Yesterday, this video about the Mandela Effect popped up in my feed. Unlike most content about the phenomenon, it wasn’t put together by some internet dweeb or fake scientist, but by the CEO of a small, well-established software company that manages inventory and ordering information for food distributors across the country. He prefaces his presentation by emphasizing how long they’ve been in business and exactly what sort of data they deal with, as well as the complications they encounter on a regular basis.
His presentation gets weirder and weirder, and it isn’t aided at all by his general demeanor and physical complexion, either. What starts as a fairly non-technical talk that you’d expect to see at a company training session turns into unspecific rambling about things that neither he, nor anyone else on the internet, seems to know anything about. And worst of all, it seems almost as if the presentation exists to excuse some hiccup in their own software—but that, of course, is pure speculation.
Since his business relates most specifically to tracking product information, he draws the Mandela Effect into relating the numerous cases of mistaken product identities—Wite Out instead of White Out, or Plumbr instead of Plumber, or even Depend instead of Depend’s, etc. From here, he makes a few passing remarks about quantum physics, parallel worlds, and other more famous examples of this phenomenon, such as when Nelson Mandela actually died and the precise spelling of the Berenstain Bears children’s books.
But before we get into this, let’s briefly point out why the Mandela Effect is complete nonsense. We’ll use this guy’s examples as our guide.
When it comes to marketing gimmicks, there’s a whole subset of branding dedicated to the intentional conflation between a real word or concept and a something that can be trademarked and registered. Wite Out, Plumbr, and that sort of branding function in two ways: one, the spelling is altered only so much as to make it unique, and two, the phonetics remain exactly the same so as to call to mind the product’s purpose. There’s no mystery here as to why they’re spelled differently than you’d expect, or why sometimes mistakes are made when referring to the product: phonetically, “white” and “Wite” are the same word, and you’re attaching the same concept to the word in using it. The only difference is that one is a registered trademark and the other is a real word.
This is sort of conflation is a common problem among people who believe in the Mandela Effect. The Berenstain Bears example is the easiest example here; Berenstain isn’t a popular name—or it wasn’t until the children’s stories came long. The -stain suffix is very easily conflated with the more popular -stein. This isn’t news, but the confusion arises from everyone actually getting the names mixed up—from mistakes slipping through proofreading to TV Guide lackeys pulling all-nighters to get the programming schedule out by the morning’s paper. And it makes sense why the names would get mixed up; they’re very similar and -stain simply isn’t a popular variation.
So we can see how easy it is to simply be mistaken, but believers of the Mandela Effect are more persistent than this. They won’t be deterred by a simple admission that maybe they either remembered something wrong or they were mistaken about the spelling of a certain thing to begin with. And this is where things start to get more complicated.
Pop Culture Scientism
Culture, as we know it, is little more than a simulated experience: a giant social game comprised of equal parts nostalgia, acting, and shared purchasing power.
I’m referring of course to popular culture: the brands on your clothing, the music you listen to, the movies you talk about at the water cooler, the places you want to go on for vacation, the politics you read, and most of the opinions you probably hold. Actual culture isn’t really consumerist at heart. Actual culture includes the songs your father and your father’s father learned around the piano after dinner, the sort of tools you learned how to use as a kid, the forms that various homemaking traditions took as they were passed down from one matriarch to the next. Actual culture has no price tags attached to it except as a means of inheritance or transference. Popular culture, on the other hand, is defined by its price tags and exists with planned obsolescence in mind.
Pop culture doesn’t exist purely to push merchandise, although the profit motive is its primary driver. Charitably, it exists to knit the country together across peoples of diverse ethnic, wealth, and religious backgrounds which would otherwise shape more numerous and more insular cultures. But that would more quickly facilitate the disintegration of the American experiment and the greater liberal experiment that tenuously preserves what’s left of the West.
Notice, however, how much the Mandela Effect usually has to do with things out of popular culture. The deaths of significant foreign political or social figures, the spellings of copyrighted emblems and logos, and to a lesser extent geography—the Mandela Effect’s influence doesn’t really extend beyond the trivial. Proponents insist it does, but fail to come up with anything concrete other than, maybe, fluctuations in the location of New Zealand—itself such a mind-numbingly preposterous claim that it barely deserves mention.
But of course it’s not a surprise that most of the effect is limited to popular culture.
The popular culture today is, and has been since at least the eighties, infused with a cult-like attachment to scientism: this isn’t science per se, but the wanton and herd-like belief in studies, journals, and findings which are usually processed by third party media manipulators before their data makes its way onto the web pages of Buzzfeed. Science might be what’s conducted in a lab, with set parameters, in order to derive meaningful data from ordered experiments, but scientism is the essentially religious belief of a priest-like pop-scientist class of entertainers, like Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Michio Kaku. Some of these people even have valid credentials, but that isn’t really the point; the point is their charm and their willingness to stick to a narrative.
Now, what the narrative is in this case also doesn’t really matter. The point here is that what science actually “says” about just about anything at all is almost never what is translated into popular consciousness. Science, for instance, says nothing about gender, which is a linguistic term. It has a lot to say about genetics, however, and part of what it has to say about genetics is that genetics is only comprehensible if there’s reproduction involved.
Keep in mind that actual science is neither a perspective nor a means of interpreting data. It’s a means of collecting data. Data requires a framework in which it can be made comprehensible—which is why we have aphorisms floating around like correlation does not imply causation. Data that seems related under one model might turn out to be completely unrelated under a different model that more accurately describes other aspects of a given experiment or theory. By the same token, it may turn out that this data is all related, but through completely different causal connections.
This is why some rudimentary study in philosophy is necessary. Scientists that work from fundamentally erroneous viewpoints regarding the metaphysics of their field of study may be able to draw important data out of their research, but lacking that intellectual framework of interpretation, they’re going to prove useless in organizing that data in a way that makes sense. Now let’s assume that most scientists are philosophically neutral whatever their field of study is (that’s asking a lot for a hypothetical scenario, I know), but rather extrapolate that notion out into the broader popular culture—one which we already know is openly hostile not simply to truth claims, but any study of metaphysics and indeed any discourse on the topic to begin with. What you have here is scientists who may or may not know what to do with their data being paraphrased by a media-entertainment complex that has neither their best interests, nor those of the general public, in mind.
In addition to all of this, rising literacy rates and the emphasis of a generally-educated populace—through the funding of state-wide public schooling and standardized testing—have led to a population more or less assured of its own intellectual superiority. This is, of course, in spite of the obvious: that Americans in particular lag behind most of the developed world and that the public school system is such an unmitigated disaster that one can only assume it was purposefully designed with failure in mind. But the core kernel of that Enlightenment rationalism remains lit with pride at the heart of the Western soul, and it illuminates the rest of the liberal experiment.
Rationalism is what has tried to pass for the general metaphysic of modernity, as I and many, many others have asserted in the past. As a result, it’s been burdened with the reigns of religion but repackaged in so many ways. The problem is that rationalism was abandoned by all philosophers more than a century ago, because as an ideological framework, it didn’t make any sense. This doesn’t matter for the population at large, however, as attributing a common-sense rhetorical posture is enough to pass along whatever confused terminology is coming down through the pipeline from our cultural betters.
As with any religion, the modern rationalist one needs a pantheon of gods. Remember that these aren’t really people so much as unimpeachable concepts that require constant defense against the enemies of reason. So you have your Evolution, and you have your Old Universe as its brother. And you have the twins Psychology and Sociology. But the member we’re most interested in here is the brother named Quantum Physics.
Keep in mind that quantum physics is an apparently legitimate field of study, populated by totally reasonable and highly technical people who use grant money to conduct experiments that seem, to the untrained eye, to be over-complicated methods of smashing things together. But I’m not really talking about whatever CERN is doing. I’m talking about how people use quantum physics as a term in the real world. Atheists have a term for it, though they never level it at science: God of the Gaps. Whatever can’t be explained must have an explanation, and quantum physics seems complicated and includes a notion that there are an infinite number of parallel worlds, so that must have something to do with it.
Now keep in mind also that parallel universes have never been proven. And in fact, based on what the scientists have to say on the subject, the very belief they exist is unfalsifiable—and as such will never be proven, at least in the form the theory currently exists. In fact, the very notion of parallel universes is, in all likelihood, some sort of mathematical convenience devised to explain phenomena that quantum mechanics have observed, and some journalist with an interest in science fiction attributed the general explanation of the formulas to fantastical beliefs in parallel worlds.
The Mandela Effect
And so we circle back around to the Mandela Effect, by way of so-called quantum mechanics. There is no reason to believe in the existence of parallel universes, or altered timelines, or genuine discrepancies in reality. What happens at the quantum level regarding time displacements or borrowed energies or whatever are things that scientists still haven’t agreed about having even existed, but they’ve been blown up and sensationalized by a media interested in reminding you that truth can be relative—even the very nature of our reality. This is, of course, verifiable nonsense, just as any appeal to Humean metaphysics is.
But again, that’s not really the point, is it? The Mandela Effect is an admission of pride, where the person who believes to be experiencing it gets to role play as Neo from the first act of The Matrix. Like any good illusion—and indeed, any good propaganda—there are many threads of truth woven into this scam, even though its tapestry depicts a lie. The world really isn’t what it seems like. Modernity’s attempt to blanket the world with skepticism about reality, about biology, about truth, about order, all on down the line—it’s an imperfect renovation that has lots of holes for people to accidentally fall into, say, Thomism or radical Catholicism, which more than adequately equip people with the tools necessary to rip it all apart.
The Mandela Effect—and the cult of scientism’s reliance upon quantum physics—play on this, though. Everyone inclined toward philosophical inquiry tends to recognize that something about the world isn’t quite right. Everyone that starts this line of inquiry also places themselves into the position of a prideful outcast, even as he does his utmost to submit himself to humility. But as we know, actual humility is impossible without God, and all those who reject God but walk an inquiring path are not only subject to delusions like these, but in fact utterly ensnared by them.
Notice that all those who defend the Mandela Effect are convinced of their own memory before anything else. They remain rooted firm in themselves as the arbiter of what is true, even as they might pay lip service to religious affiliation or a conviction to philosophical studiousness. Regardless of this, they have to be certain—not the existence of a fact in reality, but their own belief in it is what must be certain. The Mandela Effect isn’t about this unfalsifiable claim that reality has changed and memories haven’t, or that timelines have shifted, or that there are unknowing masses of inter-dimensional pilgrims from other universes. It’s about people desperately trying to make sense of an ideological framework that short circuited a long time ago. It’s about people figuring out that there probably is a conspiracy against their best interests, but it has nothing to do with how a particular children’s story was spelled or the fact that Wite Out is missing a letter.
It’s about the people who have not yet turned themselves toward God struggling, and failing, to find the rational framework necessary to make sense of reality.