About This Site
This website is the product of a personal quest to understand what reality is for human beings. People believe lots of things that aren’t true. I had always thought that, although false beliefs can enjoy an occasional run, in the end, all that matters is what’s really true. Many people share this view (at least implicitly), which is encapsulated in the saying, “The truth will out.”
About ten years ago, I realized I had to abandon this stance. There are just too many exceptions. Lasting reputations, fortunes and kingdoms are routinely built on beliefs that are not objectively true. But the opposite position – that reality is entirely constructed – is equally naïve, as allegories like The Emperor’s New Clothes remind us. Stretching the truth too far makes our constructed worlds vulnerable to collapse.
The higher animals evolved an information processing system that allows us to form mental representations of the external world – beliefs – and use them as models for interacting with it. A species’ adaptiveness and long term survival would seem to be served by having beliefs that represent the objective world as faithfully as possible, and by correcting errors in them as soon as possible.
I wanted to see if cognitive science could be used as a framework for understanding how our subjective worlds interact with the objective world and for exploring the conditions that either allow our false beliefs to survive or overturn them. This website, launched in August, 2009, is dedicated to that quest.
I am a research consultant and adjunct professor at Stanford University, where I teach courses in communication theory and research, and am co-author of the top selling statistics study guide. I’m currently working on a book, tentatively titled Two Realities: How Evolution Wired Us to be Co-Creators of Our World.