Thinking Beliefs and Understanding by Joshua Fletcher

Thinking and Beliefs

The thing I hope to bring light to most is for folks not so much to attack others, or attack external beliefs, or question others, or to question their own beliefs, but to question their own method of how they personally understand what is true before they conclude what they know is true.
Knowing things is different than understanding how to know things
Fallacies are good to notice. They may help us notice a contradiction, but they don’t necessarily mean much by themselves. They other huge thing at play on all of us is believing we already have a method of thinking that works properly and that our bias isn’t important or even is actually the correct place to stand.
This has been my work since I left Harvard.  Actually it has been my work since long before that.  I’ve come to realize it is my life’s work really.  It is the only thing that I see that stands a chance to break us out of all this mess our intellect has created.
Our blindness to the topic of blind we are to where we stand has been so impactful for me and my life.  “You can’t see your eye with your eye”, paraphrased from every important lasting pointer to the truth that I know of…
As I heard and came to see and understand removing yourself from immersion to potentially see importance differently I have become aware of things that were not even visible while I was immersed in a certain project or goal.  Whether in my agency or what I could see about “search” on the internet or with OMG or with my role with my family.  Glad to have additional perspective and pointers on this.
“I used to be such a mess, and then I had this breakthrough, and now I am finally all fixed.”  If you could recall, I have a feeling that before we got “fixed”, we didn’t think anything was broken.
As soon as something we sense troubles us, meaning it doesn’t fit a pattern we recognize, or, it does fit a pattern we recognize that we believe is faulty, or without merit, or even dangerous, two primary things happen.
  1. Our brains seek to understand this new thing (matching).  Our brains fire around and too look for associations of things that we have in our memory (trying to be a bit careful with language, our memory is made up of all sorts of things.  Memory is tricky.
  2. Our brains seek to find contradictions or logical flaws that can discredit the new conclusions (mismatching)
That second method is easier, and typically faster.  It’s fastest and easiest for people who know a lot.  Or rather for people who have a lot of memories (memories can absolutely be contradictory- this creates “devil’s advocates: very interesting term….).  So I use the word know loosely, almost pejoratively.  Our brains are very capable of believing things that are not true, even to the point of believing two contradictory conclusions.
This concept of a belief is quite powerful to understand.  It is arrived at, the the brain, by associations.  Experiences and data points that line up to some degree.  “It’s warm out, I’m wearing my green shirt, it’s spring, I met my sweetheart so, spring is good, this shirt is fabulous, warmth is what I seek…”  They get associated and then they become belief, especially with just a little repetition.
1000 high powered scientists all look at the same data set and are asked if they believe the earth’s climate is changing and they agree can create a belief… just hearing that happened can create a belief in the person hearing just that, with no conclusion even!
A president who conscripts young men as early as 13 years of age and forces them to march hundreds and thousands of miles, many to their death, to kill 100,000’s, not to end slavery, but to create a nation.  Thousands upon thousands of non slave owners killed on both sides.  Thousands of slave owners were killed on both sides, not to mention the number of slaves killed, and nearly 200 years later, we still have massive inequity, hatred and his face on our $5 dollar bill.  (I am not immune to these, biases as this example may show, my great uncle at the age of 13 was hanged in their front yard, in front of his ma, on direct orders from Lincoln in order to “create a nation”.  Think about that next time you recall “pledging allegiance to the flag”.  I love.  I hate Kansas folks worse than any other “minority” for this and it happened hundreds of years before I was even born.  These are things we feel, and even if we intellectual understand them, truly understanding them is a very different matter.
Attacking beliefs can be difficult.  Even what I wrote above can trigger things in people who believe Lincoln was a great man.  He freed the slaves.  Sure.  Catholic priests serve their community for decades and rape small children as well, great men?  Mass murderers help old women across the street, work in charities, kill dozens of people, great men?  No.  We must, absolutely must separate the idea and the concept from the person.  We can get nowhere without that.  If we model Truman for ending the Great War, it become ok, by association to kill innocent men women and children indiscriminately with massive weapons, to “save lives”.
Attacking beliefs can be difficult for many people.  People associate with their beliefs and we identify people with their beliefs.
    -American
    -Muslim
    -Terrorist
    -Academic
    -Scientist
    -Doctor
    -Criminal
While our brains hold unfathomable information, not much of it is accessible at any one time.  Something get triggered and then it’s all we can see.  “Don’t think of a blue elephant for the next 10 seconds” kind of thing.
One, if not THE ONE belief it is hard to attack is “I know how to think”.  We don’t seem to have a foothold outside it.  Without a difference in perspective we are blind to even seeing it.  Do you have a method to even begin thinking about that question?  I didn’t until I was out of Harvard grad classes with top marks while drinking a 12 pack of beer every day.  That is scary.  It’s not because I was smart, or dumb or anything else, I just had a strategy that worked that the people who were giving me grades didn’t realize I was using.
To this point in history, very few people concern themselves with how to think properly.  Certainly more people are concerned with how to think properly, and practicing it than there are people who are interested in how to learn more stuff.
We start in the US with a paradigm of school.  A reward system for answers.  We become blind and addicted to this and now, after spending 20 years rewarded for answers, that is the model of life.  Knowing the right answer.  Winning the challenge.  Getting the cheese, the reward, the accolade, the acknowledgment.
It’s interest to note It’s a democracy you become voted into by peers.  An arbitrary standard and then a vote, or peer review process.  If you have the ability to consider this combined with what I’ve written above, It gets very murky of what is right and wrong, good enough, frightening, disagreeable, and so on.  I think most people have very good intentions, and most people really want to help people, but nearly every single person on this planet is blind to not just this system, which is visible, but to how our mind actually works, which is not visible.  That is the main point I want to shine light upon.
The interesting thing with democracy is that it is, in effect, Mob Rule.  More percentage much be right.  It sounds good when you say he won a democratic election.  It sounds scary when they say, mobs are taking over the streets and martial law has been administered.  Odd.
We think of the opposite of democracy as totalitarianism, but it seems much closer to opposite of anarchy, where nobody can tell you what to do, even if 1,000 people all want to take your wallet, they can’t.  If one ruler wants to take your wallet, they can’t.  The conversation depends into human nature typically and then cops and military and all that, but that is completely separate issue.
The point being 1 person can be correct, and 20,000,000 can be wrong and consensus or overwhelming evidence or whatever we call it does not make it different.
So:  “I know how to think” is a very dangerous hidden belief (conclusion).
The topic of thinking is interwoven in this, but back to the topic of beliefs.  Why do you believe what you believe?  There is a very powerful meditation you can do:
 
“If you were the only person on the planet, how would you choose to spend your time?”
 
As I started this the first time my mind went to many things, but as I really looked at them, they were for others, or needed others.  My family, friends, kids.  Events, music…  Anything that included a concept of competition.  Anything to impress.  It takes a long time to sort out what you, as you, really are about.  We believe all these things, but we don’t even really know what to believe about ourselves, or rather, we don’t know what the things we believe about ourselves are based on.
I made  a post in facebook about a documentary on vaccinations.  It got a lot of attention from many people.  Some I’ve known for years, since I was 4 or 5 years old.  Kids with fathers who were doctors, nurses, scientists.  Others I’ve met who grew up in families that were largely outdoors all the time, hunting and fishing types.  Still others were more blue collar, working to buy food and clothing and repeating until they couldn’t anymore.  I could keep going on, but the point is, that early in life, before any of us realized it, our beliefs about what is important and real got shaped and pretty much set.  We operate on that, typically, for the rest of our lives.
Ten, twenty, forty years of operating with a belief that we know what is important, and that we know how to think; Those two concepts drift away and become completely an invisible prison.  We just don’t question them because we can’t see them, and anyone who obviously disagrees with what we believe must be wrong, or not seeing things clearly or completely.  We may label them, not the idea, evil, dangerous, stupid or whatever.
The point is, it is not the person, it is their brains.  It’s all of our brains.  Our wonderful brains that went from weird sensory input to being able to spot a loved one by the way they walk.  our brains that went from poking ourselves in the eye when we were babies to being able to perform intricate surgeries.
They recognize patterns incredibly well and they sometimes spot anomalies acutely, and both of those are extremely dangerous when you are looking for patterns.  This is one of the reason why in science they hold double blind with control studies in such high regard.  It tends to account for this.  Those type studies do not in any way account for our blindness to whether we are even working on the correct problem at all, or slicing the problem in a way that doesn’t destroy the actual integrity of the whole.  In medicine, a heart doesn’t work on it’s own.  In society, an individual doesn’t live alone.  In Psychology a brain doesn’t operate on it’s own.
Even though people attach and identify with ideas, and with their brains, it seems advisable to attack ideas and not people.  Every thing gets harder if we so attach an idea to a person that we lose any distinction.
These are initial concepts for a book and a more cohesive body of work based on my life

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