The nude pictures... erm nevermind, wrong book.
Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's really given me a new perspective on things. There really is only one thing that I completely disagree with so far and that is Bloom's view of the medical profession and medical doctors. I'll type up a post with more detail on that later because I would like to specifically state what I disagree with. But there have been several things that I have particularly enjoyed and that have really made me think.
I'm only on page 200 so I still have a lot to read. I do intend to finish this book within the next couple weeks. The chapter that has been the most interesting to me so far was "The Connectionist Explanation of the Mass Mind's Dreams." Therein Bloom describes an individual's belief system as a "neural network." He says:
"If we believe that life is a battle between Satan and God, some small event can seem proof positive that Satan is out to snare us. If we believe, as the Chinese and the Romans did, that the heavens are filled with messages about our fate, the sight of a shooting star may trigger a sense of imminent calamity. If our belief system says absolutely nothing about a relationship between the stars and life on earth, that same blazing meteorite will seem like a passing curiosity of no lasting significance and may never make it into the brain's circuitry at all. In the case of the person who believes that the heavens portend events on earth, the sight of the shooting star is patched into an outstretched web of neural connections and takes its place in the greater whole. We hunt, over the next days or weeks, for the event it forecasts.
A neural network like this takes a lifetime to build. Without a web of cell assemblies, it would be impossible to recall the myriad events that parade past our eyes and ears, much less to make sense of them. It's easy to see why humans are willing to fight to the death to defend the memes that constitute their belief systems. To allow a faith or ideology to be overthrown would be to abandon a massive neural fabric into which you've invested an entire life, a network that cannot easily be replaced, perhaps that cannot be replaced at all."
Wow. I think this says so much. People often interpret various events in their life based on what they already believe and it's nearly impossible to convince them any differently. And they look for connections in events to confirm their beliefs and reaffirm that what they believe is right. Whether the belief is Satan, a psychic, or a superstition, if you do this (insert particular bad action) something bad will happen to you. Then when something bad happens it's the result of that which you originally attributed the bad event to, and that reaffirms the belief in the perpetrator (Satan, fate, a bad omen) of the bad event.
I've thought about this many times with my own experience but I've never been able to state it this succinctly. Chris, I know that you and Steve and others would get so irritated when you would make a perfectly rational argument on a particular subject, such as the Flood or evolution, and I would understand the argument but not accept it. It's because those individual arguments did not fit into my neural network. They made no sense within the context of my belief system. It was only after I was presented with enough arguments that made sense together that I could do a complete overhaul and entirely change the way I looked at everything, my entire worldview, a new neural network with all new circuitry.
Bloom makes the point that this cannot be easily done because it has taken a lifetime to build what you have. And likely that's why few people ever change what they believe to this extent. They will fight to the death for their belief system in many cases. And it truly makes sense to them. Even if it doesn't make sense to others, it all works together in their mind and they will continue to only take in information that fits with their current neural network while rejecting other information that doesn't fit.
I think this is an excellent observation that Bloom has made. I've had this concept in my mind but he articulated it in this chapter so that it makes perfect sense. It fits exactly with what I've seen and experienced. And perhaps that's why I accept it as a valid argument.
Cheryl Edited by: Chris OConnor at: 10/30/05 4:04 pm