Author Topic: Reality vs Perception  (Read 406 times)

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Online PowerSlave

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Reality vs Perception
« on: August 19, 2017, 06:52:31 PM »
I follow Neil deGrasse Tyson on social media (facebook), and I came across this post today. I'll have to copy and paste it in my message here, because I'm challenged when it comes to these new fangled computer things...

After reading the post, I realized that I think a lot of people are guilty of doing exactly what Moby did. I can say with absolute certainty that I'm one of those people, and I try to remind myself that I have this short-coming, but there are times that I fail. However, I also believe that there are times when you can easily (and truthfully) infer something more from a person's words than what is on paper, in black and white. It's a difficult line to walk if you want to be fair, and have civilized discourse with people that don't share your same ideas/beliefs.

The original post:

Moby vs Tyson
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON·FRIDAY, AUGUST 18, 2017
After my Tweet of August 7, 2017, in which I described Cows as “biological machines” many people reacted negatively to the concept.  Preeminent among them was popular musician Moby, with a scathing Instagram reaction reproduced above, and followed by a fascinatingly diverse comment thread, to which I offer the following reflections...

Many people with high social media following are pundits trying to get you to change your ways, or simply to get you to agree with their opinions. For me, as an educator and as a scientist — in a free country — I actually don’t care what your opinions are.  Instead, I care that you know objective truths, especially the kind that carry fresh or uncommon perspectives, empowering you to make informed decisions in your life and in your politics. Compare the contents of my Twitter stream to that of any pundit, and this contrast will be immediately apparent.  I also greatly value humor, which carries its own risk for how a Tweet lands from one person to the next.
My cow Tweet was intended to expose a blunt reality: A cow is not a mechanical machine.  It’s a biological machine.  A biological machine with one purpose (actually, of course, two purposes if you include it as a source of milk), and that is to eat grass (or, of course other food stocks), grow big, and be slaughtered for food. They are generally not kept as pets. They don’t rescue people in trouble.  They do not assist the handicapped.  And what’s remarkable here is that cows don’t exist in the wild. They have never existed in the wild.  Farmers genetically engineered them ten thousand years ago from now-extinct ox-like Aurochs in the service of civilization.  So the Tweet is 100% truthful and accurate. The intensity of reactions to it tells me that people presumed I was trying to get them to agree with some opinion I carry. But the Tweet is fundamentally opinion-neutral.  (The last time I can remember posting an opinionated tweet was a couple of years ago:  “In @starwars #TheForceAwakens, BB-8 is waaaaay cuter than R2D2”, written of course just to stimulate argument.)  Curious that only a few people took the opposite reaction to the cow Tweet, of how diabolical we are to do this with animals, and that it should stop.
I noticed something similar when I posted this opinion-neutral tweet after one of the horrific school shootings some years ago:  “At WalMart, the nation’s largest gun seller, you can buy an assault rifle, but company policy bans pop music with curse words”.  The reaction that followed was highly illuminating to me.  Again, presuming me to be an opinion-forcing pundit, people angrily interpreted it their own way, passing judgment on my intent.  The reactions divided evenly on whether they thought I was defending (or attacking) free market, the first amendment’s free speech, or the second amendment’s protection of gun ownership.  A smaller percentage of people, perhaps 20%, saw it as written, with reactions such as, “Thanks. I never thought about that inconsistency!”
If anybody cares about my opinion, I note here that in a countries founded on freedom, and where there is resistance to government control of its citizenry, such as the USA, it may be easier to engineer solutions to problems than to get a hundred million people to change their behavior.  In a YouTube clip that was offered in Moby’s comment thread, at the end of a 2-hr lecture on astrophysics in Austin Texas, I was asked about the devastating effects of agriculture on the environment and the net effects of its huge carbon footprint on climate change. I suggested that an engineering solution may one day come from industrial scrubbers that control CO2 levels in the atmosphere to our own needs, rendering anyone’s carbon footprint irrelevant to climate change. Another engineering solution, for which there has been great progress, is the laboratory manufacture of meat proteins, where a person can enjoy a steak that never came from any living creature.  A topic explored in this highly popular episode of StarTalk, featuring the one-and-only Temple Grandin and Paul Shapiro, VP of the Humane Society. 
So, I don’t quite know what to say to people who react explosively in the face of objective truths, attacking the person who delivers the information.  But what’s clear is that we now live in a world where differences of opinion lead to fights rather than conversations.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, New York City
Twitter:  @neiltyson
Instagram: @neildegrassetyson    ...soon to be active.
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Offline Cable

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2017, 09:04:41 PM »
Not sure fully about the reality vs. perception title? Dr. Tyson made a statement, and Moby overreacted. Moby I'm sure felt factual in his beliefs. Which is not surprising considering he is a vegan. I haven't heard about cow's being engineered, and put's a different view on it. I am slowly trying to be vegetarian, but I don't go nuts about others with eating meat. Nor should Moby.
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Online PowerSlave

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2017, 09:29:35 PM »
Not sure fully about the reality vs. perception title? Dr. Tyson made a statement, and Moby overreacted. Moby I'm sure felt factual in his beliefs. Which is not surprising considering he is a vegan. I haven't heard about cow's being engineered, and put's a different view on it. I am slowly trying to be vegetarian, but I don't go nuts about others with eating meat. Nor should Moby.

The reason that I chose the title of the thread is because the reality/truth/intent of Neil's statement is much different than the way many people perceived it. (Perception) Moby thought that he was promoting eating meat. (Reality) Neil was simply making a statement about how/why cattle came into being.

However, I might be using the wrong words to describe it. I'm definitely open to suggestion.

The reason that I found this whole thing so interesting is because there is a lot of back and forth between people while discussing politics and religion that is misunderstood.
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Offline jammindude

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2017, 09:42:22 PM »
Not related to the tweet, but definitely related to the topic. 

Living with a bipolar person has really opened my eyes to the frustration of dealing with someone who reacts purely on an emotional impulse based on what they *thought* you meant.   And it can just get flat *scary* sometimes.

Example:  (and this is not based on a real conversation, but I'm making something up that is very typical of my experience)

What I said:  "That particular color doesn't flatter you as much as the other color did."

What she heard:  You're ugly

And I'm not even exaggerating.  If you were to ask her to recall...word for word...what I had said, she would have said, "He said I was ugly!"   Her brain took her interpretation of what she thought I meant and literally turned it into what I actually said when I didn't.   

What's even weirder is that I'm seeing more of that from people in general, whereas I had never seen anything like that growing up. 
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Online PowerSlave

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2017, 11:16:42 PM »
Not related to the tweet, but definitely related to the topic. 

Living with a bipolar person has really opened my eyes to the frustration of dealing with someone who reacts purely on an emotional impulse based on what they *thought* you meant.   And it can just get flat *scary* sometimes.

Example:  (and this is not based on a real conversation, but I'm making something up that is very typical of my experience)

What I said:  "That particular color doesn't flatter you as much as the other color did."

What she heard:  You're ugly

And I'm not even exaggerating.  If you were to ask her to recall...word for word...what I had said, she would have said, "He said I was ugly!"   Her brain took her interpretation of what she thought I meant and literally turned it into what I actually said when I didn't.   

What's even weirder is that I'm seeing more of that from people in general, whereas I had never seen anything like that growing up.

I can't say for sure, but I think that might be a good example of something that many people with mental health disorders experience. I'm not bi-polar, but I've been diagnosed with PTSD and mood disorder, and it's something that I also struggle with. If your SO is anything like me then she's aware of it on an intellectual level, but there are times when that clarity of thought flies out the window. Trust me when I say that it's probably as frustrating for us as it is for everyone around us. We tend to believe the worst about ourselves at times, and will take any opportunity to confirm that belief. That ends up making all of our relationships extremely difficult at times.

I have a theory about the high amount of depressed people in our society, but I'm not sure if I can articulate my thoughts about it very well. In my case, I've been exposed to (and been the victim of) extremely deadly violence on several occasions beginning when I was a very young child. But I don't think that's the case with most people. I think that the cause of a great deal of it is the pace at which we live modern life. I've been alive for a little over 44 years now, and the amount of sensory input that we humans receive alone has shot through the roof in that time. The news used to be a half-hour program that our parents would watch before The Tonight Show came on. Now it's a 24/7 cycle that we can tune into at any time of the day to get our daily dose of shitty information. We in the USA have been in some kind of conflict almost constantly since the 1940's, and we're always looking around for a reason to be pissed off at somebody around the globe.

I also believe that is causing people to put up barriers between themselves and not be able to listen to conflicting points of view. A great many of us are reaching the point of overload, so you're seeing this increase in depression and the amount of people that are popping pills to make it through the day.
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Offline jingle.boy

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2017, 07:17:16 AM »
Living with a bipolar person has really opened my eyes to the frustration of dealing with someone who reacts purely on an emotional impulse based on what they *thought* you meant.   And it can just get flat *scary* sometimes.

I hear ya.  Many different different mental illnesses result in the brain just firing the wrong signals in interpreting a variety of different inputs.  I've been where you're at dude... over and over again.  I call it "listening to emotions" vs "listening to words".  When it's difficult enough to interpret things properly through live discussion - words, tone, inflection, facial features, body language etc..., it's no wonder that digital communication - text on screen - can go off the rails so quickly and easily.
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Offline Cable

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2017, 07:52:20 PM »
Living with a bipolar person has really opened my eyes to the frustration of dealing with someone who reacts purely on an emotional impulse based on what they *thought* you meant.   And it can just get flat *scary* sometimes.

I hear ya.  Many different different mental illnesses result in the brain just firing the wrong signals in interpreting a variety of different inputs.  I've been where you're at dude... over and over again.  I call it "listening to emotions" vs "listening to words".  When it's difficult enough to interpret things properly through live discussion - words, tone, inflection, facial features, body language etc..., it's no wonder that digital communication - text on screen - can go off the rails so quickly and easily.


You guys both have it spot on, and MH is a real good example for perception vs reality. Shoot, perception research is a psychology mainstay. Schizophrenia spectrum is a classic example too. People that are literally out of touch with reality, with hallucinations that are auditory as somewhat common in that diagnosis.

And Jingle, the communication thing is something I use often to call bullcrap- I often have to assess and turn people away. If they are saying they are feeling ______, I look at their gestures and tone to ascertain the "truth." The inability to do this in text is indeed a decent issue.
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Online PowerSlave

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2017, 08:50:51 PM »
I often have to assess and turn people away. If they are saying they are feeling ______, I look at their gestures and tone to ascertain the "truth." The inability to do this in text is indeed a decent issue.

I'm not completely certain of what you're saying, but if I have it right then I'd say that that is a dangerous thing to do. I can (and often do) fool people to a certain extent. I can be smiling and having a normal conversation, but I'm ready to fly apart at the seems. Of course, I can't always maintain a calm exterior, but physical manifestation of symptoms is not always a reliable indication of a person's mental state.
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Offline Chino

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2017, 05:47:08 AM »
I'm a big fan of Neil, and I get what he was saying in that post. However, the dude can be a dick and totally trolls on a regular basis. He hides behind "well I'm just stating a fact", which is true, but I'm 100% convinced he does it to get a reaction out of people.

For example;


Completely accurate and 100% true, but the wording, in my opinion, is a jab a people who celebrate Dec 25 for religious reasons.

Offline Cable

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2017, 06:59:58 AM »
I often have to assess and turn people away. If they are saying they are feeling ______, I look at their gestures and tone to ascertain the "truth." The inability to do this in text is indeed a decent issue.

I'm not completely certain of what you're saying, but if I have it right then I'd say that that is a dangerous thing to do. I can (and often do) fool people to a certain extent. I can be smiling and having a normal conversation, but I'm ready to fly apart at the seems. Of course, I can't always maintain a calm exterior, but physical manifestation of symptoms is not always a reliable indication of a person's mental state.


People fake (malinger) psychological symptoms for secondary gain (medication) in my setting, among for other reasons. And yes, this isn't always reliable, and can be dangerous in different settings. I understand what you mean PowerSlave. My gig has a specific context from what I speak of though, and there is hardly much at stake for the individual's MH safety in my setting for a lot of reasons. I have various tools of collateral information, and a test I give to back up my view of contradictions if needed.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2017, 07:13:40 AM by Cable »
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Offline Cable

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2017, 07:01:04 AM »
I'm a big fan of Neil, and I get what he was saying in that post. However, the dude can be a dick and totally trolls on a regular basis. He hides behind "well I'm just stating a fact", which is true, but I'm 100% convinced he does it to get a reaction out of people.

For example;


Completely accurate and 100% true, but the wording, in my opinion, is a jab a people who celebrate Dec 25 for religious reasons.


I never knew Chino he was a troll at times, which is unfortunate because I feel he is the most well known, accessible hard scientist.
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Offline Stadler

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2017, 10:01:31 AM »
I have my problems with Neal deGrasse Tyson. I get the overall intent - to bring science to the masses - but in my opinion, he feigns innocence far too much to be credible.  For a guy that writes so eloquently about the intersection of science and social media, he cannot be oblivious to the notion that "facts" aren't absolutes.  Their truthfulness isn't subject to context, but their relevance, and interpretation, are.   

"The water is 215 degrees Farenheit".  FACT.  What does that mean?  With respect to global warming, we're fucked.  With respect to a baby's bath, he's fucked.  With respect to cooking pasta, the dinner is going to be perfectly cooked.   

NdT has taken digs at religion before (his comment that "we should not be asking any questions about religion at this point" is one; so scientists can't undertake the search for a supreme being? Says who?). 

I don't think the title is appropriate, per se, because it's not "vs." really; they go hand in hand.  There is the reality - the universe of facts and objective things that we encounter - and the perception, how those facts are incorporated into our world view.   The entire P/R section of the forum is about that intersection.   

Offline portnoy311

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2017, 11:40:32 AM »
I have my problems with Neal deGrasse Tyson. I get the overall intent - to bring science to the masses - but in my opinion, he feigns innocence far too much to be credible.  For a guy that writes so eloquently about the intersection of science and social media, he cannot be oblivious to the notion that "facts" aren't absolutes.  Their truthfulness isn't subject to context, but their relevance, and interpretation, are.   

"The water is 215 degrees Farenheit".  FACT.  What does that mean?  With respect to global warming, we're fucked.  With respect to a baby's bath, he's fucked.  With respect to cooking pasta, the dinner is going to be perfectly cooked.   

NdT has taken digs at religion before (his comment that "we should not be asking any questions about religion at this point" is one; so scientists can't undertake the search for a supreme being? Says who?). 

I don't think the title is appropriate, per se, because it's not "vs." really; they go hand in hand.  There is the reality - the universe of facts and objective things that we encounter - and the perception, how those facts are incorporated into our world view.   The entire P/R section of the forum is about that intersection.


The bolded is why I always pushed back - I knew it'd inevitably be morphed into that, despite that not being what he said or meant.

http://www.salon.com/2014/03/10/neil_degrasse_tyson_enlightened_religious_people_dont_try_to_use_the_bible_as_a_textbook/

“The issue there is not religion versus non-religion, or religion versus science,” Tyson said. “The issue is ideas that are different versus dogma.” (All categories of dogma from religious to political.)

I would also point out that you're mixing up your own definitions of 'religion', or at least accepting the word's true meaning.




As for NDT, the guy is pretty famous for showing up to events at colleges that have spent tens of thousands to bring him in, and blowing off everyone while only discussing himself. He definitely is a bit of an egoist. Yet a very intelligent one at that, who has helped scientific education and curiosity. I look up to his work, not the man himself. Which is probably how it should be.

Offline Chino

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2017, 11:52:40 AM »
I liked NDT a lot more before Stewart started having him on The Daily Show, back when he was thrilled to be able to speak to a camera like Carl Sagan used to. Now he's in pop/celebrity territory who can get upwards of $100K for speaking back to back nights (though I saw him in NJ a couple years ago and really enjoyed it).

Fun story, when Victoria and I first started dating almost four years ago, she had never heard of him. I introduced her to who he was and why I liked him (keep in mind, she's super religious). She wrote him a four page handwritten letter explaining the story and how much of an impact he had on me, yatti yatti yatta (I actually never saw the letter or got to read any of it). She addressed the envelope "Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Office" at the Hayden Planetarium, NYC. He ended up receiving it and sent her back an autographed photo for me. It was a pretty cool birthday gift.

Offline pogoowner

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Re: Reality vs Perception
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2017, 05:07:00 PM »
I'm a big fan of Neil, and I get what he was saying in that post. However, the dude can be a dick and totally trolls on a regular basis. He hides behind "well I'm just stating a fact", which is true, but I'm 100% convinced he does it to get a reaction out of people.
Yes, he acts like this quite regularly, and the smug, smarmy way he does it annoys the hell out of me. And I'm someone who is largely on board with his agenda.