Why It Is Hard Not to Argue With Antivaxxers?

We normally ‘click’ or ‘get along’ with a few people and for most others, we are forced to be ‘nice’ due to various reasons such as hierarchical, socio-economical or space constraint (forced to be in the same place for working, living or traveling). Getting along with someone is admittedly a multifactorial process, however, being like-minded is of paramount importance for such an occurrence. Being like-minded is a shallow way to describe a very deep running resemblance. If you probe a bit to yourself, you will find you share many things with the chosen person, perhaps from values, customs, biases to skin color!

Since the dawn of civilization, the quest for being in the company of like-minded people led humanity to invent various ‘glues’ such as- cults, religions, economies, nationalisms and it kept evolving with us until recently (Republican vs Democrats, Apple vs Android or this vs. that) fanboys! I purposely used a term glue, which mostly reflects positively on these groupings. These groupings are proven to be some of the most successful mechanisms to bind us, humans, together and force us to cooperate to, if not unanimity, at least to the majority, which otherwise is an impossible endeavor! (think of last food delivery order, or what to watch on Netflix decided by a group of ‘friends’). These glues not only attracted and kept like-minded people together but effectively eliminated dissenting elements in bud which further reinforce the original ideals. The key element ensuring the success of these glues is the distinct set of identities it provided, albeit invented and imaginary. These identities gave members a sense of being part of a bigger community of people who share the same ideals, stand for the same values and at times ready to kill or die! (no veiled reference to religions-I meant religion, fair and square!) This sense of belonging is soothing at a psychological level but it comes at a cost. An individual member is forced to justify, defend and at a times unwillingly act on the actions of the community as a whole.

Moreover, clubbing together based on shared traits is a trend across species and it suited their evolutionary instinct to prosper. We, humans, are no exception, it is not an overstatement to say our knack for creating bands of like-minded groups led us to be the most dominant species of this planet with extraterrestrial ambition! Our phenomenal success, at least partly, can be attributed to this cooperative band and much of scholarly work supports this notion. As the human population exploded after the invention of agriculture to the current day, these groups kept flourishing with an ever-increasing number of members (read major religions, economies, nations, ideologies). It was and still wonderful for the group that a decision can be made en bloc and enforced for benefit of the group very effectively, but it also led to the brutal and at times brutal crushing of dissent. Alternative thought process always received stern opposition throughout history and had to be silenced under the garb of majority. The first ancient ancestor of our species who thought differently and dared to speak his mind out was probably brutally trolled for his views and executed to serve as an example. It was a historical moment for humankind, intellectual Xenophobia was borne!

Perhaps, ours is the only species that is conscious about our evolution of beneficial traits over the millions of years. I doubt, a gorilla feels sad for not having an opposable thumb or a sad dolphin ruminate over not being able to walk on the land. Maybe the very reason, we consciously strive to improve and obsessively separate ourselves from the rest-animals! To separate ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom we imposed ourselves with restrictions, we differentiated what is feral and what is civilized.

Unjust crushing of dissent is an age-old problem and we tried to address in a multitude of ways. In the quest, we arrived at the democracies- we gave power to people. Let it be ancient democracies to today’s biggest democracy, all enshrined the importance of dissent in their founding dogmas, CV but alas dissent always met negative outcomes-from guillotine to public lynching, to simple seclusion. it’s a strong negative reinforcement, it made us more intolerant towards dissent and almost made us forget to dissent!

Making commentary about the status of human race is akin to intellectual porn to modern-day scholars, and why not! It gives you the possibility to evaluate all-mighty human race from a high pedestal, without being part of it! I don’t mean to belittle these endeavors, in fact, we need to have an overall picture and we must thank these intellectuals and their efforts to make us see what we can’t see about us! After being informed with a big picture, a reductionist approach could be improved possibility to understand ourselves as humans. On a personal level- our biases could be traced back to the groups we were raised in or influenced us. The truth is we are subconsciously conditioned to be xenophobic and it takes a lot of conscious effort to tolerate the dissent and even more to dissent! Our modern democracies face the brunt of our underlying xenophobia. Arguments, online trolling and killing in the name of religion are not done by aliens who arrived from a distant planet. Its some of us execute their intellectual xenophobia into reality.
The ray of hope, however, is, now we started acknowledging and even encouraging different thinkers! ‘Thinking out of the box’ or ‘thinking differently’ became punchlines is an encouraging development.
The future human (if I may, without sounding cliché-human 2.0) needs to address this fatal flow, evolutionarily or by conscious design. Being inclusive, being able to tolerate dissent and dissent itself is the logical step forward on the back of millions of years of evolution of us.
Let us start tending our minds… tending our culture to be more inducive to the dissent. Next time when you would hear the view from another group or even your own group which makes you cringe, control the feral urge to crush the voice, listen to it! Maybe you get enlighten only if you listen.

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Dr. Nandrolone, Ph.D.

Dr. Nandrolone, Ph.D.

Neuroscientist, Podcaster and Productivity coach. I write about neuroscience hacks and tips to improve work and life. https://nandumuley.medium.com/membership