Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



Believing is Seeing PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

While I was preparing my report on the El Chupacabra phenomenon for The Amazing Adventure 4, it became clear that people were interpreting all manner of unexplained animal activity as the work of the legendary goat sucker. 100 years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible. Why? Because 100 years ago, El Chupacabra didn’t exist as an idea. No one could have believed in it because no one had thought of it yet.

“Seeing is believing” is an old expression, and one could argue that it’s the basis of skepticism. It translates to “I’ll believe it when I have evidence for it.” But evaluating that evidence is actually quite tricky. In fact, the reciprocal expression is also true: believing is seeing.

An example I often give is the “noise in the basement.” You’re home alone and the power goes out. The fuse box is in the basement, and you decide to tip-toe down the rickety stairs. Of course you can’t find your flashlight, so you’re using your iPhone to light your way. You see the fuse box behind a stack of old boxes, and you curse yourself for not anticipating the need for a clear path.

You may feel nervous and uneasy. Why? Because many thousands of years of evolution have conditioned you to believe you’re in a very dangerous situation. You’re vulnerable to attack by lion, hyena, cave bear, tiger, or any number of other real-world threats that your ancestors actually had to worry about.

Of course, you’re not in the veldt. You’re in a suburban basement, where the most dangerous creature you’re like to encounter is a brown recluse spider, or perhaps another human.

You move the boxes, open the fuse box, and try to figure out which fuse to replace. Suddenly, you hear a noise behind you. You stiffen, you feel the adrenaline enter your bloodstream, and you wait to hear more. You do... it’s a distinct scuffling coming from directly behind you.

Believing you’re in real danger, you whirl about, and catch something moving behind the water heater. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Something is in there with you!

You bolt up the stairs, shut the door, and just as you’re about to leave the house, the lights come back on. It turns out it wasn’t a fuse anyway (and you should have looked out the window at all the other dark houses to realize that.)

What did you see?

It really depends on what you were thinking at the time. If you had just watched War of the Worlds, you could easily believe it was a Martian. If the house was old and had a gruesome history, ghosts might leap to mind. And if you lived in Puerto Rico and some of your chickens had been found dead recently, you might blame El Chupacabra as is the fashion today.

You can tell your friends that not only do you believe in these things, but that you saw one. And after all, seeing is believing.

Remove the context though, and what do you have? Pure evidence. There was a scuffling sound, and you detected movement. That’s it. That’s all you have to go on. What could it have been?

It could have been many things, and the only thing you can say with any certainty is that you heard something and saw something move. Except that even those things aren’t certain… you were full of adrenaline, and hyper-sensitive to any stimulus. You could have imagined the noise, and the movement could have simply been the shadow shimmer caused by your light’s sudden movement.

Boring? Maybe. It would be exciting to tell your friends you’d seen a ghost, and that’s why, I think, people are so persistent in their belief despite evidence to the contrary. If the next day they enter the basement and find a hole in the window screen, and raccoon prints outside, that makes for a far less interesting story, which in turns makes them far less interesting people (at least in their minds.) And after all, just because it’s likely that raccoons had entered your house doesn’t mean that there aren’t also ghosts in there as well. It’s just a question of which is more likely.

So again, I ask… how can you tell the difference between a ghost and an alien? On all those “Ghost Hunting” shows, they are, well, hunting ghosts. If they actually find something, they automatically call it a “ghost.” How can they know it’s not an alien? I've yet to hear a decent answer for that.  Or how about a gnome? Or a kobold? Why isn’t there a “Gremlin Hunters” show, or an “Elvin Infestations” special? The answer is that those memes are no longer part of our consciousness. They’re considered fairytales now, and I wonder why ghosts haven’t made that transition yet.

As thinking humans, we can do better than this, and our way of doing better is called science. This is a process by which we remove bias (to the greatest extent possible), and consider just the evidence on its own merits. Why do we do this? Because thus far, it’s the best way to gain knowledge of our world. Direct experience is compelling, but it’s not actually accurate, and a little critical thinking can go a long way to correcting our mistaken assumptions.

I’m still going to jump if someone yells BOO! in the dark though.

 

Trackback(0)
Comments (53)Add Comment
believing is seeing, Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by JeffWagg, April 17, 2009
I mentioned evolution because natural selection is the best explanation we have for why we're afraid of the dark. It used to help us survive. Alternate theories are welcome...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +62
Truth64, I'm with ya...
written by Human Person Jr, April 17, 2009
except not really.

If you had to guess, what do YOU think is the reason for Mr. Wagg mentioning evolution? It certainly did contribute to the author's point, but, even if it didn't, why does it bother you? I respect your right to be wrong, but you're becoming plain ol' damned disagreeable.

So, answer up, make your best guess. What WAS the secret, nefarious reason for Mr. Wagg's unnecessary mention of the evil, I meant evol, word?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +24
@jeffwagg, Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by Willy K, April 17, 2009
@truth64

So what is the BEST explanation we have so far?
What reasons have been tested and verified.

How does evolution explain you? smilies/wink.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +7
@human person, Lowly rated comment [Show]
@Willy K
written by truth64, April 17, 2009
I'm no doctor, but I have a feeling there have probably been a few studies done on fear. Studies where scientific protocol are followed: not just assumptions that cant be verified by evidence. It is evidence we all want, correct?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
Evolution of Fear Response in Homo Sapiens
written by MAL_JD, April 17, 2009
Hi all,

I am a Doctor of sorts, although I would never, ever compare myself to a Medical Doctor even though I work in the Pharmaceutical Industry. (I am a Juris Doctorate, or Lawyer for you non-latin types).

My addition to this debate is that a very short search of the Interwebs led me to three articles, all of which have been cited by others, and printed in fairly reputable sources:

How Homo Became Sapiens: On the Evolution of Thinking. 2004
P Gärdenfors - Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK

Freeze, flight, fight, fright, faint: Adaptationist perspectives on the acute stress response …
HS Bracha - CNS spectrums, 2004 - cogprints.org

The human fear-circuitry and fear-induced fainting in healthy individuals
HS Bracha, AS Bracha, AE Williams, TC Ralston, JM … - Clinical Autonomic Research, 2005 - Springer

My search term was: Evolution of Fear Response in Homo Sapiens

These were just the first three that came up.

Hope it helps some smilies/wink.gif

Sincerely,
Martin A. Lessem, J.D.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +15
...
written by Willy K, April 17, 2009
@truth64
I'm no doctor...

I infer from that short statement that you are under the common misconception that M.D.'s are the same as scientific researchers. They are not. M.D.'s are taught to be "body mechanics." No, this is not an insult or a put down of some sort. Many M.D.'s are indeed fantastic "body mechanics." They are smart and well deserve all praise that can be given them! There are also some M.D.'s that become scientific researchers, one does not preclude the other at all.

...I have a feeling there have probably been a few studies done on fear.


Can you make a more wishy-washy statement? You have a "feeling" that "probably" there are studies? Please do some research and give us links to these studies, we'll wait.smilies/wink.gif

@Jeff Wagg
I see the research of Michael Persinger (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Persinger) and others demonstrating that there are physical structures in the Human brain that can demonstrate the evolutionary origins of the fear you speak of.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +7
@willy k, Lowly rated comment [Show]
@Truth64
written by Raindoggy, April 17, 2009
Read the entry again, carefully, and then think a little about the implications of his research. Not everything is a one to one direct cause.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
@raindoggy, Lowly rated comment [Show]
Damn! I hate bait! ;)
written by Kuroyume, April 17, 2009
@truth64: ???? WTF??? So, Michael Persinger's "Behavioral Neuroscience Program" has nothing to do with the fear (behavioral) response (of the brain=neuro) in humans? You are making yourself look more absurd with every click of the keyboard. And MAL_JD does presented you with just the first three SCIENTIFIC studies on evolution and fear response in humans. I'm so glad that I have other things to do while you guys battle this .....
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +9
@truth64
written by Kuroyume, April 17, 2009
Read Willy's comment again, carefully. He is the one demanding research and links yet he Googles up a basic Wiki entry and posts it. That was really helpful- dont know what we'd have done without him.


Like you would have even read a book, article, or paper (go to the 'bottom' of the Wiki to see 'References' and 'External Links'). Willy doesn't have to do anything but make the information linkage. You have to do the work.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
@kuroyume, Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by DiabloCableGuy, April 17, 2009
The most exciting experince I had with this phenomna was on holiday in Spain, we were driving though the mountains and we stopped at a pull in to enjoy the view. On the oppisote side of the road, up a steep but short cliff was an old ruined stone house, I figured I'd check it out. The inteorior was fairly dark, and it was divided into two rooms. I went toward the room at the back when my foot crunched on something. I looked down at the floor and saw hundreds of bones. I saw a flicker from the doorway and I hastily beat a retreat. I don't know if I saw something or not, but it certainly looked like a preadator had used it. Yay for evolved instincts!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
...
written by RandomMike, April 17, 2009
I'm still waiting for the answer to this.

"I dont think that natural selection is the BEST explanation we have so far. I think there is a reason(s) that can actually be tested and verified with experiments, etc. You listed some of these in the article." -Truth64

So if it's not an evolutionary vestige, why do you think we should be afraid of the dark? Aliens, ghosts and Chupacabra?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +8
@randommike, Lowly rated comment [Show]
Once upon a time...
written by tmac57, April 17, 2009
An interesting thing about scary stories (or stories in general) is that they most likely undergo unconscious revisions every time that they are retold or recalled. Some people do this intentionally of course (pathological liars for example) , but most of us genuinely believe the details that we recount while in the retelling. Recent studies on memory show that the more often a memory is recalled, the more likely that it is to be misremembered. And there is also the urge to make a story more interesting ,that may 'enhance' the juicier details. That fish was the biggest I ever saw I tell ya!!!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
@tmac57, Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by Silver, April 17, 2009
@ truth64 There is no good reason not to mention evolution as a possible explaination. The fact that believers in I.D. might object is no more valid a reason than to say there really could have been a ghost. Evolution is a fact and I.D. can be dismissed out of hand.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +13
...
written by Geezer, April 17, 2009
@truth64
Actually my guess would be that a good story enhanced the tellers status within the group, but it seems you are to busy reading the bible to think of that possiblity, which is kinda ironic since there are few books with taller tales than that old collection of fairy tales.

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +8
...
written by tmac57, April 17, 2009
Geezer-"Actually my guess would be that a good story enhanced the tellers status within the group"
That actually sounds pretty logical to me. There does seem to be a drive to 'entertain' with a good tale, even if it is just to be the 1st person to tell someone else about something you heard about. After all, that's how gossip travels so fast smilies/smiley.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
@truth64
written by pxatkins, April 17, 2009
"I doubt blind people have any fear of the dark yet their ancestors, according to some, passed down this "survival instinct".

What an eejit. By definition blind people have no perception of light and dark. If they could they would. Say something clever again ... you're amusing.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
@geezer, Lowly rated comment [Show]
..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by MadScientist, April 17, 2009
Yay! Flamewars!

I agree with truth64 on this one - what's evolution got to do with it? People often say "evolution this" and "evolution that" and there is a very real danger of uncritical acceptance of these ad-hoc "facts". In this particular instance Jeff makes a popular claim that this fear of the dark is built into us and has survived natural selection because it is advantageous to us. What is the evidence for such a claim that it is inbuilt?

"Because many thousands of years of evolution have conditioned you to believe you’re in a very dangerous situation."

Is it evolution or is it a learned response? I always evaluate unfamiliar or unusual circumstances because there may be a threat, but how do I demonstrate that this is in fact an evolutionary trait and not something else? I for one do *NOT* run away - I look into things. If you think about it, if there is a genuine danger, what are the odds that running helps you in the least? Let's take Jeff's specific example here:

"You’re vulnerable to attack by lion, hyena, cave bear, tiger, or any number of other real-world threats that you ancestors actually had to worry about."

To *ANYONE* who believes that statement, I challenge you to walk through the African savannah until you encounter a noise, then run like hell and see what that does for you. The statement is not factual, it is a misdirection. For humans without sophisticated tools to survive the particular threats mentioned requires pack cooperation more than any ability to run.

It is embarrassing how many people take statements to be true simply because they are associated in a phrase with "evolution". If you make such claims, do provide evidence of the evolutionary link; otherwise you are only debasing evolutionary theories by introducing mythology as fact based on evolution.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -6
...
written by Zen66, April 17, 2009
Nice article Mr. Wagg. Very complete.

I've been reading the site for some time now and generally enjoy it. I consider myself a skeptical thinker while maintaining my right to call BS, like when I read the bible.

Anyway, what is with this wanker truth64? Seriously why is everybody responding to this person. I love to share with the rare curious believer but come on. This person is not here to weigh different ideas or offer challenging arguments. That I would respect. Questions are a wonderful thing. Only by listening, questioning and doing some research can we be reasonably sure of what we know.

This joker, truth64, doesn't listen (or reads poorly). He/she doesn't ask very sensible questions and freely admits to having no willingness to do research. Truth64 seems to be a toddler wanting to be spoon fed and then turning his head to avoid the spoon. Why bother?

On the political blogs I go to, we simply ignore these pointless trolls and they go away. I'll entertain responses from my fellow skeptics as this is addressed to them. Maybe I'm wrong, you folks know this person better than I. So far though I'm not impressed with truth64.

Sorry for going off topic.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +17
Fear and Loathing in Indiana
written by JasonPatterson, April 17, 2009
@truth64: Sorry to hear about your mother, but honestly, she didn't have any fear response when she found out she was blind? She didn't get terribly emotional at the time? Of course she isn't afraid 8 years later, she'd be dead by now from the stress...

@zen66: With full knowledge of the hypocrisy in which I am engaging while writing this, I agree completely. smilies/grin.gif

My personal experience in this:
I like to geocache (check out http://www.geocaching.com if you care to learn more) and one of the caches I was searching for wound up being down a storm drain. A very very large storm drain... It led from a creek to a larger river, and the cache was about 200 meters from the entrance to the drain and about 50 meters from the other end, with bends at either end conveniently blocking the vast majority of the light, so basically I was wading down an underground creek in the dark for a long while. I had tried to find it without a flashlight, and the whole way in and out I had heard skittering (rats or raccoons, I guess) and seen and heard fish fleeing my approach. The walk was the creepiest experience of my entire life to date. The chupacabra would have been pleasant company...

I can easily see someone who was more credulous interpreting what I saw as the supernatural down there. What really interests me is that although I knew that there were no substantial dangers in the drain (a rabid rat or raccoon, I suppose, but that only just occurred to me) it still had my heart pounding the whole way.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
@jasonpatterson
written by truth64, April 17, 2009
Thanks for your kind words about my mother. Yes, she (and we) did experience a multitude of emotions. However, her acceptance and recovery had zero to do with her "ancient ansestors" passing down survival traits and all to do with real science and doctors providing their assistance.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -8
@truth64
written by KMar10, April 17, 2009
truth64 said: Ok, human- I'll take the bait. I think the mention of evolution in this article is bacause those who strongly believe in it try to squeeze it into any possible scientific discussion even when it contributes little to the over all point. For example, how could the author possibly know without evidence that we are afraid of the dark because a caveman ran from a lion eons ago? I did agree with the rest though. Just my opinion.

KRmar10 said: Ok, truth64 - I'll take the bait. I think the only reason you mention evolution from this article is because those who strongly disagree with it try to refute it in any possible scientific discussion even when it contributes little to the overall point. For example, how could the poster possible know without evidence that we aren't afraid of the dark because a caveman ran from a lion eons ago? Just my opinion.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by Foxy, April 17, 2009
This has been a really interesting debate and I think a new book out last week by British Neuroscientist Bruce M Hood has a lot of explanations in it for why we believe many superstitions and imbue special meanings and "essences" into inanimate objects and why we have "supernatural" beliefs. It's called Supersense and has had some great reviews. I enjoyed it hugely and it is a straight forward read for the scientist and non-scientist alike. See reviews

http://brucemhood.wordpress.com/about-supersense/

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20127011.800-review-supersense-by-bruce-m-hood.html

His theory is also evolutionary and the book explains why we get shivers when going into dark places, why we think objects have meaning and why we will always have these feelings and beliefs no matter how rational a society we become. It is refreshing to read a book that tries to explain why we believe this stuff and even though the author is clearly an atheist and sceptic, his theory does not come across as the rantings of a rabid atheist.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by BillyJoe, April 18, 2009
Coincidentally, this weeks Catalyst program had a section on PTSD. The researchers explained that the amygdala is larger in people who are prone to fearfulness. The frontal cortex, on the other hand, has a modifiying influence. It is also the part of the brain most affected by loud noise and head injury. Their theory was that soldiers who had been subjected to head injury and loud noise had a reduced capacity to modulate their fear responses. This was especially true if they had large amydala. It was these soldiers who suffered PTSD.

Also there are people who seem to have no fear at all. Extreme carnival rides, abseiling mountains, sky-diving, paragliding, diving into underwater caves, riding motorcycles over twenty buses. Bring it on! It would be interesting to see if these individuals actually have small amygdalas and/or an overdevelped frontal cortex.

As for fear of the dark. Isn't it just fear of the dark? Maybe fear of being blind or going blind? It's only anecdotal, but my father's best mate had panic attacks when the light went out. Not because of hidden dangers, but because he was fearful of going blind and this was a simulation of the blind state. In a panic he would rush out of bed and turn the light on to reassure himself that his vision was okay. Interestingly his son used to panic whenever he had a blocked nose. It gave him the idea that he was going to die of suffocation even though he could breathe through his mouth. He became addicted to nasal decongestants.

BillyJoe

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
Geocaching and the Fear of the Dark
written by Zen66, April 18, 2009
@JasonPatterson...hypocrisy acknowledged - I think it is has something to do with evolution. smilies/wink.gif Also geocaching sounds fun. I especially liked the 'Do NOT Find This Cache!! (Adopted By:KraftyCacher)' entry, it may be my first find.

Mr. Wagg is correct to briefly mention evolution in this article. Going into an explanation as to why would have made the article about something else. The argument against using evolution here is one that ignores the duality of our Fight or Flight mechanism.

Take our 'caveman'. He had a need for survival, so fear of things that go bump in the night was a good thing. He also had other needs which forced him to suck it up and venture out. Hence the imperative to invent gods and watchful spirits.

Ironically I think it is this evolutionary link to gods that drives the anti-science crowd, while science is giving us the ability to live beyond our evolutionary traits. Believers fear the very thing which compels them to believe. I can understand the internal battle. Science is making it no longer necessary for the human species to evolve. I am not saying we won't evolve, that is a natural and powerful force. However, we don't need gills to dive, wings to fly, or gods to keep us safe. This is not an absolute, there are plenty of dangers out there, but the tension is real. Science is fighting evolution as surely as it defines evolution. This is why believers are so close-minded and circular in their reasoning (or non-reasoning). They won't see shades of gray, they don't see that presenting one side of an argument while ignoring the other is THE argument in practice. Which is ok since duality is part of our evolutionary make up.

So fear the dark or don't fear the dark. Either way evolution explains both needs.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
...
written by MadScientist, April 18, 2009
@RandomMike:

Fear does not have to be an evolutionary vestige (but if someone knows where to find good information arguing the case, I want to see it). We have our senses, which have clearly evolved, and like many animals we respond to them. Many animals can be startled, including humans, but I would not classify that as fear. Not responding to the available environmental stimulus would not be good for a species (and we observe such problems today with people with impaired senses - or even people who are distracted), but I cannot see the connection between "not reacting would be bad" and "therefore reacting must be an evolved trait" (or more specifically, therefore fear + running is an evolved trait). How is fear evolved rather than developed through training? Lots of kids (and non-kids too) die every year because they don't have an appropriate fear response in some situations even though they probably do have fears appropriate to other threats, but I would think the claim of an evolution of specific fears to be ridiculous (although a general fear response to unexpected loud noises might have some grounds - but I have my doubts even about that). From my own experience I would imagine that fear is mostly trained; some forms of fear are absolutely a product of conditioning and not evolution (for example, fear of gods).

So, I don't believe that fear itself needs to be evolutionary and there is definite evidence of fear being a conditioned response in some cases.

I'm not familiar with truth64 although the responses here indicate that many people are familiar with him and some of his biases (which I would guess are anti-evolution biases). I thought it was strange that the immediate reaction was to kick around truth64; it looks to me like a presumption that anti-evolution people must always be wrong whenever the word "evolution" appears. Even some psychics are right sometimes (but not because they actually possess their claimed psychic ability).

I still object to Jeff's statement regarding an evolved fear response as being of significant value in the presence of threats such as lions, etc. As I pointed out, running from lions wouldn't be of much use to humans (or many other animal threats for that matter). Even if we were to assume that fear+running is an evolutionary trait, the examples in the statement are lame beyond belief. Let's take the bear example - I have experience with bears and I certainly wouldn't try to run from them; as long as I spot the bear while it is a reasonable distance from me, I just watch it as I go along more carefully and make sure the rifle is ready because running from a threatened bear is pretty high on the stupid scale (and running from a bear which hadn't noticed you yet could spook it and cause more trouble - or the bear could get spooked and run as well). I'd also worry about other bears being around so in that situation any sounds would have me quickly looking around. In any case, running from a bear would be the most desperate option and most likely not the best option even if you did have to face the bear without a rifle.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
@ Jeff
written by BillyJoe, April 18, 2009
“Seeing is believing” is an old expression, and one could argue that it’s the basis of skepticism. It translates to “I’ll believe it when I have evidence for it.”

I'm surprised no one has taken you to task for this.
"Seeing is believing" means you will believe it only when you actually see it with your own eyes, not as the result of someone elses report, for example. But, for a sceptic, even seeing is not sufficient to believe, because even the eyes can be deceived.
In other words "Seeing is believing" is not equivalent to “I’ll believe it when I have evidence for it".

BJ
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by Wizard, April 18, 2009
I don't understand why every body get's so upset about a one little part mention, and miss the whole point of the article. smilies/tongue.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by BillyJoe, April 18, 2009
Because we demand perfection, especially as we are so imperfect ourselves. smilies/grin.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Poor Gremlins (aka, Why are there still ghosts???)
written by JasonPatterson, April 18, 2009
It seems to me that as long as the idea of an immortal soul persists in people, the idea of ghosts will as well. It's a natural fit. Similarly, as long as people continue to believe in hell and eternal torture, we'll still have folks who believe in demons. It's a simplistic relationship, to be sure, but I'm willing to bet that there is a link between the religiosity of a society and the level of belief in ghosts.

In a related way, I have a colleague who believes strongly in aliens (specfically that they walk among us in large numbers, studying us.) This is all based on a single comment by a drunken friend of his grandfather, while he was a child (by his own admission.) It seems like once something gets into our head, it's incredibly difficult to dislodge it, regardless of its sense or relative worth in our lives.

@zen66: That does look like an amusing one, and from the description, it should be a relatively straightforward find with which to start. Good luck!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by BillyJoe, April 18, 2009
It seems like once something gets into our head, [especially if it's inserted by someone we know personally or who sounds authoritative] it's incredibly difficult to dislodge it, regardless of its sense or relative worth in our lives.

[The bit in brackets is implied in the rest of your post so I hope you don;t mind me inserting it.]

This is so true. A statement delivered by someone we know personally, or who speaks to us from a position of apparent authority, seems to win us over completely despite offering absolutely no evidence in support of their statement. Against this, any amount of objectively derived scientific facts seems impotent.

And this, indeed, seems to be an evolutionary remnant (yes, I expect objections form a certain quarter smilies/wink.gif). Amongst our distant hunter ancestors, where danger lurked at every bend, it was imperative for the younger generation to believe explicitly everything said by those in authority. When danger threatened it was immediate, and an immediate response was required. There was no time to think and evaluate and those who did were eliminated from the gene pool.

regards,
BillyJoe
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by BillyJoe, April 18, 2009
...that was an unitentional pun. smilies/grin.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by Kuroyume, April 18, 2009
Experience. People did think and evaluate - but over generations. They slowly experienced and retained what led to safety and what didn't and then passed this information on to each successive generation as traditions through the 'elders' or leaders. Basically, your tribe mates keep eating the same berries and dying. Not eating those berries is one good way not to die and that information is passed along. Eventually, in reactionary cases, long experience passed generation to generation makes the reaction responsive and swift directed by those who have been taught to execute them.

This is a trait humans do possess. We can think, evaluate, practice and make complex and fast reactions thereafter. For instance, I play guitar. Guitar is not a simple musical instrument to play and master to any competent degree. Same for many other musical instruments. Practice, practice, practice makes perfect. Ah, but it isn't (or shouldn't be) simply dumb repetition. In music, one is expected to analyze and improve their technique, understand the fundamentals and theories, learn many styles and techniques, improvize, and so on. The best musicians can improvize very complex timings, changes, and progressions 'without thinking' simply because they have built up an ingrained knowledge from study and practice. If I had to think and evaluate, say, while playing for an audience that would be a horrid experience (for both sides) indeed. Oh, when learning (or relearning) songs, yes, it is worthwhile to pause, think, and evaluate what you are doing so as to improve it. But then you practice to perform it smoothly without that being involved.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
@ Kuroyume
written by BillyJoe, April 18, 2009
smilies/smiley.gif

I thought of adding part 2, but my post was already too long. smilies/cheesy.gif

Yes, those in authority who were making decisions on the run that the younger generation would blindly and immediately follow, made these decisons as a result of evaluating their experiences whilst huddled comfortably and safely around a campfire so that better decisions-on-the-run could be made next time.

So, yes, there is survival advantage in both activities, but blindly following the decisions of those in authority goes back further into our ancestral past and these responses are firmly encoded into the more instinctual-emotional primitive part of our brains (the amygdala) which responds unthinkingly and automatically. On the other hand it takes time and effort to bring our more recently developed neocortex into play and actually think and evaluate waht we do and believe.

regards,
BillyJoe
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
@Thuth64
written by deavman, April 19, 2009
Evolution is mentioned here because it simply is involved overwhelmingly with all physiological/mental processes of animal(yes, Humans are animals, mind you!) life. If you are going to argue every time it appears on Swift, I'd suggest that you sharpen your keyboard keys because you're in for a bumpy ride. Knee jerk reactions of this sort do show for a reduced sense of self restraint and also a self righteous attitude towards anyone that does not agree with you.
You do not accept evolution as a valid explanation for the origin of the species, you should then offer a better proposition, as a week long "creation" (of all existing and extinct species) is definitely not one. You claim that you used to be "one of us" skeptics, and that you have since seen the light.
What I detect is a characteristic disposition to patronize other comment writers with over-enthusiastic and arrogant assertions from someone whose recent "conversion" must be repeatedly proclaimed, as if this proselytizing would possibly bear fruit . It is not going to happen here, far from it.
So do yourself (and us) a favor, stop wasting your time (and ours) ........or... do bring forth valid, non-patronizing, logically formulated, research-backed, science based arguments.....Please!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by latsot, April 20, 2009
It's true that we need to be careful about inventing just-so stories when we think about evolution. Not everything is an adaptation. Similarly, it's dangerous to get caught up in a nature-vs-nature debate when no such debate exists. It's very likely that there are both evolutionary and learned roots to the type of response Jeff is writing about.

Evolution-wise, it is reasonable to hypothesise that:
* Evolution might tune our threat response to be callibrated differently when our senses are impaired.
* In some environments, selection will favour false positives above false negatives.
* We've evolved to spot patterns in our experience. Sometimes we recognise false patterns.
* It might be (evolutionarily) advantageous for children to believe without too much question what their parents tell them; that this tendency might extend to later life; and that it is as effective with true statements (don't jump in the fire because it's hot) as it is with false ones (don't go in the forest because it's haunted).

And so on. We can use hypotheses like these to predict things like the standing up of our hair when we hear a noise in Jeff's creepy basement.

But none of this happens in isolation of experience. We've all experienced ghost stories. We've all projected the salient points and our emotional response from one experience onto an imagined one. Many people still have genuine reasons to be scared of the dark. The interaction between these things turns the instinctive prickle of fear into a conviction that we saw a ghost. Isn't this all Jeff was saying?

I feel like I'm rambling a bit. But my points are:
* There are plausible evolutionary hypotheses for the type of fear response Jeff is writing about
* It is futile to separate evolutionary (nature) from learned (nurture) responses. They are clearly related and co-dependant
* We should be careful about just-so stories because things are generally more complicated than 'adaptation for x'
* Jeff was perfectly justified in what he wrote and we shouldn't read more into what he wrote than...well, what he wrote.

I wonder why ghosts haven’t made that transition yet.


My guess is that the wishful thinking is just more personal and connects with more emotional needs.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Steel Rat, April 20, 2009
Evolution aside, and back to the story. If the house was old enough to have a fuse box, most likely the noise would have been a mouse, rat, cat, racoon, opossum, etc... Which, if you meld them all together becomes... BAT BOY! er... EL CHUPACABRA!!!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
@truth64
written by pxatkins, April 20, 2009
Come back ... it's a mere fleshwound ...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
@ latsot
written by BillyJoe, April 20, 2009
You have summarised it neatly. smilies/smiley.gif
(I fear Truth has left the building though)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by mrsgorgon, April 21, 2009
these woo-woo monsters and ghost series that are cropping up on the History Channel and co. are really annoying. Monster Quest had El Chupacabra on it. They spent all this time interviewing witnesses and even produced preserved corpses. At least they tested them...the DNA was definitely canine. The corpses were grey, hairless, very ugly, and they noted the strange, forward-jutting fangs. The show theorized that they were diseased coyotes, but I later identified the culprits when the Obamas were reviewing candidates for "First Dog." One hypoallergenic breed was a grey, ugly, Mexican hairless dog (Xoloitzcuintli). The article even pointed out that the mutation that caused the hairlessness was closely linked with a mutation that made the fangs jut forward.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Blech, the History Channel
written by JasonPatterson, April 21, 2009
@mrsgorgon: What used to be the Hitler Channel has officially morphed into the National Enquirer Channel. For about a month and a half it was a decent, educational channel. I cringe when I flip past it for fear of being infected by the lunacy... Unfortunately it seems like Discovery is going the same way, though to a much lesser extent and far more slowly (A Haunting, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, etc.)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by BillyJoe, April 22, 2009
The corpses were grey, hairless, very ugly, and they noted the strange, forward-jutting fangs. The show theorized that they were diseased coyotes, but I later identified the culprits when the Obamas were reviewing candidates for "First Dog." One hypoallergenic breed was a grey, ugly, Mexican hairless dog

Apparently this one was alive at the time the photograph was taken:



smilies/cheesy.gif

BJ
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Steel Rat, April 22, 2009
Ho-lee crap! Why would anyone want an animal that looked like that?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy