Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Why Everyone (else) Is a Hypocrite

Posted by Ann on February 24, 2011

Evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban postulates in his new book “Why Everyone Else is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind” that our irrational behaviors and inconsistencies result from the way our human minds are structured. Through the process of natural selection, our minds have developed to work in specialized units, and while these units often work together smoothly, sometimes they don’t. I’m not sure if I’ll read the book but it does sound interesting…

Kurzban theorizes cognitive dissonance begins where the this functional working together of the brain ends. Here, he states, is where we get our beliefs that contradict themselves. How we can experience swift changes from patience to impulsiveness. How we can violate our own moral principles, how we can develop puffed up views of ourselves (drives to individuate and be superior). Looking at our brains as modular undermines our idea of a self as an “I”. Kurzban argues we are a composite of interacting systems, of many modules, affecting our perspectives and how we interact with the world around us–the “I” in our head being really a “we”.

Here’s a clip where he compares our brains to a smartphone with apps:

Definitely implications here for our understanding of how our minds develop, particularly the fundamentalist brain. But how to deprogram a brain, that is the question. Maybe the key is in the programming.

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2 Responses to “Why Everyone (else) Is a Hypocrite”

  1. dsc01 said

    Firstly, I apologize for my long absence.

    Secondly, this is very interesting. The concept of the modular brain goes right along with things I’ve been thinking about for some time. It also jives with some of the concepts I’ve adopted for my own from my surface knowledge of Buddhist philosophy. Maybe I should read this book.

    • Ann said

      Nice to have you back! I don’t know about you, but I’m frequently reminded of how few atheists/agnostics are out there, particularly among people from our background. For example, an MK friend recently began a closed group on Facebook for MKs from my mission’s boarding school. Even those who have become more critical thinkers over the years, doctors and teachers and whatnot, are still believers… although they all, to a one, prefer being defined as different in their belief systems from their parents’.

      Yes, it’s very interesting. It provides a reason for how even very rational people can be contradictory in their thinking and behaviors. In my field, people love to “psychologize” and attempt to understand other people’s thinking and motivations. I suppose at least they have a background in psychology. The human mind is kind of a mess–trying to understand why other people are doing what they are doing is more complicated than simply categorizing people by types, sexes, ethnicities, cultural groups, appearances, or backgrounds.

      We all share one thing–the irrationality of the human brain. It seems to me the difference is how the individual uses it. Free from fundamentalism humans would still be human, but wouldn’t have the kind of crazily obvious irrational beliefs we see now in our society. For instance, beliefs that a person’s sexuality is immoral in itself, or legalization of gay marriage is somehow a threat to the institution of marriage itself.

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