Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Rosy splotches and an upright flounder*

with 16 comments

At Allen Park on December 17, 2021, I cautiously maneuvered among some prickly pear cacti (Opuntia engelmannii) to take pictures of aging and deteriorated pads. The one above looked to me like it had the measles, while my imagination insisted on comparing the pad below to an upright flounder. Or maybe it was a worse-for-the-wear owl seen from the side.

* I’m pretty sure that of all the hundreds of millions of people who’ve ever spoken and written English, not one has previously used the phrase that serves as this post’s title.

✪       ✪       ✪

The academic literature on the use of facts to correct delusions shows very mixed results. It sometimes works, it sometimes works in a limited way, and it sometimes doesn’t work at all. The effects sometimes seem to last over a longer period, and sometimes they don’t. It depends a lot on the issue being tested, how it’s done, and what we’re expecting to shift, from factual knowledge to policy preferences to beliefs.

That makes perfect sense when we bear in mind the theory of cognitive dissonance and consider what we know about how we think. We naturally look for confirming information, and discount disconfirming information. When the evidence reaches a tipping point and there is sufficient weight against our current view, we switch. The dissonance is emotionally unpleasant, and while we’re attached to our current opinions, it becomes less unpleasant to shift than to cling onto them.

The message is that we can’t always solve delusions with more facts alone, but that we definitely shouldn’t give up on them entirely. People are marvellously varied, and different approaches work with different people in different situations. Of course, facts don’t exist entirely outside of their context: as we’ve seen, many measures are more complex than they seem, require cautious interpretation, and selection of other, equally valid facts can paint a very different picture. But this is not an excuse to give up on the value and power of the best facts we can muster. They can indicate an underlying truth that we shouldn’t carelessly discard because they are imperfect.

That’s one of the conclusions Bobby Duffy reaches in the closing chapter of Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 10, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

16 Responses

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  1. 😄😁


    January 10, 2022 at 6:11 AM

  2. Despite remaining upright, it looks as though your flounder foundered before you found her.

    And, after learning that many bacteria present on leaves with ‘halos’ around them, I wondered if the pretty pad in the prior photo might have been afflicted with bacteria. The colors certainly are appealing.


    January 10, 2022 at 8:35 AM

    • I’d thought of playing with flounder and founder; you did it for me, and even added found her. (I once rhymed Parker with mark her.) It was the colors of that first pad that initially grabbed my attention. The spots were lagniappe.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 10, 2022 at 9:03 AM

  3. LOL!! I bet not. I think it looks like a fish as well.


    January 10, 2022 at 8:52 AM

    • So we both have piscine visions this morning.
      It’s actually not that hard to make up phrases no one has ever said, especially if you stick and between two already unusual expressions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 10, 2022 at 9:07 AM

  4. It seems to me that your deceased cacti must have ignored the vaccination orders.

    Peter Klopp

    January 10, 2022 at 1:22 PM

  5. I’m getting more worse for wear owl than flounder 🦉!

    • So you’re not floundering around about your choice — and you even found an emoji to indicate it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 10, 2022 at 3:30 PM

  6. I’m wondering what that worse-for-wear owl has been up to! (More owl than flounder for me — but a floundering owl maybe.)

    Ann Mackay

    January 11, 2022 at 7:37 AM

  7. I wonder if this “flounder” would yield a tasty “tuna” sandwich?

    Steve Gingold

    January 12, 2022 at 6:23 PM

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