How to not get fooled by the stupidity of your “Common Sense”: Understanding that science is counterintuitive

It seems every day the media outdoes itself with even more sensationalists claims than ever before. With ever increasing amounts of unreliable and downright wrong information purported in the media how does one safeguard against being misled by these wrong but “intuitive” arguments. You need to internalize the fact that science is counterintuitive.

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Why is it that science seems so counterintuitive? Because when we observe the external world, we are NOT observing the world as it is, like a camera or video record. When we perceive the external stimuli in the world we are morphing our perceptions with our internal prejudices and biases. Nobody objectively observes the world. Therefore human perception is a faulty process.This is why for thousands of yeas humans thought that the Sun revolved around the earth. According to our perceptions this seemed completely obvious and trivial.

How does one protect against our inherent ability to easily and quickly trick ourselves into faulty beliefs? One needs to maintain a very skeptic attitude (question everything, even what I say!) and ensure that you use the correct principles to guide your decision-making.

But then how does once decide what are the correct principles to guide their decisions in life? One needs to use their own experience and that of others to distill the correct principles that allow yourself and others to live a happy and successful life. In addition, you need to remain unattached to these principles and allow them to be rigorously tested on a regular basis and ensure that are supported by evidence from well designed studies by good scientist (there will be a future post on how to sniff out bad science).

You may think that, wow this seems like too much work to be worth the effort. Is it really worth it? Absolutely. The correct principles should be the only thing one bases their major life decision on, because they are the only things that are permanent and everlasting. People, things, and places are all transient objects that will decay. It is the cycle of life. Therefore you do not want to base major life decision on things that will soon enough disintegrate.

So I may have convinced you of the importance of searching for these correct principles to help protect against your faulty perception and to come to terms with how counter intuitive science is. But this discussion has been very theoretical so far, and you may be wondering if I could give you a concrete example? Absolutely

A major correct principle that I have gleaned from my own experience and from diligently studying thousands of other people living fulfilled lives is the absolute importance of finding reprieve from the constant noise of the world. It is essential that every day that you seek the silence to become better acquainted with your true nature.

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 There are a plethora of tools to access your core self, such as yoga, transcendental meditation (TM), tai chi, mindfulness practice, or any of the other practices out there. The specific practice you choose does not matter, but what does is that you do indeed spend time every day with the silence and get in touch with your deeper self so that you can recharge your battery and give your full gift to this world. In my experience I have found that transcendental meditation and tai chi work best for me to reach my inner core, and you can find out more about these powerful techniques here and here.

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Intuitively it makes absolutely NO sense for example that by practicing TM by sitting silently and doing nothing for 20 minutes twice a day that you would be happier, more productive, and get more done in less time. If your really busy, it would just seem that you can not spare the time. However, this is exactly when you need meditation (or your tool of choice) the most to help you access your true core and reboot mentally.

This is a perfect example of how counter-intuitive science can be. However, the guiding principle above enables me to make the correct decision about whether to practice TM or not. However, do not get these principles confused with a unwavering belief (which is seen a lot in some religions which has caused way more suffering than good). I am constantly questioning my beliefs by the study of other highly successful and extremely happy people as well as the best available evidence. After aggressively questioning my beliefs about TM there is no doubt about its efficacy.

I hoped this article helped you understand the importance about using the correct principles to guide your decision making process so that you do NOT get tricked by the stupidity of your “common” sense and the intuitive argument. Science is counter-intuitive and you need to make sure you have the appropriate safe-guards to protect yourself from making erroneous conclusions.

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