Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Errol Morris Appreciation

I have talked about Errol Morris before, but I can't recommend him enough. Read his blog (more like collection of articles and essays) and watch his movies. He tends to focus on the theme of truth in visual media, and how that relates to perception, deception, and delusion.

The problem is that perception is endlessly colored by fantasy and belief – perception of the present as well as the past. If there is a story that we wish to believe, our perceptual apparatus will usually modify or reinterpret what we see rather than the other way around. We see things that do not exist and fail to see things that are right in front of our eyes. We often remember things incorrectly and our memories change over time.

The brain is not a Reality-Recorder. There is no perfect replica of reality inside our brains. The brain elides, confabulates, conflates, denies, suppresses, evades, confuses and distorts. It has its own agenda and can even work at cross-purposes with our conscious selves. Consciously, we may think that we see all and know all, but our brains may be “blind” to much of what is going on around us.

I think a lot of what he says gets right to the very core of the scientific method, and the importance of critical thinking to discern reality from fantasy.

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