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The Source of Our Culture War
William Shakespeare, wearing the mask of an imaginary Prince of Denmark – Hamlet by name – suggested that human knowledge is limited.“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Each of us lives alone in a private, perceptual reality. We can communicate with one another only to the degree that our perceptual realities overlap.
There is an objective reality, but humans are ill-equipped to experience it.The degree to which you understand the limitations of your private reality is the degree to which you are self-aware.
Dr. Jorge Martins de Oliveira is Director of Neurosciences at the University of Brazil, on the Editorial Board of Brain & Mind magazine, and is the author of “Principles of Neuroscience.”
This is what he has to say about Perceptual Reality:
“Our perception does not identify the outside world as it really is, but the way that we are allowed to recognize it, as a consequence of transformations performed by our senses. We experience electromagnetic waves, not as waves, but as images and colors. We experience vibrating objects, not as vibrations, but as sounds. We experience chemical compounds dissolved in air or water, not as chemicals, but as specific smells and tastes. Colors, sounds, smells and tastes are products of our minds, built from sensory experiences. They do not exist, as such, outside our brain. Actually, the universe is colorless, odorless, insipid and silent.”
“Although you and I share the same biological architecture and function, perhaps what I perceive as a distinct color and smell is not exactly equal to the color and smell you perceive. We may give the same name to similar perceptions, but we cannot know how they relate to the reality of the outside world. Perhaps we never will.”
Dr. Roger Sperry won the Nobel Prize in 1981 for discovering that we don’t have one brain divided into two hemispheres, as much as we have two separate, competing brains. Sperry was able to demonstrate that we have a logical, rational, sequential, deductive-reasoning (SCIENTIFIC) Left Brain, and a romantic, artistic, connection-seeking, pattern-finding, (ARTS & HUMANITIES) Right Brain. He said,
“Each hemisphere of the brain is indeed a conscious system in its own right, perceiving, thinking, remembering, reasoning, willing, and emoting, all at a characteristically human level, and… both the left and the right hemisphere may be conscious simultaneously in different, even in mutually conflicting, mental experiences that run along in parallel.”
Did you notice it? The Left and the Right hemispheres can have “simultaneous, mutually conflicting, mental experiences.” You can have a single experience and walk away with two opinions of what just happened!
“In fact, romanticism and science are good for each other… The scientist keeps the romantic honest and the romantic keeps the scientist human.”
– Tom Robbins
But what happens if the Left Hemisphere completely ignores the voice of the Right Hemisphere? What happens if the Right ignores the the Left?
C. P. Snow published “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” in 1959. He believed that Science and the Humanities were the driving forces of western society, but they were splitting us into a society of “two cultures.”Looking back over the culture war that has increasingly devoured us these past 20 years, it would appear that C.P. Snow was right.
In May of 2023 the world renowned neuroscientist Dr. Iain McGilchrist was discussing the (SCIENTIFIC) Left Brain, and the (ARTS & HUMANITIES) Right Brain when he said,
“Something I discovered in medical school, was that this corpus callosum, this connecting band, spent at least half its time, if not more, sending messages to the other hemisphere, ‘You keep out of this, I’m dealing with it.’ So it wasn’t so much facilitating as inhibiting. Primates have...