Friday, May 4, 2012

Paradigm Lost: Why the rEVOLution Has Not Been Televised

To those who care about such things, the silence of the media about the extraordinary events around Ron Paul’s campaign is deafening.

Some see conspiracy. I don’t. I see the expected reaction to a paradigm shift — a complete change in the concepts we use to make sense of our politics and culture.

An excellent illustration of the power of a “paradigm” is the Perceptions of Incongruity experiment that was conducted at Harvard in 1949.

In this experiment, subjects were shown playing cards and asked to call out what they saw. They would consistently identify the cards correctly. After a while, however, the experimenters would slip in “incongruous cards” in which the colors red and black were switched, such as black hearts or diamonds and red clubs or spades.

What did the subjects see when shown those incongruous cards? They did not see the incongruous cards, but normal playing cards — the cards they were expecting to see, without noticing the incongruity. For example, when shown a black six of hearts, they might call out simply “six of hearts” or “six of spades” — neither of which was correct. The subjects didn’t misunderstand or misinterpret anything — they actually misperceived something according to the paradigm in which they were operating — in this case, “the playing card paradigm,” comprising everything they already knew (wrongly) about the cards they were looking at.

Subjects continued to fail to notice the incongruous cards. Eventually, they would exhibit a physiological reaction of discomfort, knowing that something was wrong, but not being conscious of what. Only when they had been forced to look at many incongruous cards for very long times did they “get” what was going on and see what they were looking at. Suddenly, they realized that “the playing card paradigm” did not apply. They finally knew that reality included non-traditional cards. They thus adopted a new paradigm (that included black hearts etc.), and thereafter saw what was in front of their eyes.

As Goethe said, “We see only what we know.”

So what do we know about American politics? We “know” that there are two opposing ideologies, Left and Right. We know they are largely staked out by two established parties, Democrats and Republicans. We know that all political positions that are “reasonable” or “mainstream” are represented by them. The trends in American politics can be identified by listening just to them: other views are held by so few that they can be ignored because they can have no significant impact.

All this “knowledge” is false, but it comprises the prevailing paradigm, so we know it nonetheless.

Any paradigm worthy of the name — such as this American political paradigm — lasts for a long time and is hard to unlearn.

But when it is about to collapse, a few things happen.

A) Most people ignore or try to “explain away” the data that threaten the old paradigm. B) The old paradigm becomes stretched in increasingly artificial ways to fit all the threatening data. This is called, “saving the phenomenon.” C) More parochially, people with a career interest in the old paradigm fight for it with increasing dogmatism.

Full article: http://www.huffingto … e-rev_b_1455069.html



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