Apophenia: Seeing the fnords

Posted by : Rev. Ouabache | Thursday, January 15, 2009 | Published in

One of the biggest links between Discordianism and Skepticism is Apophenia, the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. A more specific form of apophenia is Pareidolia, finding images or sounds in randomness. This includes things like the Man in the Moon, bunnies in the clouds, inkblots, EVP, hearing Satan's voice in backmasking, seeing the Virgin Mary's face in a grilled cheese sandwich, and, of course, seeing either a star or pentagon in 5 pebbles.

Apophenia is covered several times in the Principia Discordia. First there is the Law of Fives: ALL THINGS HAPPEN IN FIVES, OR ARE DIVISIBLE BY OR ARE MULTIPLES OF FIVE, OR ARE SOMEHOW DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY APPROPRIATE TO 5. In other words, if you try hard enough your mind can make enough convoluted paths that all lead back to the sacred 5. Even when a number doesn't have a five in it, doesn't add up to five and isn't a multiple of five your brain can still find a way to coax a five out of it. And the more you look for fives the more fives you see in your everyday life. "I find the Law of Fives to be more and more manifest the harder I look."

Another great example of apophenia in the PD is Starbuck's Pebbles.

Do these 5 pebbles REALLY form a pentagon?
Those biased by the Aneristic Illusion would say yes. Those biased by the Eristic Illusion would say no. Criss-cross them and it is a star.

An Illuminated Mind can see all of these, yet he does not insist that any one is really true, or that none at all is true. Stars, and pentagons, and disorder are all his creations and he may do with them as he wishes. Indeed, even so the concept of number 5.

The real reality is there, but everything you KNOW about "it" is in your mind and yours to do with as you like. Conceptualization is art, and YOU ARE THE ARTIST.

The lines between the pebbles don't really exist. You are the one that creates them. Your brain takes what should be completely useless information, five stones, and processes it into useful information, a shape. There is absolutely no reason for your brain to do this. And there is no way to stop your brain from doing it without rigorous practice.

The grey stuff between your ears is constantly processing data from the world around you. It places a grid over everything you see. When data is missing, it fills in the gaps. When presented with completely random noise your brain sees signals that aren't there.

In the next several days I hope to post on how Skepticism deals with these false signals.

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