Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Confabulation and History

     It called confabulation.  That is where so-called remember facts about an observation get modified by subsequent events.  It is a well confirmed human experience.  In his December 17, 2014 issue of eSkeptic, Michael Shermer explores the impact that confabulation has played in eyewitness testimony in Ferguson.
     He quotes world-renowned memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, in her 1991 book Witness for the Defense—a critical analysis of eyewitness testimony:
As new bits and pieces of information are added into long-term memory, the old memories are removed,replaced, crumpled up, or shoved into corners. Memories don’t just fade…they also grow. What fades is the initial perception, the actual experience of the events. But every time we recall an event, we must reconstruct the memory, and with each recollection the memory may be changed. Truth and reality, when seen through the filter of our memories, are not objective facts but subjective,interpretative realities.
     It is highly likely that such confabulation has played significant role in subsequent report of miracles and paranormal claims especially when such memories have had two of three generations to percolate and be passed hearsay by word of mouth.  There is little doubt that much of the emotion that surrounded the Ferguson riots was a response to eyewitness reports of actions that never happened or reports by people exaggerating their roles.
    Before trying to explain so-called miracles of faith, one needs to confirm that the event occurred as being reported or in some cases actually even occurred at all.  It is more reason why "extraordinary claims require extraordinary (and independent and unbiased) evidence.

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