June 28, 2009

What is an effective way of dealing with persisting primitive thinking in this modern world?

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?

36 comments:

  1. you know that Billy Connoly already made the final statement against intelligent design...

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  2. Interesting question, that kind of feeds on our project...

    anyway, I think I do not like that much the term "primitive thinking". I think that something like "the adaptive unconscious" or "evolutionary evolved modules in the mind", or something like that, would be a better term.
    By using the word "primitive thinking" we throw a negative light on a series of skills which are mostly useful for us.
    For example, our "pattern-seeking" system helps us navigate in our environment pretty well; of course there are side effects, i.e. the tendency to see patterns when there are none.

    Another distincion that I would like to make is the one between "primitive thinking" and its effects - i.e. seeing the virgin Mary in one loaf of toasted bread is one thing, paying thousands of dollar to buy it is yet another thing (and seeling it quite another!).

    So, how do we deal with "primitive thinking"?
    Well, i would say on a case by case basis.
    Too many things get clustered under the words "primitive thinking".

    I liked Sam Harris speech made at an atheist convention - he said he did not like the idea of having an atheist movement, the "brights".
    Rather, he was advocating applying a "critical thinking" approach to different issues, case by case.
    So, I would do that, I would point out that there are simpler explanations to paranormal phenomena and lay it there, for the other person to see. Without pushing, or advocating. But then again, that would depend on the context...

    I know what I find irritating: a holier-than-thou attitude than sometimes some rationalists have... say Dawkins... even if I know he is right, that attitudes triggers reactance in me!! And actually about religion: positive psychology results tell us that people who believe in God have a better quality of life, longer life-spans, better health; so purely from a scientific point of view I would have to prescribe religion to patients! (OK, long story here and additional distinctions to be made, but again let's not throw out the baby with the bath water... see Haidt on the importance of spirituality).

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  3. Hi Maarten, No? Did not know that .. please tell us more

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  4. Hi Paolo, thank you for your comment. It provides lots of food for thought. A few things that I like in it: 1) it prompts me to think about the term 'primitive'. I recognize that all of us are full of primitive processes (like reflexes) which work just fine. So, to say the least, primitive is not all bad. 2)the case by case critical thinking approach. What I like about this is that you deal with it only when there is a trigger and that you take into account all kinds of contextual factors that play a role there and then. 3) Even when you think religious belief is not true and that it can have negative epxressions and consequences, it is hard to deny it also can have some very positive consequences. This reminds me of a quote by William James who said: "Truth is what works". Then again, I can also imagine that holding on to something untrue, no matter comforting, may be unwise in the long term. Also, if you'd prescribe a religion to clients, how would you decide which religion, or how would he decide which religion?

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  5. Hi Coert,
    thanks for summing up my thinking in such a clear way!

    Regarding the question about prescribing religion: you are right. The main studies we have re religion and well-being have been done in the US, and only with a few denominations; so there is a lot of context there. My comment was meant to be paradoxical. My intent was simply to warn about the temptation to dismiss the whole phenomenon of religion without first trying to understand it. If we know that some religions in some cultures have a positive effect on believers, then the next step is to identify which specific practices are relevant for this effect and which are not; what is it, in the experience of "being religious" that contributes to well-being? I like the thinking of Haidt on this subject. who advocates learning more - acknowledging, for example, the importance of spirituality, the fact that all of us, even atheists, have a "sacred space"; maybe a moment in the week, maybe a room in the house, whatever... but that is a "religious" element and seem to be important to our sense of self.
    BTW, Haidt is an atheist.
    In a word, I would be curious :) about the whole thing. Labeling it "primitive" and sweeping it under the rug of our "rationality" is not something that I would support.
    Thanks again for your interesting post,
    ciao,
    Paolo

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  6. Thanks again Paolo! Do you perhaps have a reference for that piece by Haidt? I don't know it.

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  7. It's in the book "The Happiness Hypothesis", chapter 9 (titled: "divinity with or without God"). The book is a great read, btw.

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  8. The first rule of evolved thinking is not to meet primitive thinking with primitive thinking. If you say, "if you don't stop believing primitive things I will hit you with an intellectuall baseball bat". Actually you are now putting primitive thinking back in fashion.

    What we need is not only sceptiscism, but benevolent sceptiscism, or compassionate sceptiscism. Or, dare I use the word, a new (post-post-modern) enlightenment.

    I think this is what Dawkins sees himself doing, but, as much as I love the man and what I've learned from him, I agree that Dawkins can -sometimes- have a slight tone of violence, or perhaps even slight contempt, in his voice. But this is not in general. (Compare with Penn and Teller). It doesn't really look good to put others down to build yourself up. The enemy of science is not religion but violent stupidity, or stupidity fighting for it's right to be in charge. You can believe and be intelligent, and thus change as we all can. I believe (?) that kind encouragement of intelligence, critical thinking and the honest, systematic rules of science, it most constructive. I think Dawkins knows that, and tries to do that, but sometime gets inpatient, and attempts to hide that he is hurt, sad, or perhaps disgusted. But he seems to be a gentleman. (or a gentle-man). And I think he wants the best for people.

    Penn is more direct, no stiff upper lip but a lot of loud words, wide eyes, big body towering body and flapping of arms about. Entertaining, and I agree about almost everything But I realize, that also intellectual baseball bats hurt.

    Perhaps belief in a religion is helpful is some ways. But as with any "medicine": are there side-effects? Perhaps the individual benefits from belief, as stress-reduction or as an incentive to take care of others, but what will it do to curiosity and sceptical inquiry?

    I do agree with Dawkins and others that religion is holding humanity back. But, is the compassion for all sentient beings holding humanity back? Don't think so, and Darwin did certainly not think so. So perhaps, it is the side-effects that are the primary problem.

    The problem is not "you must believe" but "you most not think", or "you must believe, because I say so", or "asking questions is questioning faith".

    And of course: "thou must shut though mouth up, or thou will be locked in the steaming sauna for a mighty long time" is a problem when it is response to "hey, wait a minute, that one about questioning faith was circular"

    This means that the enemy is not the prescence of religion, but the absence of education, critical thinking. So, for me this means that I want to aspire benevolent scepticsism. Be intelligent and be interested. Curiousity is scary too, and needs courage, so invite curiosity by kindness as well as logic, and honestly sticking to the rules of science. Don't point to the holes or inconsistencies in a belief or explanation. That, though fun, is the sport of philosophy thugs. The holes are possible pathways to intelligence. Be kind with the holes, don't blame people for them, or they will try to patch them up. And by doing that the way out is destroyed. Similarly, don't demand evidence, invite curiosity and ask gently but firmly. Be a gentle warrior, keep asking, and keep the holes open.

    Be well
    Michael

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  9. Hi Michael,
    I love very much the idea of "compassionate skepticism" - I agree with you 100%.
    I also like the idea of religion as a medicine, and therefore the inherent concept of side effects; that is an interesting line of reasoning.
    As you say, the problem is not religion per se but banning critical thinking.
    Ciao!!

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  10. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for your comment. I'd like to hightlight a few approaches you have mentioned and which I find attractive:

    - evolved thinking
    - benevolent sceptiscism
    - a new enlightenment
    - kind encouragement of intelligence
    - invite curiosity
    - ask gently but firmly.
    - keep asking

    It reminds me of how Charles Darwin dealt with these issues. He was ever so sensitive not to hurt the other person. I interpret Dawkins in roughly the same way (and I have tremendous respect for him).

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  11. Hi Paolo, thanks. To add another point: in our comments there is a bit of a focus on religion (maybe due to the fact that I raised names of Dawkins etc) but this post was not meant by me to only deal with religion but with primitive or unevolved thinking in a broad sense, including pseudoscience, supersitious beliefs in general, fallacies in statistical thinking, anti-science thinking, etc.

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  12. For me, the dialogues between Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman has been very important. I've realized that you can be intelligent, fiercely scientific, and kind at the same time. Sceptiscisms with a heart.

    Sounds a bit like the title for a book or a movie, huh. "Sceptiscism with a heart- the Dharma of science"

    Be well
    Michael

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  13. Hi Michael,

    Well-known conflict resolution and negotiation models are often based on an approach which was introduced by Blake and Mouton. An example is the Conflict Mode Instrument by Thomas and Kilman (1974). These models use two types of axes: 1) concern for the relationship, 2) concern for the task (or the issue at hand). In many cases solutions can be found which do justice to both the relationship and the task (issue).

    Maybe compassionate skepticism is an example of such an approach.

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  14. Hi Coert,
    I realize that - I used religion as an example, and we kind of followed that thread.
    See, that is the danger of using such nonspecific terms like "primitive thinking".

    An additional point on that concept: I hope the book is not re-instating an old dichotomy.
    It used to be reason vs. emotions, rational vs. irrational. I think evolutionary psychology and then neuroscience did a fairly good job in showing us the logic of emotions, the logic, if you will, of "irrationality" (see Pinker).
    But if the book is about being aware of how much we are still influenced by primitive thinking, then it puts itself in a long list of similar books - and I am all for awareness and more critical thinking.

    An aside, for Michael: I like his idea of compassionate skepticism, but yes, one of my guilty pleasure is to watch Penn & Teller and to listen to the Quackwatch podcast! :)

    Ciao,
    Paolo

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  15. I enjoy Penn and Teller too, sharp minds with lots of guts. It is like the intellectual equivalent to (MMA) multiple marial arts like UFC, which I also love)

    be well
    Michael

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  16. I am for religion. To be more exact, I'm for Christianity. I love the world it shows.
    However, the Christianity I'm referring to is not what you see in the present churches. It is more that beautiful idea hidden well under a mountain of dogmas.

    As Tolstoy argued, religion is a theory of the future.

    Religion is closer to science than to superstition. A vision of the future is formulated and then tested. Then another vision of the future is further express, in a better way, and then again, is tested. The current vision of the future, as it is truly described by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, it is a great vision. The only problem is in its misinterpretation. Implementation problems. ;)

    So, the best way science could approach religion is to help it.

    It is not religion that is the problem but the very things that religion tries to combat: superstition, barbarism, intolerance, xenophobism, division.

    If we accept the definition of life given by Krishnamurti: "Life is a global unity movement" and work on this, why should there be a conflict? Why not science AND religion, hand in hand? Infuse religion with critical thinking. And borrow from religion the idea of a common goal and fidelity towards that goal.

    I believe that the Kingdom of God is here, among us and the only thing it need is some cleaning.

    I also believe that religion boils down to this: There is a better way of living.

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  17. Hi Michael, 'MMA multiple marial arts like UFC'? never heard of... yet another thing for me to google I guess...

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  18. Hi Peter, thank you for your comment. I think interpretation differences can lead to wildly different attitudes. For instance, the video Judgment day Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial captures the turmoil that tore apart the community of Dover, Pennsylvania in a landmark battle over the teaching of evolution in public schools. In 2004, the Dover school board ordered science teachers to read a statement to high school biology students about an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution called intelligent design the idea that life is too complex to have evolved naturally and so must have been designed by an intelligent agent. The teachers refused to comply, and both parents and teachers filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the school board of violating the constitutional separation of church and state. They won and their most important expert witness was a Christian himself. So this seems like a good example of how science and religion can both conflict and go hand in hand.

    For full disclosure, btw, I myself have lost my religon step by step from about age 15 and I consider myself fully non-religious. Having said this though, I'd like to add that many values that are advocated by most religions/ religous people, I still share.

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  19. I've heard somewhere, maybe on a Joseph Campbell documentary, that is not religion and science that are in conflict but rather the science we have now and the science from 3000 years ago. :)

    You may consider yourself non-religious but, if we were to consider religion a theory of the future, I guess you are as religious as everybody because I do think that you believe in a better world, a world of reason. And you do try to do your share to bring this better world into existence. And this, at least in my view, it is the essence of a religious life. To live your life for a better world, for a better tomorrow.

    I don't think religion has to be reduced to pissed-off white bearded man throwing fire from sky one minute and changing his mind the next.

    Ask a Christian if he wants a better tomorrow, a safer place for his children, and he will say yes. So will a Muslim and a Hindu.

    I like to think together with de Chardin that, with the homo sapiens, evolution moved into a new arena, the arena of the spirit. Our hearts and minds are evolving towards better tooling us for surviving one next to the other.

    There are no more predators to fear. The only enemy is us.

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  20. Hi Peter,

    Your comment (by redefining 'religion') reminds me of a recent book by complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman, Reinventing the sacred. As I understand his book the gist of his argument is:

    - Evolution theory and complexity theory have learned that the right order in the natural world is: simple -> complex.

    - Traditional god views are thus wrong: it is not the case that a complex creative force created everything there is

    - People are accustomed to and desire to be worshipping

    - The object of their worshipping is nonexistent

    - We should invent a new object for worshipping

    - We can redefine 'god' so that worshipping can continue

    - A new god definition could be: everything there is led to the emergence of a creative force.

    I believe in building a better future and I am quite optimistic that the future will indeed be better in many respects. I also believe in morality (and I think there is a strong evolutionairy basis for it).

    I am reluctant to call this religious however because the concept would become to contaminated for my taste.

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  21. Hi Coert,

    I'm glad to see this conversation here. I don't know that such an open conversation could happen in other forums. Let me state upfront my own religious background, because I know it will trigger an automatic reaction in people. I'm a Mormon - yes, that highly reviled, patriarchal, traditionalist cult of straight white people hiding in the mountains of Utah who used to practice polygamy (grin) . I'm also a devout member of the clergy who falls within the mainstream of the church. I note these things early in my comments because people will automatically lump into a category of backward, primitive thinkers. Perhaps I am. Let's see if my beliefs fit the stereotypes:

    1. I believe in evolution (I'm not sure which school of thought yet, there a many divergent schools of evolution, some of which appear to have more merit than others).
    2. I believe that honest, accurate, scientific inquiry is an enlightening process and shouldn't be hindered by belief systems. In fact, "true" religous principles and honest scientific inquiry should by nature (and not by force) be mutually supportive. Among my equally devout Mormon friends and family are a nuclear physicist, a NASA program manager, a neuropsychologist, a couple of bio-engineers, etc.
    3. I believe that the purpose of religion should be to bridge human differences, enlighten the mind, enliven the soul, and better the earthly circumstances of our 'neighbors'.
    4. I believe that evolutionary biology and neuropsychology provide amazing answers to many of our questions.
    5. I believe that God encourages his children to seek for truth where ever it may be found.
    6. I fully recognize that great harm has been done in the name of and because of religion.
    7. I appreciate and value my colleagues who have strongly divergent opinions. They enlighten me and make me a better person.

    My concern with Richard Dawkins, and similar thinkers is that the great pro-atheism debate is a red herring. There is far greater danger in "bad" or "primitive" thinking than in any particular belief system. The deaths resulting from 'enlightened' irreligous efforts, such as Mao's and Stalin's policies are as tragic as those resulting from the Inquisition, the Irish Troubles, or the Crusades. Josef Mengele's experiments, though free from religious or moral constrictions, would hardly be considered enlighted inquiry. And from what I have read and seen personally, much of that which has been done with the cloak of religion would have occurred regardless of the belief system. Religion was simply the most useful tool available. Homo sapiens began perpetrating atrocities against each other long before any of the world's popular religions came into existence. And will most likely do so long after they fade.

    Likewise, one person's or one generation's 'critical/rational' thinking is the next generation's "primitive thinking." Consider the eugenics of the early 20th century which resulted in Nazi breeding policies, and sterilization programs in the US based on race or mental competence.

    Please note that I am NOT acting as a religious apologist here. Rather, I don't believe that the debate as currently structured - deism vs. atheism - is particularly useful to the advancement of humanity's welfare. If science and 'rational' thinking offer a benefit to an individual or society, let us embrace such. If religion has a positive benefit, let's find out what practices and principles are beneficial and adopt those.

    The various theisms seem to trigger such hot buttons that a consistency in approach seems to breakdown. I think positive deviance, appreciative inquiry, or solution-focused approaches are as applicable in the field of ontology as they are in many other fields. I would be interested in seeing what results from such a combination.

    Coert, thanks for opening up such an interesting and open conversation!

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  22. One quick thought regarding Solution Focused...

    Live and let live. That seams to work, we should do more of that. ;)

    Also, this love thing seams to work pretty well too. So, let's understand love as: aid + comfort + acceptance (Selligman) and do more of it.

    "Where there is love, do what you will, it will be right action! It will never bring conflict to one’s life." - J. Krishnamurti

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  23. Hi Jim,

    Good to hear from you. Thanks for your comments. Your comment reminds me of two stages in science (you probably know them). One is the context of discovery, the other is the context of justification. In the context of discovery, which is about creating ideas and hypotheses, anything goes. It does not matter where you get your ideas from. There are no rules and procedures you have to follow. You can get your theory from looking into the fire if that helps you. And you get your ides from any belief system you like. In the context of justification you test your ideas. In this stage there are, or course strict rules to be followed.

    This distinction reminded me of what you said. I guess this distinction is somehow relevant for everyday behavior, too. I does not matter too much from which belief system you get your intentions and goals. Their merit lies in whether they are beneficial.

    The second thing I really like in your response is this sentence: "One person's or one generation's 'critical/rational' thinking is the next generation's "primitive thinking."

    This insight is something which may both keep everybody modest and inspire them to develop their thinking at once. Even tremendous thinkers like Aristotle are now in some respects primitive. It is the course of nature that we evolve. Even our most advanced thinking will probably once be considered simple/primitive/unevolved.

    The same applies to some extent whithin one's own life. Sometimes you can wonder have you could, at a certain age, have looked at things so simply, unnuanced, primitively. But as you proceed in life you can learn. And as we proceed as a species our thinking develops too. We don't need to put down our former, more primitive version of ourselves. We did what we could and thought was right then. We learned and now we are here.

    Having said all of this, I'd like to share my perspective on Dawkins from my perspective. I could be wrong of course but my bet is he is, like Darwin was, a quite advanced thinker who challenges our thinking, well-intendedly in a rather courageous way. My guess would be religious or spiritual thought will in the future develop further as it has always developed in history to become more sparse and less human centric and more nature centric up to a point at which it becomes something which we now might not call religious.

    ---
    Certainly not my intention to make this the new theme of this blog ... :)

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  24. Peter - "Also, this love thing seams to work pretty well too." (smile) - I like that!

    Coert, your analogy about the evolution of personal thought was great - a good example of isomorphism.

    And in opposition to my previous post, though I'm not a big fan of Dawkins, Penn and Teller and Monty Python are great. Maybe I like my dogmas challenged through humor. (oh, and add Terry Pratchett in there)

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  25. Hi Jim,
    How about Ed Current? Does that work for you or is he taking it a step to far for your taste in his satire?

    see for instance:
    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkhQLt1vbWU

    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P47OC439x88

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  26. Interesting approach (Ed Current). :)
    Somewhat entertaining but in the same time very annoying (his voice might also play a role).

    My favorite atheist approaches remain Sagan and Feynman. They somehow managed to shift the attention to what matters.

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  27. Hi Peter, interesting... What was it about their approach that worked for you? (I know the two of them of course but I do not know much about how they dealt with their atheism)

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  28. Exactly, they didn't spoke so much about their atheism... it is science that mattered more. They talked about science in a calm and confident voice. They talked about what they knew or about what they researched... not about the unanswerable. ;)

    I feel the need to retell a short story:

    "Tell me," said the atheist, "Is there a God— really?"
    Said the master, "If you want me to be perfectly honest with you, I will not answer."
    Later the disciples demanded to know why he had not answered.
    "Because the question is unanswerable," said the Master.
    "So you are an atheist?"
    "Certainly not. The atheist makes the mistake of denying that of which nothing may be said... and the theist makes the mistake of affirming it.

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  29. Hi chaps,
    The departure point for this lively discussion was evolutionary psychology ("evo-psych") and while it's ranged quite a bit I wanted to direct your attention to this interesting article that takes issue with the evo-psych camp: http://www.newsweek.com/id/202789/output/print
    Hope this is of interest and use!
    Best,
    TM

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  30. For some reason, Ed Current didn't hit my funny bone the same way as the British humorists. I think part of me was feeling tarred by a brush too broad (the term "Christian" being used to lump a diverse group of people under one belief system) or again, maybe it was his voice (but then I have the same issue with Sagan's voice too).

    Todd, great article in Newsweek. And very timely for a discussion we had in the office yesterday.

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  31. Coert,

    I think we are asking the wrong question here. The question isn't "how to deal with primitive thinking?" It's "how do we improve the quality of life on the planet?" If we can do that without changing anyone's thinking so much the better.

    Also, there are many positive effects of the so-called primitive thinking. If not, we would not have survived and continue to not just survive but thrive. If we want to improve thinking, let's look at how we've already done so and then do more of that. Education as imperfect as it is has helped. How might we take the strengths of the current ways people are being educated and improve upon it?

    To sum up, let's take a more solution-focused approach to this whole topic by looking at the outcome first, how far we've come and then some next steps.

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  32. Hi Rodney, thank you for your interesting perspective on this topic. What I like about your answer is that you introduce a positive goal formulation (quality), a minimalistic approach to change (if we can achieve something good without change people's thinking all the better) and also a platform view (primitive thinking also has positive effects).

    On the other hand, I tend to think that humanity has benefitted to form great thinkiners of the past who have actively challenged primitive and outdated views.

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  33. Coert,

    I agree with you that great thinkers of the past (and great systems of knowledge-gathering such as scientific investigation even more) have improved on humanity's thinking.

    In fact, that is one of our strengths. We always have some people who are ahead of the curve that can teach the rest of us. How have useful and true ideas been disseminated in the past? How have wrong ideas been overturned and the correct view become commonplace? Maybe we can learn some things that can help us overcome some of the inaccurate thinking many people do today.

    For example, how did it come to pass that people for the most part stopped believing in witches and burning those accused of witchcraft at the stake? What changed in the West that caused people to no longer believe in enslaving others? How did ideas like religious tolerance spread?

    I wonder if a historical perspective might shed some light on the issue.

    Rodney

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  34. Hi Rodney, exactly! If I try to take a historical perspective I observe that throughout history we have firmly held believes that later turned out to be wrong. I cannot imagine that the same is not the case today (because I can't imagine why the development of our thoughts and insights should suddenly stop).

    If I'm right, there are dominant ideas today, which will be overturned tomorrow and will once be viewed as 'primitive' by the general public of the future.

    Extrapolating from history, I would predict there are now certain people who are already presenting us with rough versions of insights which will in the future become dominant.

    Looking at a pattern of the way knowledge has developed,I would predict that future views on reality will in any case be less antropocentric.

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  35. Coert,

    I agree with you on this point. We will definitely find we are wrong about certain things and right about others. And I think one of the things that will change is our knowledge of how to influence other human beings.

    Imagine how much better our world will be when we know how to teach the most useful insights we have to the majority of people. I think that's one of the new waves of knowledge that's being developed in psychology. Solutions Focus is part of this because it allows a person to be positively influenced by their own fund of knowledge.

    Rodney

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