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Seems to describe my state of mind at the moment. I am trying to deal with a computer trashed by a virus. So something short and sweet to go on with.

I am currently reading Antonio Damasio‘s Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. Chapter two starts with this:

Mark Twain thought the big difference between fiction and reality was that fiction had to be believable. Reality could afford to be implausible, but fiction could not.”

I like it.

While we often say facts are strange than fiction I think this quote also encompasses the idea that reality is counter-intuitive. Discovering the truth about reality doesn’t come easily because we have evolved to make subjective decisions which are often not correct, although they may have been adaptive.

It took humanity thousands of years to develop procedures which give us a reliable picture of reality. These methods are most obviously embodied in modern science. And these methods include requirements of evidence and checking against reality.

So, fiction has to be believable because there is no way of checking the story. But scientific knowledge can be intuitively implausible – because we can check against reality. Its what confirms our ideas for us – and keeps us honest.

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