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Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

From: David Rudiak <drudiak.nul>
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 11:17:14 -0700
Archived: Thu, 26 Apr 2012 06:31:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary


>From: Eugene Frison <cthulhu_calls.nul>
>To: <post.nul>
>Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2012 17:35:00 -0500
>Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

>From: David Rudiak <drudiak.nul>
>To: post.nul
>Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2012 14:24:50 -0700
>Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

>>From: Eugene Frison <cthulhu_calls.nul>
>>To: <post.nul>
>>Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2012 10:56:18 -0500
>>Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

>>>From: Cathy Reason <Cathym.nul>
>>>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <post.nul>
>>>Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2012 11:42:17 +0100
>>>Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

>>>>From: William Treurniet <wtreurniet.nul>
>>>>To: post.nul
>>>>Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2012 14:05:17 -0400
>>>>Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

<snip>

>I agree with Cathy here. I think you are being much too rigid in
>what you define as a proper representation of the abstraction we
>call "reality". There are different human models and different
>ways to define "reality".

>No, David. This is just a long, long, long spiel describing what
>the human perception process does, and how and why it does it.
>It is very detailed and full of example but we already know that
>the human perception process produces a picture of reality that,
>most of the time, gets us through the day and enables us to
>survive.

>But the bottom line is this: there is something 'out there,' and
>there is something created within our consciousness that
>represents it. These two don't even come close to matching. You
>can get as philosophical as you want and tap dance around it
>forever but it doesn't change this.

Eugene, I absolutely defy you or anyone to absolutely define
this abstraction of something "out there" that is a "true"
description of "reality". There is no "out there" there to we
human beings without interpretation. A car is no different than
a rock or a human being at a fundamental subatomic particle
level, but they are certainly functionally different to the
brains of human beings.

What the "real" description of "reality" is somewhat arbitrary.
Are you Eugene Frison, a unique human being that likes to argue
about reality, or are you just a collection of quarks and
gluons? The latter particle physicist's definition of Eugene
Frison is quite useless in human day-to-day reality. It is also
quite different from how a molecular biologist would define your
"reality", but more useful than a particle physicists (e.g.,
genetic diseases). In turn this is different from how a
psychologist might define you or somebody arguing with you or
how you think about yourself. Different definitions apply in
different domains.

I think it is philosophical nonsense to argue that our
perceptual reality doesn't come "even close" to the fuzzy
abstraction of "physical reality." No, it certainly does in the
domain in which we exist, which isn't at the level of quarks or
DNA molecules. The proof is that we are here, so obviously there
is some sort of good match between perceptual reality and what
is "out there", or we would all be dead.

>It is true that, as far as we are concerned, the reality that we
>experience as created by our perception is the only reality that
>matters. And that this representational reality serves us most
>of the time.

>But natural selection has evolved a system that doesn't detect
>most of what's out there, extensively filters out most of what
>it does detect, and then interprets the trickle of information
>that is left via mechanisms that can be tricked and which are
>subject to making very bad judgement calls. You and Cathy can
>keep dancing around that too if you like.

And I absolutely defy you or anybody else to invent some
superman android that wouldn't be subject to the same sort of
limitations as us. However big or sophisticated the system might
be, it will always be limited in what it can detect, always have
to filter the sensory information and perceptual information
derived from it to keep from being overwhelmed by usually
useless information, and can always be tricked and make bad
judgment calls. Again, you are demanding something akin to
"God", and anything less you deem to be inherently "unreliable"
or not a "true" representation of "reality". You are demanding
the impossible.

>That it succeeds most of the time in keeping us alive doesn't
>change this. It is functional - reliable _enough_.

>"Reliable'' and "reliable enough" mean two different things.

Dictionary definition of ordinary human "reliable":
"Consistently good in quality or performance; able to be
trusted." "Capable of being relied on; dependable: a reliable
assistant; a reliable car."

Medical/scientific definition: "Yielding the same or compatible
results in different clinical experiments or statistical
trials."

Under the first fuzzier definitions, our sensory/perceptual
systems are usually very reliable. That would probably also be
an engineering definition of "reliable". E.g., the car engine
can operate for 100,000 miles without breaking down. The car
will "reliably" get you from point A to point B until it gets
very old. That is what was designed to do, and in 9 cars out of
10 it will do it. That is certainly "good enough" for government
work. "Reliable" doesn't mean you can _always_ count on it, but
you can usually count it to varying fuzzy degrees.

Let's take the more restricted scientific definition. Does it
mean that absolutely all experiments conducted have to yield
_exactly_ the same result in order for the result to be
"reliable"? No, this is still the "real" world we are talking
about of complicated systems, there is rarely 100% agreement
about anything, and things are rarely sharply defined, including
our own words used to represent abstractions like "reliable" or
"real world". To the medical profession, 9 out of 10 studies
yielding the same basic conclusion would be considered
"reliable" or even "reliable enough" operationally. And the
results also don't have to be exactly the same to have the same
basic conclusion, such as the new anti-clot drug is indeed safe
by variable amounts and improves survivability of heart attack
victims by variable amounts. Everything else may be nothing but
statistical fluctuation or maybe the result of a less-than-
perfect studies or different statistical populations (e.g., men
vs. women).

This is even true in the physicist's "reality" of usually very
simplified systems. In fact, sometimes sweeping conclusions
about "reality" are based on only 2 or 3 studies that seem to
corroborate one another, such as the universe is now not slowing
down in its expansion but speeding up.  Astrophysicists have
even invented an abstraction called "dark energy" to explain the
expansion, even though nobody has a clue what "dark energy"
"really" is or how it fits into our current scheme of physical
theories. And again, this fantastic conclusion is based on only
2 o 3 long term studies of distant supernova explosions which
produced unexpected red shifts compatible with the notion of a
speeded up expansion, but there is also the possibility that
maybe something else far less fantastic might account for the
same results.

So is this current view of "reality" truly "reliable"? The raw
data may be reliable and cross-consistent, just like our raw
perceptions, but the astrophysicists might be drawing the wrong
inferences by making assumptions about the accuracy of their
present theories and not taking into account something else,
just like our brains may have the wrong interpretation of the
overall perception, like misidentifying somebody by sight.

>Yes, it is true that if I ignore that my car engine is
>overheating then I better be prepared to shell out a few grand
>but it is also true that if I walk into a pocket of toxic gas in
>an abandoned mine I am going to end up stone cold dead.

>If you and Cathy want to blur "reliable' and "reliable enough"
>then I strongly suggest that you both stay away from abandoned
>mines. Because you might learn the hard way that your "reliable"
>perception process just isn't what you think it is.

Well Eugene, it sounds mostly likely a semantic debate we are
engaged in over the proper definitions of "reality" and
"reliable" as applied to human perception of the "real" world.
You seem to be arguing that an information processing system
like our senses and brains is "unreliable" if it doesn't detect
with near 100% accuracy all the time nearly 100% the variables
and mathematical models that physicists use to describe the
"real" physical world, such as temperature, wavelength,
subatomic particles, energy, etc., and the relationships between
them. Of course, such variables and models are themselves
simplified representations of "reality" and even physicists
cannot possibly approach such perfection of all-knowingness
using all instruments at their disposal to extend their sensory
range.

E.g., "temperature" is a useful human abstraction and is related
in physical models to the average kinetic energy of all the
molecules bombarding your thermometer. Thus there is practically
an infinite range of theoretical temperatures, from absolute
zero to the temperature of the universe at the moment of the Big
Bang.

But is it proper to criticize your engine's temperature sensor
as "unreliable" or a bad representation of "reality" because it
can't measure the full gamut of energies in the universe? (with
"energy" itself being nothing but an another useful human
abstraction or representation of reality)  That makes no sense.
The temperature sensor is what it is. It is only proper to
criticize its "reliability" within the engineering specs of the
temperatures it was designed to measure, which is a functional,
engineering definition of reliability. If you can't depend on it
to measure your engine overheating, then it is "unreliable". If
it senses overheating 99.99% of the time then it is 99.99%
reliable. If it can't measure the surface temperature of the
sun, that doesn't some how make it "unreliable" for what it is
supposed to do. Sheesh!

The same applies to human senses and interpretation. We only
need to detect temperatures in the range in which life can exist
and keep us in that range, and stay away from noxious stimuli
outside that range that could harm or kill us. What good is it
to accurately gauge the temperature of a lava flow, other than
it is too hot to be around safely? Like any artificially
engineered system like your car designed to operate in a certain
range, not from zero to infinity, if our senses keep us
comfortably in that range and away from harm, that is all it
needs to do. If it is 99% trustworthy in doing that, then it is
certainly "reliable enough". That's the biological reality of
living and surviving on planet Earth, and to argue that isn't
the totality of a physicist's definition of "reality" is just
sophistry.

The question isn't whether it can "see" absolutely everything to
be known in the universe. You are demanding something akin to
"God", some omnipotent, omniscient abstract entity. That gets
ridiculous and is an impossible demand. Our senses and nervous
systems are what they are from millions of years of evolution to
fit our particular niche. They are indeed "reliable enough" that
we are still here, and most of us get through our lives usually
in one piece. When experiments are done on the reliability of
our sensory systems and perceptions, they can be tricked, just
as ALL instruments and data processing systems can be tricked
because they operate only a certain range and have built-in
limitations, but usually our perceptual systems are robust,
operate properly over a large range of conditions, and largely
reliable in "real-world" situations. Perceptual researchers,
even psychologists, refer to this as perceptual constancy.

Thus, using visual cues in the whole scene, we perceive the
human being 100 yards away as being the same size as the one 1
yard away, even though the distant human is only 1% of the size
on our retinas as the near human.  This is size constancy. Our
perception could be wrong because the visual image is inherently
ambiguous with multiple interpretations. Maybe we are being
fooled by a very tiny human the same distance as the near human
and that explains the big difference in retinal image size. But
that is a very bad bet, as we know from experience. And also
there are usually other visual cues to depth and size in the
scene that help us disambiguate one possibility from another.

Size constancy breaks down at greater distances, i.e., like ALL
systems, it operates properly only over a given range, or if you
strip out various cues to distance and/or deliberately distort
the cues in a lab setting in order to study size constancy.
E.g., there is the famous Ames' room experiment of a real-size
room deliberately distorted. Instead of being rectangular, one
corner on the far wall is normal height and further away from
the observer than the opposite corner, which is maybe half as
tall and twice as close. The illusion only works if observed
with only one eye through a restricted aperture instead of both
eyes (to eliminate stereoscopic depth perception), and works
even better if filmed, to remove other cues that something isn't
right, such as the test objects being in different focal planes.

Thus place one twin in the tall, distant corner, and the other
in the near, close corner, and the distant twin looks like a
dwarf and the near twin a giant. The brain mechanism for
relative size is now scaling against the corners, and absent
other removed cues like stereopsis that would contradict this,
assuming they are square and the same height. The twins can
exchange places and walk over to the others corner, and their
sizes seem to be constantly changing as this happens. The raw
perceptual illusion is quite compelling, but even then our
overall perceptual system knows something isn't quite right
because such things never or almost never happen from real-world
experience. The illusion ONLY arises because the experimenter
has deliberately removed or distorted normal depth and size cues
and the brain has to scale the scene solely on a manipulated
assumption about the geometrical shape of the room. You could
also easily fool a computer vision system in the same way.

This whole issue of "reliability" in relation to UFO experiences
and sightings is, of course, what this is ultimately about.
Debunkers will usually argue that humans are 100% unreliable
when it comes to UFO reports. This is nonsense. Again, we would
all be dead if that were true.

Even the most ardent Ufologists would never argue that
observers/experiencers of unknown phenomena are anywhere near
100% reliable.  E.g., regarding UFO size or distance, if it is
beyond a few hundred yards, visual stereopsis can no longer
estimate true size or distance and we have to rely on secondary
cues to distance/size like brightness, haziness, nearby known
object, intervening objects, the UFO passing in front of a known
object (like a cloud layer) etc. If none of these cues exist,
such as "lights in the blank sky", then yes, estimates of size
and distance are truly "unreliable". But often various cues do
exist (e.g., Kenneth Arnold's UFOs passed in front of Mt.
Rainier and behind subpeak of known distances), or there is more
than one observer and distance/size can be triangulated based on
multi-witness interviews, however "unreliable" the individual
witnesses may be.

The whole subject is complicated, because you get into
differences in the reliability of raw human perception at the
moment vs. memory later on, how many cues are available,
observer training and attention, the interpretations, if any, of
what was seen/experienced, overall honesty of human beings in
general, etc.

The bottom line is that when statistical studies are actually
done on UFOs, usually the judged hoaxing or lying level is very
low, the misinterpretation of mundane phenomena high, but
people's recounting of basic details, i.e. perceptions, usually
accurate enough that some sort of determination of
mundane/explainable/known vs. anomalous/mystifying/unknown can
be made. The more witnesses plus independent physical
measurements involved (radar, photos, radiation, etc.), the more
"reliable" the case becomes one way or another. Even if
individual perceptions or memory may be unreliable, much more
valid statistical inferences about "reliability" can be drawn
from multi-witness sightings. One witness IDing a murderer may
not be reliable, but misidentificaion becomes increasingly
unlikely if 20 witnesses ID the same person.

'Nuff said.


David Rudiak


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