Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

A line from TheWizardOfOz. But also it started me thinking...

There are some ideas that can be categorized as WrongButIrrefutable. I don't mean that they're actually irrefutable, because then how would one claim that they were wrong? I mean that whoever holds these ideas loses the ability to refute them even though they're wrong - precisely because he holds them.

Most of these are the kinds of ideas that tell one how to direct one's attention - AttentionDirectors. We all know that optimists and pessimists tend to find the information that supports their optimistic or pessimistic views, while overlooking or trivializing the information that would support the opposite view - and yet optimism and pessimism are only two examples of AttentionDirectors.

Every religion or philosophy that has ever been proposed has an AttentionDirector somewhere within.

Any AttentionDirector has a rationale. And yet the danger exists that any AttentionDirector has the potential to direct one's attention away from whatever information would show that the rationale is flawed.

It's not possible to avoid having any AttentionDirector, because, just as the human eye has a fovea that has to be directed toward whatever the human wants to look at, the human mind also has to focus its attention on whatever the human wants to think about, in order to be of any use to that human. Nor is it possible to have an AttentionDirector that doesn't ignore anything. One cannot pay attention to everything. One can only spread oneself so thin.

The ScientificMethod is a kind of AttentionDirector. It has the virtue of deliberately doing the opposite of the aforementioned dangerous thing -- it actually encourages one to pay attention to information which might refute the ideas it produces, as well as that which might support them. That's why the ScientificMethod produces results that work in the real world. But even the ScientificMethod cannot admit the possibility of any information that would bring the ScientificMethod itself into doubt.

Does this lead to PhilosophicalSkepticism?? I think not - even PhilosophicalSkepticism? cannot admit the possibility of any information that would bring the skepticism into doubt and perhaps allow certainty somewhere.

Conclusions from all this?

  1. Conception shapes perception, and vice versa.

  2. An "honest" AttentionDirector will tell you exactly what it is asking you to ignore and upon what grounds it can maintain that it is safe for you to ignore that information.

  3. In the absence of such an explanation, you should try to create one - you should always consider whatever information you have been ignoring, and ask yourself whether it is a good idea to ignore it and why. If you can't come up with one then you should consider directing your attention in some other way.

My two cents. -- EdwardKiser


But even the ScientificMethod cannot admit the possibility of any information that would bring the ScientificMethod itself into doubt.

Such as...? -- MikeSmith

... such as the [IMHO ridiculous] idea, espoused by PhilosophicalSkepticism?, that there's no way to be certain that the objects of scientific study actually exist.

But it doesn't matter if they actually exist. Even if they don't, but the ScientificMethod works for us, it works as well. -- NikitaBelenki


This page seems OffTopic, but might be salvageable when presented with regard to invisibilty or transparency. In software development, it is not always necessary to know of the internal operational details of systems and interfaces in order to utilize them.

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