In this age of relativism, we are often cautioned not to view things in “black and white.” There are so many shades of gray, we are assured, that to focus on extremes is not only wrong, but almost sinful. It is claimed that such is a scientific attitude.

But the truth is that human consciousness does, in fact, inhabit a fairly binary world. Most of us easily tell the difference between night and day, sky and ground, and there are few moments of confusion between the two. We know if we are on land or at sea. And yes we easily discriminate if something is light or dark which is why drawings make sense.

Much of our perception seems to work on a “U” curve _ very high at each end, sloping sharply, to a small middle _ a reverse “normal curve.” We do not see the world as shades of gray.

Now I do not claim there can not be differences of opinion, particularly with regard to abstractions. And certainly in some areas _ color or taste, for instance _there is a more level gradation. But our evolved tendency is to judge quickly to one side or the other. We must flee if that disturbance in the grass is a creeping lion rather than just wind waving.

Relativism is a happy tool for lawyers and others who win arguments with convoluted words. For the rest of us, black and white often makes a lot more common sense.

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