UFO Conjectures

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cognitive Unconscious: Why we believe and why we don’t

The TLS issue of 9/25/15 had a review by John Cottingham (Page 28 ff.) of Graham Ward’s new book, Unbelievable: Why we believe and why we don’t [I.B. Taurus, $32).

Its relevance to this blog lies in its discussion of, not only the mechanism(s) of belief but reality – the grist of much that makes up comments here (and elsewhere in the UFO web-sphere).

Reviewer Cotttingham writes, “Philosophers have argued endlessly about the epistemic status of belief, or what entitles some beliefs to the accolade ‘knowledge’, but comparatively few have paid attention to ‘what lies beneath’ – to the ‘archaeology of belief’ as Ward calls it. Drawing on a formidable array of empirical research into the behavioural and neurological underpinnings of belief, and its evolutionary and prehistoric roots, Ward digs deep into the domain of what Berkeley psychologist John Kihlstrom has termed the ‘cognitive unconscious’. [sic]

“A rich array of non-conscious mental activity including learned responses that have become automatic, subliminal perceptions that impact on our conscious judgements, and implicit but not consciously recalled memories -- all these profoundly affect how we perceive and interpret the world.

“Though there is a partial debt here to the seminal insights of Freud, the scope of the resulting conception of human belief and understanding is far wider. Not just in neurotic desires and perceptions, but whenever we believe a processing, anything at all, there is a  mode of liminal processing, related to embodiment and affectivity, which ‘thinks’ more quickly and reacts more instinctively than our conscious rational deliberation”. [sic]

Cottingham continues, “For Ward, postmodernity has exploded the notion of the inevitable triumph of a science-bases, demythologized and secularized world.” [Italics mine]

“Myth is an inescapable part of human culture. And it does not just include archetypal stories of our origins (such as the Genesis narrative), but a whole range of human activity, the ‘symbolic realms we, as humans and hominid creatures, have been cultivating for 2.2 million years’, including art, poetry, rite and dance, or in the present day, even some of the fantasy fiction produced by the filmmakers … In ways we cannot fully explain, these interlocking modes of human culture tap the powers of what we call the imagination, which operates at many more levels than are accessed by our conscious reflective awareness.”

“ … all belief involves imagination.”

Cottingham continues with his account of two other books about faith, spirituality, and Christianity, but I’m not gong into that mire here.

The belabored excerpts above apply to those who believe in the extraterrestrial aspect of UFOs and particularly the alien mythos that permeates any discussion of Roswell.

While it opens the door to such beliefs – the ET mind-set – it also mitigates any tendency to see the “imaginative” incursion of an alien presence for UFOs or Roswell.

It does that by pointing to “archaeology of belief.”

That is Ward, in his book, presents caveats to belief derived from the subliminal perceptions that impact our conscious judgements.

This is equivalent, for me, to the pressures from the Id (as dramatized in the movie, Forbidden Planet) or, if your prefer, the thesis of the collective unconscious of Jung fraught with his panoply of archetypes.

We can believe things (or not) but that belief (or non-belief) is determined by what lies deep within our evolutionary and neurological underpinnings: “what lies beneath.”

This applies to two persons, in the UFO community, who exemplify both sides of the equation: David Rudiak, the believer, and Zoam Chomsky, the non-believer.

Their argumentative pose, here and at Kevin Randle's blog give example to the views that Ward presents in his insightful book.

One needs to know what the basis of their stances are – from whence their mind-sets come.

They, Rudiak and Chomsky (among a few others), show exactly what Ward outlines.

We, who follow the UFO debates, need to know why ET (or UFO) believers and ET (or UFO) atheists assume the positions they take.

This will cleanse the air of the vituperation and nonsense that engulfs UFO debate and is killing or has killed “ufology” – that bulwark of insanity that has entrapped the UFO phenomenon in a hurricane of crazy theories and goofy-ass counter-arguments.

RR