The Public Is Fickle (Sometimes!)

According to the Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky the problem with people is that they assume that they have qualities that in actual fact they do not posses at all or if they do possess them to a much more limited extent than they assume to be the case. This was particularly the case with what we call consciousness and the fact that very few people are in fact really conscious but just assume that they are when their unconsciousness in regard to their own actions can be abundantly demonstrated (P.D. Ouspensky 1931).

The nature of our own lack of full consciousness in regard to our day to day activities can be easily pointed out to some in regard to their regular driving habits. Asked to recount what they encountered on their morning commute to work or school most people will usually have to admit that they have no real recollection of such because their actions were being driven by the overpowering force of habit. In other words they assumed that they were doing the driving when in fact they were themselves in their semi-conscious state being driven by the force of habit that has nothing to do with consciousness. Habits are stored up in the part of the mind we call the unconscious and drive human behavior in the same sense as humans assume that they drive vehicles call cars.

We assume that as a species that we have always been endowed with the state of consciousness that we have to day when in truth according to Jaynes 1976, the kind of consciousness that people are endowed with today is a much more recent development than people realize. According to the retired Princeton University professor of psychology, the consciousness that we take for granted is the result of something that happened about 3,500 years ago in what he has called “the breakdown of the bicameral mind.” In other words humans had a sort of “double brain” as he calls it where the two hemispheres making up the brain had not yet learned to communicate via the Corpus collosum that divides the two hemispheres of the brain. In other words our evolutionary history as creatures with the kind of consciousness that we take for granted today and make unknowing assumptions about based upon no scientific understanding of either the brain as an organ that has evolved, is of much more recent vintage than we realize.

Janes 1976 maps out and offers proof of his audacious theory of human development based upon a kind of forensic look at the ancient literary record as well as the pantheon of tribal type religions of the ancient world and the way that the gods communicated with ordinary people back in that era which was universally through hallucinations of the so called gods which was a mere apparition/projection originating from particular hemisphere of the brain seeking to communicate with the other half prior to the time when such direct communication took place via the Corpus collosum.

The public’s mis-attribution of fiction for fact extends to more domains related to consciousness that the previous two examples mentioned above. According to Tart 1975 most people assume that they have to go through a process or popularly imagined set of protocols in order to become hypnotized when in fact countless untold millions of unwitting TV viewers are unbeknownst to them entering into a trance state as result of the passive nature of TV viewing practices as well as an extensive use by advertizing companies of scientific means and methods to increase the power of suggestion in the minds of such a mass viewership in a trance state which as anyone familiar with hypnosis knows is just another way of saying that a person or even a mass audience has been hypnotized, i.e. put into a trace state. Knowing how to manipulate such a mass audience through such technologies as have evolved in recent years puts tremendous power into the hands of the mass media that has become the most powerful public/private institution in America today second only to the apparatus of the national security state and the military industrial complex that it serves.

Lack of precise knowledge regarding correlational studies on the part of the public is a two way sword that cuts both ways. An enormous amount of time and effort by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and other research centers went into correlational studies linking cigarette smoking with cancer in smokers. In fact many Americans went on to assume that such correlational studies as the Office of the US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop had been responsible for initiating had indeed proved that cigarette smoking caused cancer. The dodge that the major tobacco companies used for years as a means of refusing to accept responsibility for the lethal effects of the product that they sold was for their law firms to cleverly exploit the fact that correlation does not equal proof. The fact that the public’s unconscious and slavish attitude toward everything labeled “scientific” had maybe led Dr. Koop to overstate the NIH’s case that cigarette smoking caused cancer was what led to his eventual firing no doubt with the jubilant approval of the tobacco companies. Such a defense by the law firms representing the tobacco companies was later disallowed by the courts in favor of acceptance of the fact that a close correlation coefficient approaching 1 or 100% which is what this coefficient of correlation indicates while not absolute proof is the next best thing. The rest is now history!

The extremely low coefficient of correlation that is no doubt the case in regard to the mass hysteria linking public health campaigns to vaccinate children for childhood diseases and the root cause of autism that is almost entirely genetic is driven by the public’s unfamiliarity with statistical analysis and its use in correlational studies. Countering the propaganda of religious fundamentalist groups that exploit this ignorance on the part of the public in regard to the vitally needed public health campaigns is a challenge that over time will be over-ballanced by the benefits of public education provided of course that these same propagandists are not able to defund public education and/or that the public can be mobilized to counter such ongoing attacks on public education.

What all well run correlational studies represent is a mathematical statement about reality that needs to be mediated via language. Such mathematical statements as these studies often result in remind one of the famous statement attributed to Vladimir Lenin that “Quantity has a quality all its own.” Curiously enough, that may actually be the best way to describe the real nature of a correlational study!

Probably the greatest human disaster related to the use of co-relational studies done by such international health organizations as the World Health Organization is the case of the official AIDS policy of South African president Thombo Mbeki that according to the Guardian led to the death of as least 330,000 South Africans. Mbeki came under the influence of a group maverick scientists known as AIDS-Denialists. The most prominent within this group was Peter Duesberg from Berkeley, CA. Because HIV/AIDS was a disease that had a high co-relation with poverty, bad nutrition and ill health it became the position of the AIDS Deniers that the HIV virus played only a minor role in the pandemic and that poverty, poor nutrition and bad health was the real cause. The high co-relation of AIDS with poverty, poor nutrition and ill health went from being merely a statistic to the cause of a the disease. When international drug manufactures offered expensive Anti-Retro-Viral drug treatments in quantities sufficient to reach most of the South African population so affected Mbeki and his government refused to allow these lifesaving treatment into the country. Eventually under pressure from the international community an agreement of sorts was worked out to allow only a limited number of ARVs into the country to be administered only at two limited sites.


Boseley, S. ( 2008 ). Mbeki AIDS policy ‘led to 330,000 deaths’. The Guardian: Manchester UK retrieved from the WWW at: mbeki

Jaynes, J. ( 1976 ). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Ouspensky, P. D. ( 1931 ). A New Model of the Universe. Mineola, N.Y. : Dover Publications, Inc.

Tart, C. T. ( 1975 ). States of Consciousness. New York: E. P. Dutton.


About charlesknause

I was born in Camden, N.J. (now the poorest city in America) in 1950 and grew up in a beautiful old Victorian town in South Jersey called Collingswood. I now live in Ormond Beach, FL where the weather suits my spirit. My personal life was impacted at an early point in my life by a psychiatric diagnosis that changed my life and put me on the workers scrap heap. I have refused to accept such a miserable fate and today consider myself a social activist dedicated to changing the way that people who have been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disability are perceived by society and the people in their community. I have a B.S. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Central Florida and 18 graduate credits in Mental Health Counseling from Stetson University in DeLand, FL as well as 24 graduate credits in an MSW program at UCF. I am a member of the Volusia County Behavioral Health Care Providers Consortium where I function as an advocate. I am a daily reader of the World Socialist Website and an occasional contributor.
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