In the beginning
Modern humans have been around for 200,000 years. This means that the brain we possess today is fundamentally no different than that of our cave dwelling ancestors.
Thinking about it anther way – The most intelligent human 200,000 years ago was likely just as intelligent as Stephen Hawking – At least biologically. Yet, he almost certainly explained his reality in the most irrational way.
According to him storms were the result of the gods being angry, fire was magical and the realm of the gods, animals were demons or benevolent spirits… the list of his irrational beliefs goes on and on.
For majority of our existence, the beliefs of our more recent ancestors were probably no different than those of the early cavemen. For instance it wasn’t until the 19th century, thanks to the work of Galileo and Copernicus a few centuries prior, that it was accepted that the sun was a star. For hundreds of years prior, philosophers and free-thinkers were executed on charges of heresy for making similar claims.
So for most of human history , despite having the same biological instrument that enabled space flight, human civilization traversed though time with a world view that had not even the faintest semblance to reality.
The Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution
Then there was this thing in the 19th century called the enlightenment.
What followed was that in a few hundred years we unmasked the mysteries of the universe,drastically reduced world famine, decrease child mortality significantly, invented vaccines and explored the heavens. This is truly remarkable. To put it in perspective we accomplished all this in less than 0.15% (300/200000 x 100) of the time we’ve been on this planet.
What do we owe this to?
We are fundamentally irrational beings.
Human history is a testament to that fact.
Reason takes effort. Our ability to reason has transformed humanity from a state of serfdom to one where the common man enjoys a level of luxury that even the kings of old couldn’t afford.
Yet, despite all that it has given us, it is constantly under the threat of being usurped by the irrational . This article by the New York Times illustrates that most people even today in the post industrial age are irrational.
We fall pray to false beliefs constantly. We succumb to our emotions. We commit fallacies every day like the conjunction fallacy talked about in the article.
Yes, we are fundamentally irrational but rationality is something that can be learned. Isn’t this a failure of our education institutions? We teach students things they might never use like calculus yet fail to teach them the methods needed to think logically; to evaluate arguments objectively.
Logic shouldn’t be a subject that a college student is exposed to by accident if he happens to take the right philosophy elective. It should be a fundamental part of their education starting from the time they first set foot in school.
We create a society that hands over power to those that should never have any.
A society of “sheeple” that take on massive amounts of debt, unprecedented in history, while incomes regress.
We stand idle watching our liberties, that reasonable and rational men fought hard to preserve, be taken away, one by one under the guise of saving us from an irrational fear.
We become a society of fear and fear mongering instead of one of hope and optimism.
Please don’t let that happen.
It isn’t a law of nature that societal progress follows the arrow of time. We can go backwards just as we can go forward. Ask the Romans, they’ll agree.