Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dad and Robert Heinlein are right

The internet credits Robert Heinlein with saying "Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal," but my dad told me that when I was very young. Since all writers burrow things away in their subconscious, my guess is Heinlein picked it up somewhere, maybe from Twain, or maybe it's just one of those observations that smart people eventually make.

When I was older, Dad phrased it more bluntly: "Your problem is you think people are rational." I can't remember how I answered, but what I've thought for most of my life was that people have the potential to be rational.

But now I think Dad and Heinlein were right. I was citing confirmation bias recently, and I realized that's why people don't change their understanding of the world until their world changes.

Now I'll resume my internet break while I ponder this.


  1. Have you ever read any of Robert Anton Wilson's nonfiction? He refers frequently to "reality tunnels" and "belief systems" (shortened to "BS") and tries to illustrate that most people seem to never quite break out of their own "BS." I imagine you'd like him as he has one foot in the libertarian camp and one foot in the socialist camp and has no problem with any perceived contradiction from others.

    1. Y'know, I prob'ly should give him another look. Back in the day, I thought he was a bit goofy, but I can't remember what I read that gave me that impression, and I know I haven't read much of us. Making the mental note now...

      I really, really admire shortening "belief systems" to BS. A guy should be remembered by history for that alone. I'm stealing it.

    2. Yeah, his using UFO stories and conspiracy theories as philosophical tools causes him to lose people. Those who believe in conspiracies think he's laughing at them and everyone else suspects he believes them.