TED Conversations

Linda Hesthag  Ellwein

Communications, Change, and Photography, Oikonomia, Inc.

TEDCRED 50+

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Have you believed something - or the idea of something - and discovered you were mistaken, or wrong? What's your story & what did you learn?

Our world view often conjures up ideas or beliefs that seem to 'fit' within it. We often cluster beliefs with ideas or behaviors that 'sound' right to us. Every now and then, the ideas we hold are simply wrong, or at least need to be questioned. I'd like to hear examples of paradigm shifts that changed your world view or point of view. When have you been mistaken?

These experiences, or paradigm shifts, often surface through cultural beliefs, politics, in beliefs relating to sustainability and environmental preservation, or human behavior/relationships - but are certainly not limited to these. What have you assumed to be true or right, and suddenly found yourself doubting your certainty?

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    Aug 9 2011: As a child I had the desire to know the answers on all questions about my existence and everything else. As I dismissed my faith as a catholic at the age of ten I was convinced that science had all answers and as a real rationalist I knew for sure that every mystery would be solved whenever enough data was discovered. Facts was all that matters and feelings were childish remnants.
    In my twenties I started to read a few books of Carl G. Jung and he could make it clear to my ratio that all we know is that what we make out of what our senses tell us. And further that what our senses are capable of perceiving is almost nothing and determind by our evolutionary needs for food, mating and safety.
    So what we are aware of is the product of our personality; being the result of evolutionary development over billions of years. It is what makes us human but has nothing to do with reality at all as we feel ourselves to be real. And yes that if we want to taste a bit of that reality we have to feel and feel better as we close our senses and look inward.
    This realization started a whole new way of investigation with the knowledge that science can reveal how things work but will never know why things are this or that way or exist in the first place; and also that rationality is but a tool.
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      Aug 9 2011: That's quite a shift, Frans! Yes, the endless complexity in life certainly makes me think we cannot know much at all...even with our best efforts, and best science. We only know what we know, and what can be understood using our rational mind. This does leave so much to wonder about. I love that idea! I wish there was much more study in developing the senses, or at least in recognizing more of them.
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        Aug 10 2011: I feel as if humans have this need to have a 110% belief in something, it used to be religion and tomorrow it will be science....then what? In 500 years will we discover oh wait science is not the answer to everything, there is a world of metaphysics which is much more attractive. Maybe this is a human need, to have something bigger to firmly believe in, something dominant. Why not have a balance? What we know and what we don't know are both a fundamental part of our reality. They are as real as any matter...then why must we denounce what we don't know and fail to understand?
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          Aug 17 2011: About humans I don't know but I do know that those that believe don't know and that those who want to know explore science. Those that do know have no words to explain something that has no shape, substance nor measure and is no thing at all. Reality is just a mirage of that what is.
        • Aug 21 2011: Being self aware drives us to create a model of how things work. Now the TED audience is a small group of "smart" surrounded by a huge ocean of "stupid", so these models have to be farily simple.
          It used to be that smart and powerful people presented religion to the masses as the explaination for why things happened the way they happened. That control still persists today and it putting up a damn good fight for its life.

          Science is another way of looking at things, but it is less deterministic and harder to understand and has lots of philosophical sink holes like MDR (just for example).

          It all stems from our need to see order and determinism in the world around us, even if its not there.

          I walked out of church when I was 8 (as I recall) because I couldn't believe what they wanted me to swallow. Science became the tool to understand the world, which I like the best because it always assumed it was wrong and needed to be better explained. That to me always seemed closer to reality than any other "world view" I have come across.
      • Aug 18 2011: I was told that if I wanted to make God laugh, I should tell him my plans
      • Aug 21 2011: Aldous Huxley's essay on comparative religion, The Perennial Philosophy, was the turning point for me. The brain (at least, the part adapted to dealing with, the worldly, more superficial sphere of knowledge), as a reducing valve for survival in time, makes sense to me.

        His later experiences under the effects of the halucinogen, mescalin, recorded in Heaven and Helll The Doors of Perception, if not quite as beautiful, is at least as fascinating. Here is a YouTube gem:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5d4wWGK4Ig&feature=player_embedded
        • Aug 23 2011: Carl Sagan's message was the turning point for me. Actually "turning point" are not the right words. I was gracefully arching away until Sagan pushed me into an 90 degree heist.
    • Aug 15 2011: Frans, don't give up too easily: we are products of evolution , as you say , but we are perfectlly natural, and belong here. IIn fact, it is a remarkable act of creativity to insist that we are alone and helpless in the universe. And science does not just deal in facts, but is also very creative in making sense of them, not always successfully, but according to rules that make sense. And we 've had many demonstrations that these "theories" have merit. Ultimately, it is true, we have to take some axionatic terms on "faith", thiat is , undefined, but as long as they are well chosen, that's not a point against them.. The Greek atom idea was a masterpiece, and very creative; so later it became obviously inadequate, but that improved our theory,, right? And wasn't it Jung who developed the idea of Collective Unconscious? A very promising idea that is just now getting into .biology. It may turn out that "God" is a consciousness Field, and we are part of it.
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        Aug 16 2011: Yes, Shawn, that's how I think of it now...I like the idea that there's truth in the spiritual - things we just can't see yet. Of course, I could be wrong. However, the need or desire for people to believe in something greater may be an intuitive knowing of some kind - one we have no answers for in science, at least not yet. Giving up because we lack knowledge is not reason enough for me to give up on the concept. Dogma, control and top-down, manmade bureaucracies that call themselves religion are another matter. There is so much we don't know yet...I like the idea of continuing to enjoy the mystery.

        It's when human nature wants to define what it looks like and control it that we get in trouble. We could be right, and we might be wrong...in both cases. :)
    • Aug 18 2011: Carved on the wooden lintel at the entry door to Jung's house.."Whethever or not called, God will be present"
    • Aug 22 2011: I dismissed my faith in Catholicism when I was very young and always had a thirst for the answers to the big questions and although I am an artistic creative type with a right brain I have always had a measure of rationality in my inquisitiveness embracing the scientific left brain approach where possible in my search for meaning and answers to those big questions . What I have discovered is that I was wrong about a lot of things and still know very little, if anything, even though I often get told that I am right . After many years of research and experimentation especially with the use of entheogens guided and inspired by luminaries like Terrence Mckenna and ancient indigenous cultures of the amazon and Eastern tradtions eg Vedanta,Tao, Zen, I have managed to lift the veil on inner world that is literally 'astounding' and finally made the connection with the line in the Bible that states 'the kingdom of God is within you and every living being ' . I always thought that line was symbolic or metaphoric..boy was I wrong! Its literal more literal than one can possibly imagine especially after a healthy dose of DMT.
      So my 5 minute skirt with atheism ,determinism and/or the reductionist materialist philosophic mind set died a very short and quick death to say the least . Science serves its purpose in the natural world but in my opinion it is fatally flawed .That flaw lies in the very fact it relies solely on objective observation. for it to progress and evolve as a tool of learning for mankind it must start embracing the subjective .Or rather an empirical model be developed by current scientific paradigms which factors in subjective research data and cutting edge research in the fields of quantum physics and the theory that the brain is a receiver of consciousness not a transmitter . Professor Amit Goswami presents a very strong case in his documentary 'the quantum activist' which I highly recommend to all those science and reason dogmatists
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        Aug 23 2011: There is no division between the seer, the seen and the seeing. To be objective you have to set yourself outside the world. This nothingness then is what most people think themselves to be, call them selves and is called ego. The ego acts only upon the imagery it has created out of the stimuli from the senses. All that imagery that's been built up during human evolution to have a remembrance about events and appearances and therewith gained the capability to think. In thinking men could act independently of nature on its environment to meet its needs and in doing so stepped out of the animal kingdom. By identification with their thinking humans know themselves to be objective which is an illusion. There's no object nor subject, it is all one being.
        This asks another kind of science to grasp and you've done it your way but there are many more ways.

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