There is a new book out by University of Guelph evolutionary psychologist Hank Davis called Caveman Logic: The Persistence of Primitive Thinking in a Modern World. Here is amazon.com's product description:
We see the face of the Virgin Mary staring up at us from a grilled cheese sandwich and sell the uneaten portion of our meal for $37,000 on eBay. While science offers a wealth of rational explanations for natural phenomena, we often prefer to embrace the fantasies that reassured our distant ancestors. And we'll even go to war to protect our delusions against those who do not share them. These are examples of what evolutionary psychologist Hank Davis calls 'Caveman Logic'. Although some examples are funny, the condition itself is no laughing matter. In this engagingly written book, Davis encourages us to transcend the mental default settings and tribal loyalties that worked well for our ancestors back in the Pleistocene age. Davis laments a modern world in which more people believe in ESP, ghosts, and angels than in evolution. Superstition and religion get particularly critical treatment, although Davis argues that religion, itself, is not the problem but 'an inevitable by-product of how our minds misperform'. Davis argues, 'It's time to move beyond the one-size-fits-all, safety and comfort-oriented settings that got our ancestors through the terrifying Pleistocene night'. In contrast, Davis advocates a world in which 'Spirituality' is viewed as a dangerous rather than an admirable quality, and suggests ways in which we can overcome our innate predisposition toward irrationality. He concludes by pointing out that 'biology is not destiny'. Just as some of us succeed in watching our diets, resisting violent impulses, and engaging in unselfish behavior, we can learn to use critical thinking and the insights of science to guide individual effort and social action in the service of our whole species.
I find this theme interesting. We live in times in which science has given is much insight into many natural phenomena and has debunked many supernatural claims. You would say this would be enough for most people to reject blind faith, superstition, magical thinking, supernatural explanations for things for which there now are natural explanations. But this is not the case (for just a few examples view here: Evolution vs. Intelligent Design and here: The Amazing Brown). I have not read Hank Davis' book yet but it I am curious about what it has to say about the following question: "What is an effective way of dealing with persisting primitive thinking in this modern world?" There are several things to be kept in mind when thinking about an answer to this question. The first is that nobody is free from some degree of primitive thinking, something which Davis explicitly acknowledges by the way. So who are you to talk about primitivism of another person when you're not free from it yourself? The second thing to keep in mind are so-called reactance effects (when people think someone is trying to convinces them of something out of a certain interest they will try to defend their autonomy and resist to the persuasion attempt by strengthening their own position). As Daniel Dennett put it: "You seldom talk anybody out of a position by arguing directly with their premises and inferences."
So, What are your ideas? What approach for dealing with persisting primitive thinking in this modern world do you prefer? Do you prefer a direct, well-argued, provocative yet polite approach of people like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett? Or do you prefer a challenging debunking approach as shown by people like Michael Shermer, Derren Brown, James Randi and QualiaSoup? Or do you prefer a satirical approach as followed by people like Edward Current and the Monty Python team? Or is there a way of leading by example? Or is it better to leave it alone and not discuss this at all in order to respect whatever people believe to be true or just in order to mind your own business? And is it important at all to get rid of primitive thinking at all or is usually harmless? What are your ideas?