By Gary Amirault
Paradox of paradoxes! Scientists using the latest inventions to probe into the vistas of space and our oceans to find out what makes things tick are now probing the lobes of the human brain only to discover that the very instrument (the mind) we use to sort truth from lies or fact from fiction is hard-wired to turn the very truth/facts we are looking for into lies. Science is beginning to discover what ancient wise men have known for a long time: “The heart (sub conscience?) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) Yes, it seems that piece of real estate beneath our cranium, that is, our brain/mind is wired to conceive, believe and live lies. And science now confirms it.
According to a study done at Emory University by Dr. Drew Westen and a team of psychologists, Democrat and Republican voters are equally skilled at manipulating information in their mind to support the candidate of their choice. Of course most of us already know that. What we may not be aware of is that our minds are actually wired to encourage deceiving ourselves. It will even reward us if we succeed in doing so.
Researchers asked Democrats and Republicans to evaluate information that threatened their preferred candidate prior to the 2004 presidential election. The subjects’ brains were monitored with an fMRI machine while they thought about the negative information.
According to Dr. Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University, both Republicans and Democrats came to biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not be rationally discounted.
After the subjects had made up their minds, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions, such as disgust, and the activity in areas that involve reward sharply increased, a response that Westen said was similar to an addict getting a fix. There were no increases in the part of the brain that controlled reasoning,
“Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it with the elimination of the negative emotions and activation of positive ones,” Weston told LiveScience.
“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.”
Both Republicans and Democrats came to biased conclusions by discounting facts which rationally could not be ignored according to Weston and his associates. After they came to their conclusions, those areas of the brain that dealt with negative emotions went dormant. However, the brain was highly active in the parts that dealt with rewards. The pattern was very similar to what an addict would register after he got a “fix.”
It seems reasoning, logic and love for the truth, was not a part of the Democrats and Republicans consideration as they were making their decisions. One would think that during such activity, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which is associated with reasoning would have been quite active during the exercise. It was not.
I think we all would like to believe that we are basically honest. At least we would like others to think that of us. We usually get along further in life if we can convince others they can trust us. But scientific evidence seems to indicate we lie and believe our lies much more than we care to acknowledge especially about many things that are important to us like our political and religious views.
Dr. Sam Wang, associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Neuroscience at Princeton University, earning his Ph.D. from Stanford University School of medicine states, “At any given moment, our brain is probably lying to you. Although you think you perceive the world directly, your brain analyzes stimuli in ways that may not reflect reality.” (from an outline of his course “The Neuroscience of Everyday Life.”
Have you ever been in a political or religious discussion with someone and felt you were talking to a brick wall? Every fact you presented to support your view was either conveniently ignored or twisted by your opponent in such a way to support his/her view and negate yours.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Drew Westen, it appears we have a gatekeeper at the door of our minds deciding what information we allow in and in what form it should appear. If the information does not line up to certain standards, we either don’t let it in or modify it until it conforms to what we already believe. Truth and facts are not among those pieces of information that seem to hold much value to this Gatekeeper beneath our skull. Our minds seems to be inclined to bend the truth in such a way as to make us feel more secure or to conform information to what we already believe or have been programmed or conditioned to believe by our families and societal institutions. Institutions, in all forms of society, have vested interests in conforming their citizens to ideas those who run the institutions deem necessary to keep order or to keep the status quo. Those “values” may simply be traditions and rituals making it easier to keep a slave society in bondage to an elite.
The emotional driven parts of our brain striving for security seem to be more engaged during “rationalizing” sessions than the rational/logical parts. After this process is repeated a number of times, our mind become “hard wired,” so to speak, to manipulate information to line up with the little castle of beliefs in our minds that makes us feel secure and comfortable. For the sake of convenience and comfort, we become wired to believe the lie. Usually it takes something catastrophic in our lives to break down the walls of lies which have been built in our minds before the hard truth sees the light of day in our minds.
Dr. Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University and a team of psychologists seem to have come up with some hard data proving the old adage, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up.” Our minds, based upon Weston’s research, are more wired to minimize stress and anxiety for us than being honest to ourselves, others and even our God.
While we claim to be rational beings (especially those who esteem themselves to be intellectuals or spiritually enlightened), more often than not, we are not.
Some points we can take from this study:
*For most of us, our brain is wired in such a way as to make decisions more based on how the consequences of our conclusions will make us feel or how much stress, discomfort, ridicule or persecution a particular decision will bring us than whether it is factual or truthful. In other words, we’ll twist the truth into a lie if it keeps us in our safety zone. Most of this activity is subconscious.
*Knowing an individual’s predisposition towards any particular view proved to be a perfect predictor of their ultimate decision 84 per cent of the time. In other words, their minds were already made up and no amount of facts was going to change it. Furthermore, their minds would actually manipulate the information that is contradictory to what they already believe in such a way that it conforms to their preconceived beliefs after they are finished processing it.
*Our need to process information in a way that provides maximum emotional comfort convinced Dr. Westen that the facts made virtually no difference in predicting what the vast majority of individuals will decide to do or think.
*While the study dealt with politics, it seems this way of processing information passes through other areas of our lives including our religious beliefs and how we conduct business in the world.
*Most of us will not change unless forced through a major crisis. It is usually not information that will do it.
*We are unlikely to receive and accept information which contradicts strong parts of our life such as politics or religion even if the information is true or factual.
*The way of hypocrisy and lying appears to be a natural part of our decision making.
(Further information on Westen’s study is included at the end of this writing.)
The study did not get involved with how the mind becomes programmed or hard-wired towards particular beliefs and mindsets. But I image much of “cement” so to speak, is set early in our lives.
Tragically for us, those who are power hungry know how to manipulate our minds for an easy slaughter. A Catholic evangelist to the East in the sixteen century said, “Give me the children until they are seven and anyone can have them after that.” Those who control the political, social, educational, religious, entertainment and economic institutions and systems of any country know that the “programming” must begin early. Leading institutional businesses aim their ads at little children knowing if they can inject into their minds the right images and associated feelings, they will have a loyal consumer for life.
Foundations, think tanks, lobbies, associations, political parties, religious affiliations, commercial enterprises, military powers, unions, cultural institutions, societies, cults, fraternities, public relations and advertising firms, and organizations of all kinds are used by a handful of individuals of nations to control the masses. It doesn’t matter if the country is capitalist, socialist or communist – it doesn’t matter if there is only one political party, two or a dozen. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The average American or Westerner actually believes they are free. That, perhaps, is the greatest of lies. As Francis Xavier said, give me the children to the age of seven and anyone can have them after that. By the time a child is seven in the United States of American, through all the input from the institutions mentioned above, that child is already comfortable with the thought of killing a complete stranger in another land to protect our “national interests” abroad. G.I. Joe dolls, movies and television, holidays to celebrate those who died for country, etc. have already programmed that future little G.I. Joe Smith to lay down his very life for a flag or piece of land or a philosophy of life that does NOT line up with the “kingdom of God and its righteousness.
Little G.I. Joe may read in his Bible, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” but the “traditions of men which make the word of God of no effect” will overcome Jesus’ plain command, because the programming from the various institutions within our society will have already made him “comfortable” with killing for “stuff.” Stuff has already become more important to this little G.I. Joe Smith through brainwashing. Of course, Miss “Barbie” will have gone through her own brainwashing. She will be a loyal consumer to all that Hollywood and Madison Avenue want her to spend her money on. It is most unfortunate that the average American is unaware of the tens of thousands of message our little brains are bombarded with from highly sophisticated commercials aimed at making Americans to worship the “god of Mammon,” that is, materialism. We are really clueless of how deeply we have been brainwashed to contradict the teachings of Jesus Christ. “YOU cannot serve God and Mammon!”
One day the world will look at what the Western world, especially America, Britain and Israel have done in the name of “Judeo-Christian Ethics” and be shocked at the mountains of evil the world suffered under this abominable mixture of carnality. I’m sure right now many Western readers will have their heckles up due to the programming they have been subject to their whole life. Those not as much under the influence of Western propaganda (third world countries without TV’s and internet) will easily acknowledge what I am saying is true. If the world is going to experience any semblance of peace, we must push into this matter, this “gray” matter which causes so much of the violence in this world.
Those who rule the Western world think they have the upper hand regarding “being civilized.” In Jesus’ day “the world” into which he was born was “Greco-Roman-Jewish.” The Roman Empire was tremendous. The institutions we value in the West so much all have their roots in this “Greco-Roman-Jewish” world. Most of our institutions and values stem from this “civilization.” Our form of government, the arts, the architecture, our military, our love of law all come from this period of history. The age of Nero (the beast depicted in the book of Revelation), is almost a carbon copy of the American society at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Jews, the masters of “law” were well connected to the Neronic government just prior to the prophesied destruction of Jerusalem. It was into this gigantic power base that Jesus stepped into nearly 2,000 years ago. It was the conglomeration of these powers that put Him to death. If Jesus stepped into the age we presently live in, those very powers would conspire once again to put Him to death. Only this time, Christians would be a part of the power-base that would put Him to death.
Many things can be learned about ourselves and humans in general. However, I want to leave the reader with one important lesson. The Scriptures say in John 2:23-25:
“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”
Jesus knew that we are all self-deceived liars and that the truth does not abide in any of us, regardless of how honest we think we are. The lies of this world extend far beyond our understanding of honesty and integrity. He knew that the father of lies had poisoned all the sons of Adam.
Jesus made some very harsh statements which many people have misinterpreted leading to a rejection of Him as a kind man:
“…whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a ‘man’s enemies will be those of his/her own household’ He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (S)He who finds his/her life will lose it, and (s)he who loses his/her life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:32-39)
To those who do not have a living personal relationship with Jesus, words such as those above might come off as arrogant and prideful. They might come off as very hypocritical and contradictory considering He is called “the Prince of Peace” who commands His disciples to “love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.” Yet if we understand His reasons for coming to the earth – if we understand the true condition of our hearts and minds, then we will understand why He spoke so seemingly harsh at times.
Jesus knew that our hearts and minds were filled with lies – lies which were contrary to the truth. Jesus is the embodiment of Truth. In Him is no lie. Jesus did not “commit Himself to them” because He would then be committed to their lies. In order for one to be truly set free from the thousands of lies we eat every day in this world, one must completely surrender and commit one’s life to the Truth, which is embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ.
As the Westen study above so amply illustrates, our very minds are hard-wired to believe and practice the lie. There are hundreds of cultural, social, political, economic, military, educational institutions in this world that have all programmed us to believe lies. In the West especially, our media, especially television has so saturated our thinking with materialism that when we see verses like Matt. 6:24, we really don’t believe Jesus meant what He said:
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matt. 6:24) We prefer translations which use the word “Mammon” because it is not quite clear what Mammon is. The Twentieth Century New Testament and the Knox translation has the word “money.” Jesus said it was harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God than it is for a camel (or rope) to pass through the eye of a needle. (Matt. 19:23)
Ouch! There are many places in the Bible we just gloss over rather than allow the verse to convict us because our minds are uncomfortable with change. We are more comfortable in our lies. Understand, dear reader, most of those lies we are now comfortable with were not our own to begin with – we inherited them from our families and culture. We have even been programmed to kill other people who do not buy into the lies of our own societies. Christians have been killing other Christians for many centuries because we have swallowed the lies of various countries and their rules of allegiance. It is beyond the scope of this article to detail the many thousands of lies we have swallowed poured into us by our parents and institutions. Suffice it to say, it is impossible for an individual to set themselves free from the lies that make up the societies and institutions of this world. Only Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the Truth of the Kingdom of God can begin to unravel the mess. This requires absolute truth and faith in Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life. It requires absolute abandonment of everything we have been taught to believe in that come from the cultures in which we have been raised.
Jesus came to this earth to establish the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. It is being established one soul at a time. It is contrary to the kingdoms of this world. If Jesus opens your eyes to the kingdom of God and its righteousness, you will be shocked at how different it is from the powers of this world. You will discover that the religious institutions of Christianity are as much a part of the kingdom of darkness as the rest of the institutions in this world. “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) The reader will be absolutely shocked when the doors to the kingdom of God are opened. Indeed the members of your own household often become enemies “for the gospel’s sake.”
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. – Winston Churchill
(More information on Westen’s Study)
“During the study, the partisans were given 18 sets of stimuli, six each regarding President George W. Bush, his challenger, Senator John Kerry, and politically neutral male control figures such as actor Tom Hanks. For each set of stimuli, partisans first read a statement from the target (Bush or Kerry). The first statement was followed by a second statement that documented a clear contradiction between the target’s words and deeds, generally suggesting that the candidate was dishonest or pandering.
“Next, partisans were asked to consider the discrepancy, and then to rate the extent to which the person’s words and deeds were contradictory. Finally, they were presented with an exculpatory (clearing from guilt) statement that might explain away the apparent contradiction, and asked to reconsider and again rate the extent to which the target’s words and deeds were contradictory.
“Behavioral data showed a pattern of emotionally biased reasoning: partisans denied obvious contradictions for their own candidate that they had no difficulty detecting in the opposing candidate. Importantly, in both their behavioral and neural responses, Republicans and Democrats did not differ in the way they responded to contradictions for the neutral control targets, such as Hanks, but Democrats responded to Kerry as Republicans responded to Bush.
“While reasoning about apparent contradictions for their own candidate, partisans showed activations throughout the orbital frontal cortex, indicating emotional processing and presumably emotion regulation strategies. There also were activations in areas of the brain associated with the experience of unpleasant emotions, the processing of emotion and conflict, and judgments of forgiveness and moral accountability.
“While the participants were given this information, their brains were put on neuroimaging (fMRI). The researchers studied what parts of their brains were active. One would expect that the reasoning part of the brain would be quite active. Not so. “We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning. What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts,” said Dr. Westen.
“Notably absent were any increases in activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with reasoning (as well as conscious efforts to suppress emotion). The finding suggests that the emotion-driven processes that lead to biased judgments likely occur outside of awareness, and are distinct from normal reasoning processes when emotion is not so heavily engaged, says Dr. Westen.
“Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.” Once the subjects got through the mental gymnastics of resolving the conflicts for their candidate justifying the contradictions, not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward — similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, according to Dr Westen.
“The investigators hypothesize that emotionally biased reasoning leads to the “stamping in” or reinforcement of a defensive belief, associating the participant’s “revisionist” account of the data with positive emotion or relief and elimination of distress. “The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data,” says Dr. Westen.
(From “Emory Study Lights Up the Political Brain” an article by Emory University. )