From Science Matters
By Ron Clutz
These days we are hosed every day with verbage, both written and spoken, claiming that absurdities are facts, and that common sense is illusion. Examples include labeling the essential trace gas CO2 as a “pollutant”. A man can decide he’s a woman and cannot be refused access to women’s sports, bathrooms or prisons. Pronouns are unhinged from any objective reality. Racial identities are claimed and paraded without any genetic basis. People are appointed to positions of power and responsibility without any required knowledge or competence, but solely upon their skin color and/or sexual preferences. Conversely, persons with demonstrated performance are barred from working because they come from a “privileged” background.
As well, there is rampant verbicide, where words are detached from realities, turned upside down, or rendered nonsensical. This is the result of postmodern newspeak. Encyclopedia Britannica explains:
Many postmodernists hold one or more of the following views:
(1) there is no objective reality;
(2) there is no scientific or historical truth (objective truth);
(3) science and technology (and even reason and logic) are not vehicles of human progress but suspect instruments of established power;
(4) reason and logic are not universally valid;
(5) there is no such thing as human nature (human behavior and psychology are socially determined or constructed);
(6) language does not refer to a reality outside itself;
(7) there is no certain knowledge; and
(8) no general theory of the natural or social world can be valid or true (all are illegitimate “metanarratives”).
We now live in a world where legacy and social media have taken on the mission to impose on the population a Postmodern framework or matrix. And thus, words no longer mean what once they did.
[Note that (6) is the basis for Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatBot. They can manipulate words to appear meaningful, but actual understanding of the world is impossible without linking to it]
[For a discussion of the Glossary of Leftist Doublespeak, see Great Reset = Great Resentment.]
The Method in This Madness
David Rose offers insight for understanding and resisting this pervasive media matrix in his paper George Orwell, objectivity, and the reality behind illusions. Some excerpts in italics below to show the thrust of his analysis.
Here, I will focus on the depiction by George Orwell of how anti-realist attitudes can manifest themselves in culture and politics—with dire consequences upon the individual. In promoting the denial of objective reality and truth, these philosophies actually suppress a person’s ability to see and think freely about their world. It is therefore suggested here that any similar denial of our common-sense understanding of objective reality in scientific research on perception and illusions should be resisted.
Orwell then continues to lay out the psychological consequences of being subjected to such continuous and intense coercive pressure:
“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?”
Note especially the sentence ‘Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy’, as it reminds us of the most relevant point about Orwell’s thesis.
But as Orwell also makes clear, it is not simply that loss of belief in objectivity opens the way to the tyranny of those with the loudest voices (or the most authority, charisma, guns, or money—or the catchiest slogans). The true problem is far deeper and more subtle. Instead of clarity and consistency, the powerful deliberately say contradictory things. This leads to the complete discrediting of everything that everybody says, however powerful or well qualified as ‘experts’ they may be. As soon as you have concluded you have no certain, true, and reliable facts upon which to base decisions, then you cease even any attempt to make them—you give up trying to think for yourself.
Your resulting state of lassitude and passivity clears the way for those in power
to act as they please, without even minimal scrutiny or criticism from anyone else.
In a striking echo of the processes Orwell so described, some recent commentators on perception (e.g. Maniatis, 2015; Rose & Brown, 2015; Gomez-Marin, 2020; see also Hickok, 2015) have suggested that inconsistent, confusing, or contradictory statements about reality also appear in the perception research literature. For example, they point out, various researchers have denied the mind-independent existence of material objects, 4 and of the sun before human minds existed, 5 or have claimed that only phenomenal experiences are real, 6 while nevertheless maintaining that we evolved by natural selection—thus implicitly (and often explicitly) accepting that our ancestors were actual organisms, with actual sense organs, 7 in an objective world replete with sunshine, rocks, and rival organisms. Similarly inconsistently, some have denied that we perceive external reality correctly, as it ‘really’ is, without explaining how they know that such a reality exists at all, or how they know it is not as we perceive it, given that they also claim perception is the only source of knowledge that we have. 8
But might the effects on readers, however unintentional, be the same as they are when politicians make contradictory statements? That is, uncertainty and apathy about what is real or true, or even antipathy towards the issue altogether. . . . Now, if such antipathy becomes widespread, decision-making might then be surrendered to whatever famous, charismatic or immediate source of influence is the most dominant, with passive and uncritical acceptance of whatever that authority has most recently declaimed or pontificated to be the truth. There would be no more independent thinking and critical appraisal of ideas in the field.
Objective Reality is a Many Splendored Thing
While there is no space here to give a full review and justification of this newer non-reductive metaphysics, I will briefly present three relevant ideas, which I hope will be sufficient to give the gist. First is the idea that Nature consists of multiple levels of dynamic interacting systems, nested more or less hierarchically within one another. Systems emerge by spontaneous self-organisation of components interacting with each other. The behaviours of those components are now constrained within the new higher-level system they have formed. Moreover, these lower-level components are themselves systems, similarly emerged from the level below them. This process applies recursively so that ultimately there are many levels of reality, not just that of the most fundamental physical building blocks, if any. It is all these multiple levels that comprise the material of reality and should be described by any comprehensive theory—and that hold the explanatory resources for our accounts of perception.
Second, it is natural to ask what these systems and their components are actually made of, or how they are ‘realized’. Any name is arbitrary here (since under monism there is nothing to contrast it with), 13 but some say ‘energy’ (e.g. Tyler, 2015; Pepperell, 2018) while others prefer ‘information’ or ‘pattern’; I will go with the latter.
Third, real existence is intimately linked with causal power. For example, nation states, not just their individual leaders, make war or peace with each other, which affects the futures of those entire nations as wholes. Companies engage in legally binding contracts with other companies. Government fiscal policy affects market behaviour and macroeconomic performance. The social ethos, Zeitgeist, social norms, and mores guide and direct the course and successfulness of whole societies and their philosophies. Thus, just as objects such as coronaviruses, umbrellas, and professors are real, so too are other higher-level emerged entities such as concepts, memes, reputations, invisible colleges, data sets, theories, and the laws of copyright. These are all the effects of causes and have causal effects on the world.
In sum, within this metaphysical picture, perception is causal information transfer.
So it is necessary to believe there are objective facts and truths about agreements and agriculture, elections and emotions, morals and murders, preferences and prejudice—otherwise we would have no standards against which to judge whether our words are truly meaningful, our actions genuinely effective or ethical, and our decisions and beliefs actually correct. Similarly, we need to believe there are objective facts and truths about portraits and parallel lines, stairs and spears, tigers and tables, ziggurats and zigzags, which we can use as a basis for our decisions on how and when to act—and against which we can judge whether our percepts are illusory or veridical.
In other words, if you believe that people are born and people die, that millions of people were killed in what is commonly known as the Holocaust, that theft is illegal in your country, that most people have two hands, that diamonds are denser than air, that the capital of France is called Paris, that vaccines protect us against viruses, … then you (at least implicitly) believe in objective reality. [Note: regarding vaccines, we now can exclude as illusions mRNA shots against SARS2, since they did not protect.]
So, as such a realist, you should believe there can be perceptual illusions (as they are commonly defined, i.e. deviations from veridical perception). Although there are multiple levels of reality, and hence many ways reality can be described (Todorović, 2020, pp. 1174–1178), one can stipulate or specify which are the relevant ones for measuring the ground truth that perception should match, and that give the criteria for distinguishing the veridical from the illusory. . . Illusions, like perception itself, must be defined with respect to a specified level of reality.