— Chicago Skeptics (@ChicagoSkeptics) May 31, 2015
If you were asked to close your eyes, and walk out of the building you’re in right now you might bump into stuff on the way, but you have a pretty good idea of how you’d go about doing it. You can do that because your mind is constantly maintaining an internal map of reality as informed by your senses.
Sometimes, your senses get it wrong and when reality comes crashing into your fantasy you experience a very strange sensation.
(If you’ve ever thought there was one more step at the top of the stairs and know what that feels like, that’s exactly what we’re talking about.)
Most times, the distance between what you think is happening and what is actually happening is very short. Optical illusions are a perfect example of how exploring the space between what you think you’re seeing and what is actually there can be entertaining. When your beliefs and reality are farther and farther apart from each other, however, there’s potential for true disaster. (Faith healing, people not pursuing traditional medicine in lieu of only praying about it, psychic frauds taking whole inheritances, etc.)
That’s why, when making choices, you must understand what is really going on, and have a way for discerning reality from what you want to believe is going on. The only way to do this is to work on your critical thinking skills.
Knowing how to evaluate claims and understand information is a fundamental skill to navigating this complex world.
This weekend in Chicago there was an event called Skepticamp which is an all-day event hosting speakers of all backgrounds who are sharing their approach to critical thinking and the issues that are most dear to them.
Jonathan Pritchard from this site spoke about his days working with the James Randi Educational Foundation, designing testing protocol for the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, and the lessons he’s learned about human psychology as someone who travels the world performing a mind reading show.
Using a simple coat hanger and a volunteer from the audience, Jonathan shows how our senses can be deceived. The volunteer experiences a magical effect that can’t be explained while the whole audience sees exactly how it happens. It’s a fun demonstration that perfectly illustrates how our minds aren’t always the best at giving us an accurate picture of reality.
The crowd was great, and the event was a blast. If you’re in Chicago this time next year, make sure to register for your opportunity to attend.