For a long time it has concerned me that I might be insane. I don’t really believe that I am insane. However, I have felt, occasionally, that the state of reality observed by and propounded upon by folks as diverse as Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, pick a name from the political right, is so distinctly different from my own, either they are nuts or I am.
It concerns me that they, to the man and woman, are rich and I am not. To paraphrase the old saying, “If I’m so damn sane, why ain’t I rich?”
Well, could it be they are sane and I am not? Is there some weird parallel universe thing going on that allows us both to be sane?
This conundrum has been, and until today remained, a great mystery. Today, the puzzle has been solved. Ironically, the puzzle has been solved by research scientist working in that sink of insanity, Stanford University, home of the Hoover Institute, the world’s leading lunatic repository.
A fellow by the name of Kevin Dunbar makes his career by studying the way scientists study things. As such he has been studying the results of experimentation in a wide and diverse range of scientific disciplines. He has been trying to determine how hard-eyed dedicated men and women of science, persons dedicated to truth above all else, deal with failure/anomalies in the resulting data. Wired.com reported in an article entitled Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up that, simply put, most of these scientist don’t deal with it. They don’t accept defeat or willingly recognize their assumptions are wrong. It turns out, Dr. Dunbar discovered, that scientists, just like everybody else, don’t like it when facts interfere with preconceived notions.
Of course, none of us enjoys being confused by the facts, no matter what the matter to hand. That is only human. Discovering scientists, world-class scientists at that, are just as human, in this regard, as all the rest of us, comes as a surprise. A scientist, theoretically, must have his or her entire allegiance to truth, no matter how ugly, no matter how inconvenient, no matter how maddening the truth. Unfortunately, it turns out, scientists do not do this. This is an allegiance that is hard to maintain, so, as often as not, they don’t.
I, first among all persons, understand this seeming paradox. Years ago, I promulgated Copeland’s Theory of Visceral Reality, an underreported, underanalyzed, underappreciated, and misunderstood work of genius. I encourage you to take the time to review the link to this seminal work of foundational human knowledge. However, rather than repeat it all here, allow me to merely point out that this theory divides all we, as humans, know into four categories. These are: things we know, things we believe, things about which we have theories and things we do not know.
Each and every problem confronting mankind results from our stubborn insistence on confusing the things we believe with things that are actually known. There are, in fact, very few things humans actually know. There are relatively few things that we realize we do not know, far fewer that actually exist in nature. (Though I do not know that, I only theorize that is so.) There are way more things we believe that we cannot prove and do not, for certain, really know than we can ever bring ourselves to admit. (And, that is a fact!)
Dr. Dunbar’s observations and experimental research results may not prove Copeland’s Theory of Visceral Reality but they sure support it in all its particulars. Even so, it is not the purpose of this article to toot my own horn (though it does make a pleasant and melodious sound) so much as to celebrate the explanation of why Bill O’Reilly and I can coexist in a single universe and neither of us be certifiable. (I am not ready to go quite so far as it relates to Limbaugh and, certainly, not Beck, both of whom, in all probability, are certifiable.)
The sorry truth is, like the students in Dunbar’s experiments, Bill simply does not believe the facts that confront him. (Or, to be fair, maybe I do not believe the facts that confront me. However, having analyzed this question in some detail, I am pretty sure it is Bill, not me, who looks at reality and blinks.) Bill sees the obvious chaos that has resulted from the American Exceptualism foreign policy pursued by the Bush administration and does not remember his cheerleading or that it was all Bush/Cheney’s doing. No, Bill blames it on Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Jimmy Carter and Barbra Streisand. Bill looks at a wide range of domestic issues and determines that if the government would simply do nothing everything would get better. In short, Bill is divorced from reality.
Yet, according to Dr. Dunbar’s research, people like Bill may not be the nut cases you and I might assume. No, he, the Birthers, Sarah Palin and all the rest are merely reacting normally to facts that violate their preconceived notions by ignoring them. They are choosing beliefs over knowns and will, according to Copeland’s Theory of Visceral Reality, continue to do so until it is no longer possible to do so.
Though he did not and, possibly, would not say so, the far right, like Dr. Dunbar’s scientific community of research subjects, are willfully and savagely ignorant and damn proud of it. (Of course, in the interest of balance, it could be I who am willfully and savagely ignorant and damn proud of it. But, it isn’t. It is they. At least, it is theoretically.)
Being a scientist, Dr. Dunbar has developed a biological explanation for this failure to accept obvious facts. He tells us that the human brain has an “oh sh**t” mechanism he called the anterior cingulated cortex, ACC. The ACC is located in the central part of the brain. When we are confronted with something that defies our preconceived expectations a “squirt” of blood is injected into this area of the brain. This fires up the ACC. As the ACC is associated with our recognition of errors/mistakes this “squirt” informs us what we are seeing is wrong.
For the Becks, Limbaughs and O’Reillys of the world this “squirt” must happen many times more in an hour than the nocturnal emissions of adolescent boys in a month. It must constitute a sort of cranial ejaculate that, I have to presume, is pleasurable on some level or they would stop.
The second mental defense against reality identified by Dr. Dunbar is used to “edit” reality. This region of the brain is called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, DLPFC. The DLFFC is located in the front of the brain and acts to suppress unwanted representations. It literally edits out thoughts that are inconsistent with what we believe to be the truth.
As you may imagine, a well developed DLPFC is an absolute necessity for anyone seeking employment at FOX News. Without a fully functional DLPFC I would think the average conservative talk show host would simply suffer full mental incapacity, and on a repeated basis. With an Olympic class DLPFC, as men such as Beck and Hannity, et. al., must enjoy, I doubt any foray into fantasy would be too much to sustain.
I believe that for people like the Birthers and Sarah Palin, the brain may well consist of a DLPFC comprising seventy-five percent of total volume. George W. Bush probably goes around eighty percent and, except for that cranial ejaculation mechanism, Cheney probably goes close to one hundred percent.
Well, thank you Dr. Dunbar. Now that I understand it, I feel better. The denizens of the far right aren’t crazy. They are cranially deformed. Now I can relax, sooner or later, Google, Apple or Blackberry will create an app for that.