Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Religious Thinking: Egotism

Let it be reiterated that Reversed Stupidity Is Not Intelligence. One of the traps I see Selfish egotism-based people fall for is an idea of Man as God. Traditionally, religious groups view God as the shepherd, and the People as the sheep, and therefore the people are below and ought to worship their lord. People are corrupt, people are sin, people don't have all the qualities they ascribe God.

It's fairly reasonable to call this stupid. And yet the reverse, that Man is a shepherd, that Man is good, that man is sinless, that man is rational... That's not an accurate picture, either. As evidenced by the Objectivists and the Libertarians, this kind of thinking is just as dangerous. If man is a shepherd, then he should take care of himself, and no one should take care of him, thus we should get rid of all governmental welfare programs! If man is a god, then anything he decides to do is worthy, let him do it! Even if this means killing people, then the other gods can just team up on him and kill him if they want.

The truth is of course in between, even the most shallow of views of psychology should make this blatantly obvious. Humans have a strong need for self-determination and want some degree of control in their lives; at the same time, humans need help from time to time, some humans more than others, especially depending on their developmental background. Humans have a strong sense of duty and obligation to others. Their family, and even strangers. Humans make many, many, many mistakes, and yet we've gotten to the Moon, we can create Life in the lab, we can collide fundamental particles at relativistic speeds to see what happens, and if the future is a bright one, we will create superintelligence.

Egotism is misplaced. While it's important to remind ourselves that individualism is good, it's also important to remind ourselves that humans are social creatures and it's society that makes us powerful. One hundred random brains are better than one random brain, contain more knowledge than one brain, and are worth about 100 times more than one brain. To kill a person is to kill a world; to kill 100 people is to kill 100 worlds; to kill a billion people is to kill a galactic civilization. Egotism traps you into a black-white mindframe, it kills your mind in the politics it puts forth, since you must argue against all policies that limit the power of the individual. It puts you in a religious mind, not being able to see the other side, carefully worshiping your side's best practitioners, reading all the recommended literature spouting nothing but your side's views. Egotism has been valuable in showing that selfish thinking is not always bad, but learn some evolutionary psychology, and see that selfish thinking is at the core of our history even before we became human and discovered methods of reasoning. The selfish mind is the reptilian mind, the old mind, the inhumane mind. It's not always wrong, but it's not always right, so inject some humaneness into your belief system before succumbing to the religious trappings of "the reptile is always wrong, follow God", or "the reptile is always right, be selfish".

Posted on 2010-11-12 by Jach

Tags: religious thinking


Trackback URL:

Back to the top

Back to the first comment

Comment using the form below

(Only if you want to be notified of further responses, never displayed.)

Your Comment:

LaTeX allowed in comments, use $$\$\$...\$\$$$ to wrap inline and $$[math]...[/math]$$ to wrap blocks.