Blind spot 1/10/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Take a quick look at your blind spot. Do you see it?

It’s an interesting phenomenon, and in school it’s a fun demonstration for teachers to show students. Most of us are aware that we have a blind spot. It’s where the nerve bundles from the back of the eye collect and go to the brain, so there are no nerves in that location to detect light. The way to “see” the blind spot involves focusing on a fixed point while something in your peripheral vision is slowly. Eventually, it will completely disappear. That is the blind spot.

I get that. That all makes sense to me, why we have it, how we can find it…it’s reasonable. What fascinates me, though, is how we don’t see it. At any given time, such as now while you read this blog, the brain simply “fills in” the missing information. In other words, our brain actually hides our blind spot from us. In a weird kind of way, we’re blind to our own blind spot.

Yes, if you’re expecting a metaphor, you are correct, and clearly you know me well. Our blind spots are far more than a spot in our vision that is “faked” by our mind, or a spot in our rear view mirrors where people for some reason love driving then get ticked of at me when I change lanes because I didn’t see them there because they’re in my blind spot! I mean SERIOUSLY?!?

Oh, sorry, kind of got off track there. Actually, I see others with blind spots all the time just because of the nature of my career. I always thought it was funny that when I tell people that I teach chemistry, they seem to believe it’s appropriate to answer with, “I hate chemistry.” And that’s their blind spot.

I don’t think people actually hate science. In fact, a lot of people seem enjoy science trivia and science “tricks”. Nature and forensic shows that discuss science are often quite popular, and who doesn’t enjoy science demonstrations? And yet, often, when I try to talk science, people’s eyes will just glass over. At one point, my mother complained that the sun was on her side of the car saying that glass makes the light stronger. Well, it doesn’t. In fact, if it did, I could provide free infinite energy for the rest of time, so I started to explain that that’s not correct. That’s when my mother cut me off, told me it’s true because she heard it on television, and told me she didn’t want to hear anymore. Yes, my own mother.

Popular culture has a way of creating brand-new blind spots in our society. As the director of the forensic lab in South Dakota, one of the things we would discuss we called the “CSI effect.” We can have a criminal case, have fingerprint evidence, video evidence, everything you can imagine in an iron clad case that would be open-and-shut in a reasonable mind, and yet the jury might well find these cases “not guilty” if there was no DNA evidence. Pop culture has so ingrained in its viewers that DNA evidence is required that juries will ignore all other evidence if there is no DNA.

On the sixth, insurrectionists took over the capitol building. More and more is coming out from the evidence as to what happened, and it’s excessively disturbing. One of the recent reports said that feces had been smeared around the building in what must be the all-time classiest act I’ve ever heard of and yes that’s meant to be sarcastic. Criminals often do this, actually. As a final insult, they will often defecate in the victim’s house, often in the toilet but they will leave it unflushed. This, among other reasons, is why police officers are not allowed to use the bathroom in the victim’s home. That act does provide DNA evidence. Yep, those idiots left their DNA at the scene.

But that insurrection shows the dangers of blind spots. There is no secret that the insurrectionists are supporters of the current president, and it has been shown that often such supporters get news from biased and untrustworthy sources. In so doing, they have rejected clear evidence that the election was fair, that the results have been certified by election officials, governors and now Congress in accordance with the US constitution, and yet they have begun an insurrection in an effort to overturn that same law of the land. Ironically, they believe themselves to be “patriots”, when in fact, they are seditionists. They are acting on the blind spot in their knowledge, filled in by their own mind and sources of news. Today, our nation is weaker, less respected globally, and we are all endangered by their blind spot.

It’s impossible to see our own blind spots, but others often can. I work hard to solve my blind spots, seeking information from a variety of news sources, and trying to understand the perspectives of others. And I try to learn things outside of my own strengths, like art. It seems to me that one of the best ways to improve and expand is to listen when people point out these blind spots, and to work to overcome them.

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