by Jamie Hale
What is Your Dangerous Idea (Brockman 2007) takes a look at some of the world’s leading thinkers and their most dangerous ideas. Some of the ideas in the book include:
Keith Devlin’s idea we are entirely alone
Devlin suggests there is no higher being and no higher purpose to our lives. Devlin does not see this as a bad thing. He believes the opposite. “The fact that our existence has no purpose outside that existence is completely irrelevant to the way we live our lives, since we are inside our existence. The fact that our existence has no purpose for the universe- whatever that means- in no way means that it has no purpose for us.” I have heard the argument many times if there is nothing else what purpose do we have none. My purpose is to have a happy life and enjoy time with my loved ones. Whether my mark on the universe is significant makes no difference as far as my personal happiness is concerned. I think spending too much time trying to figure out if there is something more de-values the time you have on earth. What is wrong with living your life for you?
Marc D. Hauser’s idea it appears that a wide variety of moral judgments are immune to cultural and demographic variation, including religious background.
Hauser further expands on his idea by saying “Controlling for age, people with only a high school education are no different from people with advanced degrees when it comes to judging the permissibility of harming another person in certain contexts. People with religious backgrounds are no different in this regard from atheists and agnostics.” There are religious people that have high moral standards and there are non-religious people who have high moral standards (depending on how you define moral standards). Classifying people’s morality based on non-religious or religious belief is a logical fallacy (Hasty Generalization). Moral standards are based on the teachings in the bible is common fallacy. Basing moral standards by cherry-picking passages from the bible may give us some moral guidance but the bible as a whole is full of horrible acts.
Bertrand Russell’s idea that it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.
This seems so obvious why should it have to be said. There are many people that believe things with absolutely no valid reason to believe. How many times have you heard just have faith in other words just believe? The essence of faith is believing something in the absence of evidence.
Jordan Pollack’s idea it is a very dangerous idea to consider science as just another religion
Pollack makes it clear this is not his idea but and idea held by some. This is a completely ridiculous statement often perpetuated by religious fanatics. Yet, the differences between religion and science are astounding. I have addressed this numerous times in past articles but to summarize science is evidence based and can actually be tested while religion is faith based and cannot be tested (religion is not science or similar to science in any way shape or form).
Judith Harris’s idea parents have no power at all to shape their child’s personality, intelligence, or the way he or she behaves outside the family home?
Harris says there is no solid evidence that indicates parents shape their children. She doesn’t see this as a bad thing. She says if people accepted these things it would get easier for children and parents. Parents would stop worrying so much about if they are doing the right thing when it comes to raising kids. Kids would appreciate praise more if it weren’t handed out in abundance. I think some kids are influenced by their parents while others seem to be affected very little. I can think of a few instances where parents provided their kids with bundles of attention and love but the kid grew up to be a menace to society. I am also aware of a couple of cases where the parents done a horrible job (in accordance to general standards) parenting but the kids turned out ok.
Matt Ridley’s idea the more we limit growth of government, the better of we will all be.
Ridley says, “In every age and at every time, there have been people who say wee need more regulation, more government. Sometimes they say we need it to protect exchange from corruption, to set the standards and police the rules – in which case they have a point, though often they exaggerate it.” I think in most cases the people that insist more government is needed have a vested interest. Ridely is not suggesting we abolish government but limiting its growth would be a good idea.
Roger Schank’s idea is school is bad for kids
I found Schank’s idea to be the most interesting in the book. I have held this idea for many years. I worked at a junior high school briefly and seen firsthand how disgusted and bored most kids were at school. I think most of them felt the same way I did when I was in school (bored, frustrated, and sleepy). Almost every kid I talk to hates school. Does that make it bad? That’s only part of what makes it bad. Other problems include the curriculum, the methods of testing, over emphasis on rote learning (memorization), unilateral paths of knowledge, under-emphasis on skepticism, grade inflation, compulsory attendance, social pressures, favoritism etc. Schank says, “ Schools should simply cease to exist as we know them. The government needs to get out of the education business and stop thinking that it knows what children should know and then test them constantly to see if they regurgitate whatever they have just been spoon-fed. The government is an always has been the problem in education.” Schank promotes the idea that learning should be guided by passion. Schank’s idea should be a wake up call to you if you are not aware of the state of formal education. Another thing to keep in mind is the common misuse of the word education. Formal Education is often nothing more than a business and it should not be mistakenly considered the only type of education. I would bet that almost anyone that has a wealth of knowledge in their respected field gained most of that knowledge on their own. In fact, even while in school you generally don’t learn in the classroom (if you learn). You simply take directions on what you need to learn out of the classroom (learn studying at home, library etc.). Ralph Waldo Emerson put it like this “We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a belly full of words and do not know a thing.”
Leo Chalupa’s idea what’s needed to attain optimal brain performance- with or without brain exercise- is a twenty-four-hour period of absolute solitude.
This means no writing, reading, phone, watching TV, music or any verbal interactions of any with another human. I tried this but I didn’t make it. I kept thinking about things I needed to write. At around the 16th hour I started writing.
You can check out ideas of some of the World’s leading thinkers at www.edge.org