- Published on Tuesday, 01 December 2009 00:35
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2899
We are not good at seeing changes - if we are not specifically looking for a change, we simply don't see it. That's how magicians work. They often rely on the fact that we won't notice the trick (see this video from James Randi). If someone says they saw something and no-body else did, maybe they are right and maybe not. It could have been an hallucination; or it could have been that others simply were not looking for it and did not notice it.
This idea is exploited in detective novels where the information is available but only Sherlock Holmes notices. So when unusual or seemingly unexplainable things happen, we need to recognize our shortcomings and use the scientific method. This provides a systematic method of describing things so that we don't fall into the trap of taking the first easy thought that comes to mind.
The Mayor of London, England, recently wanted to show people how easy it was to miss seeing cyclists on the road so he commissioned a video commercial. As well as making his point, he also makes the general point that people are poor observers.
The point of course is that just because we see something or don't see something, by itself it proves nothing. The event we "saw" must be subject to the scrutiny of rational analysis which includes that it must be repeatable so that more than one person can see the same thing and that the same result occurs each time. Then the scientific method is applied and many experiments can be done to try to understand what is happening. If we take the first solution that comes to mind when we see something "unexplainable", we could easily conclude that it's supernatural.
We need to remember that we are much less than perfect observers of what goes on around us. This concept alone goes a long way towards explaining miracles and other apparent magic.
Thanks for the idea and video link from Jesse Galef at Unreasonable faith.