You Believe the Rooster’s Crowing Causes the Sun to Rise

August 1, 2011

A decade ago, I once found myself staring at an apple for what seemed to be hours. I believed that I was capable of psychokinetically moving the apple across the table or somehow with enough brain energy I could by thought alone make this adorable looking fruit defy gravity. I created what I thought was a séance ambiance with dark curtains, light candles and I got to work very early in the morning.  I had everything ready and planned. I had the backings of Graham Bell and John Baird who were distinguished scientists who believed in spiritualism and were convinced of psychokinesis. With all my brain power and motivation, I was however unable to do anything but silently stare. I came away with the feeling that somehow I was taken as a fool.

I undertook what to me seemed a perfect reproduction of an experiment, my first of this kind, but without the expected results.  Perhaps I just did not harbor the artful skill for such an experiment and I did not fully grasps the relating intimate minutiae for a first timer. I filed these thoughts away for some time. I became a skeptic of all things and thus my ethos was formed.  In the years that came, I had come to acquire the idea to make a distinction between science and scientists and to question every belief that I had and that was imposed on me.

We are full of stories that tell us who we are. We have explanations for most of all things that our senses can pick up. We can elaborately define why we pick our profession, why the Mona Lisa is the worlds most ‘beautiful’ painting, why the Beatles were  so successful and why a new style suddenly virally spreads –  definitions of which make them explainable and thus predictable. When someone is  in a predicament, he would assign with great confidence a reason as to why he is in that situation. We strive to assign every element a category and chart the many aspects of human behavior – all activities that exist in order to remove surprises.  Life is very unusual; yet we are still capable of  flagging a culprit, conjuring up a narrative that clarifies to us why the world is so.

The world is what we can’t ever dream of it being. Imaging that the universe had a single formula that determines how everything is.   If someone were to hand to you the single determining formula of the working universe, you would know everything at present. You wouldn’t need to make any future forecasts or claim that Facebook will change the way we interact with one another. It would have been already known and you would have had reacted to it accordingly.  This is the law in probability theory called the law of total expectation.  It defeats the idea of universal forecasts in all domains. It tells us that striving to attain a universal knowledge of all things will create a futureless world where all that can be known is known and where destiny plagues us all. Thankfully though, we do not live in a world of such.  The fact of the matter is: to be able to understand the future to the point of being able to predict it, you need to take into account elements from that future itself. My argument is that we are blinded by false narratives and seek out causations to explain facts when in fact we are merely inventing compact stories over raw random reality.

To begin with, the story in the the first paragraph was a product of my imagination. I had no sudden realization and I didn’t complete any ritual séance. I don’t know how my ethos was formed. It is simply a narrative to portray an idea. I became me by being me. It is just simple as that. No explanations and no clarifications are neither wanted nor necessary. I am amazed at how people come up with stories to explain a certain event or even their mental state and circumstances. They say ‘I am very emotional because I am Italian and we all Italians tend to be very emotional’ or ‘I became successful because I worked hard and I was the best in the company.’ We are drowning in excrements of post hoc rationalization and we can not see it.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. You believe the rooster’s crowing causes the sun to rise. A does not necessarily cause B even if B followed A. Fallacies of this type are mainly within the domain of psychologists. They conducted an experiment once with women where they asked each woman to select from amongst twelve pair of nylon stockings the ones they favored. The interviewers then asked the women their reasons for their choice. They explained that it was the texture, the ‘feel’, the shades of color differences, when in fact all the stockings were identical.

Do you really know why the Beatles were so successful? How can someone have no clue yet able to muster up plausible viewpoints that match the observation and which can withstand all the rigor of the rules of logic? How about if you consider the fact that two different persons can hold very different beliefs when observing the exact same set of data. Does that mean that there are a multitude of ways and families of explanations which hold true? No, definitely not. You can have a million ways of explaining an event but at the end there’s only one truth. That truth may not be reachable to us even if our explanation has the absence of nonsense. In the media, one certainly has heard of fact checkers; those journalists who pour over the facts with empirical rigor to get the right information to you. Yet they always put a spin on these facts with their narratives and give you the impression of causality – (knowledge). Where in the world are the intellect-checkers?

When you are building a house, the more work you do, the more of the desired results you will see. If you put more money in the bank, you will earn more interest. Steady input in A leads to a steady output in B. That seems about fine in a primitive environment. Our co-evolution of our habitat and our brains, it seems, has lost pace. But were they ever in pace? Today, we live in a complex system of chaos (not to be confused with chaos theory). The world is nonlinear yet our intuition is not quite cut out for nonlinearities. Our modern reality does not deal in steady outputs. You are a scientist and everyday, for decades, you head to your laboratory with nothing to show for – no results. One day though, you find the cure for cancer.  You play the guitar everyday for years with no observable improvements then one day you find out you can shred. Try explaining this to your social friends who kept asking you how the guitar lessons were going over the years.

So back to my question. Why were the Beatles so successful? I don’t know. And I think I will certainly avoid people who think they know.

 

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  1. R-Tech Commander - July 15, 2013

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