President Obama has finally put on his big boy pants and solved our current political mess, suspending the election and declaring he will served a third term. I know this is true because I saw it yesterday on Face Book and…seriously…it was posted by a woman to whom I taught civics and history 35 years ago! My point here is how quickly we succumb to the temptation of “red meat” in a heated political season, often not able to pass up a tasty morsel that fits so nicely into our view point. I know. I’ve done it myself, even from the Face Book platter of delicacies, and I really felt foolish when I realized how stupid and naïve I’d been. But all of us love “red meat” for it confirms our biases and we have at our disposal the neurological gift/curse of “selective attention” to facilitate this process. In epistemology, it is described as confirmation bias or epistemic closure, that tendency to live in a safe little cocoon of whims and fancies that confirms our view of the world. I do it, you do it, we all do it, “even birds and bees do it.”
So, what’s the solution? Well, there is no “solution” that would put us all on the same epistemological page so that an objective reality was created. Perhaps a sci-fi fantasy of an additive being added to the world’s water supply???? Then we would all think in the “right” way, huh?
I’m going to be succinct here as this subject of epistemic closure always gets me going. Those of you who read this blog regular…both of you…know that it is a favorite subject of mine. The “solution” is to allow that neo-cortex that we gifted with to wield its magic, a “magic” that we are often averse to, and realize that our view of the world is not as “objective” as we might think. In an earlier historical era it would have meant to toy with the notion that the earth was not flat. And if today we could introduce even a tinge of this meta-cognition to this current political maelstrom, we possibly can dial back some of the venom that we often feel. If you want to see what it looks like when this meta-cognition is drastically lacking, just look at Isis, a group which illustrates what happens when iron-clad certainty reaches its logical conclusion. Or, think about the Crusades when Christians, empowered by the good news of the gospel, were okay with leading people to Jesus at the point of the sword.
Shakespeare described neurological gift as “the pauser reason,” that god-given ability to filter our thoughts and not say the first thing that comes to our mind and certainly not act on it. Red meat is dangerous! And the same gifted soul offers us hope in this crucial historical moment, “There is a Divinity that doeth shape our ends, rough hew them how we may.”