Feb 20, 2014
The Fear of Ideas
We sometimes find ourselves outraged or confused by the way another person sees the world, as if a new idea is a threat to our security. Maybe we try to contain or restrict a new point of view before it can damage “our way of thinking". Is this why dialog has disintegrated in America?
The mind is an amazing thing as long as we don't fear it. Our inner rationale is like the body's immune system. We don't have to be brilliant to fight a cold. It's extremely unlikely that a new idea will kill me, even if I experience a few days’ worth of "symptoms". When the symptoms are gone I'm actually a stronger, healthier person.
But shouldn't I simply avoid contracting any foreign antigens at all? Isn't that the safest way to live? First; it isn't possible. New ideas will constantly be introduced to me. Second, not only do we need new good ideas, we also all need adaptive immunity against bad ones in order to survive in this world. The best defense against wrong-headedness is not a dearth of ideas but a glut of them. Having no ability to think for myself is like having a weakened immune system. For that reason it's probably better to wrestle with a new idea than to keep my mental space completely free of contamination.
What if one of these idea-infections should turn lethal and destroy the whole human race? All we can say for sure is that the population is growing at a steady rate. It's apparent that many millennia of new ideas haven't ultimately harmed us as a species. In fact most of the eras in which Earth's population decreased occurred during wars or during the dark ages; times of superstition, persecution and severe repression of thought.
Our adaptive reasoning responses are powerful. It probably won't be a new bad idea that destroys us. It will much more likely be the fear of all new ideas, the dangerous desire to artificially purge them from our minds. And the term for this behavior that cleanses us of idea germs?...Brainwashing.