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Disorders of Consciousness


James Adrian

      In the event that humanity continues to exist for even a few more centuries, it seems unlikely that it will carry along with it all of the characteristics of present-day consciousness - at least in the proportions that exist today. I say this simply because, so many of these features are antithetical to wellbeing, happiness, and all that we consider constructive.

      Perhaps we can survive the fraction of people who hear voices in their heads or have a neurosis of one kind or an other; but the all-too-common personality disorders (such as Dependent Personality Disorder), and even socially accepted disorders of consciousness are much more threatening because these problems are so very widespread, and so very consequential. It is the socially accepted disorders of consciousness that concern me the most.

      Presenting little-known facts is hazardous in cases where the listener cannot bring himself or herself to conduct a fair discussion. It is not uncommon to witness someone indignantly scoff at your premise in order to keep from hearing the evidence, or at least discovering why you believe what you are saying.

      There are many other destructive habits of mind. In one case, a person insisted that I said eight sentences that I did not say. This happened because that person interrupted each of those sentences and remembered internally completing each of them on the basis of what that person assumed I was getting at. In another case, a man blatantly said that if there were absolute proof of my premise, he would instantly forget the proof because "It can't be true." (It was about the methods and accomplishments of normal people who dramatically improved their ability to remember information new to them.) Another person, seeing that I was reading a book, said "I would never read anything like that." When I asked how this judgement could be made without looking at the book, the answer was "Nine out of ten books are nonsense."

      Many people have strongly held beliefs acquired by mere repetition without evidence.

      It is common to find a person relying on authority, or whatever most people believe, rather than proof. Such a person rarely says "I don't know" when they really don't know.

      At least three people independently told me that "What one man can encrypt, another man can decrypt." These exact words were used in all three cases. Often people claim that they do not have the time to look into their strongly held beliefs. They watch T.V. for four hours each night, but they don't have time to Google perfect encryption - even if you suggest it on many occasions, (so committed they are to their widely supported but unproved belief).

      Why should you care?

      These people vote. To some of them, logical fallacies mean nothing except on school tests. As voters, they determine your laws, set your taxes, and sanction your wars. One of them may marry your daughter. They bring up their kids to hate some group for reasons they think are sound. Their sense of justice is polluted with revenge. Many, many people have said that safe and effective non-lethal weapons should not be used to arrest criminals because "These people deserve to die."

      Then there is the power motive. Rarely, but often enough, a kid giggles with joy when playing Simon Says or gets a similar kick for some other reason and becomes hooked on the pleasure of controlling other people. Far from caring about the wellbeing and happiness of people in general, power becomes the greatest concern. His or her influence is limited only by how well this antisocial motive can be hidden.

      These and many other disorders of conscious thought are accepted as legitimate personal choices honored by the culture. So many people are affected by these ways of thinking that political speeches are very often appeals to resentments rather than to facts and valid inferences.

      It is the acquiescence of otherwise sensible people that expedites our demise.

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