Concealing Children from Themselves

by rsbakker

Some days the craziness of it all just rises up and swamps my boat. Before my daughter was born, it seemed I could wrap it all in the safety of cynical derision. Now, knowing what lies near the bottom of the technological toy-box, I literally find myself frightened.

Every single time you turn on the news what do you see?

Human being prosecuting their interests at the expense of other human beings in the name of justice.

What is the single most obvious question this raises?

HOW can human beings prosecute their interests at the expense of other human beings in the name of justice?

And the uncontroversial answer: Because we, as a species, are hardwired to confuse our parochial interests with universal truth.

What is the most prevalent relevant message broadcast by our culture?

Believe. Believe in yourself.

In other words, confuse your parochial interests for universal truth.

The most important thing we need to see past, in other words, is the very thing our culture is most bent on concealing… This is as true of philosophy departments as it is of Baptist churches. Now how crazy is that?

Has anyone ever come across any scholarly work on this… What should we call it? Collective cognitive duping? Social ignorance denial?

Seriously. What the fuck is going on?

I mean, I have my own pet theories, about how cognitive self-regard probably paid high reproductive dividends in small communities where mutual, material interdependency necessitated compromise. In ancient contexts, the truth or falsity of theoretical beliefs had no bearing whatsoever on the fitness of believers, which is just to say that the ‘theory instinct,’ the biological imperative to believe nonobservables, is adaptive in some other, non-cognitive sense, perhaps for the way it facilitated group cohesion in the face of competitive stress.

This is what makes science an socio-cultural accomplishment: with it, we discovered how to organize our practices to maximize the cognitive utility of our theory instinct – even at the expense of its social utility.

But how could all this evolve into the demented fantasy world we presently live in? Is it capitalism (flattery sells)? Is it democracy (what politician would allow a public education system that taught children how to guard against all the ways they will dupe themselves, when such knowledge would challenge their voter-parents’ cherished delusions)?

But then, as far as I know, no one has even attempted to institute a truly critical educational system? As far as I know, the issue isn’t even up for debate? Concealing children from themselves seems to be the unquestioned gospel of all our education, K thru PhD.

WTF? How could this be possible?