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The Magic of Reality

How We Know What's Really True

Richard Dawkins

What would you think of a detective who, baffled by a murder, was too lazy to try to work at the problem and instead wrote the mystery off as 'the devil did it'? The whole history of science shows us that things once thought to be the result of the supernatural - caused by gods or demons or witches or spells or curses - actually do have natural explanations that we can understand and test.

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If the conscious mind is like a general, standing on a viewing platform analyzing things, the unconscious mind is like a million little scouts, sending back a constant flow of signals. And all the signals are coated with emotion. They come across an old friend and send back a surge of emotion. They go into dark cave and send back a surge of fear. A beautiful landscape produces feeling of sublime elevation. A great idea produces delight, contact with unfairness produces righteous anger. The signals don't directly control our lives, but they shape our interpretation of the world.

(Probably) apocryphal story of middle-aged men being hooked up to brain scanning device, shown a horror movie and then asked to describe their wives. The scan pics in each case were identical. Unaware of what is going on deep inside, the conscious mind thinks it's in control. It gives itself credit for performing all sorts of tasks it doesn't really control. It creates views of the world that highlights the elements it can understand and ignores the rest.

5 yo boy goes "I'm a tiger!" which all kids do, and which doesn't seem a big deal. But no machine cd blend two complicated constructs such as "I" a little boy, and "a tiger" a fierce animal, into a single entity. Human brain can do that because it can generalize - it can overlay the gist of one thing with the gist of another. We are smart because we are capable of fuzzy thinking.

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