Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Could Agree With You

But then we'd both be wrong...

An area of deep interest to me is the nature of strongly held belief.  Understanding how we come to know we're right and that others are wrong speaks to some very human impulses.  It may also hold the key to moving beyond our current fixation with red state, blue state, conservative, progressive, abortion, gun control, religion, global warming, and other inflammatory topics playing out on the battle lines of the Culture War.

Robert A. Burton, MD came to my attention by way of Dr. Ginger Campbell's thoughtful Brain Science podcast.  He's been on twice. In Dr. Burton's most recent appearance he discussed his latest book, A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves

After listening to the show I chose to check out Burton's first book, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not, which Dr. Campbell reviewed in BSP #42.  It did not disappoint.  Well-written and entertaining, philosophical and scientific, On Being Certain informs us (or reminds those who have been studying the topic recently) that most of our mental processes operate at an inaccessible subconscious level, that many of our decision are made before we are consciously aware of them, are then experienced as a "feeling of knowing," and then rationalized as needed.  That is a daunting and somewhat frightening notion; an important idea that calls for careful consideration.


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