Apophenia is the tendency to see connections where none exist. At least that is the definition from one side of the chasm. Science holds that observation that is not done within the parameters of the scientific method is anecdotal, not replicable and therefore subjective and unscientific. There argument goes that humans will by our nature seek to make order out of chaos and at times we find signs and images that do not exist, but we use them to support a theory or belief. Seeing Jesus in a tortilla is a prime humorous example. Unless you are a believer, in which case I have just committed blasphemy. Technically, the seeing of images or the hearing of sounds where none seem to exist is called pareidolia.

Now this is where it gets complicated or where science loses its way, once again, in attempting to explain the human condition with numbers and arrows. Originally, apophenia was used to describe the distortion of reality that is found in some psychosis. Included in such diagnostic groupings are autistic savants. Such individuals clearly do hear and do see aspects of reality that normal "sane" persons do not. Yet we know via scientific observation that these gifted individuals are in fact interpreting reality through sensory inputs that are real enough to them to show skills and talents far in advance of what any "ordinary" person can achieve.

So there's the rub. Some want to classify and categorize certainly levels of insight into the structure of reality as insane or abnormal. Yet at the same time we clearly observe evidence of certain individuals who see well beyond what is considered normal. So how is it that only those savants, who by definition have psychological problems in one or more aspects of their life. How is it that they can have such superhuman insights but the same capabilities are denied to healthy, stable individuals?

Apophenia is, as are many other clinical diagnoses, fraught with the demands of science for conformity and classification. Just because you see something that others do not, does not make you crazy, nor does it mean you did not see what you saw. Life is in the eye and the perception of each individual beholder.

And why did apophenia come up in today's blog? Well because I have for a couple of months now been attempting to pay very close attention to insights and information I may be receiving from all sources; scientific and otherwise. In fact, particularly the otherwise. Yet my rationally trained mind wants to already always apply the tenets of scientific discourse to what I see, hear, touch, taste and feel. Wouldn't want a phantom or a mirage to take me down the right path; now would I?
photo credit: Georgia O'Keefe "Ice Cave"