Reason for a New Age

Posts Tagged ‘self deceit’

Evolution, Instinct, and People – Part 3

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/01/23


People can Convince Themselves of Anything

This largely is simply a restatement of my earlier point that peer pressure is a significant factor in how people act. It is easier to accept a thing as truth than to research and maintain proper skepticism of a thing. But it goes a bit beyond this.

A fun example is that of the comb-over. I have yet to see a person who has ever held a comb-over to be anything but ludicrous, and yet you have these poor souls who are so utterly convinced that they have covered up the truth that they’re quite happy to blissfully go about their day with an oddly shaped whirl of sparse hair bits atop their shiny noggin. They desperately need to believe this, and so they have come to believe it.

It also extends to most of the questionable habits of the race. A person who has never smoked is almost certainly aware that it’s unhealthy, he has quite likely spent time with an adult who smoked and found it to be a rank and unpleasant habit, and he’s going to be aware that it is addictive. When he takes a first puff, from what I am told, it’s likely to make you nauseous and possibly even throw up and really isn’t a terribly pleasant experience. It takes some bit of effort to continue smoking to overcome this and reach the point where it is enjoyable. No sane being would go through with that, unless they had thoroughly convinced themselves that this somehow really was a worthwhile pursuit.

Another, more interesting, proof is that 90% of people carry the religion of their parents. This means that people born to atheist parents, for example, don’t feel any divine presence (or else they would become religious one presumes), people born of Hindu parents feel or are certain of the reality of a great many spirits and gods, and people born to Christian parents feel or are certain of the reality of their God. I’ve had people of various religions all tell me of their personal interaction with their deity and how it proves the existence to them, while also proving how other religions are wrong or misinterpreting.

And of course, this is something that people have warred over, even within their own peace-advocating religion.

If you look at modern day America, while true the grand majority of the populace is Christian, it’s basically held that the Republican party is the place for the devoutly Christian. Atheists, agnostics, and the less devout end up as Democrats.

The Democratic party in modern day is, however, the party of Utopian, socialist peaceniks. The Republican party is that of Capitalists, pragmatists, and hawks. Respectively, they’re the party of Jesus and the party of the Old Testament. Republicans may as well be Jews except, of course, modern Jews are one of the most staunchly Democratic segments of society.

While admittedly simply my own reading of all of this, and I think whether it’s more likely that ones affiliation with a particular religion is genetic or trained, I have to go with trained. I see no reason to think that an Indian baby raised by a couple of Texans wouldn’t turn out as a Christian and think the religion of his parents as heretical. When I see people who are part of a group talking about feeling mystical powers and simply “knowing” the truth of it–the same words that I’ll see Scientologists and Branch Davidianists use to justify their faith–I can’t help but think that whatever it is that they’re feeling is almost certainly self-induced. After all, if I tell someone that when they feel happy and the urge to smile and everything happy and loving is God’s manifestation–well then every time I feel the slightest ounce of cheer, that’s proof of my deity. But of course not a proof of his deity, or hers.

Knowing that evolution seeks to come up with something that works, that there is instinctual programming inherent in any person or other animal, personally I can’t see any reason to think that an emotion like cheer is evidence of a deity as opposed to being my body injecting endorphins in my brain to encourage me towards forming bonds with my pack, finding a mate, and raising cubs. I suppose it’s not as wonderful an idea to think that I only love my wife because nature coded me to prefer a single mate and is pumping endorphins into my brain, causing euphoria, to see that I continue doing it because through the millenia this sort of setup happened to work well enough for the species. But, it does correspond to what can be observed.

But the impressive thing is that even if you agree with that assessment for being the likely state of affairs, you’ll continue to believe that your love for your parents, spouse, children, and friends is because you have empathy, morality, and emotions, and not because deep in the recesses of your brain some ancient programming ran which added up the pluses and minuses of each person and decided whether to or not pump out the happy chemical or the angry chemical into your brain. That you continue to believe that emotions aren’t clinical machinations of self-interest based on instinctual programming is the very proof that nearly all of us can convince ourselves of anything.

“All People Think Like I Do”

While I would argue that this is a widely held belief by most everyone, unfortunately it’s not something I can really show evidence of. And certainly I know that the idea that everyone is an individual and we’re all unique and so on are honestly held beliefs by everyone, the fact remains that most people aren’t particularly imaginative. Very few of us travel widely, so we’re exposed to very little that is different. These days very few of us read, so we don’t get the direct musings of an author. Very few people write, so they don’t have experience in trying to come up with unique and layered characters with conflicting ideas. Since we hardly even write letters anymore, just being able to collate and articulate ones own thoughts is possibly a hard thing for most. Perhaps blogging will aid in that. And of course, the most popular TV shows at any time are generally those with the flattest characters.

For all that we may know that each person is his own person and, theoretically, thinks for himself in a unique way, most of us simply don’t have the ability to see any other viewpoint.

And at heart, this is a critical point of politics because it means that it’s fairly difficult for the different parties to come to any particular terms. They honestly don’t understand each other, and in not understanding, but thinking that their opponent must see all the same points, they can only be convinced that whatever motive it is causing them to not deal with these points must be nefarious and being done for selfish personal gains.

While it might seem like I’m simply pointing out how everyone is bad and stupid, it still remains that everyone thinks of themselves as a good person and, by and large, is operating with good intentions most of the time. Often, yes, those good intentions happen to be more selfish than noble (see “People Can Convince Themselves of Anything”), but if you look at a group of politicians or lobbyists, businessmen, or terrorists, the point remains that they all honestly believe themselves to be out there trying to do good by the rest of the world. The person who is honestly dishonest, scheming, and nefarious is to the far edge of the bell curve, and while people of that ilk might end up more heavily in politics–which I couldn’t say for certain–I’d actual doubt that it’s all that great a percentage even so. Similarly as all the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies are ex-doctors, I don’t see one getting into politics unless you wanted to do good.

Pointing out that we tend to demonize people because we think they think like we do is an encouragement to realize that you are just as guilty of this, so that you will make the effort to understand and educate. You still might not agree, but at least you’ll be able to hold a dialogue, which is always productive.

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