It seems a good time to remember an experience from more than twenty years ago in the neighborhood where we lived at that time. One of our neighbor couples always drove by at a certain time on Saturday I think it was. On a paricular Saturday I happened to be out front so I saw them drive by as usual. Later I saw the husband and mentioned to him that I had seen them drive by Saturday. "That's impossible," he replied, "you saw me drive by but not my wife because she was out of town for the weekend." But I knew I had seen her with her husband in the car, or thought surely I had. As I meditated on that discrepancy I realized that it had everything to do with expectation. Because I had seen them at that time so many Saturdays before I expected to see them again and my brain cooperated by eliciting from memory and providing the actual image of her sitting there. That experience taught me that our senses are not completely reliable, that we tend to see or hear what we expect to see or hear or even what we want to see or hear and those sometimes differ from what is actually there objectively to be seen or heard. This has serious implications for science and research since scientists and researchers are not beyond being influenced in their perceptions by what they expect or even hope or prefer to find. Socrates was so right when he said that the road to new knowledge in some area ought to begin with an admission of ignorance, rather than the concealment of it as our egos and pride would dictate. Plato, his student, spoke of "saving the phenomena" that is, holding onto data that doesn't seem to fit the paradigm, in order to broaden and improve the paradigm, but that requires a deeper degree of honesty and humility than a lot of us have.
Admittedly that stark an example of expectation framing perception doesn't come along to our attention everyday and that is essential to the maintenance of our sanity. Generally speaking our senses are reliable enough for us to function safely day by day, and I thank God for that!
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