Today’s Truth Driver Commentary for talk radio is something you really should hear. It’s about backward masking, because it’s making a comeback—and of course people still think it’s real. For those old enough to remember vinyl records, you probably remember the craze of playing them backwards and finding supposed secret messages or satanic verses hidden within. Unfortunately, backward masking is just yet another fantastic example of the way our minds are wired to seek patterns. Do you ever look at beautiful puffy white cumulus clouds and play that game where you try to see faces or shapes? And once someone points them out you can see them? It’s the same with backward masking!

To prove the point, I grabbed a song from my ipod—it’s called “I’m Gone,” from Christian artist and legend Michael W. Smith, on his album This is Your Time. If I were to play it for you backwards, you’d hear nothing but a strange garbled mess. But what if I were to tell you what you were going to hear before you hear it?

Some of you know of the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who completely dismissed Christianity. Well when you play the song backwards, you hear Michael W. Smith’s encoded slam on Nietzsche. It very clearly says “Nietzsche, you wanna run us down here? You and your big sickies?” (Listen here.) But does it really say that? Of course not.

Ironically there is even more to the phrase than I originally found. Here it is in full:

Nietzsche, you wanna run us down here? You and your big sickies.

Rotten is he, oh, Nietzsche’s the lost one.

The fact is that I pulled this song at random and had I not told you what to hear, you never would have heard it. As far as I know nobody has ever found a “backmasked” phrase in this song prior to me … and that’s because when you go looking for patterns, you can always find them. That’s what I did, and scientists call it the confirmation bias, or expectation bias. When you know what you want to find, you always can find it whether it’s there or not.

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(Stephen L. Gibson is the author of  A Secret of the Universe, a critically acclaimed, citation-rich novel about the intersections of science, reason, and faith. Still an emotion-driven thinker in recovery, Steve shares his journey in search of ever-elusive truth with thousands via his Truth-Driven Thinking podcast, and his Perspectives blog. © 2009, Truth-Driven Strategies LLC.)

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