Tuesday, 18 August 2009

TV and Patternicity

This really should come as no surprise, but here is a case of the paranormal being fuelled by entertainment. After the release of The X-Files, reports of UFO sightings surged. Now while this doesn't explain away UFO sightings, it does demonstrate that there's at least correlation between what patterns we are exposed to and what patterns we use to explain unusual phenomena. If nothing else, statistics like this will hopefully make people think about what they observe, that they separate the experience from the explanation they give it.

This I find is the hardest part about playing the sceptic. That by denying the explanation it's taken as denying the experience itself. So when there's a clear link between what patterns the mind sees and what is fed into the mind through cultural transmission, surely one would want to try as much as possible to externalise what they have experienced. By this I mean look towards more objective notions that could explain the same events.

Understanding the limitations of the mind and the processes to get around those limitations is vital in order to properly understand reality. It may be that aliens are visiting earth, and it was shows like The X-Files that gave us the pattern recognition to see it. But if a pet theory (in the colloquial sense of the word) wants to take an idea from the paranormal and into the mainstream, it needs to be backed up with more than eyewitness tales. It needs hard objective evidence, and the mind just cannot be trusted when exploring the unknown as our pattern recognition module(s) in the brain just cannot handle it.

1 comment:

Reasonably Aaron said...

As a shape-shifter from a galaxy far-far-away, we decided to use the X-Files as a cover so that sceptics would dismiss all sightings...