After spending a couple of days wondering in the mysterious world of Jung’s shadow I felt like a blast of something more sceptical. So I picked up Richard Dawkins’ Unweaving the Rainbow. Dawkins says that the hard facts science reveals about our universe are actually far more awe-inspiring than the notions created by superstition, and I pretty much agree. I’ve not read much Dawkins before and I found him a surprisingly funny, human writer (and quite clearly he’s a very intelligent bloke too).
Quite apart from his eloquent putdowns of things like astrology, which I loved, he has some great material exploring perception. He illustrates how our minds create virtual reality out of the world around us and how some optical illusions give us occasional flashes of what’s happening. For instance, from a distance we see the inside of a mask as if we’re seeing the outside, so that the nose, which is actually facing away from us looks like it’s pointing out at us. That’s because our brains are wired to find faces (hence the frequency of people seeing the face of Jesus in a washcloth).
It reminds me of Dan Gilbert’s explanation of our unreliable memory, where we don’t really remember as much as we think, just highlight and then our mind fills in the blanks for us.