Monotheistic thinking trap

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People argue passionately about all sorts of things. What type of bed mattress should a responsible parent buy? Is preschool a humane choice? Is Bitcoin the only coin possible, did Facebook destroy democracy? Do people eating meat deserve to die? Should vaccines be mandatory? Is a hotdog a sandwich?

Each side will argue with a sense of total moral superiority, that of course, you have to be a deranged human being to support the other worldview. Who would do that in their right mind?!

It is not a new observation that detailed decisions are downstream of the value system – that is how we got the two-party approach represented in most democratic countries: First, we vote on the value system, and the particular choices will be an obvious consequence.

You will have no other gods answers before me

The first and most important commandment of the three biggest world religions states:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Moses et al.

There is only one authority, one truth, and one absolute. Every question has only one answer and only one way of arriving at it. Good people like me go to heaven and the bad ones like them go to hell.

At its essence, monotheism argues that everything should be judged only through one lens, one value system, and one ethical framework. It depends on the assumption, that it’s possible to create a complete and consistent ethical framework, and of course, each flavor is happy to provide one.

Modern western atheism proudly rejected the particulars of Christianity and Judaism, but continues to be monotheistic – its religion being scientism:

What experts-of-the-day say now is the truth, believing otherwise makes you an ignorant and bad citizen

The consequences of monotheistic scientism underpin most of our “big arguments”:

  • Only one, “blessed” way of solving the test is accepted at school, divergent thinking is not encouraged
  • New Scientific theories are mocked because of their inconsistencies with adopted dogma
  • Abortion pops up again and again in polytical debates (particularly in Poland where I’m from) – it’s either murder or a choice with no in-between depending on your monotheistic views

Monotheism makes it really hard to consider the arguments of the other side because it doles out the addictive sweet nectar of moral superiority:

If there is only one truth and everyone who believes something a little different needs correcting. If they refuse, it is just and good to fight them, for the benefit of all mankind. And, of course, the one truth is the one that I believe.

How to spot monotheistic thinking

It is easy to mock religion, and at the same time fall into the monotheistic way of thinking. You see, monotheists are by definition maximalists. If there is only one truth, and one answer – then the only logical choice is to maximize it. You can see this logic in a variety of situations:

  • Many people agree that eating less meat is good for you or the environment. But we’re stuck in debates over “true veganism” where difference between those camps may be an egg a day.
  • Bitcoin Maxymalists are also monotheistic – they argue that there is no other god before Bitcoin and not only current currencies, but all other cryptocurrencies are inferior
  • If public education is supreme good, and the answer to everything – we should take away children from parents like in the “Brave New World”
  • When lockdowns put everybody Zooming from home, people promoting Remote Work started complaining that “this is not true remote”,

Embrace Polytheism

The world is a complex system. We have some understanding of the underlying principles, but we are constantly proven wrong by new discoveries or uncovering our previous biases (like the replication crisis).

Reevaluating your thinking against multiple points of view saves you from the fragility of believing your own BS.

The ancients represented multiple points of view as figures of the pantheon, but it suffices to just remember there are multiple lenses, and not everything falls neatly into a category. Sometimes Zeus just really wants to seduce somebody so you die in a bloody war.

If you prefer a more rationalist argument – the basic structure of reality also seems to be favoring Polytheism. If light can be both a wave and a particle, and the state of the object depends on the observer – then maybe you too can adopt multiple points of view at once.

So stop being so smug. I will try as well.

Deliberate Internet

An arbitrary collection of deliberate thinking on the Internet.

Buldozer vs Vetocracy

Staying on topic, Vitalik Buterin (author of the Ethereum cryptocurrency) proposes a novel political axis: Bulldozer vs Vetocracy

Bulldozer: single actors can do important and meaningful, but potentially risky and disruptive, things without asking for permission

Vetocracy: doing anything potentially disruptive and controversial requires getting a sign-off from a large number of different and diverse actors, any of whom could stop it

Stained Glass random act of beauty

Danielle has created portable stained-glass stickers for her flight turning the Airbus 320 into a tsarist Russian Zeppelin.

How to make friends as an adult

A proven way of making new friends.

Basically, you make friends out of acquaintances — people you know but are not friends with — and the crucial friend-making act is this: you have to ask a not-quite-friend if they want to do something

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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.

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