The Echoes of the Mind – The Collective

The Collective

The best approach for the reader to take would be to put in his mind right from the start that none of these maxims apply to himself in particular, and that he is the sole exception, even though they appear to be generalities. After that I guarantee that he will be the first to endorse them and he will believe that they do credit to the human spirit. ~ François de La Rochefoucauld

The Collective comprise the great wad of humanity, defined by their beliefs and constrained by their fears. Societies and polities are their sizable social expressions. The fruits of civilization are their legacy.

No sense of harmony. No sense of time. ~ Scottish musician David Byrne in the song “Blind” (1987)

Despite its advantage in being a wellspring of understanding and joy, over 1/3rd of the Collective shy from empathy simply because they are lazy.

People just don’t want to make the mental effort to feel empathy toward others, even when it involves feeling positive emotions. There is a strong preference to avoid empathy even when someone else is expressing joy. ~ American psychologist Daryl Cameron


The brightest stars don’t necessarily give the most light. ~ Marty Rubin

Celebrity is a long-standing, universal cultural phenomenon. Athletes in ancient Greece were celebrities, as were actors and gladiators in ancient Rome.

Those who endure with celebrity status are those that stay within public notice, and to whom the Collective continue to hold as admirable in some way. In modern societies, entertainers are enduring celebrities, precisely because their performances educe emotions in their appreciative audiences. Some celebrities remain popular despite character traits or personal habits that their admirers would find reprehensible. It is the emotions evoked that are of value; the conjurer is more an idol than real person in the minds of fans.

The image is one thing and the human being is another.  ~ American singer Elvis Presley

Celebrity illustrates the value that the Collective place on emotive evocation and abstractions related to objects.

Culture always tells you to look to illusions for answers. ~ English writer Guy Mankowski


Desire relentlessly drives the Collective: seeking pleasure from titillation with no prospect of lasting peace of mind. One in the Collective may become temporarily sated but is never truly fulfilled.

Most people are possessed by their mind. ~ Eckhart Tolle

The Collective are preyed upon by their minds. To momentarily ease their angst, the Collective indulge in deleterious psychotropic substances of all sorts: caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, antidepressants, opioids, and other pharmacological wonders of the modern age. Only a few refrain: scarce stalwarts of stately awareness, with an infinitesimal number aiming for clarity as a value in and of itself. These few risk leaving the Collective altogether by finding the path to enlightenment.

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How they struggled to fill their brief life with all the passions humankind could muster. ~ American novelist Kristen Britain

The Collective value their emotions. They embrace passion as a positive attribute.

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. ~ Proverbs 28:26, The Bible

Pignorance (perspective-ignorance) cages the Collective, its bars built of fear. The Collective worry of the future. The specter of death shadows life. Acceptance of oblivion only comes with the fatigue of old age.

Fools dwelling in ignorance, yet imagining themselves wise and learned, go round and round in crooked ways, like the blind led by the blind. ~ Katha Upanishad 2.5

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Common sense is not so common. ~ Voltaire

The Collective commonly take what comes into their minds as gospel, especially if warmed by emotion. Advertising and propaganda – which enjoy stunning success – are founded on the power of first impression.

Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. ~ English American revolutionary Thomas Paine

While most indulge in superstition and mysticism, particularly belief in a supernatural supreme being, the Collective are also enthusiastic empiricists, in taking what they sense as physical existence to be an accurate account. This too is a naïve acceptance of whatever comes to mind.

Superstition is the religion of feeble minds. ~ George Berkeley

Ersatz philosophic materialism (matterism) is matched by the economic variety. In valuing their possessions as prizes, the Collective believe there can be a price attached to all before them. The Collective commonly consider competition a natural state of affairs; hence, capitalism is considered a legitimate economic system.

Political systems labeled “socialist” and “communist” have been fronts for authoritarian elitism that never delivered economic equity. Slogans of equality were paid lip service as part of a ruse by the pigs at the trough of political power. Familial communism (eusocialism) has never been attempted at the societal level.

When people aren’t carefully oriented to reality, the result isn’t just ignorance, it’s ignorance indulged and defended. People become addicted to their ignorance, doubling and tripling down on it, digging in their heels, unwilling to surrender it. Our common impulse to regard reality as fiction and fiction as reality, closing our eyes and dismissing as fictions all challenges to ourselves and embracing the fictions that lay the burden elsewhere. ~ American psychologist Jeremy Sherman

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People are cognitive misers. ~ German psychologists Thomas Mussweiler & Fritz Strack

The great bulk of the Collective live largely unquestioning lives, believing what they are taught, adjusting as best they can to their lot in life. Worldviews are built from belief systems riddled with falsities and unexamined assumptions. These are the emotional life rafts to which the Collective cling.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened. ~ English politician Winston Churchill

With existence largely inscrutable and contentment out of reach, the Collective aim for complacency. The worldwide rise in obesity illustrates.

We have moved through the looking glass into a world where reality is loosely tied to outcome and perception rules supreme. ~ Peter Anderson

The cooler, studious sort in the Collective place reason on a pedestal. What they subjectively see they treat as objective reality (naïve realism) and insist that the only knowledge arrives from the senses (naïve empiricism). Fully elaborated into a smug methodology, this dogma is called science.

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this. ~ Bertrand Russell

Scientists seek answers in the outside world. They are rewarded with facts, which they struggle to sew into a fabric for understanding Nature. Their refusal to countenance the non-empirical implications of their findings means they constantly come up short in comprehending the fundamentals.

It all looks fine to the naked eye, but it don’t really happen that way at all. ~ English musician Pete Townshend in the song “Naked Eye” (1971)

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Billions of people, just living out their lives, oblivious. ~ Agent Smith in the movie The Matrix (1999)

The Collective are terribly gullible. By definition beliefs are fantasies with crumbles of facts sprinkled in to firm them up. Yet the Collective place their undying faith in beliefs. Religion and social media amply illustrate.

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. ~ American sociologist Herbert Simon in 1971

Social Media

Even when people should know better, they are influenced by and rely upon inaccurate information. ~ American psychologist David Rapp

Social media is popular because of its titillation value: it feeds the mind, which the Collective are slaves to. Rumor (now called “fake news”) is rife, readily believed, and spread.

If you wish the sympathy of the broad masses, you must tell them the crudest and most stupid things. ~ Adolph Hitler

People seldom share on social media for information value alone. They share because they want attention for themselves, and for what such trivial sharing says about them. People want recognition and respect. Social media is an easy avenue for attention gratification.

Peer approval is important during adolescence, so they’re sharing content that they think others will find impressive. ~ American psychologist Joanna Yau

Social media creates emotional contagion: people’s moods subconsciously sway under the content they read online.

Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. ~ American Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer et al

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Social media companies deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it toward their own commercial purposes. They deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide. This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents. ~ Hungarian American business magnate George Soros

The power of social media is not be underestimated. Americans touch their smartphones over 2,600 times a day, and heavy-duty users easily double that. Whereas Americans fart some 3 million times a minute, they like things on Facebook 4 million times a minute.

Society is increasingly relying on the digitized, aggregated opinions of others to make decisions. Social influences create herding effects. ~ Israeli social statistician Lev Muchnik et al

The emotional herding effect of social media is nothing new: financial markets have ever been herd driven. With social media, the herd-instinct of the Collective is in full flower.

Bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people. ~ Indian American social-media maven Chamath Palihapitiya

While humor spreads well through social media, outrage serves as superior kindling for the attention that social-media serfs seek. Shared outrage reinforces in-group identification and out-group antipathy with a vigor that humor cannot match.

There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation, and polarization in the world today. ~ American entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

To engineer addiction, Facebook has been a continuing conduit for sensationalism, misinformation, and polarization. The instant messaging network WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, is a great tool to spread rumors that inflame the fools who readily believe whatever is presented to them. In India and other countries, people have been attacked and murdered after false rumors spread via WhatsApp.

We wanted democracy but got mobocracy. ~ Egyptian Internet activist Wael Ghonim

The effect of social media is like that of gossip, except that social media is gossip on steroids. The most profound societal effect of social media has been to increase political polarization, which has become especially severe in the United States.

In group polarization, an entire group may shift to a more radical viewpoint after a discussion even though the individual group members did not subscribe to this view prior to the discussion. This happens for a number of reasons – one is that group members want to represent themselves in a favorable light in the group by adopting a viewpoint slightly more extreme than the perceived mean. In online forums, this well-known phenomenon is made even more problematic by the fact that discussions take place in settings where group members are fed only the information that fits their worldview, making the discussion forum an echo chamber where group members only hear their own voices. ~ Danish philosopher Vincent Hendricks

Social media is being used worldwide by political propogandists to play to the sympathies of gullible users. The power of social media provides political influence at low cost, throwing a wrench into what is otherwise a plutocratic game in running for office. For just a few million dollars, Russia successfully influenced the 2016 US presidential election.

We created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. This is a global problem, eroding the core foundations of how people behave. ~ Chamath Palihapitiya


He wants to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening. ~ Alice Roosevelt Longworth on her father: Teddy Roosevelt

A trend in recent decades in the Occident has been the acceptance of narcissism as a norm. Self-absorption and an overweening sense of self-importance are products of upbringing. Narcissism is the weak-kneed version of psychopathy, or sociopathy, as the case may be.

Narcissism is associated with various interpersonal dysfunctions, including an inability to maintain healthy long-term relationships, unethical behavior and aggression. At the same time, narcissism is shown to boost self-esteem, emotional stability, and the tendency to emerge as a leader. ~ American psychologist Emily Grijalva

There are 2 dimensions to narcissism: admiration seeking and rivalry. Narcissists may have one but not the other, or they may have both.

Actors are commonly more hung up on admiration than non-actors, but they tend to be less competitive than the average person. Narcissistic capitalists, on the other hand, feel no especial need for admiration. They just want to dominate. By contrast, preening politicians often both desire to be admired and relish rivalry in seeking to elevate themselves over others. Donald Trump is a paramount example of such full-bodied narcissism.

You have to go back to Nero in Rome maybe to find someone as self-involved and destructive as Donald Trump is. ~ American psychiatrist Allen Frances

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Nuanced examples of narcissism are abundant. A few illustrate: 1) selfies: photos of oneself taken by oneself, 2) manspreading: men who spread their legs while sitting on public transport so as to take up 2 seats, 3) people who insistently drive slow in the fast lane.

Millennials and older generations agree that millennials are the most narcissistic. They just disagree to the extent of the narcissism. ~ Joshua Grubbs in 2016

There is a blurred line between narcissism and inconsiderate social behaviors (socio-narcissism). Both put oneself above others, and exhibit self-absorption as a manifestation of cluelessness about the entangled relation between the self and the external world.

Compared with women, men exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power. Women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior. But both genders are equally likely to display vanity or self-absorption. ~ Emily Grijalva

 Narcissism on Tour

Travel today is very cheap, and people think they can do whatever they want in a globalized world. ~ English tourism official Mark Watson

In the 2110s, tourism officials became alarmed by an epidemic of reckless behavior, as visitors try to turn vacation hubs into personal props for selfies. Vandalism of historic sites has become commonplace.

It used to be fine to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower or Mount Everest, but that’s not good enough anymore. Now tourists have to put themselves in the picture. It’s about “me,” not about the place that I visit. ~ American sociologist Jesse Fox


Self-absorbed idiots have got themselves mauled in trying to get a good selfie with a dangerous animal. Falling from heights, getting hit by trains, and drowning are the most common deaths by selfie. The average age of those committing inadvertent selfie suicide is 23, with young men outnumbering women 3 to 1.


Aggression does not occur in a social vacuum. ~ American psychologists Robert Baron & Deborah Richardson

Violence is part and parcel of the human condition. Rule of law merely allocates permits for violence to various parties, attempting to reserve for the state, out of self-interest, an effectively unrestrained faculty.

Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create. ~ Pope John Paul II

The Collective selectively believe in violence having a positive value. Unnecessary competition in all segments of life is accepted as natural.

Violence, even well-intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself. ~ Chinese scholar and philosopher Lao Tzu

Social inequality and environmental destruction are the invariable consequences of the economic violence which is the rent imposed by the market system. Though celebrated by its proponents, capitalism is inherently, and invariably, a societally divisive regime that generates depravation and crime.


Anger fuels the vortex of social violence. At least half of American drivers express road rage. 90% of those on the road feel threatened by the aggression. 56% of fatal car accidents, which kill ~40,000 Americans each year, result from aggressive driving.

The universality of anger is shown by how readily social media mobs rush to judgment and express outrage. Anger is the emotion that spreads most easily on social media networks. Death threats through social media have become common.

Anger is more influential than other emotions like joy. ~ Chinese sociologist Rui Fan et al

Whereas happiness is an intimate emotion, shared only with close friends, people are willing to share anger with strangers.


The tribal instincts of the Collective are the tinder for group conflict. All it takes to spark conflict is a rumor that transforms fear into fury.

Racism and injustice and violence sweep our world, bringing a tragic harvest of heartache and death. ~ Billy Graham

Politicians use fearmongering to prey upon their citizens. Appeals of nationalism wins dewy-eyed hearts and minds, and then destroys promising lives when young men are sent to war as pawns in geopolitical games of chess.

Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first. ~ French military and political leader Charles de Gaulle

 American Terror

On 11 September 2001, 2,996 Americans were killed by the worst terrorist attack in that nation’s history, abetted by governmental incompetence. The US government response was to spend well over $3 trillion dollars killing over 500,000 Muslims in their native countries, along with 5,000 US military casualties, and permanently maiming hundreds of thousands more.

Meanwhile, back in the US, gun-toting madmen slaughtering innocents – a reign of domestic terror – went unchecked. 500,000 Americans were cut down in homegrown terror attacks 2001–2017, and many more in violent crimes involving weapons, including from those ostensibly committed to law enforcement. This is just the terminal end of the incivility that is rife in American society.

People heap disrespect on anyone who dares oppose them, tap into anger and manipulate it for their own benefit, and don’t seem to see anything wrong with that. If bad behavior is contagious – as many studies have shown it is – we’re in an epidemic. ~ American diplomats Lea Berman & Jeremy Bernard in 2017

With good reason Americans have little confidence in their nation’s institutions, especially the political ones.

Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide. ~ UN Secretary General António Guterres in 2017

America rots from the inside and overreacts to threats from outside. In 2016 the nation pseudo-elected a president to hasten the process of societal self-destruction, abetted by a passively enabling Congress.

America, as the leader of the Western world, presents itself, at least temporarily, as more repulsive than attractive. What is happening is the disintegration of the American camp. ~ German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in 2017


To keep the body in good health is a duty. Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. ~ Buddha

The mind and body require regular exercise to stay in shape. In contrast, the gut needs as little workout as possible.

The Collective have got that timeworn wisdom going in reverse: sitting for extended periods, watching TV, munching away. While eating like a horse, they’re not eating like a horse: apples and carrots are far from favored fare. On the menu instead are fried foods, milk and cheese, processed meats, fizzy drinks and sugary snacks: everything a body needs to go for gout and blow one’s porchlight, but not before suffering for decades with the ills of accelerated decrepitude.

There is no greater fignorance (fact-ignorance) than not even knowing what to eat to stay healthy, nor having the discipline to do so. Yet that is the situation for at least 98% of the population throughout the world.

Taste is the main driver of food decisions. ~ German marketing academics Robert Mai & Stefan Hoffmann

Overconsumption of refined sugars (and their chemical substitutes) is commonly cited as a health hazard, even as such sugars are ladled into most packaged foods and drinks to appease the taste buds of the populace.

There is an unshifting dominance of ultra-processed and ready-to-eat foods as major calorie contributors to US diets and their poor nutrient profile. The highly processed foods that households are purchasing are higher in fat, sugar, and salt, on average, than the less-processed foods that they buy. ~ American nutritionist Jennifer Poti

One lesser-known aspect of dietary ignorance is the pronounced preference by consumers for packaged foods which are advertised as being high in protein. It is practically impossible not to consume far too much protein, even with a healthy diet. Excess protein intake is a tax on the bodily system to be assiduously avoided, especially animal meat. (See Spokes 4: The Ecology of Humans.)

Then there is the issue of quantity: most everyone overeats.

Obesity is preventable. ~ World Health Organization

Over 10% of the world’s people are obese. 33% of the world’s populace are merely obviously blubbery, including 20% of children and teens. There are more obese people in the world than underweight people. Obesity is particularly pronounced in the lower socioeconomic strata.

China has witnessed exceptional expansion since the early 1980s, both economically and physically. The percentage of Chinese who are obese grew 7.7 times 1980–2015. Childhood obesity is becoming common.

In China today, people eat more and are less physically active. The traditional Chinese diet has shifted toward one that is high in fat and calories and low in fibre. ~ Chinese physician Ying-xiu Zhang in 2016

From 1975 the average adult has gained 1.5 kilos each decade. Obesity doubled worldwide from 1980 to 2015 and has become 7 times more prevalent among youngsters. The rate continues to rise, though public health agencies don’t bother to monitor it closely, nor do anything about it.

No country has reduced overweight or obesity levels. This is astounding given the huge health and economic costs. ~ American nutritionist Barry Popkin in 2018

There is an even more serious problem – an overfat pandemic comprised of people who exhibit metabolic health impairments associated with excess fat mass relative to lean body mass. Many overfat individuals are not necessarily clinically classified as overweight or obese. The well-documented obesity epidemic may merely be the tip of the overfat iceberg. ~ American health enthusiast Philip Maffetone et al

The world’s biggest fast-food chain – McDonald’s – tried to improve the nutritional quality of its menu by offering side salads, fruits, and vegetables: but they did not sell. Other fast-food chains have had the same experience.

Only a tiny percentage of the world’s population bothers to eat parsimoniously well, exercise frequently, and get enough sleep. For those not with the program of requisite discipline, the outcome is accelerated aging. You can see it in the face of every politician, and even in most movie actors, who, out of professional self-interest, should keep themselves fit. Few athletes retain physical fitness regimes into their 40s and 50s.

Physical inactivity is the most important modifiable health behaviour for chronic disease. The level of physical activity is shockingly low. Physical inactivity in England has a large socioeconomic gradient, with both education and household income strongly associated with inactivity. ~ English economist Carol Propper et al

Lack of even the most basic exercise is the norm in the US and UK, as well as many other countries. Most adults don’t even bother to take walks on a regular basis, let alone exert themselves physically. Public Health England found in 2016 that over 80% of middle-aged Britons weight too much, drink too much, or do not exercise enough. 40% of Americans were obese in 2016, 8% severely so.

Some 20% of the world’s population smoke something to modify mood. 38% of adults drink alcohol with similar intent. Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death in males aged 15–59.

The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality. ~ Herbert Spencer in 1896

Flagrant flab signifies self-indulgence but is more generally symptomatic of a species that has lost its way in so many ways.

Most people who eat fast food on a regular basis have no concept of how these foods are produced, or the food’s effect on the body. Most people are not troubled by such ignorance, but rather remain content to let specialists or experts make corrections when something goes wrong. ~ Joan Ferrante

Humankind in Decline

Humans don’t know what they are doing. You can say we want everybody to be happy, or we want everyone to have long lives and have good health, but what kind of goal is that? That’s the goal of your family dog. ~ Edward O. Wilson

Modern humans evolved through a process of self-domestication, as sociality took the forefront of desired traits. That much of humanity has succumbed to institutionalization is merely a continuation of a trend. Nonetheless, the effect has been a dumbing down of the species.

Modern humans are docile and tolerant, like domesticated species. Our cooperative abilities and pro-social behaviour are key features of our modern cognition. ~ Spanish linguist Cedric Boeckx

Evolution nominally favors the savvy. Via technology and economics humans have largely managed to overcome this evolutionary mandate. Hence civilization, the source of much pride, begat an inexorable decline.

(The winnowing of the dimwitted is not entirely absent. For instance, in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, nitwit American pedestrians increasingly became roadkill: too attuned to their handheld electronic devices to pay attention to where they are. Internal fog also takes its toll: 34% of pedestrian deaths owes to drunkenness and other psycho-pollutants.)

The Irony of Abstraction

A key mental aspect of human descent was a freer abstraction ability. This characteristic improved counterfactual thinking, but at the cost of loosening the moorings of the mind to actuality. The upshot was language sophistication, augmented engineering skill, free subscription to fantastic religions, and illusions of grandeur, the grandest being that man was the most intelligent animal.

The definition of intelligence is the ability to behave appropriately. Liberating the mind to construct its own paracosms begat both the vision to create powerful technologies and the ability to disregard risk and ignore consequences.

This ushered a collective illusion of intelligence: that humans are uniquely superior. In fact, humans are uniquely stupid, as this super-predator species has largely lost the wariness that comes from being bound to what is. In its place is indulgence in whatever imagined frivolities come to mind. The proof of foolery can be seen in absurd systems of faith, including: modern ‘scientific’ naïveté (naïve empiricism and naïve realism), despite compelling evidence to the contrary; economies which produce society-renting inequities and global environmental destruction; and polities – notably democracy – which deliver idiotic, divisive, and destructive governance.

Boundless abstraction in a free-ranging mind is not a blessing of intelligence. It is instead a subterfuge that bestows a trickery of acumen and an ignorance of reality.


Because they’re stupid, that’s why. That’s why everybody does everything. ~ Homer Simpson

Domestication typically leads to less-cunning creatures. While far more sociable, dogs are no match to their wild cousins when it comes to wiles. So too with humans, who are often naturally lazy-minded.

Humans are cognitive misers. When we approach a problem, our natural default is to tap the least tiring cognitive process. ~ Canadian psychologist Keith Stanovich

A slow species decline picked up pace in post-industrial times. It can be witnessed on any day, watching people waddle on the sidewalk or through shopping malls; a much different sight than even 30 years previous. The news media, and even science magazines, are filled with vacuous fluff. Many of the Collective in middle age – the restless energy of youth spent – have acquired a cow-eyed look on their faces.

Meaningful sociality in young Americans is on the wane. College students in 2010 were much less empathic than they were in 1980, with an especially steep drop since the 21st century began. Self-reported narcissism has also reached new heights.

Even when a trait is hardwired, social context can exert a profound effect, changing even our most basic emotional responses. ~ American psychologist Jamil Zaki

Generally, people today are considerably dimmer than their ancestors. This not merely a cognitive loss from less demanding circumstances, though there is that.

Americans have abandoned reading in droves. ~ Jamil Zaki

Over 450,000 Facebook users have joined a “I hate reading” group: fewer than 45,000 joined the “I love reading” group.

Reading long-form texts like books and magazine articles is really important for understanding complex ideas and for developing critical thinking skills. ~ American psychologist Jean Twenge

While the current crop of American adults are not the avid readers of earlier generations, those growing up in the 21st-century are assuring themselves functional illiteracy and the lowered brain wattage that goes with it. In the 1970s, ~60% of high school seniors read a book, magazine, or newspaper every day. In 2016, only 16% did.

Instead of reading, American adolescents are glued to their social media devices. The decline in reading began in the early 1980s (the MTV generation) and accelerated swiftly in the mid-2000s, as ‘smartphones’ became widely available.

There is no such thing as an underestimate of average intelligence. ~ American historian Henry Adams

Dumbing down has spelled a further infantilization in American society.

Visiting America in 1946, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss commented on the endearingly infantile traits of American culture. He especially noted adults’ childish adulation of baseball, their passionate approach to toy-like cars and the amount of time they invested in hobbies. This “infantilist ethos” has become less charming – and more pervasive.

Like individuals, a society can also suffer from arrested development. American cultural practices today routinely infantilize large swaths of the population. We see it in our everyday speech, when we refer to grown women as “girls”; in how we treat senior citizens, when we place them in adult care centers where they’re forced to surrender their autonomy and privacy; and in the way school personnel and parents treat teenagers, refusing to acknowledge their intelligence and need for autonomy, restricting their freedom, and limiting their ability to enter the workforce.

French sociologist Jacqueline Barus-Michel observes that Americans now communicate in “flashes,” rather than via thoughtful discourse. There are similar trends in popular culture: in the shorter sentences in contemporary novels, in the lack of sophistication in political rhetoric, and in sensationalist news coverage.

Social institutions and technological devices seem to erode hallmarks of maturity: patience, empathy, solidarity, humility, and commitment to a project greater than oneself. All are qualities that have traditionally been considered essential for both healthy adulthood and for the proper functioning of democracy. ~ American sociologist Simon Gottschalk

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The mind-body is a singular mint. The failure of much of the population to keep themselves in good physical shape, and to likewise exercise their minds, has spelled an inexorable decline in mental acuity as well as physical health. (Research repeatedly shows that the best mental exercise is physical exercise, especially walking in natural surroundings.)

Over half of America’s adult population have at least 1 chronic health problem from their lifestyle. Most of those are plagued with multiple self-inflicted disabilities.

Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life. ~ World Health Organization

A worldwide survey report in 2018 found that 1/4th of the global population don’t bother to exercise enough to stay healthy, virtually assuring accelerated decrepitude. The highest percentage of sloths were in the wealthy Western nations and Arab countries. Women were generally worse than men in their physical inactivity (32% versus 23%).

In the United States autism doubled in the 1st decade of the 21st century. It was much more than a change in reporting.

The lower a person’s measured intelligence, the greater that individual’s risk of living a shorter time, developing both mental and physical ailments later in life and dying from cardiovascular disease, suicide or an accident. More surprising still is that low intelligence is a stronger predictor than several better-known risk factors for illness and death, such as obesity and high blood pressure. ~ English psychologists Ian Dreary & Alexander Weiss, & English epidemiologist David Batty

(In 1904, English psychologist Charles Spearman discovered that a pattern emerges in testing for a wide range of mental abilities: subjects who do well on one type of cognitive task tend to do well in others. Spearman called this general intelligence. Countless studies have confirmed that generalized intelligence is a fact of human existence.)

This is not to say that those in reasonable physical health put themselves beyond the reach of addiction, or other habits and indulgences which make for mental malady. The US is illustrative.

The toll of mental disorders in the US has grown in the past two decades, even as other serious conditions have become more manageable. ~ American psychiatrist Edmund Higgins in 2017

Poor parenting and a stressful social environment have taken a severe toll on the young.

The American mental health crisis seems to be a generational issue. Large increases in mental health issues appear almost exclusively among teens and young adults, with less change among Americans ages 26 and over. Depression, distress, and suicidal thoughts are much higher among those born in the mid- to late-1990s. ~ Jean Twenge in 2019

Similarly, 21st-century Britain has had a surge in mental illness among youth.

There has been such a huge rise in young people reporting long-term mental health problems. ~ English mental health social worker Tom Madders in 2018

Children and teenagers struggle to understand how they fit into the world. They have to contend with things like intense pressure at school, bullying, problems at home, all while navigating a complex 24/7 world with constant stimulation from social media. ~ English politician Imran Hussain in 2018

In 2017, American suicide rates were at a 30-year high. Substance abuse, particularly opiates, is at an epidemic level. Disability awards for mental illness have dramatically increased since 1980. From the mid-2010s American life expectancy gradually declined.

The fruits of civilization have been to bequeath the next generation with a more inhospitable world, untenable pollution, and impending food and water shortages that would tax beings far savvier than those found in the Collective. In short, humanity faces crises of unparalleled proportions, and, by dint of dumbing down, which people could not be more ill-prepared for it.

We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realise that we are apes. ~ Richard Dawkins


Scientists have a bad habit of abandoning theories, systems, or programs prematurely, playing science as if it were a winner-take-all game. By abandoning theories and choosing a single favorite, for often unfounded reasons or reasons that may be as much sociological as scientific, we implicitly subscribe to a monistic view of science – in which there is always one, and only one, right answer. Not only is this probably incorrect, it is terribly limiting. Even if ultimately there is 1 correct answer, we are nowhere near ultimately in any of our sciences.

As obviously sensible as pluralism sounds, this project is nonetheless a very difficult one. That’s because most scientists don’t realize how monistic they and their fields are. ~ American biologist Stuart Firestein

In researching Spokes, the author repeatedly came upon salient fignorance, even denial of basic well-established facts, by scientists reporting in major journals. One common motivation is pride: articles frequently claim to be first to discover something already known within the field.

Beyond vanity, many researchers simply do not know their own field very well. Further, the emphasis on specialization in pursuit of higher educational degrees practically precludes a broad-based grounding in subject matter, which is often essential to placing findings in proper context.

Fundamental assumptions are rarely brought into question, even as evidence presented does so. Unsubstantiated hypotheses are instead premised as axiomatic.

The built-in biases prevalent in science are partly a product of institutionalization. Heretics are unwelcome.

Budding cosmologists that do not hold with cosmic inflation will be denied their advanced degree by professors who do. Skeptical psychologists are not welcomed in departments where the mind as a figment of neural jiggery is taken for granted: the study of cognition now ubiquitously called neuroscience – the most laughable fiction science has conceived.

This intellectual herding dynamic severely limits the discourse between contrary views, and so hinders scientific progress at its foundation: conceptualization. Long gone are the debates common in scientific societies during the Age of Enlightenment: not because the fundamentals have been rightly decided, but because the environment for them is no longer conducive.

As scientists are now unswervingly matterists and naïve empiricists, they are lost among the trees of facts, unable to understand the forest of Nature, which hides its roots beyond view.

Learning religion is part of human nature. Learning science is a battle against human nature. ~ English evolutionary biologist Dominic Johnson

Belief systems in science run as strong as they do in religious circles. As it is, science is a religion with a heavier fact base. Inconvenient facts that do not fit the prevailing picture are shunted aside, even shouted down if the occasion arises.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. ~ German physicist Max Planck

Revisions in the religions of modern science are always incremental: an accumulation of contrary findings on the edges that eventuate to an utterly different premise. This happened in the 1st decade of the 21st century with epigenetics, and is happening at the end of the 2nd decade, with epigenetic inheritance in evolutionary biology as the physical correlate to adaptation, even as the dogmatic Darwinist fictions prevail, and as the fundamental question of how adaptation can even happen is ignored, as there is no possible matterist answer.

At a more basic level, disorganization plays a part in dispersing scientific illiteracy, especially in schools. There is no concerted effort to produce quality textbooks that encapsulate current knowledge. The content of textbooks is either chosen by the writer that finds favor by acceptance of a school board, or viewpoints outright dictated by a committee. The result is much the same, in that controversies, when presented at all, are slanted.

The mythology of science asserts that with many different scientists all asking their own questions and evaluating the answers independently, whatever personal bias creeps into their individual answers is canceled out when the large picture is put together. This might conceivably be so if scientists were women and men from all sorts of different cultural and social backgrounds who came to science with very different ideologies and interests. But since, in fact, they have been predominantly university-trained white males from privileged social backgrounds, the bias has been narrow, and the product often reveals more about the investigator than about the subject being researched. ~ Ruth Hubbard

Public Knowledge

Intuition can be overridden but not overwritten. ~ American psychologist Andrew Shtulman

Young children often conflate life with movement: seeing the Sun and wind as alive, but trees and mushrooms as not. Youngsters also see purpose everywhere: birds are “for” flying, rocks are for animals to scratch themselves on, and rain falls so flowers can drink. In physics, children conclude that heat flows from place to place, that the Sun moves across the sky, that the Moon rises and sets, that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones, and so on.

Children cling to their naïve theories, and when they encounter new, incongruous concepts, they cling tighter. Folk theories do get knocked back with education, but they never go away. Scientific thinking is hard-won and easily lost, even among scientists.

Naïve theories persist for decades beyond the acquisition of a mutually exclusive scientific theory. The scientific literacy needed to engage with topics of global importance may be constrained by patterns of reasoning that emerge in childhood but persist long thereafter. ~ American psychologists Andrew Shtulman & Kelsey Harrington

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The generation that grew up with the Internet know their way around the Web, but they don’t know to be sensibly skeptical of what they see. Sites with high production values and links to reputable news organizations sway the impressionable young into believing what they should not.

Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media, they are equally perceptive about what they find there. The opposite is true. ~ American educator Sam Wineburg in 2016

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To characterize the public’s grasp of science as sketchy would be generous. Many Americans think that scientific and engineering work is “dangerous,” though science is considered more hazardous.

84% of Britons think that science is important, and we should take an interest in it. Yet 66% of Brits say science is a dying industry. 30% think “we depend too much on science and not enough on faith.” Over 90% of Brits who do not believe in God, but do believe in science, nevertheless believe in supernatural forces.

Generally, over half of the public says science and technology are too specialized for most people to understand. 30% confess they are not clever enough to understand science and technology.


Here’s a simple test of the most basic physics concept: can energetic forces be transferred? Think carefully and answer before reading further.

Forces can’t be transferred. Why? Because forces aren’t real. ~ American physicist Rhett Allain

The classical-physics term force refers to an energetic effect on an object. Energy does not exist: it’s just a word for the idea that immaterial “forces” act upon material objects.

If you got the answer wrong, it probably came from thinking of a force as a property of an object instead of an interaction (between objects). Confusion of concepts is the source of all suffering in the world. Physicists nowadays prudently prefer interaction over force because it is more precise as to what is going on (observable interactions), as contrasted with implicating the result (something being forced).


The ubiquitous stupidity of the Collective is failing to appreciate concepts in their elemental form: instead, proceeding with presumption. ‘Scientific’ belief in matterism is an exemplary failure. Once you know that matter is made of energy (as atrociously demonstrated by atomic bombs) and understand that energy in and of itself does not exist, then energyism is de facto proven. Once you comprehend energyism conceptually (in light of well-established facts), you can see why empiricism is a ruse.

(Matterism is the belief that the perception of physical actuality is reality. Matterism scientifically fails for not being able to explain the generation of most phenomena. Energyism is the comprehension that physical forces alone cannot explain all phenomena, and that actuality is a figment of the mind. In accounting for all facets of existence, only energyism can fully explain Nature.)

Only half of Americans see social sciences – sociology and economics – as scientific. More view computer programming, farming, and firefighting as scientific.

Only half of the British know that electrons are smaller than atoms. Almost half of Americans believe that astrology – horoscopes supposedly based upon celestial mechanics – has a scientific basis. The same goes for the quack cure called homeopathy (which can work, but only through the power of belief).

26% of Americans think that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Heliocentrism – that the Earth revolves around the Sun – was introduced by Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd century bce. Declaring such was heresy for Catholics in the 16th century, but the fact eventually caught on as irrefutable, at least for those who cared to know.

It is bad news to science museums when 4 in 10 Americans believe humans lived with dinosaurs, and fewer than 2 in 10 understand the terms “molecule” and “DNA.” ~ American author Larry Witham

41% of Americans believe that aliens visited Earth in the ancient past. 57% believe that Atlantis and other technologically advanced ancient civilizations existed. Such myths are learned from movies and TV shows which watchers take as being based in fact.

Archeological finds may be twisted to racist ends. In the early 19th century, pre-Columbian burial mounds were found by archeologists who ascribed them to a lost “mound-builder race” which had been wiped out by the ancestors of native Americans. President Andrew Jackson used this fable to justify displacing the indigenes from their lands. In a similar vein, white nationalists now cite a short-lived medieval Viking settlement in eastern Canada to claim that white Europeans were the first Americans, and so should rule.

Over 40% of British and Americans are creationists: quite sure that “God created the Earth and all life on it.” Far fewer feel certain that evolution is a natural dynamic.

40% of Americans believe that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” which was (they reckon) ~10,000 years ago. This account is especially popular with white evangelical Protestants (64%); 50% of black Protestants concur.

46% of American Republicans grant no credence to the concept of evolution. But then, conservatives and reactionaries are a doltish lot. Only 27% of Republicans who claim “high” scientific knowledge believe that climate change is causing either rising sea levels or harm to habitats and wildlife.

If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts. ~ Albert Einstein

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Online users are more likely to pay for those digital products which provide entertainment (music) and solutions (software), but less likely to pay for knowledge (such as an online newspaper). ~ Spanish journalism academic Manuel Goyanes