Thanks Glenn for an interestingly-argued article. I suspect there’s a deeper, underlying variable that results in the more apparent variables you cite. Let’s posit that the human brain is, like the rest of our physiology, adapted in consequence of hundreds of thousands of years of selection pressure. Those were years in which calories were very scarce and very uncertain. As thinking consumes up to 30% of the blood’s glucose, this naturally means we’re adapted to do as little thinking as possible.

Now when we look at cultures (either at the family level, or the group level) that rely in simplistic rules it’s evident that the appeal is due to rendering thought unnecessary. Follow the rules and all will be well. Of course more thoughtful people will see that simplistic rules cannot work across a wide range of circumstances and, indeed, there cannot be any such thing as absolute morality (the famous Trolley Car Problem illustrates this elegantly). Which means clever people will be far less inclined to fit into strict rules-based groups.

In other words, functional intelligence is the underlying variable and all the other variables are essentially dependent. This throws into question whether or not a more emotion-based strategy utilizing simple anecdotes can have more than transient superficial effect, as it is extremely difficult even for intelligent people to change their minds. For less cognitively able folk it may well be to all intents and purposes beyond their ability.

Thus it becomes essential to recognize that the early phase of a person’s life is critical, and the group norms that pertain during this time nearly always determine the person’s subsequent cognitive modality. The hyper-religious rule-based attitudes common in the USA are, consequently, highly deleterious for society as a whole and, alas, for the rest of the world too.

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