Our species most unique strength is our ability to reason.  Our species gravest weakness is our tendency to rationalize.

einsteinPerhaps the greatest thinker of the 20th century, Albert Einstein’s greatest flaw was not accepting quantum mechanics proclaiming that “God did not play dice”.  Einstein was simply blinded by his religious faith and never accepted the reality that classic deterministic physics could no longer solve the riddles of the universe.  So Einstein toiled for over 30 years to fit his theories into a defunct model of the universe and really failed to make any major contributions to physics since his prescient yonger days.

The motivating factors that get in the way of reasonable thought are our believe systems which many times are counter to logic and reason.  The main things comprising our belief systems are listed as follows.

  • Religion and or personal philosophy
  • Political orientation
  • Racial and ethnic tribalism
  • Personal phobias and fear trigger

Einstein was the perfect example of how religion can warp the thought processes.  But all people have personal religious and/or philosophical beliefs that affect the way we perceive reality and thereby make decisions.  The key is to understand that we have these personal biases and deal with them accordingly when making decisions.  Moreover personal biases should always be minimized in evaluating purely scientific phenomenon.  Religious fundamentalist because of their particularly strong beliefs tend to be the most subjective thinkers and therefore make the worst scientists.  That fact that only 6% of scientists are Republican clearly indicates that conservatives’ thought mechanisms are severely biased.

Political ideology is belief system that creates rationalized thought instead of reasonable thought as well.  Climate change deniers are the best example of ideologues that fall into this category.  They start off with the political conclusion that climate change is not real because they do not want to tax big energy so they only cherry pick facts that fit their assumptions rather than examine the preponderance of data that is consistent with the theory of climate change.  We have all read the articles about the Bush white house supressing key evidence that climate change is in fact a consistent theory.

Probably the most rationalized ideology celebrated by the right wing today is their hatred of government when espesially seniors many of whom are conservatives depend on government more than any other segment in American society.  We have already heard about the hundreds of letters the president gets from seniors saying ‘we don’t want a government takeover of healthcare and don’t touch my Medicare.”.  Last week the GOP was shamed into voting for the acceptance of Medicare for political reasons but every member of the GOP has been trying to raid Medicare and force it to go bankrupt out of sheer ideology even though it has been the most successful government program in history.  Even worse the Reagan era economists, Art Laffer who should at least now the basic facts about medicare said this the other day on CNN.

“I mean, if you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait until you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government”

Now that must be the epitome of ideology blinding an educated person’s thought process.

Alas progressives are not exempt from having an ideological bias not in the way the usually affects scientific understanding or comming to thoughtful conclusions but more with not realizing the political realities in this country.  Some progressives view the country through the rational that everyone is really liberal and progressive when almost 80% of the US is comprised of moderates and conservatives.

The most deep seeded, dangerous and disturbing bias is racial and ethnic bias.  This should be no surprise because racism is one of the original sins of this country and man once civilization diversified.  Much of the mob rule mentality we are seeing in these townhall meeting protests are rooted in racial predjudice mostly against the president.  There is simple no other explaination for protesters showing up at rallies with racial epithets of the president at the rallies.

s-STROLLER-largeThese racial and ethnic divisions are most dangerous because they have become ingraned in right wing talk radio and at Fox News.  The main rationalization that goes on with warped minds like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh is rationalization of their racist and xenophobic attitudes via projection.  The constantly project their racist views on the president like Glenn Beck’s tirade calling the president a “racist” just last week.  Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh’s current projection tactic has been trying to imply the president is a Nazi and wants to “steal your feedom” nonsense because Limbaugh really wants to steal the freedoms of every American that is not an entitled white male like himself.  Moreover since millions subjugate their own beliefs to the likes of Beck and Limbaugh they are an ever present threat to civil discourse.

Fear is the most primal and therefor subconscious urge that affects our decision making abilities.  Fear driven rationalization originates in the lowest part of our reptilian brain center.  Fear really molds and affects our other higher level belief systems and is less of a belief system unto itself, save for totally irrational phobias.  The most dangerous aspect of fear is that it is the most contagious belief that negatively affects our thought making capabilities.  Many times fear turns into mass hysteria which leads to terrible group decisions like starting a criminal war in Iraq based on lies.  The fact was there was never a reasonable case for the Iraq War to be made only a rationalized case that was driven by the fear of the masses after the 911 attacks.  Rationalizations are about the Iraq War were also impossible to break.  Based on a Zogby poll in 2004.

“When troops are asked why they are in Iraq, 85% said it was “to retaliate for Saddam’s roll in the 9-11 attacks””

The Republican Party’s main weapon for over 40 years has been to appeal to American’s fears.  White fear in an increasingly diverse America is a festering breeding ground for Republicans to leverage fear.  Fear is also a big part of the mob mentality at these healthcare town hall meetings.  Republicans have promoted the lie that some how the healthcare bills in congress are out to euthanize seniors.  The lies are totally unfonded in truth but people who succumb to their fears seldom realize what the truth is.

The questing it what can we do to initiat a new “Age of Reason”?

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Well said and analyzed.

The whole issue of self-determinism is raised as well when one considers that a majority of the population is less aware about how these buttons can be pressed on them to elicit the desired response while a minority is well schooled in how to strategically press these buttons in the majority to advance their selfish goals.

As you began your piece, I do see a similar condition to religious belief.

The same people who believe that a woman can be turned into salt, that all the animals and insects from every continent on Earth somehow gathered in the Middle East and all fit aboard the same boat, etc., ridicule and laugh at the “ridiculous beliefs of other religions (don’t we all smile at the Greeks believing that their Gods lived on Mount Olympus, throwing lightning bolts…when we all know there’s only one god who lives in space and throws lightning bolts?).

And because of this oblivious type of conditioning, these people have wired a button in themselves (their parents and community may have done so) that allows them to be manipulated by their “leaders” and others.

The same can be applied to racists, chauvinists, etc.

The more one defines themselves or their lives by a specific group belief, the less free they are to make up their own mind and the easier they are to be controlled and manipulated.

It is the rigidity of thought, the inability to flexibly change one’s perspective to view previously unrealized truth, the inability to accept one’s mistakes in belief and the inability to learn and seek out knowledge and answers for oneself that turn people into unaware pawns.

It is the ability to do all the above that makes one truly free and in control of their own lives.