Ben Carson follow-up

I wrapped up my previous post about Ben Carson a bit too hastily, because I do have a fairly solid provisional conclusion about why some people don’t “believe” in science and ascribe instead to faith or various subjectively attractive supernatural explanations. It’s because humans are social animals first and foremost (rather than, say, rational animals), and the social bonds formed between families, neighborhoods, congregations, and others who may be presumed to have similar values, is of central importance to the vast majority of humans. Abstract ideas about the outer world, or what happened in the past or might happen in the future (more than a generation or so, in the life of one’s kids), is of intellectual interest at best, and very rarely to be taken into account if it threatens in any way the shared assumptions of one’s social groups [which ultimately, as explained, is about genetic survival]. To challenge the beliefs of one’s social groups is to risk ostracism, as does in fact happen to religious apostates and to kids who grow up non-heterosexual (thus threatening the continued familial line) or who challenge their community’s faith (thus representing to others in the community someone who can’t be ‘trusted’ to behave according to their standards).

Ben Carson and his ilk aren’t necessarily dumb (though many people who dismiss scientific ideas on the basis of superficial implausibility are; they are simply unable to draw deductive conclusions, or are unwilling or too impatient to follow an argument for why something obvious to common sense may not be true). Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee and their ilk are advertising to their followers – this is what politicians, especially, do – that *I am one of you*! I share your values! I share your prejudices! I share your ignorance! Because there are enough people out there to follow such a leader to make it worth sacrificing whatever intellectual integrity they might otherwise have.

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