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Ideological Superposition


1. Philosophical Foundations

Western thinking is inherently binary because that was the contract we made with logic, way back in the Hellenistic day. Logic is an incredibly useful tool but its foundation insist that something can be, or can not be, but can't be both. [The principle of consistency]

This is because this is how we believed the world to be.

[Contrarily, many Eastern modes of thought tend towards the idea that everything is connected and ultimately the same, and that any distinctions we perceive are illusary. Maya, Samsara etc.

This sense of everything being connected is also reported by users experimenting with Psylocibin, such as at the Beckley Imperial Psychedelic research program at Hammersmith Hospital in London, where it is being examined for its ability to help people with PTSD and depression for the first time in 50 years, primarily through a long term change of outlook that it seems to engender.] 

2. Media Observation

Modern discourse, vibrant as it is because the voices of the many can now be heard, seems, if anything, more polarized than ever before. This is reflected in the call and response, claim and attack nature of certain topics across social media, and in the increased polarization of people and politics


3. Weird Science

At a quantum level, the seemingly binary there-or-not-there aspect of reality gives way to a much blurrier version, as it operates at very small and fast levels. Things can be, and very much are, in several places at once. 

The interference effect is an observable phenomenon that occurs when two waves interact with each other.

In essence, when waves of any kind pass through a narrow aperture, they spread out. Put two holes next to eaxh other and the two waves overlap - there are peaks and places where the waves cancel each other out. This is one of the ways we know that photons act like particles or waves, depending on context [the wave-particle duality]. 

Physicists in Austria created an experiment like this using only one photon. With a single photon being fired at the two slits, no interference can occur, because there is only one of them.

Except that's not what happens.

If you look to see which slit the photon goes through, the experiment does indeed work this way - there is no interference.

BUT if you don't look to see which hole it goes through, the interference returns.

The ONLY explanation for this is that SINGLE photon goes through both holes at once, and interferes with itself. 

[As it were.] 

So, reality is quite happy to take both sides, as long as no one forces it to choose. 

4. Weird Science Analogy

Maybe being forced to expose which slit you go through, what your political position is, AND presenting the options as two distinct choices, rather than what they really are, which is a complex spectrum of inter-related ideas, is forcing ideas, and people, into increasingly polarized positions.

Rather than the ideological superpositions that people are usually in.

Indeed, F Scott Fitzgerald suggested that ideological superposition is the mark of intelligence: 

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

Conversely, being absolutely certain you are right is fundamentally naive and, ultimately, the opposite of the scientific point of view, that, in theory at least, holds no view so tightly that new information cannot change it. 

5. Righteous Minds 

In his excellent book The Righteous Mind - Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics, Jonathan Haidt suggests that morals are evolved modules that overrule reason - indeed that is their function - and that different cultures have fundamentally different moral matrices. 

Liberal, academic thinking tends towards a simple morality of do no harm. Conservative morality, and the moral matrices of most of the world, have other equally important aspects, around inter-dependence and the primacy of society and family over the individual, which is hallowed in liberal thinking. 

He suggests that the best way to achieve consensus - to move things forward from the political gridlock we are experiencing - is to start by accepting that the opposing political viewpoint has intrinsic merit. People who hold the opposing views are not stupid, but rather basing decisions on a different moral framework, and morals don't use rationally derived axioms to make judgements. 

Righteous mind
[He also makes an interesting point that most psychology experiments are done on WEIRD people - (Western, educated, industrial, rich, democratic) at universities - which possibly skews the results.]

6. Summary Quotation

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman, Leave of Grass