Why Don’t Subjective Experiences Count in Science?

This is why.

See that? That’s your puny mammal brain malfunctioning.

Well, malfunctioning’s not exactly the word. More like misinterpreting. And why shouldn’t it misinterpret? Raise your hand if this is the first optical illusion you’ve seen all week. All month? Now imagine you’re a prehistoric Homo erectus living on the Asiatic plains. How many times in your life would you expect to see such a thing? Crude guesstimate: never.

If such a simple thing can trick us, regardless of our compliance, then what hope do we have of distinguishing truth from falsehood? What method or process can we use to confirm that something is true?

Observational agreement from multiple sources and multiple methodologies would do the trick nicely. If several different researchers all conclude the same thing using different methods, then one of two things must be the case: either the current evidence really does point to that conclusion, or all of the different methods used just happened to have gotten the same wrong answer. Both are possible, but one is more probable, especially when you consider the independence of and competition between different research interests.

So is that optical illusion really moving? And how can you tell?


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jay on October 17, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    So I’m inferring from your post that this is supposed to look like it is moving. It doesn’t to me.
    Is this more evidence (like my inability to see Magic Eye pictures and difficulty in using both eyepieces at once for a microscope) that my brain doesn’t process visual stuff the way most people do, or what? 😛


  2. Well, it doesn’t so much move as undulate in place. You can sort of tell that the image really isn’t moving, but that your eyes don’t know where to focus.

    Or maybe you just have the worst superpower ever. 🙂


  3. Posted by troy on October 19, 2007 at 12:46 am

    I saw it move, er, undulate. It was fun. Could of used some audio though 😉


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