When A Lobster Tries To Play Tennis
How our inability to reason leads us to absurd self-harming ideas
As those who are kind enough to read my articles regularly already know, the human brain is the result of hundreds of thousands of years of selection pressures. For 98% of our evolutionary history we lived in comparatively simple environments and faced comparatively simple challenges. Furthermore, calories were scarce and uncertain, so we evolved to do as little as possible. Not only did this promote physical indolence; it also promoted mental indolence. As attempting to reason can consume 30% of the body’s blood glucose, and as that energy would more often be required to power muscles in order to flee from predators or forage for food, we’ve evolved to avoid thinking unless absolutely forced by external circumstances to attempt this unwelcome task. As our environment was simple, we rarely paid a price for the avoidance of thought.
As a result, our brains are hardwired to prefer simple patterns over complex ones, and to gravitate towards simple ideas rather than attempt to grapple with real-world complexity. While this was highly adaptive for nearly all of our evolutionary history, the inventions of a tiny number of clever people have accidentally created our modern technological inter-connected world in which complexity overwhelms the cognitive capacity of nearly everyone alive. We thus rush to embrace simple-minded notions because they offer us the illusion of security and stability. We look for simple-minded rules we can use to justify our actions. We firmly reject real-world evidence that indicates our beliefs are fallacious because this is far easier than attempting to modify our beliefs merely because reality doesn’t conform to their strictures.
And so we humans reason very poorly at the best of times, and fail to reason entirely much of the time. From an intellectual perspective, we’re rather like lobsters attempting to play tennis: while we may occasionally have the desire to perform thinking, we lack the necessary attributes. As such, the consequences of our low-quality mental processes are very frequently deleterious and result in great harm befalling a significant number of people.
Looking at the wealth of erroneous notions people have earnestly believed in over the…