Seeing What You Believe

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Seeing What You Believe, Believing What You See

There is a prejudice in modern society that we need to get over. It’s the prejudice in favor of things that are concrete, tangible and three-dimensional. We feel that a rock is real because it is solid and heavy, and our senses can easily locate it in time and space. So what are we to make of a reality where seeing isn’t believing? Snails have very slow nervous systems. It takes them several seconds to record each new visual impression. What this means is that if someone walks by very quickly and drops a penny in front of a snail, the person will be invisible and the penny will seem to appear form nowhere. In reverse, if a snail is picked up and moved very quickly, it will believe it has teleported from one place to the other. Our senses play the same trick with reality at large. Our brains are too slow to register that every concrete object is winking in and out of existence at the quantum level thousands of times per second; therefore, we see solid objects where none in fact exist. The five senses imprison us in ways that are unconscious and invisible. “Context is everything.”

“Seeing color is one of the simplest things the brain does,” says Lotto, “yet even at this most fundamental level context is everything.”  Why? Because we need the sensory input we receive from ‘out there’ to be useful.  In the case of color, retinal information alone is not enough.  Lotto explains, “The light that falls on your eye, retinal information, is meaningless because it could mean literally anything.” “Our brains didn’t evolve to interpret the world the way it actually is.” In other words, our brains are adept at filling in the gaps in order to maintain a consistent framework so we can better navigate the world. Lotto says we continually re-define normality. We would like to think he means that we re-define normality in relationship to the sensory input of the present – in other words, objectively.  Yet since our early...
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