.) As originally conceived of by the psychologist Leon Festinger, cognitive dissonance is an unsettled feeling that arises from an inconsistency in one's beliefs.
But that's not right: there is no contradiction between the proposition “The task is boring” and the proposition “I was pressured into lying that the task was fun.” Another social psychologist, Eliot Aronson, nailed it down: people doctor their beliefs only to eliminate a contradiction with the proposition “I am nice and in control.” Cognitive dissonance is always triggered by blatant evidence that you are not as beneficent and effective as you would like people to think. The urge to reduce it is the urge to get your self-serving story straight.
Phi Beta Iota: Emphasis added above, and links below.
2011 Evolutionary Psychology (David M. Buss, 4th Edition from 1999)
2009 The Biology of Religious Behavior (Jay R. Feierman)
2008 Evolutionary Psychology (Lance Workman, Will Reader)
2007 The Most Dangerous Animal (David Livingston Smits)
2007 The Evolution of Mind (Steven Gangestad, Jeffery A. Simpson)
2007 Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience (Steven M. Platek, et al.)
2006 Genes in Conflict (Austin Burt, Robert Trivers)
2006 Evolution and Social Psychology (Mark Schaller, et al.)
2005 The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (David M. Buss)
2004 Evolutionary Thought in Psychology (Henry Plotkin)
2004 Cognitive Illusions (Rudiger F. Pohl)
2003 Evolutionary Psychology (Steven J. C. Gaulin, Donald H. McBurney)
2002 The Blank Slate (Steven Pinker)
2002 Human Evolutionary Psychology (Louise Barrett, et al.)
2002 Bounded Rationality (Gerd Gigerenzer)
2000 Genetic Influences on Neural and Behavioral Functions (Donald W. Pfaff et al)
1999 Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart (Gerd Gigerenzer, Peter M. Todd)
1998 The Evolution of Mind (Denise Dellarosa Cummins)
1998 Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (Charles Crawford, Dennis L. Krebs)
1997 Human Nature (Laura Betzig)
1997 How the Mind Works (Steven Pinker)
1997 Darwin Dominance & Democracy (Albert Somit, Steven A. Peterson)