Throughout history, via some combination of accident and intent, concepts that should have remained separate have been bundled together into single mental “units,” to which people then added their messy individual interpretations.
This is very, very bad for communication, which I covered in my previous post The Words That Divide Us, but it’s much, much worse for critical thinking.
A few examples should help to illustrate the problem:
The idea of a creator (something that predates all known monotheistic religions by tens of thousands of years), was folded into a social control schema (laws and customs), given a localized name (God, Allah, Yahweh, Elohim, etc.), and made responsible for a bunch of human baggage, resulting in a sticky morass of incompatible pieces lumped together into a single cohesive, though not very coherent, whole (religion).
Nowhere is this “combining of separate ideas” motif as obvious as the bible, where contradictions appear in abundance due to social changes over time worked into the writing.
The idea of free speech (which had a VERY specific meaning when enshrined in the Bill of Rights) often gets reinterpreted as meaning unlimited speech, despite that having NEVER been the case. “Free” Speech in the US has always had restrictions and exceptions. Society is a multiplayer game that requires compromise, setting aside some personal interests in favor of expanding the pie in a non-zero-sum game.
The idea of Enlightenment is another one, which is fundamentally about stripping away all aspects of duality, has since been connected to every possible dualistic process (group meditation, teacher/student relationships, monastic life, etc.), emotion (love, compassion, happiness), and belief under the sun (dharma, karma, reincarnation, etc.), none of which do a damn thing to help you achieve the original intent. 😂
Eugenics is another one, which specifically had a very narrow meaning (forced selective breeding or sterilization to enhance the gene pool), is now being expanded to include all sorts of things; genetic engineering, fertility treatments, healthy embryo selection/screening, and even abortion. The very thing that made eugenics bad was the lack of choice in the matter, and all these latter concepts very much involve individual or couple’s choice.
Genuinely useful innovations such as blockchain, smart contracts, and DAOs are being inseparably bundled into the miasmic Crypto or Bitcoin idea buckets, with all the attendant baggage associated with scams and criminal activity.
I could go on all day…
The human brain is wired for efficiency, and has a habit of taking mental shortcuts. One of those is this idea of bundling, whereby very separate concepts get lumped together for mental efficiency.
Why is this a problem?
Because it makes it VERY difficult to sift the wheat from the chaff, to separate out the falsehoods from any truths that may be present.
For example, as I discussed at length in my post The Nature of Reality, the idea of a creator is actually a sound concept, and based on what evidence we have (mostly within quantum physics), seems quite likely…but that creator almost certainly has NOTHING in common with all the religious twaddle it has been attached to (read the post, it’s enlightening to say the least).
Forcing people to breed to generate “ideal” traits, the original meaning of the word eugenics, is wrong (so we have decided as a society, which is the fundamental root of morality, socially acceptable norms).
But we have also decided, for the most part, that there is nothing wrong with seeking to improve humanity via genetic engineering, to cure disease or increase longevity or even to improve intelligence (though most agree it’s a path that should be pursued with care).
There is nothing wrong with fertility treatments, or wanting to select a healthy embryo (or hell, choosing the child’s gender, or discarding embryos with a high likelihood of serious illness or disability…every parent wants a healthy child with a chance at a normal life). Those are personal choices that affect nobody but the parents and child, and therefore no business of anyone outside that family unit.
People who argue against humans taking control of our own procreation and evolution are fucking idiots—but that’s a post for another day. 😎
Here’s the real problem…
When you bundle concepts together, your brain then takes steps to defend the bundle, instead of the individual components. And it’s even worse if it’s an idea bundle you’ve attached to your identity in some fashion (as religion usually is).
You cannot find truth without being willing to test all the pieces, and then discarding any that don’t hold up to scrutiny.
So one of the most important things you can do is to examine your beliefs, look for bundled concepts, and then unbundle them and examine all the pieces with care.
Consider the incentives involved in bundling those concepts. Why were they combined? Who benefits? Can any pieces be discarded?
Simultaneously, be very careful about ingesting new concepts that appear to be bundled, and be especially careful about attaching them to your identity in any way, shape, or form.
Take a closer look at what you believe, examine what you think is true, and see if there aren’t some dead branches to cut away…then fucking cut them away. 😁