|Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind by Robert Kurzban.
Robert Kurzban is a student of the “modular mind” theory of John Tooby & Leda Cosmides.
The modular mind
“The human mind consists of many, many mental processes – think of them as little programming subroutines, or maybe individual iPhone applications – each operating by its own logic, designed by the inexorable process of natural selection”
“the mind consists of many different parts. These parts often “believe” different, mutually inconsistent things. Sometimes this is obvious, as illustrated in case of brain damage and optical illusions. Other cases are less obvious, but no less interesting.”
“the different bits of our brain have functions. Just as some of our mind’s subroutines are for seeing, some for processing language, and some for controlling muscles, […] choosing mates, […] making friends, and – one subject I currently study – some with morally condemning others for doing things.”
With the concept of the modular mind, human irrationality, ignorance and self deception cease to be a confusing riddle.
“This book is about contradictions. […] It’s about how you can, and one at the same time, want the government to leave people alone as long as they’re not hurting anyone and also very much want the government to interfere with people’s lives even when they’re not hurting anyone.”
The usefulness of being wrong and ignorant
Life is complicated. There actually are paradoxes that are very hard to solve.
Example: I am convinced religion is wrong. There is no God. But, on the other hand there is lots of research proving “miracles” of religion like
- Imagine a poor, uneducated, violent neighborhood. If any church can gain foothold there, crime decreases, the entire community starts improving and working better. It is good, it is an improvement. So even if the church teaches wrong things, even if the church is run by a fraudster who just wants to siphon away part 10% of the faithful’s income (Tenth, Tithe), the church can have a positive effect. It is false, but it does good.
- James Randi (“Flim Flam”) is a great guy who relentlessly preaches against false beliefs, astrology, wonder healers, dowsing rods etc.
| Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions by James Randi $22.98 0879751983 James Randi has a US$ 1 Million bet that anyone can win who can show any paranormal effect to him. He never had to pay. For example, James Randi debunked a US$ 1000 dowsing rod that was sold to US police departments. These dowsing rods could identify criminals! But James Randi himself admits that the dowsing rods worked. They helped police identify criminals they otherwise would not have identified.
- People who are very religious, people who have supersticious beliefs about their breast cancer recover better then average from breast cancer (research by Professor Shelley Taylor). So if you take their beliefs away, you are reducing their chances of recovery. Positive Illusions by Shelley E Taylor $16.95 0465060528
- Placebo effect in Medicine: if you believe in healing power, you have a good chance of getting healed. And the more invasive the method is the better it works. A huge european study on acupuncture found that sticking needles into someone has a stronger placebo effect then pills. So let us assume that acupuncture and homeopathy are quackery ( I don’t want to discuss the merit of this here and now). But it has effects when done by a professional doctor who is strongly enough self deceived that he honestly believes in it.
So maybe the truth does harm. Very disturbing idea! Maybe I should start praising the virtues of human stupidity, self deception and unconsciousness.
Peer reviewed scientific journals report:
Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election. Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama. […]
States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behaviour.”
Evolutionary Psychology: Social evolution and social influence: selfishness, deception, self-deception.
Reprinted with permission of the Author
University of California at Los Angeles
Social evolution and social influence: selfishness, deception, self-deception
(download PDF version of the paper)
I. TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Table of contents 2
II. Rationality, consciousness, sincerity 3
A. Unconsciousness and irrationality: the myth of rationality 3
B. Deception: the myth of sincerity 4
C. Hypotheses of this paper: an overview 5
III. Evolutionary theory 6
A. Ultimate reasons 6
B. The survival of the fittest 7
C. Inclusive fitness and altruism: the selfish gene 7
D. Validity of evolutionary theory for humans 10
E. The influence of group living 11
F. War and intergroup violence: group selection revisited 13
G. Learning and culture 15
IV. Deception and impression management 16