Can we give up our cherished irrationality to save our species from extinction?

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Belief in god(s), organised religion, belief in the hazards of 5G, belief that Covid-19 is a hoax, belief in astrology, belief in “wellness”, belief in new-age woo woo, belief that climate change is a hoax, belief that we have time to act against the destruction of our ecosystem – all these irrational beliefs stem from a common evolutionary origin. During our evolution, there were strong selective pressures for the unification of our early ancestors into large groups. The beliefs that united our ancestors did not need to be rational, they just needed to create a sense of belonging, and allow them to be manipulated by the ‘leaders’ of the time. This allowed for larger groups to be established and kept together through commonly held beliefs.

This unification around leaders, a double edged sword that is a gift from natural selection, is still with us today. There is a part of our brain that is hard wired to believe any old thing, and unite us with a sense of belonging to a group of people who believe the same irrational thing. This unification through commonly held irrational beliefs may have been a key factor in allowing us to out-compete other human species, and come to dominate the world. In other words, it led to greater survival and reproduction (the only things that matter to natural selection).

This very same in-built irrationality is now acting against us, and we do not have evolutionary time to act. Now we need to find a way to overcome our irrational ‘gift’ from natural selection, understand it, and move beyond it. If we don’t, if we insist on keeping our gods, religions, and other forms of irrationality, then it is unlikely that we will survive as a species. If we are not skeptical in relation to our own beliefs, then it is unlikely that we will survive.

My motto for life is “Evidence over belief, logic over assertion, action over talk”. We desperately need to find a way to value rational thinking, skepticism, and action over talk and to do so collectively. If we don’t, no amount of religious fervor, none of our imagined gods, none of our wellness products, no amount of aluminium foil, no amount of pseudoquantum woo woo, not one or our irrational beliefs will save us. Certainly no god will. It is entirely up to us. Can we move beyond irrationality, or are we doomed?

The pale blue dot where we evolved, and whose ecosystems we are destroying, the very ecosystems that created us and allow us to exist.

Right now the pale blue dot is ours. But for how much longer depends on whether or not we are willing to give up our imaginary worlds to live in the real one.