Thoughts of a Thursday Afternoon: After the Apocalypse

Every human being starts from scratch: he or she comes equipped with a mind honed by evolution for survival, prone to superstitious, self-interested thinking for the same reason, but ill-equipped to accurately perceive reality, the reality that can be deduced by observation and logic.

Here is a general conclusion I would make based on all the recent evidence I’ve seen from psychology and religious practice…

Suppose a big reset button was hit on the human race. This could be the standard nuclear war in science fiction stories (Walter Miller, Pat Frank, that Twilight Zone episode), in which a few survive but without the technology and accumulated knowledge of past generations.

The same could apply to a group of people shipwrecked on a remote island, without any resources.

Humanity would eventually build a new civilization. This civilization would create lots of new religions — but none of them exactly like any of the religions we know today (any more than their languages would be exactly like those we know today), though similar to those we know, and to each other in the usual broad parameters. (Still, each religion would no doubt insist it’s the one true faith, unlike all the others.) These broad parameters, of course, are driven by the cognitive biases of the human mind, and the tribalistic nature of small human societies, and not by anything ‘true’ in religious claims — because the details of the factual claims of religions are generally easily dismissed, for complete lack of evidence, or disproven in the case of those claims about the nature of the world and the universe.

Science, too, would eventually be recreated. And it would be pretty much the same, given the contingencies of historical circumstance in terms of what gets discovered where or first or by whom, as the science we know. Because science is answerable to the real world. It’s about reality.

Every child and every family is to a degree a replay of that reset-humanity button. The accumulated knowledge of humanity, alas, does not pass automatically to each new member. If parents keep a child isolated from the rest of the world, through home-schooling or by denying access to books or TV or the internet or radio or movies, they can channel the child’s mind in whatever direction they like. And give it a few years, that direction will likely stick, throughout their lives. As the Catholic Church says…”Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man” (And Lenin said “Give me a child for the first 5 years of his life and he will be mine forever”). Or Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is because, we can now understand, there are cognitive biases in all of our minds that make it difficult to acknowledge threatening information, or challenge the standards of our tribe/community, or damage one’s ego by recognizing that you might have been wrong about something.

The way around this is science, the process which is the essence of science — if you can handle it, and think independently. If you’re interested in what really is true, and not merely content with the traditions of your tribe/community or with the illusions projected by your mind. You can’t escape those biases and illusions, which affect scientists’ minds too. But you can try to think around them, and participate in a discipline which functions to check and double-check and challenge every new claim, and correct things that are wrong.

The existence of our technological world is testament that science works. There is a noticeable lack of historical progress by religion.

Tradition may make you happier. I’m more curious about what is real, and true.

This entry was posted in Culture, Philosophy, Religion, Space. Bookmark the permalink.