Illusions of Knowledge and Inborn Information
The Boorstin quotation above is supported by the history of science and religion. Illusions of knowledge caused many
kinds of grief in the past, including human sacrifices to gods and medical treatments that did more harm than good.
A classic example of the illusion of knowledge is Ptolemy's Earth-centered mathematical model of the heavens. It persisted
for over 1500 years and was useful in its day, but it was an obstacle to accepting a far better alternative view of the
heavens that gave people an accurate understanding of the causes of night and day, the seasons of the year, and other
influences on their lives. How do illusions of knowledge get established? Like many others, Ptolemy's view had a
self-centered aspect. Many false perceptions are perpetuated because they meet people's inborn needs.
It is logical that people's minds contain information that helps them survive, reduce stress, and meet other physical
and emotional needs. Inborn information causes infants to behave in ways that lead to nourishment and other results they
want and need. We contain inborn information that causes us to cough, sneeze, blink, or behave in other ways that help
overcome dangers. People's fears of strange things help them avoid potential dangers. Also, people's inborn drives lead
to thinking and behaviors that result in reproduction and nurturing of offspring, and sometimes to trouble. We also
observe people driven to obtain symbols of success to show their equality or superiority to others. And the list goes on
as to what inborn drives motivate people to think and behave as they do. Unless a person understands the reasons people
are driven by inborn information and environmental influences to think and act in certain ways, the person is destined
to live like a preprogrammed robot responding to environmental stimuli. The subject of why people think and behave as
they do is obviously very complex. What is crucial to realize is that we can all observe that a person's perception of
reality depends to a large extent on the person's needs and the hierarchy (prioritization) of the needs. If a person's
need for the acceptance/praise of a parent, teacher, or peers is high priority, then the person is more inclined to share
the views of the parent, teacher, or peers.
To improve one's perception of reality a person must try to determine how their perceptions are biased by inborn tendencies or
environmental influences. Good clues to which perceptions are false or unrealistic are found where perceptions disagree with
observations, logic, or reliable evidence. Surely we all have room for improving our perceptions of reality. But there
are strong influences keeping us from changing.
Today, many popular alternative views are probably illusions of knowledge because they are inconsistent with evidence or logic,
and are less plausible than other alternative views. People can improve the quality, control, and satisfaction of their lives
if they can recognize where their key perceptions can become more realistic so that life makes more sense.
When people understand the causes of human behavior and events in their environments, life becomes more controllable and less
disappointing. Having a good approximation of Perceivable Reality helps make the best of our brief existence on Earth.