Sanity

In a building with one-room apartments opening to wide halls, caregivers work to keep the residents from hurting themselves. Ralph is a resident here, and he thinks his dead relatives are living here with him. He can see them. When you tell him they’re dead, he says he knows they’re dead, but they’re here anyway. If you tell him what he’s saying doesn’t make sense, he says he knows it’s confusing, but it’s true. Ralph knows what his eyes are seeing. Next, he brings you to a large central room and introduces you to his dead brother George who’s sitting in a chair. When you tell Ralph this guy doesn’t look like his brother George looked, he says they must have done surgery on George to change his looks. As you point out that this guy’s name is Harry, not George, Ralph tells you about how they change the people’s names. When Ralph asks Harry if he’s his brother George, Harry says, “No.” When Ralph asks Harry if Harry remembers him, Harry says, “No.” But Ralph rationalizes Harry’s response away by saying, “When they did the surgery, they must have changed George’s memory and created a new past in George’s mind.” No matter what happens, no one gets through to Ralph.

In this scenario, Ralph trusts his impressions. He thinks he trusts his senses, but he explains away what his eyes and ears are telling him. He routinely discards any evidence against his reasoning. And Ralph won’t listen to those who love him. He’s going to follow his own way.

We wonder whether Ralph’s method of thinking differs from the thinking methods behind many theologies or theories. We ponder whether Ralph’s thinking patterns are much different from the thinking patterns behind popular historical pseudoscience, those stories about the distant past. Since some scientists routinely discard evidence against these stories, make up assumptions and stories to explain away the evidence, and then use the stories and assumptions to confirm the original worldview, how are they different?

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