Everything you know is wrong (Ivor Tymchak)


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An exploration of the fallibility of human consciousness and knowledge.

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  • When medical students start their course, the lecturer often tells them that in ten years time, 50% of what they learn on the course will be wrong. I can do better. In five minutes time, everything you have learnt in your life so far, is wrong.
  • Let’s start with the dawn of consciousness. We probably observed the setting sun night after night, and thought,that there must be thousands of suns lying just over the horizon. But then, we realised there must be only one sun…
  • And that it travelled around the earth which was at the centre of everything. It must be the centre because, obviously we don’t move. Everything else in the sky does. And by the way, it’s a myth that anyone thought that the earth was flat. No-one was THAT stupid.
  • So then came Copernicus who, through careful observations, revealed that the earth revolves around the sun. This meant a current theory had to be amended which is how science is supposed to work. But there was one slight problem.
  • In his time, knowledge spread very slowly. It was mostly spread through books which were hand made. Also, as the books were copied from other books, any errors were copied as well. The invention of printing only speeded up this process - errors and all.
  • For example, When the first tests on food were done, and the iron content of spinach was discovered, the typesetters put the decimal point in the wrong place. By the time the error was spotted, the information had escaped into modern folklore.
  • History is like spinach - people have a false idea about it. If a ruler won a battle because they were less stupid than their opponent or had dumb luck, they would tell the story in such a way that they made themselves appear wiser and stronger, than their opponent.
  • This idea was so good and so effective, that ALL leaders decided to use it. Propaganda though, is not interested in expanding knowledge, only in controlling information and influencing the people who get that information.
  • There is so much information availlable today, that some of it must be false. Competing versions of the same story make us realise that ‘facts’ are impossible to verify - a fact that seems to have escaped the attention of some news outlets.
  • Take the simple fact of your age. As your cells are replaced in their entirity every 7 years, can you never be more than 7 years old? But if our cells are made up of molecules that are 14 billion years old, does that mean we are as old as the stars?
  • Basic laws of physics break down at the quantum level. Solid matter is more space than solid by a factor of hundreds. Merely observing an event changes it. How can science be objective in such a world?
  • It also appears that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. With our current knowledge of reality this means that 90% of the universe is missing. We call it dark matter but we might as well call it ‘No freaking idea.’
  • I bring you back to Copernicus because I don’t know if he ever existed. I’m told he did by books and teachers but as we have seen, they can be wrong. In fact all the information I have given you in this presentation is derived from these sources. So is it accurate? It is simply another belief system that is open to interpretation and fallacy.
  • Well, surely we can trust our own experiences? Look at squares marked A and B. Our brains tell us that one is darker than the other. But our brains make things up. Our eyesight, for example, has a blind spot which we don’t see it because our brains fill in the missing information.
  • In reality, the two squares are exactly the same colour. It is the way our brains see patterns that fool us.. Even as we see the evidence which proves the truth of this, our eyes attempt to adjust for the illusion.
  • So what are we left with? Ideas and philosophy? Probably. But this assumes that our brains are in charge. What if our bodies are in charge and the brain merely acts on the bodies decisions?
  • Ask any woman why she needs to buy a pair of impractical shoes and her brain will make up many reasons, some of which might even make sense. In reality, her body is making the decision and then informing her brain to figure out how best to achieve the decision.
  • This means we have no Free Will. For some of you, this woman will be rotating in a clockwise direction, for others, in an anticlockwise one. Is that ‘you’ deciding, or is it just the materialistic way your neurons are put together producing a pre determined result?
  • If we know anything, it is this; the more we discover about the world, the less we know how it works. If we extrapolate from this, we realise that eventually, we will know for sure that we understand absolutely nothing.
  • Paradoxically, the less certain you are about what you know, the more intelligent you are, so anyone who claims that everything they know is wrong, is a genius, and the more certain someone is of anything, the more ignorant they are of its true nature.
  • Everything you know is wrong (Ivor Tymchak)