Elusive Objectivity

Great op-ed by Nicholas Kristof about the elusiveness of objectivity. He refers mostly to politics here, but it really applies to everything. In most cases, I try to let my subjectivity and bias apply only to my sports teams.

We think and argue emotionally, only looking for the facts that support our theory; as opposed to the opposite - looking at the facts, then structuring our theories. It's so deeply embedded in our brains, it's very difficult to stop. I know this is true because I'm so guilty of it.

No,it's not new news exactly, but it it's a phenomenon of neuroscience referred to as top-down processing. We have an expectation of an experience, and we literally structure how the sensory information enters our brains. That sensory info distorts as we contort it based on what we expect. It's a reminder that much of what we see, touch, and hear are self-induced illusions.

On Kristof's blog, of course, all the crazy commenters (with a few exceptions) revert right back to partisan politics. The irony!

Here is some commentary from one of my favorite writers Jonah Lehrer - I think his point about resigning yourself to a sense of certainty despite knowing you are torn between two conflicting ideas is really apt. That craving for the feeling of certainty is what drives most bad thinking. It's probably the root of religious thinking, and why people think they have answers to unanswerable questions - it feels better to feel certain. Questioning creates a sort of psychic pain. I liken it to western music that doesn't return to the tonic (leaving a sense of unpalatable dissonance), or watching a bad TV mystery movie that you can't walk away from because you have to know "who done it."

Anyway, Mr. Lehrer states it better than I do...

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