You're too clever for this job.
Me [super serious]:
: How do you feel about Adolf Hitler? Is he someone to use as an example of the horrors of human history or someone to use as an example of the greatness in the ability of humans to persuade and coerce each other? Should he be presented in educational situations as genocidal dictator or a talented genius? (or both?) (I'm asking blogger to blogger, not blogger to scientist. I want an opinion, not a Google response. Thank you.)
I don’t think Hitler was exceptional in any way. I don’t think a single man can make the Holocaust happen. I don’t think a single man can brainwash a nation. I think Hitler was not very different from any other far right German nationalist of the early 1900. I believe he was also kind of pathetic, like many dictators are.
I don’t know if you have read ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil’ by Hannah Arendt. Or ‘The origins of totalitarism’ also by Arendt. Or ‘Modernity and the Holocaust’ by Zygmunt Bauman. If not, you should.
Imagine you live in a world very similar to yours, except that there is a war that has been going on for centuries. The borders need to be protected against the Orks. As tradition dictates, this hard but honorable work is the realm of men and the epitome of manhood, and it has been like that for as long as society can remember. Recently, things have changed a little. The military service has become less dangerous, and almost no men die in service anymore. It has also become voluntary. Men are not automatically joining the army as soon as they come of age. They can delay it. As a result, the numbers of men studying at university has risen dramatically; universities used to be the realm of women until about 50 years ago. Still, most men eventually join the army, often giving up their ambitions, and men who don’t are viewed suspiciously. If you sign up for service, this changes your life forever. You cannot un-sign. You need to spend about 20 years in the army, and while the first five years are the most intense, it also requires hard work afterwards. Not surprisingly, this compromises the ability of men to pursue careers. They usually have to take at least a year off at the beginning of service, often more, to concentrate on learning how to fight. They might work part-time later, but this, some say, diminishes the quality of their service. Studies have proven that this is not really the case, but a powerful prejudice survives. Women, therefore, still dominate the professional world and make careers, as it has been for centuries. ‘Women are better suited for careers, this is clear from their brain chemistry’, many say. ‘On the other hand, men are made for battle. This has been like this since the dawn of time. It is better to accept this fundamental fact of life.’
In the middle of a random chat I was having with the new trainee, she said: “Can I be honest with you?”
"I had a weird feeling when I first met you."
"That’s because I’m weird.”
Pseudoscience is a morphing monster of undue credulity; an “unsinkable rubber duck,” as some skeptics have called it. The reality is that we will always be burdened with the irrational and the unscientific. Believing in weird things isn’t unnatural; rather it is an extension of a highly adapted mind. But to move accurately through today’s world, a healthy scientific skepticism is warranted. With New Age beliefs making a resurgence, the anti-vaccination movement gaining strength, creationist bills passing US state legislatures, promises of personal genomics spawning new and dubious treatments, and health gurus sprinkling the word “quantum” on everything like an over-used spice, skepticism should be, now more than ever, a liberally applied tool. For the critical thinker, discovering and understanding our cognitive foundations is tantamount to a new beginning, a fresh way to look at the world. Learning how to think about thinking, learning how to navigate the perils of human cognition, is the way through.
Today my boss said: “I’ve something for you. You should read this.”
“Ehm, ok, thank you.”
The title of the book is: “Social skills training”.
My boss is not arrived yet and while waiting I discovered a free wifi spot in front of a bakery. The gods of lazyness are tempting me.
If a huge genetic gap separated us from our closest relative in the animal kingdom, we could justifiably celebrate our brilliance. We might be entitled to walk around thinking we’re distant and distinct from our fellow creatures. But no such gap exists. Instead, we are one with the rest of nature, fitting neither above nor below, but within.