Today’s world is inundated with useless and often contradictory information. The act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct was classified in George Orwell’s masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, as “doublethink”: this fictional phenomena is the opposite of what modern psychologists call “cognitive dissonance”, where holding two or more conflicting ideas can cause real-life frustration, hunger, dread, guilt, anger, embarrassment, or anxiety. In order to clear the path of enquiry and begin to harmonize your thoughts with reality, here is a list of common misconceptions that often give the author headaches.
5. Even the common hippie will tell you that humans do not have just five senses.
Although definitions vary, the actual number ranges from nine to two dozen (whoa). In addition to sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing (Aristotelian senses), humans can sense balance and acceleration, pain, body and limb position, and relative temperature. Sometimes the senses of time, itching, pressure, hunger, thirst, fullness of the stomach, need to urinate, and need to defecate are also considered.
It’s important to exercise each of your senses as much as possible:put down the phone and look at things closely, or close your eyes altogether and listen to your surroundings!
4. While it’s comforting to imagine that his genius only bloomed later in life, Albert Einstein did not fail mathematics in school.
Upon being shown a column claiming this fact, Einstein said, “I never failed in mathematics… Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.” Einstein did however disagree with the school’s teaching method, and later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in rote learning. The myth may have originated because Einstein failed his first entrance exam into Federal Polytechnic School in 1895, although at the time he was two years younger than his fellow students and did exceedingly well in mathematics and science.
Einstein wasn’t perfect: he focused on his strengths and followed through with them, ultimately becoming a symbol of genius and changing the way we think about time and space forever.
3. Bad or bored habits can spiral out of control, but at least cracking one’s knuckles does not cause osteoarthritis.
In fact, cracking a joint that has been exercised recently is generally recognized to relieve pain. To further debunk this misconception, doctor Donald Unger cracked the knuckles of his left hand every day for more than sixty years, but he did not crack the knuckles of his right hand. No arthritis or other ailments formed in either hand. He was awarded 2009’s Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine.
If you’re struggling with a habit—however innocuous—try to become aware of when you catch yourself in the act; many habits and addictions naturally resolve over time, but self-awareness is the most important step in breaking compulsive behaviors.
2. People do not use only ten percent of their brains.
While it is true that a small minority of neurons in the brain are actively firing at any one time, the inactive neurons are just as important, and may provide an answer to how diverse regions of the brain collaborate to form conscious experiences—one of the greatest mysteries in neuroscience. The misconception that we only use a small percentage of our brain has been commonplace in American culture as far back as the start of the 20th century, and speaks for the large number of unanswered questions we have about the human brain and its myriad functions.
This is an classic example of the human desire to have an answer to everything (even if the answer is wrong): our brains seek to harmonize the experience we’ve gathered over time with the incredible amount of information we receive; when it can’t, cognitive dissonance clouds our mind and can cause physical and emotional damage.
1. The word ‘theory’ in the theory of evolution does not imply mainstream scientific doubt regarding its validity.
The concepts of theory and hypothesis have specific meanings in a scientific context. Evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life or the origin and development of the universe, and does not necessarily nullify a God. While biological evolution describes the process by which species and other levels of biological organization originate, and ultimately leads all life forms back to a universal common ancestor, it is not primarily concerned with the origin of life itself. Also, humans did not develop from chimpanzees, but a common ancestor (both humans and chimpanzees have since evolved markedly).
Accepting evolution can be helpful in facing difficult challenges that arise naturally in the course of life: change is a constant force that we must live with, no matter how cruel or beautiful life may seem.
P.S. Humans and dinosaurs never coexisted.