Human Evolution: from belief to evidence

The notes below started with me reading the phrase “policy based evidence” somewhere, in the last week. I returned to previous thoughts about the different meanings of the word “believe” in the context of religion, politics and science. I went slightly off track but I found it useful to recognise that politics sits somewhere between religion and science on the scale of rationality. Science is led by your experience of life. Religion leads your decisions in life. Politicians try to persuade you to choose their proposals of how to change your life experience, through an inadequate communication system. The rules you are expected to follow seem to be:

Religion : take your values from an old book you get from your parents or someone else who is kind to you. The book will tell you what to believe without question to avoid going to hell; so only listen to evidence that agrees with the book. You don’t want any doubt creeping in and damning you for eternity. Try not to think too hard. Pray instead. Learn to keep conflicting ideas in different parts of your brain. What you do now only matters when you are dead.

Politics : decide whether to believe in individual accountability, shared responsibility or a compromise. Pick a political party and learn what your values are and what to believe, from the elders of your chosen tribe. Only listen to evidence that supports what your party believes. Learn to convert people to your cause by selecting which statistics to use.

Science : learn from others whose opinion is based on evidence. Consider everything you are told and check everything you doubt. Consider arguments against anything you believe, in case it is wrong. Weigh the likelihood of either side being right. If you still aren’t sure, do your own experiments. It is OK to be uncertain or to change your mind when what you believe is wrong. Base your values on what you learn about humanity and the environment we live in. Live the very best version of your life you can, because it is probably your only chance. Appreciate the elegance, beauty and complexity of the universe.

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