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Pink elephants

Saturday, October 29, 2016 7:40
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Scott Adams the Dilbert cartoonist recently posted a good take on pink elephants.

Here’s a little thought experiment for you:

If a friend said he could see a pink elephant in the room, standing right in front of you, but you don’t see it, which one of you is hallucinating?

Answer: The one who sees the pink elephant is hallucinating.

The whole post is well worth reading even though the basic idea has been expressed in a variety of other ways. The Emperor’s New Clothes is a somewhat similar analogy, but Adams’ version is an excellent modern reminder. Realities with additions are hallucinations and the additions were added intentionally.

If a crowd of people are pointing to a stain on the wall, and telling you it is talking to them, with a message from God, and you don’t see anything but a stain, who is hallucinating? Is it the majority who see the stain talking or the one person who does not?

Answer: The people who see the stain talking are experiencing a group hallucination, which is more common than you think.

In nearly every scenario you can imagine, the person experiencing an unlikely addition to their reality is the one hallucinating. If all observers see the same addition to their reality, it might be real. But if even one participant can’t see the phenomenon – no matter how many can – it is almost certainly not real.

However those who need their pink elephants cannot apply the idea to real life. It only works if you don’t see the pink elephants in the first place. Depending on allegiances, a varied herd of pink elephants could look like this.
Multiple universes
Or how about more abstract pink elephants such as -

Social justice
Political integrity


And even -
The scientific method

Some of these evasive beasts are pinker and more elephantine than others – it depends on the strength of allegiances where allegiances, money and politics are closely related. Good as Adams’ analogy is, words rarely persuade. Pink elephants are here to stay.


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