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02-02-2011 - Selective reality

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A person's beliefs are planted at a young age. This does not mean that their beliefs cannot change, but they will be forever colored by their initial teachings, indoctrination and conditioning. From a certain point of view all learning is a form of brain-washing.

In general, when a mammal is born the first living thing that comes into view/smell/touch is imprinted upon its brain. The plasticity of the young mind is necessary for beings to survive and adapt; becoming a person that can succeed in whatever culture and social atmosphere in which they find themselves. As the person grows they unconditionally accept social norms and reject ideas and things not socially acceptable as imparted by those rearing the child and the environment. There are innumerable examples of the resulting cultural or imprinted differences between individuals: politics, religion, sex, food...everything.

The difference between a rational thought and an imprinted belief is the feeling and emotion behind it. The young mind latches onto core ideas and norms in a visceral sense. For the young, adapting and "fitting in" can be a matter of life and death. Those beliefs become "gut-feelings". It is no wonder that a person's strongly held beliefs can be unassailable, regardless of contradictory information.

We are like computers in a sense. We are all born with generally the same hardware, but the hard drive and memory are empty. We don't even have an OS. The same computer can be set up to run various operating systems and host tens of thousands of different applications. One machine can be completely different than another.

Some people believe that other people think like they do. More to the point, they think that others would not do something that they would not do. This "restricted empathetic response" can take a few forms. A person can 1) only see the good and negate the bad, 2) only see the bad and negate the good or 3) see the good and bad in people and groups for what they are. This allows opinions to be formed with a bit more balance.

People incapable of imagining themselves doing something against their nature may mentally transform others into like-minded people. They may scotomize information or bend facts and reality to fit their beliefs. For some, this is simple naivete, but for others it is a refusal to see the world as it is. They have a blindness of the mind; a desire not to acknowledge the outside world but rather to set their own ego in its place.

Teaching our children critical and investigative thinking is a way for our culture to continue and improve. Have them investigate and evaluate various curricula, beliefs, data and viewpoints. Education is not memorization or an excercise in avoiding failure. Remove the PC crap from our textbooks. Educating our children to think independently and/or to simply think at all could cause a change for the better in a matter of one or two generations.

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