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Self-Delusion and the Enamor Trap

Walter Gratzer
Book Review with commentary

History is replete with examples where conservative ideologues in society fought new science. Galileo is perhaps the most famous scientist who suffered repression. Less well known but all too prevalent are those in the scientific community who put forward false theses; some had otherwise good reputations. They just became enamored with their own ideas. Gratzer illustrates several such incidents from the last century, otherwise know as the scientific age--a period that profoundly changed the quality of life on earth even as it challenged the conservative views of religion and other precepts of society. Some of his examples:

Human frailty? You bet. Each mistake resulted from the enamor trap ensnaring a person; emotions overrode sound judgment. Gratzer also illustrates the power of politics in leading people down the wrong paths.

How Gratzer's book bears on terrorism today is important.

No other field of endeavor comes close to the discipline science imposes in its search for truth.

The question that then arises is that if even a few trained scientists can delude themselves to the point of destroying their careers, what can one expect from the rest of humanity?

"The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions." - Leonardo da Vinci

His Dimostrazione concept is defined as: A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. In one of the high ironies of history, da Vinci was himself the product of an illicit romance. Does that event call his Dimostrazione into question? He was after all nothing less than the godfather of the scientific method. One could also argue that he was an early practitioner of psychology for his Dimostrazione concept is nothing more than our modern concept of projection. After denial, projection is the most common hang-up people suffer. American society on balance suffers seriously from a national projection that is not only out of tune with our times, but is counterproductive. See Enlightened Governance for more on this problem.

In a war of ideas, we need like-minded allies committed to joint action. Instead, the US has polarized the world by its go-it-alone policy of pursuing "American Interests" at the expense of everyone else. Pakistan and Europe are respectively the ideological base for an expanding al Qa'ida movement world-wide and the primary battleground for terror attacks. Yet we chase red herrings in Iraq--getting even. Getting even is a failed policy if there ever was one. It has never worked in history. Getting even is a self delusion of the first order. How we think matters.

Having said all this, is there a positive side? Of course. To a large extent, what separates the typical scientist and the self deluded is their relative degrees of skepticism and their own egos. The skeptic will be critical of his/her own results until they have been confirmed by others. Their strong egos, their sense of self, do not suffer inordinately. A scientist afflicted with the enamor trap allows his/her emotions (ego trip in the vernacular) to carry him/her away.

Links for how to reduce self-delusion follow:

Links for finding the optimism to do so:


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