For good or ill, as John Adams put it, “Facts are stubborn things, but our minds are even more stubborn.” Truth always plays second fiddle to group think or as George Orwell put it “The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it”.
Why do so many people hold such strong opinions and beliefs that seem so obviously wrong to us? How can individuals stand on both sides of what would appear to be a simple issue? How can both sides think they are right? Time and time again we encounter people that swear something is a fact and even when shown evidence that demonstrates their position cannot be true, they still cling to their opinion. In the real world, shouldn’t facts be facts? Polarization in politics seems to be infecting all of society. There is something changing.
What are the processes that go into fashioning our world views and how we perceive the very reality that we experience? Understanding the past, our origins, our evolution and how we see reality itself, is the key to understanding what we, as a species, have become and what is happening.
As mammals go, they weren’t very big or strong but they were unusual. They had the ability to walk mostly on two feet with hands that were capable of gripping and manipulating objects. Broadly they were the ancestors of chimpanzees, monkeys and baboons but their was also one that would evolve into what we now characterize as hominids. They walked completely erect , were losing their fur and were using rudimentary tools. While we evolved from this hominid line that was a few million years old, our modern beginnings go back to only about two hundred thousand years ago. At that time, giant mammals roamed the earth; mammoths, giant three-toed sloths, saber-tooth tigers and huge herds like bison. In addition to the hominid that was our great grandparent, there were also four or five first cousin hominids scattered across the Earth. Physically, all five had unusually large brains, stood completely erect, were capable of running, had opposing thumbs and were “naked”. Evidence would suggests that all of them possessed the ability to speak. They were hunter gatherers and also capable tool makers. While primate origins were in Africa, many of our first cousins had moved out of Africa to Europe, Asia, India, and the islands south of Asia. Of the five, we have solid evidence that two were similar to us in most ways, one was significantly smaller and one was much more robust and had a larger brain. We call ourselves Homo Sapiens and at that point in history we had not yet left Africa. One cousin that was bigger and stronger and had a larger brain than us was the Neanderthal and they were already living in Europe for two or three hundred thousand years.
Between two hundred and one hundred thousand years ago, something earth shattering seems to have occurred. The hominid that was our great grandparent started thinking very differently. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with brain size because they didn’t have the largest brain. Up until about one hundred thousand years ago, these new-thinking Homo Sapiens were still living exclusively in Africa, but that would soon change.
Our very way of thinking, and therefore our speech, changed significantly. Linguists call what happened in the line of hominids that were our ancestors, the development of “context free speech”. What that meant was they no longer simply thought and talked about things that were obviously practical, happening near them in space and in the “here and now”. This new type of thinking allowed homo sapiens to not only discuss things that weren’t even present locally or in the here and now but things that didn’t actually exist at all. They began to talk about hunts past and future, tools and tactics and what they could do to improve their fortunes in the future. Maybe they discussed what caused rain or lightning, why the seasons changed, why they should follow a specific leader or what made them ill. Included with this new thinking and speaking was the emergence of the ability to actually link minds, their very thoughts, together. The real leap forward that occurred in these hominids was based on a change in thinking but it was also multi-faceted. It enhanced their ability to work together, acquire knowledge, share thoughts with others and build on past experiences and push thinking into the future and even into non-existent imaginary places.
It’s difficult to explain how important this new thinking was. It completely upset the balance of nature that existed at that time. This change was so significant, that over the next fifty thousand years or so, homo sapiens spread across the planet and all the other hominid cousins disappeared completely along with unimaginably large numbers of the mega-mammals. While there remains controversy regarding what part homo sapiens had in the disappearance of their cousins (see end notes), there is no question that our singular line of hominids did start thinking differently and the world began to change. As these younger, smarter hominids moved out of Africa, through the Middle East and on, the world changed wherever they went. In Europe, they encountered their nearest cousin, the Neanderthals. Those hominid first cousins had lived in Europe for about three hundred and fifty thousand years and within ten thousand years of Homo Sapiens’ arrival in Europe, Neanderthals seemed to disappear. The same seemed to happen in other regions as well.
What was so special about this new way of thinking and speaking? First, context free thinking and speech could be about anything including abstract thoughts. It allowed them to describe in detail not just what they saw, but also what they were thinking and what they were planning on doing. Most important of all it allowed them to make up stories. These stories could be as much entertainment as fact. They could describe dreams, tell epic tales of adventure, assign unnatural causes to natural occurrences and organize social lives around rituals involving hierarchies and beliefs in an unseen reality thereby assigning additional properties to things that happened in life. In actuality, it was probably that invention of story telling that began to truly redefine the world and enhance the ability to not only see into but actually create a future world.
Over thousands of years we created the world’s first complex social structures, gave names to social position and individual skills and abilities. We invented mythological creatures and gods, assigned them with super-natural powers and attributed them with being the causes of natural phenomenon. We began to assign relative value to essential goods and assigned equivalent value to other objects like stones and shells to facilitate trading.
Within fifty thousand years, those homo sapiens made another huge leap forward and developed a way to express their thoughts in a permanent form using visual symbols and writing. No longer did information have to be passed along orally through a chain from one person to the next, but it could be recorded for transmission over great distance and through time to distant generations and stored just like the staples of life.
Along with the emergence of context free speech, language and the linking of minds, there was one more trait evolving that greatly facilitated our advancement as a species. Today we often make fun and refer with derision to this ability, refer to it negatively, calling it things like being gullible or naive. It remains ingrained in each of us and it too was a very significant building block that contributed to the advancement of the human race. Generally speaking we, as a species, are inclined to accept what others tell us as fact or the truth. As much as context free thinking and speech, this allowed us to more quickly share and widely spread our acquired knowledge with others. And, while we often make fun of our nature to trust other people, it is part of what makes us human and was another foundation of our developing greatness.
While we evolved slowly, by taking advantage of these traits, our species was able to advance in intellectual areas, inventing and exploring things like science, philosophy, mathematics, and myriad other fields by simply acquiring and spreading information (knowledge), discoveries and new ideas throughout large groups of people. For centuries it has actually been the foundation of formal teaching and what makes our current education system even possible. By this linking of our minds and accepting shared information as fact,, we quickly built on the experiences and knowledge of hundreds and thousands of other humans. Sir Isaac Newton described it best when he declared that he succeeded because he was “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
With incredible inventiveness and this ability to link minds, Homo Sapiens as a species began to bond into larger and larger groups. Again, it didn’t happen over night, but we went from hunter gatherers to farmers and herders to living in villages and eventually began to create real civilizations. It started in the natural enlargement of family groups into clans and tribes and resulted in a growing ability to actually change our local environments. By building structures, raising animals and growing crops, man greatly improved the stability of food availability while at the same time providing for an increasing localized population. Civilization wasn’t initially created as much as it simply grew along with human populations and knowledge. It grew as groups got larger, allowing for agricultural settlements that consistently produced surplus food which allowed some people to specialize in non-agricultural work. In turn it allowed for production of more goods, trade within the group and with outside groups, while allowing for ever growing populations and more sophisticated social structure.
This accounted for the first civilizations appearing in locations where the geography was favorable to large scale agriculture. In order to manage the resources and protect the community, government was another natural evolutionary step. Context free thinking allowed humans to create categories to describe tasks and assign social standing to individuals. No other primate could have conceived of or characterized other members of their species as king, commander, teacher, priest or even potter or miller. Cities and kingdoms emerged from this thinking with rulers, a ruling class, warriors and priests. They gained increasing control over larger areas of land, expanding resources and populations. As complexity increased, the ruling class assembled armies, developed writing and religion to maintain social order and consolidated power over ever larger geographic areas and people.
The use of writing now facilitated the recording of knowledge, codification of laws, methods of record-keeping, and the birth of literature, which led to and fostered the spread of shared cultural practices among growing populations.
Since before recorded history, humans have experienced a number of epic ages. They included the iron and bronze ages, the first agricultural revolution, the age of empires, the dark ages, an intellectual revolution, the age of exploration, the industrial revolution, the second agricultural revolution, world wide wars and the modern information age. Each age created its own turmoil and change. Coming out of the dark ages we witnessed a rise of religious philosophy which than led to the dawn of an age of ideologies. These new ideologies were based on the beliefs and writings of philosophers, economists, social scientists and psychologists and promised mankind a number of possible futures based on these new ideas and theories. They suggested new forms of belief, social structure, government and economic institutions, all promising to improve the lot of the human race itself. Many ideas were experimented with, some failed terribly while others found some level of success. The one thing they all had in common was the large numbers of ardent followers believing in a new future for the species and themselves and a willingness to adopt a new set of rules.
Most people consider the experience of reality to be the same for everyone and think this is so obvious that it doesn’t warrant much serious consideration. That is simply not the case at all and, to better understand how we and society evolved, we need to understand more about the true nature of reality and how we, as individuals, groups and as a species, experience it.
The way we experience reality and interact with the physical world around us is completely through our senses. Without our senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell, the world simply would not exist for us and the only experience we would actually have is an unnamed and undefinable sense of self. Reducing all experience to what we can absolutely be sure about, brings us to Descartes’s famous “I think, therefore I am” suggesting that all that we can truly believe exists for each of us is our sense of self. It is the senses and the interpretation of signals from them by our brain that creates our sense of a real world. To better picture what this is suggesting, you need to realize that our senses are limited in what they detect. For example, a dog’s sense of smell detects a whole world we have no understanding of. In the dark, bats and dolphins see with sound and numerous creatures navigate the world using the Earth’s gravitational fields which generally we are blind to. What we now believe about reality is that it actually is completely a mental construct built on sensory input, organized by our context free thinking, relying heavily on memories of past experience and the adoption of notions from having our minds linked with others who describe and share their sensory experiences.
Based on a number of examples it is also becoming clear that our personal reality can be, and often is, very different from the realities of other people. On hundreds of occasions we are confronted with the knowledge that what our senses are telling us cannot actually be true and often we struggle to deal with it. The tricks of illusionists are one of the more obvious cases but there are also hundreds of common sight and even sound illusions. Experiencing many illusions can leave us completely disoriented because our sense of reality is challenged. We now know that what we believe we are observing can change significantly based on our circumstances and our state of mind. One established study into our ability to judge height demonstrates that it is dependent on if it is simply an observation or if we believe we are going to climb or descend the specific height.
One researcher into consciousness, perception and reality came to the conclusion that reality is actually a shared illusion and that our interpretation of reality is actually biased toward survival in preference to true accuracy.
Another way of thinking about shifting reality involves feelings of anxiety. We all experience sessions of anxiety where we begin to worry about what could happen to us. It can involve a disagreement with someone or a fear that we aren’t properly prepared for a coming event. It actually changes the way our mind processes information, so that we experience the symptoms of fear when there is no actual danger around. This leads to negative thinking, overthinking, and the tendency for our minds to notice cues that match our worst expectations while ignoring most others (confirmation bias).
Because we live in a reality fashioned by context free thinking, our world is much more complex than the world of any other species. Unlike other species we are capable of rethinking and changing how we view the world at any time and in numerous ways. By learning new information or listening to another person’s views we can completely shift our perspective and understanding of the world and reality.
Over the course of human existence, we as a species have created an ever more complex world that is actually built upon a foundation made possible by our context free thinking and speech. It has facilitated the invention of abstract creations that were elaborated on by inventive story telling and it required a reliance on believing what others told us as being true. The world that we live in today is more a mental creation than a physical place. Sure there are trees, rivers, rocks, clouds and on and on but we also can believe in angels, traffic laws, the existence of corporations, currency value, electrons, courts, stars and planets, ghosts, diplomas, aliens, etc.
Understanding the foundational mental processes that make up our reality can be simplified into three basic categories:
The first is the process that provides us raw input through our senses. It is as near as we can come to observing true reality and it’s usually referred to as objective phenomenon. Broadly, it is observing a world that exists independently of human consciousness and beliefs and would remain even if humans weren’t even present.
The next is an internalized reality created by a combination of observation and comparison with our previous experiences then weighed against our accumulated knowledge. We call this subjective phenomenon and it is something that exists completely dependent on the consciousness of a specific individual and represents a singular, personal and isolated reality.
The last is actually the most dominant in our thinking and represents a broader reality constructed by blending our subjective understanding of the world with shared knowledge accepted as reality by various groups we consider ourselves members of. This is called inter-subjective phenomenon and is a group reality that exists because of communications between a community or group that has linked their minds together to form a shared, mutually recognized or agreed upon and usually localized reality.
Our human experiences of the world and by extension reality itself, are based on these three generally accepted processes. It has also been described as that shared illusion broadly accepted within a social structure. It often is not based on objective observation or even accepted, fact-based information. Once any notion or belief is broadly accepted by a group it becomes an inter-subjective phenomenon and generates a localized, group reality that is often the dominant reality over even objective observation and has the ability to be spread to more individuals and other groups by a number of means.
A simple example of inter-subjective phenomenon and our objective observation is the understanding of the Earth’s place in the universe. Our objective observation initially informs us that we are standing still on a fixed Earth while we watch the Sun move across the sky above us. The original, easy, subjective interpretation that aligns with the objective observation is to believe that the Sun travels around us on our fixed Earth. That thinking is so obvious that it was the predominant inter-subjective reality for thousands of years. In the fifteenth century scientists began to understand that the Earth was round, revolved on an axis and that it was actually traveling around our fixed Sun. The illusion that the Sun traveled around us was created by the Earth’s rotation. Over time this knowledge spread and was passed on and eventually became a new predominant inter-subjective reality. Today we still have no more personal, objective information than we had a thousand years ago but we have been taught things that alter our subjective beliefs. This is mostly because they became widely adopted into an accepted inter-subjective reality regarding the Earth and the Sun’s place in the universe. Today we almost universally incorporate that changed inter-subjective reality of the Sun’s relationship to the Earth into how we see and process even our objective observations.
In simpler terms, because of this linking of minds and us receiving widely believed knowledge regarding the Sun and Earth, we have incorporated this understanding of the movements of the Earth and Sun into our personal subjective reality. There is no way that we, as modern individuals, can observe the Sun crossing the sky and visualize it as traveling around the Earth even considering our unchanging objective observations.
Because our world is created more in our thoughts than in a physical sense, we need to take into account these processes and how they brought us to where we are today.
Our Reality and the Influence of the Group??
The Earth Sun example explains how our objective perception of the physical world becomes changed by group inter-subjective reality and is adopted into each persons individual subjective reality. This is the process that completely changes even our objective perceptions of the world. In accepting inter-subjective phenomenon and modifying individual subjective reality we are often integrating things that cannot be directly observed or measured by our senses into our broader sense of reality and general understanding. A great number of people accept a Heaven and God as a reality. We see this as an example of an inter-subjective, though non-material reality, but there are much more everyday mundane things that we accept in the same way. Civil authority and laws, economics, the existence of corporations, money and thousands of other non-material and representative items exist only as individuals subjective reality and are part of that wider inter-subjective phenomenon.
Take the case of modern currency. We think of currency to represent a number of complex things like a measure of individual wealth, the value of human labor, invested ownership as well as a transactional promise of future goods or services. The truth is, it has no actual objective reality, other than bits of paper and metal with little real value. In a larger sense currencies true value is based principally on the subjective faith that individuals put in it. There are dozens of historical cases of national economic collapse that occurred because of a loss of faith in currencies. One day currency had a high inter-subjective transactional value and suddenly a shift occurred in subjective and inter-subjective phenomenon that reduced the transactional currency value to a small fraction of its’ previous worth.
In the Earth Sun example it seems obvious that we are accepting a more accurate version of reality but that isn’t always the case with inter-subjective phenomenon. There are hundreds of examples large and small where groups fashion and accept inter-subjective realities that are way less fact related. They range from manifest destiny, eugenics, big foot, flying saucers and numerous health risks or cures later proven to be completely false.
A majority of human behavior today is based mostly on inter-subjective beliefs with some individual subjective integration and little if any objective observation being significant. Looking back at the roots of our development as a species, we understand that this willingness to believe what others tell us as fact has become an integral part of who we are and an overwhelming contributor to modern reality. Considering the abstract character of our modern world, those objective observations seem to play a surprisingly minor role in life today.
We see the influence that inter-subjective phenomenon has on an individual’s subjective reality but what forces contribute specifically to the groups inter-subjective reality? Those influences today are probably not much different from influences thousands of years ago. People look up to some individuals like natural leaders, those that seem knowledgable or educated, charismatic personalities and popular cultural figures and they are what contribute to, and often dominate, the foundation for most group beliefs. Not only are we humans prone to accepting a group’s reality but the group is inclined to accept the reality of natural leaders and seemingly well informed individuals.
To understand the process, think about the influence associated with broadcast news where a charismatic anchor makes a report claiming “experts studying… have concluded”. Our very nature inclines us to accept information as true but in an increasingly complex world, with multiple opposing streams of information, those sorts of presentations incline us to accept that specific information on the basis of who is presenting it and where the information is reported to have originated.
As influential as individuals and ideas may be, ideas still originate somewhere and exist in a broader environment where groups and ideas compete against other ideas and groups. Our individual subjective reality, as well as inter-subjective reality, can at times change quickly. Generally, to be successful, beliefs must provide some argument that resonates with numbers of individuals and their associated group held beliefs and they also have to be compatible with personal values generally long held by significant segments of a group or society.
The proceeding looks at the evolution of human understanding and interaction but there is also a darker side to the nature of inter-subjective phenomenon. It can be manipulated and artificially forced upon a group and, in some cases, even on a whole society. Artificially created and forced changes to group realities usually result out of fanatical movements, militaristic societies, radical philosophies and repressive despotic regimes. To force a change in a group’s inter-subjective reality and thus individual subjective beliefs requires very controlled environments and usually major resources. It employs methods characterized as forced mass reeducation, group and regional isolation, the elimination of outside information, outright brain-washing, coercion and even enslavement. It has been understood for a long time that radical new inter-subjective realities can actually be forced on individuals, groups and whole populations and the most successful tool is controlling access to information.
There are literally hundreds of major cases (see end notes) of these techniques being employed. One recent example is communist China’s system of managing information available to its’ people. It has become so effective that on the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, interviewers could not find a single person on the streets of Beijing that seemed to have any memory historically of what happened. They simply did not know that in early June of 1989 the Chinese government cracked down on the student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square seeking democratic reform. Hundreds were killed, thousands were arrested and thousands more of the students completely vanished, never to be seen again. Following that event, the government officially forbid any mention of it. This is an example of a reality that has been effectively erased from the minds of the whole of the Chinese people and demonstrates the effective manufacturing of new inter-subjective reality.
A New World
As the current information age matured a whole new landscape emerged. At its’ center is the internet, the worldwide web. It quickly grew into an incredibly efficient system for distributing information throughout societies and relatively the whole world. The web spread and quickly reached unimagined numbers of people. It was significantly different from anything that preceded it. Unlike long established systems for “publishing” information that required resources and substantial infrastructure, all it required was a personna computer and a connection to the internet and now simply a cell phone. It has quickly replaced the need for printed media in all forms, officially sanctioned sources, authoritative fact checking and traditional forums for weighing opposing views. The information that flowed around the internet had few censors and little control at all. People could access vast amounts of information on millions of subjects that also included radical causes and ideas, all in the comfort of the home.
With the introduction of search engines, Wikipedia, social media and low cost web page creation, access to ideas and information grew exponentially. The low cost and remarkable growth of the internet caused mainstream producers and suppliers of information to lose their market. Encyclopedias, newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and even educational outlets were finding it difficult to compete with the free flowing environment of the internet.
Search engines quickly became the new gateway to information and by early in the twenty first century they were the dominant resource for acquiring and expanding that one thing that made us humans what we are – knowledge. At the same time, without really understanding what was happening, search engines began to be the gatekeepers of inter-subjective and subjective reality.
Tyrants and dictators had to conquer territory, build walls and create armies of secret police to alter and control the inter-subjective reality of their subjects. While they had to isolate whole populations, burn libraries, and take over all media, the search engine corporations had the potential to accomplish the same thing and began to influence inter-subjective and subjective realities by simply providing their internet service. Combine internet searching with open source databases like Wikipedia and some social media providers and you can account for more than two-thirds of humanities regular access to general knowledge and current news.
Normally, the flow of information is part of what is characterized as the free market of ideas. The way search engines should work in that marketplace is to compete with other similar services to deliver the broadest, most useful results while being understood to be unbiased. Currently, there are almost a dozen major search engine companies to select from and over a dozen smaller competitors, but that doesn’t tell the real story.
The way a search works is someone looking for information on something like the economics of commercial logging enters a set of key words. The results returned can normally include numerous related articles about tree farms, strip logging, regions of logging operation, jobs created, environmental impact, major logging corporations including costs, profitability and sustainability.
Unfortunately, the results aren’t always unbiased. The first search engine was launched by Google but within a short period of time they were joined by Yahoo and others but, through a number of processes, Google remains so dominant that “googling” something has become a generic term. The second search engine by quantity of searches is Yahoo with less than 3% of total searches and it is usually estimated that Google’s share of searches worldwide is above 85%. There have been many articles written contrasting Google’s bias with results between search engines but they rarely gain much popular attention.
Because logging isn’t now so controversial, comparing results between Google and say Yahoo or Bing doesn’t produce much difference in results, but if you search something more controversial like global warming, the differences can be significant. Search political figures or topics and many times the differences are shocking. Google and its’ many defenders claim some amount of censorship is necessary to protect society and they claim a responsibility to try and stop the accessing of false, dangerous, or radical information. Google isn’t alone in deciding what information people should have access to. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and others are now making claims that they also need to protect people from dangerous, false, misleading and inappropriate ideas and even Wikipedia is subject to the introduction of bias as individuals act as self-appointed arbiters being capable of altering information.
While many consider this a reasonable argument to make, consider that America was founded on the principle of freedom of speech (in all its’ forms). Throughout our history, hundreds of cases have been considered that attempted to suppress that freedom. Examples include cases involving distributing pornography, revealing classified documents, displaying hateful symbols like swastikas and vulgar and offensive speech. In virtually ever case. the uncensored freedom of expression has prevailed. Throughout our history. hundreds of lawyers, judges, elected representatives and common citizens have debated and testified in hundreds of those cases.
Now our information is being filtered by a handful of corporate people who judge what things need to be censored? The American system of free speech is actually based on a belief that no individual or group can be trusted with that responsibility. We have institutionally preferred that we be subjected to offensive, radical, hateful, and misleading information than to trust anyone to decide what information fits those categories and represents a public danger.
Understanding What Has Happened
How does all this fit together? What is the connection between how we developed as a species, the processes that have made us what we are and what is currently happening to us? The answer is actually straight forward. Based on the stepping stones of our evolution and how we created our individual reality, we can draw conclusions about what has happened. Those stepping stones include:
- The advent of context free speech and thinking.
- Our linking of minds together to share thoughts.
- The tendency to trust what others tell us.
- Our creation of a world full of abstract creations.
- The existence of personal subjective reality.
- The acceptance and influence of a groups inter-subjective reality.
- The controlling of information to modify inter-subjective reality.
We are creatures that consume and utilize information to build our reality and change our world. We do this because of our relationships with others within our society, often based more on non-material creations with our willingness to believe others, especially other members of groups we belong to.
First we need to realize reality itself is a mental construct and by extension there can be numerous realities. By accepting membership in any group we become influenced by and usually adopt the groups inter-subjective reality, incorporating it as part of our own. Our objective observations and evaluations of supposed fact based concepts exercise only minor influence on our subjective reality in the context of inter-subjective phenomenon. Generally, individuals and groups often regularly employ confirmation bias to strengthen there beliefs and positions further strengthening their personal reality.
So the conclusion has to be that these multitudes of individual and group realities are not new nor unusual. The size of the groups and the strength of those realities could actually be new in our modern free society and there are several reasons for that change.
The first is a profound change in the core historical institution for the passing on of knowledge to new generations of humans. We identify the process as education and as an institution it has been allowed to reduce the importance of passing on accumulated factual information like math, science and even history in favor of teaching soft subjects and new philosophies about social issues and causes. This has lead to an enlargement of the importance of the non-fact based ideas.
Perhaps growing out of those major changes in education priorities is a change in what was a fact-based profession, media reporting. What was once a principal driven institution, the news has been mostly replaced by reporting by biased individuals sharing opinions. Even how or if fact-based information is reported has changed. America created protections for the news business to prevent the institutions of government from inordinately controlling public access to information. What wasn’t expected was the watchdog becoming a lapdog.
Add to those a new phenomenon that is partly the result of those internet companies deliberately taking on the role of information censors. On a number of fronts we are seriously restricting the public’s access to information that would allow them to reach informed conclusions. In the book 1984, George Orwell put forward that “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.” A number of governments and institutions have taken this notion to heart and seek to control reality by altering history itself.
• One theory is that Homo sapiens hunted Neanderthals down and deliberately killed them to eliminate food competition. Some scientists believe that their purpose in hunting Neanderthals was to eat them. The evidence for this was Neanderthal bones with butchery marks on them.
• There is another theory that Neanderthals died out due to disease. This theory claims that Homo sapiens in their advance into Europe from Africa carried with them viral diseases. Neanderthals’ immune systems, although well adapted to the germs in their own European environment, could not cope with these alien germs.
• One recent research project concludes that Homo sapiens had no part in Neanderthal extinction. The experts believe Homo sapiens did not eradicate Neanderthals because Neanderthals were already nearly extinct when Homo sapiens came out of Africa into Europe. Some experts believe that Neanderthals, perfectly adapted for the Ice Age, could not adapt to a warming climate, and the changes it brought to the landscape and animals.
• Recent modern, cheap genetic sequencing techniques and new strategies for reducing and detecting modern human DNA contamination have produced a breakthrough in understanding. It seems modern European Homo sapiens have Neanderthal genes proving that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens interbred, after the two species diverged from our common ancestor and came back together again in Europe.
• China’s first emperor completely altered the nation’s history by demanding the destruction of all Confucian philosophy. It changed Chinese morals for hundreds of years.
• Reportedly at the command of Julius Caesar the Library of Alexandria, one of the world’s first, was burned. Many believe it was the largest destruction of accumulated knowledge and culture related artifacts in history. It’s probable that many original discoveries and inventions were along with original works by Plato, Aristotle, and others.
• Sacked by Muslim invaders in 1197. India’s Nalanda University dates back to A.D. 427 and was the origin of many common advanced educational processes and standards. It contained the largest collection of important Buddhist and Hindu texts in the world and set the civilization back five centuries.
• The Chinese Quianlong Emperor 1735 to 1796 assembled a massive collection of bias Chinese history, art, and literature known as the Siku Quanshu. In order to insure its’ dominance in his society’s consciousness, hundreds of thousands of other written works were destroyed. Over 50 authors were executed after being labeled evil for criticizing ideas of the ruling class. Among the volumes purged were major Chinese encyclopedias and histories with information lost forever.
• Literally the entire knowledge base of Mayan civilization was destroyed by the Bishop of Yucatan Diego de Landa’s orders on July 12, 1561. An exact number of books isn’t known but was at least several thousand. The total religion, art, and traditions of a complete ancient society died in that one event.
• In support of Hitler and the Nazi party, on the night of May 10, 1933, German students from universities once regarded as among the finest in the world, gathered in Berlin to burn books containing “unGerman” ideas. Several hundred thousand books were destroyed that night with some being only copies. The purge extended all over Germany and destroyed an anti-Nazi sentiment.
• In the book 1984 George Orwell put forward that “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.” A number of despotic governments have taken this notion to heart and sought to control reality by altering history itself.
• History is littered with examples of these attempts to control or force a new inter-subjective reality on large groups. China has employed the process on a number of occasions in modern times. In August 1966, Mao Zedong called for the start of a Cultural Revolution at the meeting of the Communist Central Committee. He urged the creation of corps of “Red Guards” to punish party officials and any other persons who showed bourgeois tendencies. Between 1966 and 1976, the young people of China, following guidelines created by Mao, rose up in an effort to completely purge the nation of the “Four Olds”: old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas which were the very pillars of foundation of China’s historical inter-subjective reality. Additionally, Chinese Re-education through forced labor was a system of detention in Communist China active from 1957 to 2013, and it was used to detain persons who were accused of minor crimes, political dissidents, and religious believers. China’s system of managing information available to the people has become effective to the point that on the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square event, journalists could not find anyone on the streets of Beijing that had any memory historically of what happened. They simply did not know that on June 3rd and 4th 1989 the Chinese government cracked down on the student demonstrators seeking democratic reform in Tiananmen Square. A hundreds were killed, thousands were arrested and a significant number of students vanished, never to be seen again. This reality event has been effectively erased from the minds of the Chinese people.
• At least in the modern western world, we have come to believe in a number of notions about what people should have in the way of freedoms and rights and what tools should be employed in the process of making sure we have an informed and educated population. Most discussions concerning culture, society and political institutions universally reject those techniques designed to control access to information that could manipulate broad-based inter-subjective reality. The very foundation of western democratic government was built on the notion of an open and free marketplace of ideas regardless of how appealing or abhorrent. Censorship is the path that leads to authoritarianism.
• Confirmation bias. It explains that the stronger our subjective beliefs are, the harder they are to overcome. We have ingrained habits that continually work to reinforce those beliefs by looking for confirming information while we completely ignore contradicting information.