GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – The individual versus the need to have a cohesive society


An underlying, but often unspoken, theme in political debate is the issue of the rights and wants of the individual versus the need to have a cohesive society.

One way to think of it is as a continuum . At one end is the tyranny of the autocratic State in which individuals who seek to assert their individual rights are imprisoned, tortured or killed. At the other end are the extreme Libertarians who believe the rights of the individual are the only thing that matter and we have no responsibility to anyone else but ourselves.

There are of course other ways of thinking about the relationship between the individual and society but, however you imagine it, when we vote at election time it’s something we ought to consciously consider .

Do you want a WE society in which we all pay our fair share to look after one another? Or ME society in which the individual gets maximum freedom of choice and pays as little as possible to the upkeep of the State .

Cartoonists, at their best, often point up the absurdity of some of the things we believe .

TDB Recommends

Like today’s one on the Libertarian belief that whatever people choose to do or whatever happens to them in life isn’t any of our responsibility.

It raises, yet again, the age old question
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”.

I’ve figured out where I stand on this issue.

How about you?

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. For about 198,000 out of the past 200,000 years of our existence as a species, we lived tribally, which meant we cooperated extensively with those closely-linked genetically, and regarded outsiders either as potential allies or as potential enemies. Religion and racial differences made it clear who the potential enemy was, and the wearing of different clothing or hats or insignias clearly identified who we needed to ‘hate’.

    Along comes Christianity, which espoused the philosophy of turning the other cheek and loving the enemy. The Romans did their best to stamp it out -being an empire founded on looting and exploitation of people (and animals)…galley slaves, horses and oxen doomed to an existence of turning a grindstone etc. But when things were going badly for the Romans around 1600 years ago, one desperate group decided to paint religious symbols on their shields; against expectations they won the ensuing battle, and decided it must have been because of the religious symbols. Suddenly, Christianity is ‘all go’ and adopted as the religion of the empire. Meanwhile, in another sector of the crumbling empire a man has a vision, and declares himself to be the new prophet and saviour of humanity. After he dies, his son and uncle fight it out as to who is the true leader, with no clear winner. However, it was clear to their followers that the other lot -the Christians- had to be converted to the new religion or be annihilated.

    Along comes the steam pump, and it is no longer essential to ensnare people or animals to do hard physical labour: let coal do instead. But the empire (the post Norman conquest empire) did need an army of ‘slaves’ to work the machines and dig up the coal. And donkeys that never saw the light of day to pull cartloads of it along gas-filled tunnels.

    Yay! Meanwhile, the ‘elites’ are having a great time building country houses and enclosing the commons, on the back of profits made from operating slave camps in the Americas and from looting places like India. And persecuting any commoner who dared to supplement his/her meagre food supply with game taken from what was previously common land but had somehow was no longer common land.

    They hang the man and flog the woman
    Who steals the goose from the common.
    But let the greater villain loose,
    Who steals the common from the goose.

    Fast forward to the Great War, when cannon-fodder was required en masse to protect ‘Christian-based freedom and democracy ‘ from a different version of ‘Christian-based freedom and democracy. And then another round of mass murder, orchestrated by the money-lenders and industrialists, to decide which group of fascistic exploiters would run the world.

    Having had enough of mass slaughter, the ‘elites’ decide the way forward is to have everyone in the same ‘tribe’; thus was born the UN, out of the failed League of Nations, and the Commonwealth of of the dismembered British Empire, and the EU out of the previously perpetually warring European nations.

    The natural extension of this ‘elite’ philosophy was the notion that we should compete for land, homes, air, water and food at home whilst displaying great empathy and compassion for people on the other side of the world we will never meet, and who are competing with us for rapidly diminishing resources.

    Now that the environment is collapsing* as a consequence of effects of gross population overshoot (arguably of the order of 7 billion) facilitated by industrialisation of food production, and now that the Second American Civil War is underway**, and now that the globalisation is is dying on its feet***, and now that the global energy system is on its last legs****, it is clear to anyone who has thought it through that we need to return to some form of localism, similar to that which characterised our existence before the rise of empires and before the rise of industrialism. Indeed, that is our future (along with global population collapse) like it or not.

    That said, we can be certain that the coming election will be characterised by futile (dishonest) attempts to recreate pre-Covid-19 living arrangements that should never have been adopted in the first place -Limits to Growth, 1972 and all that.

    Expect a succession of ‘promises’ the promisers either have no intention of keeping or have no capacity to deliver on, and take everything they say with more than grain of salt.


    **The mayors of Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and 11 other cities wrote to the administration on Tuesday, accusing the president of an abuse of power and alleging that “federal law enforcement is being deployed for political purposes” amid suspicions that Trump is more interested in creating conflict than ending it in the run-up to the election.

    “Unilaterally deploying these paramilitary-type forces into our cities is wholly inconsistent with our system of democracy and our most basic values,” they wrote.

    The mayors also said they were disturbed at the actions of federal agents in Portland, calling their failure to wear proper identification and the snatching of protesters off the streets “chilling”.

    “These are tactics we expect from an authoritarian regime – not our democracy,” the letter said.



    • Extreme wealth has roots.
      The Romans wrote books that canvassed various pagan and other beliefs amalgamating them to a tale which was taught to bind together the revolting subjects of Roman conquest.

      That approach was extremely successful creating the wealthiest entity in the world at that time – the Roman Catholic” church. What the Romans could not achieve with weapons was more than achievable with beliefs tailored to facilitate expansion of an empire.

      The success of a church based empire was recognised so a various splinter groups formed rival belief systems used to collect wealth. They still persist today and man has not left his superstitious fears behind yet

      Meanwhile other belief systems have also proliferated with authoritarian power given to those who claim to speak to the supernatural beings that mythical rule without directly competing with each other. So with these high priest prophets we can gain access to Nivarna like an insurance policy you pay for a lifetime but can never collect. But collection are made regularly and assets are accumulated amid a world with starving folk.

      So much for tribal living in a world of unreality.
      Population overshoot is probably about 5 billion but if the abuse of the world is continued on the present path, the survival chances at 4 degrees rise in the medium term look to be much more limiting.

      All that wealth collection and destruction with institutionalised misery for what.

      When the use of oil has stopped and Natural Resources are so abused that they are scant in a near future, low energy usage will be forced on Humans because of the present blind consumption.
      Then creativity will be focused on growing plant food or scavenging if wildernesses take over cites and presently occupied landscape. I will be a very different world and unless Humans learn a better approach than competition, future groups will have a very miserable existence.

      Of course you can believe in BAU and become a Cornucopian.

      Speculation is based on assumptions and known factual information but they don’t and can not include a variation of what we experience today. Our “economies” are destroying our future.
      What do you expect when landfills are no longer manageable and filled with throw away rubbish and demolished buildings.

      Take Wellington, Auckland CBDs and imagine where all those present buildings will be dumped because they have reached the end of their lifespan. The concrete involved alone will leave its GHGs to warm the Earth for a thousand years.
      Why do we do this stuff.
      Heads buried in the sands of belief systems cause us to be blind and deaf to the cries of science and those living in a perspective of future reality.

  2. Co-hesive in the time of Covid-19. Pretty right. This morning on Radionz the bird was an Australian Coot. But there was earlier another sort of Australian coot – a woman arguing in well-bred tones about being required to wear a face mask and that it was impeding on her human rights and as a woman. Gracious me! Is that what feminists were arguing, protesting for in the 1970s – the right of self-interested Ayn Rands to threaten to sue Bunnings I think it was, for insisting that she wear a mask??

    And talking about Covid-19 – did anyone else think it was only a matter of time before the UK was hoist with its own petard and its corridors or bubbles for overseas travel would burst like boils? Spain is closed down to UK travellers and those coming back after the start of the new regime have to go into 14 days self-isolation which many can’t afford or are needed back at work etc.

    Why people should vote Conservative in the UK or anywhere, and Labour should give r-w thinking pride of place – just because they can voice upper-class speak in educated tones – is another example of allowing early ideals to be warped; feminism and education have altered their directions from their introduction under the Age of Enlightenment.*

    *An eighteenth century intellectual movement whose three central concepts were the use of reason, the scientific method, and progress. Enlightenment thinkers believed they could help create better societies and better people.

    • I cannot be bothered to even think about the allegedly freedom for all dropkicks who claim wearing a mask is an imposition on their freedom. Where are they all wheni nudists claim the right to get about starkers? Nowhere – at least the nudists can argue their rights don’t cause any real problems; they only upset those who choose to believe superstitious nonsense, that it is they the superstitious in fact, who are inhibiting the rights of everyone else, whereas the no-facemask libertarians are running the risk of exposing others to an often fatal disease.
      ‘No-maskers’ who have no coherent argument for their opposition spout that nonsense because as right-wingers they cling to hierarchical structures & someone up the ladder told ’em masks were not the go. Sheep led by amoral shits IOW.


    Perhaps social egalitarianism is the best model for NZ with a small population and plenty of cheap raw products for productivity expansion???

    Social egalitarianism[edit] At a cultural level, egalitarian theories have developed in sophistication and acceptance during the past two hundred years. Among the notable broadly egalitarian philosophies are socialism, communism, social anarchism, libertarian socialism, left-libertarianism and progressivism, some of which propound economic egalitarianism. Whether any of these ideas have been significantly implemented in practice remains a controversial question. Anti-egalitarianism[13] or elitism[14] is opposition to egalitarianism.
    Economic [edit]
    A very early example of equality of what might be described as outcome economic egalitarianism is the Chinese philosophy of agriculturalism which held that the economic policies of a country need to be based upon an egalitarian self-sufficiency.[15]
    In socialism, social ownership of means of production is sometimes considered to be a form of economic egalitarianism because in an economy characterized by social ownership the surplus product generated by industry would accrue to the population as a whole as opposed to a class of private owners, thereby granting each individual increased autonomy and greater equality in their relationships with one another. Although the economist Karl Marx is sometimes mistaken to be an egalitarian, Marx eschewed normative theorizing on moral principles altogether. Marx did have a theory of the evolution of moral principles concerning specific economic systems.[16]

    • Cooperative vs competitive models are both struggling with greed but the first one will win over time.

      • The greedy and nasty nature of a quite large portion of humanity does not change much over time. Gene theory supports the idea that in any group there is a reproductive advantage in taking more than one’s fair share, manipulating others to work for little or no pay, and having likeminded sociopaths as enforcers to control others in the group etc.

        The corrupt nature of the Catholic Church (from the days of collecting coin from peasants as insurance against spending eternity in agony for very minor misdemeanours and dispensations to the wealthy, to the systematic abuse of children and young unmarried mothers to lavish living on the back of slavery) has been increasingly exposed in recent times. And the international trade in human bodies (mostly young women in impoverished nations who are ensnared into unpaid prostitution) has been given wide exposure over recent years. Yet there is a plethora of examples of the utterly corrupt nature of government itself, not just in so-called undeveloped nations where dictators live in absolute luxury while the general populace scratches a living at near starvation, but in so-called developed nations, where business interests have controlled (and still control) government policy and enforcement of policy.

        At the individual level a recent case of slavery over many decades in NZ has been exposed, and has hit the international headlines:

        ‘Samoan chief who enslaved villagers sentenced to 11 years in New Zealand
        New Zealand-based Joseph Auga Matamata used 13 of his countrymen as slaves over a quarter of century’

        Much more worrying is the exposure not only of orchestrated funding of climate change denial by corporations but also the direct funding of enforcement of anti-human rights and anti-environmental policies by corporations, e.g. the assaults on people opposed to oil pipelines, open cast mining etc., and even assaults on people seeking social justice.

        ‘Revealed: oil giants help fund powerful police groups in top US cities
        Investigation portrays fossil fuel industry as common enemy in struggle for racial and environmental justice in America.’

        We have been in the invidious position of being trapped in a system in which a portion of the money we spend is used by the recipients of those funds (corporations and even local/district councils etc.) to lie to us and manipulate policy against our best interests.

        We are headed down the path that leads to collapse of the economic-financial system, and it is well to remember that in many post-apocalyptic films there is a backdrop of warlords fighting it out for control of resources.

        Right now much of the world is marching down the road towards overt fascism -the melding of government, corporate and military interests, as Mussolini put it- as opposed to covert fascism, with the US under Trump leading the way in assaults on citizens.

        I have no doubt in my mind that the selfish and greedy sector of NZ society that infests National and ACT will not go away if they are thoroughly thrashed at the coming election but will seek underhand methods to acquire what they want, and, if push comes to shove, will resort to violent confrontation to get what they want… more for themselves and less for everyone else.

        It is certainly our duty to expose the activities of these nasty people, and we can only hope that when the corrupt mainstream media go down the gurgler, as they must, now that advertising revenues are plummeting, a new public broadcasting system, devoted to the public interest, is established.

        Until that happens we must endure the nonsense churned by the broadcasting media or turn off and get on with something useful.

        I am certain time is short, and that the corrupt system we have endured for all our lives will not exist for more than a few more months.

        It is transition to something better, rather than the new set of arrangements, that concerns me most, as those still living in The Age of Entitlement attempt to hang on to their ill-gotten gains.

        By the way, the first fully-documented occurrence of mass murder of one group by another occurred (from memory) about 13,000 years ago in North Africa, where the skulls of many hundreds of victims were discovered, all smashed in by heavy clubs.

        Genetic progamming does not change over millennia. Only learned behaviours do.

        • I agree with the general thrust of what you have posted.
          Genetics can influence behaviour but our “genetic instincts” are mainly over ridden by learned behaviour.
          Our lizard propensities are all there still and do dictate or heavily influence flight or fight behaviours.
          A dog for example has a wide range of instinctive responses whereas apes have a more limited range. Humans have a long period of learning until sexual maturity and human culture tends to be dominated by that learning. As life expectancy has increased, the folk past reproduction age add to the culture with experience and reflection combined.
          So the mix is complex and not just genetically determined regarding behavior.

          Social conformity is a powerful determinant as to a persons behaviour both unconscious and deliberate.
          That is why propaganda is so effective. Unconscious beliefs and desires are influential with the formation of conscious decisions ans aspirations.

          Reinforcement of behaviour can be a powerful determinant of future similar behavioual responses.

          Families tend to share similar sets of values and common responses to selfish and group opportunities. Empathy can be learned by those who have a richly developed personality . There are some who are sociopaths or psychopaths and both those conditions are very difficult and often impossible to change.
          To a lesser extent narcissism is not easily modified but a learned component is established at an early age.

          A group interaction is dependent on group members and the mix and combination of personalities and values.
          Those with similar views tend to flock together and have their views reinforced.

          That long ramble brings me to putting forward that circumstances and just who is in the group can have a determining effect on group decisions.
          Genetics normally has a very minor role but may have a role in physical attributes which may well have a bearing on group interactions. A big robust bully with a hot tempered can be very influential as can someone with wealth and many influential contacts, and so fear can control the group.
          Power imbalance between groups is either accommodated or resolved often by unfair or violent behaviour.

          Nasty people do exist right throughout most societies and some are leaders of political or business groups. Some are just criminals who may be detected or operate under protection of his/her socially privileged position

          The mass murder referred to that happening some centuries ago, will have a setting that if more was known about, may have provided insight as to what actually happened.
          Cultural traditions are often not questioned, are mainly learned and can dominate outcomes of group interactions. Over time “ways of thinking” based on generations of repeated circumstances and adaptive thinking to deal with those circumstances, have a determining influence on group decisions.

          The latter is so evident in politics when comparing nations.
          eg China and much of Eastern Asia think very differently to say UK / USA. Russia with a very different history has a different political approach again.

          Class also exhibits common thinking that deviates with the privileged ranking of that class or economic group.

          We often see similarities within a group or race that we attribute to genetics mainly, but a closer look may see many other factors that attribute to these perceived similarities.

          “I have no doubt in my mind that the selfish and greedy sector of NZ society that infests National and ACT will not go away if they are thoroughly thrashed at the coming election but will seek underhand methods to acquire what they want, and, if push comes to shove, will resort to violent confrontation to get what they want… more for themselves and less for everyone else. ”

          Yes a very evident situation and greed has no bounds.
          When the greedy group together then their power to take from others increases dramatically. They formulate a system that works unfairly and defend it to the death.
          Capitalism is justified by them as they have little trust of others.
          So you tend to get a class of parasites that depend on the host, which are workers and consumers, to increase their wealth that the maintain is a result of their initiative and sweat.
          They get away with this because the workers and consumers let them.

          Stopping the system depends on first understanding the system then education other who may well be too busy and frightened to allow comprehension.
          The power in the system is used to keep them frightened and dependent.
          Both China and Russia have been through a change of system and reaped enormous benefits from the change.
          The USSR was targeted for system breakdown which over time was achieved by attacking their system through vulnerable avenues of accumulating wealth then applying than wealth to institute corruption with key players.
          Russia appears to have learned and is planning forward to avoid a similar occurrence as opportunities for corruption are slowly blocked.
          China has a much larger population with many races but a central government that understands that common folk are the heart of their collective strength.

          Corruption is a crime and many in high office have been severely punished and jailed.
          No hair tuggers there in high office.
          The richest citizen in China is Jack Ma and while he is well know as the founder of Alibaba, he is respected for what he has done for China but is not a part of Govt.

  4. Kia ora Bryan
    You quote from the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis Cain’s question “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. That is not inappropriate. The question has wide application. But the story of Cain and Abel is an allegory upon the relationship between the temporal and spiritual powers, and not just a commentary on human relations gone wrong. (Anyone with a knowledge of Hebrew symbology will understand that, and only those who cannot go past literal meanings will believe that it is intended as a (totally implausible) record of historical events).
    So assuming that you understand the allegorical nature of the story, I wonder why you did not bring its message more fully into your own analysis of governance – that is, the role of temporal authority in the world.
    Because between those who would wish to extend the coercive powers of the state and those who would wish to have untrammeled freedom for the individual there is no easy middle ground unless those governed – the people – stand on a strong moral foundation which makes them disinclined to abuse their given freedoms on the one hand or to submit to the demands of a corrupt state on the other, and which at the same time renders the coercive powers of a benevolent state redundant.
    This is the message of Genesis 4. The secular power which finally manages to free itself of the restraints and bothers of the spiritual power (not necessarily ecclesiastical) will only do so to enter into a vast political wasteland from which there is no easy escape.
    Stiffen the moral character of your people and you will have no need to walk the difficult line between freedom and coercion. Neglect to do so and your walk will never be easy.

    • As much as religions make claim to morality, one would have to be very distracted to believe that.
      The wars, genocides, torture and rigid compliance to authority with threat of eternal damnation for any deviance tells a deeper story about religious morality and authority.
      There are nearly 10,000 religions and each one is right. Yeah Right!
      Most religions have built into them a hierarchy of command which ignores equality.

      Morals in any society are mores or agreed values complied with by most in “society”
      Great apes have observable morals which when ignored bring social and even physical punishment from the group.
      Morals are not fixed and can vary with circumstances. No one owns them but people adopt them.

      What are the morals of war. or the wealthy feasting while the workers live in poverty or starve.

  5. Kia ora John
    What do you mean by “religions lay claim to morality”?
    Religions (I know of no exceptions) contend that there is such a thing as morality and that it is important. Most religions would argue that the deity (God, Jehovah, Allah) enacts a moral code which He or She requires people to obey.
    So moral authority does not come directly or infallibly from the church or its hierarchy. It comes from God, however you choose to understand that concept.
    There is a broad consensus among religions, and between historical epochs, about moral precepts, particularly the most fundamental ones. Love thy neighbour. Do unto others. Do not murder, lie, steal or cheat. Be faithful to your spouse. Have compassion for the poor. Be modest in dress and behaviour.
    There are differences when it comes to specifics. Some prohibit gambling, consumption of liquor, smoking and usury. Others, such as mainstream Christianity, have relaxed those rules.
    None of these differences changes the fact that religious movements and associations are the main social area in which morality is a key topic of discussion. Secular society is, on the whole, more concerned to free itself from moral constraints than to impose them.
    Certainly morals are “agreed”. We human beings have an innate sense of right and wrong, and you must persuade the mass of people of the validity of a moral truth before it can become part of the fabric of society. Moral teachings are not just random ideas dreamed up by religious enthusiasts. They must relate constructively to the real problems of human society if they are to gain widespread acceptance.
    The hypocrisy of many of those who profess religion is beside the point. Of course religion attracts hypocrites, as a lamb is a lure to wolves.
    A truly hedonistic neo-liberal society can be largely free of hypocrisy. If anything is allowed, why would one pretend to be anything but what one is? Even if that be a money grubbing capitalist selling tobacco, alcohol and other drugs to the most vulnerable of their fellow human beings, or profiting from prostitution, pornography and the destruction of the environment?
    But if society, or the social group, values selfless service, generosity and compassion then the hypocrite in their midst will pretend to all those virtues while taking advantage of them in others.
    Does that mean that a hedonistic society is to be preferred to a moral one?
    I don’t think so, because while hypocrisy is repugnant, it is not the alpha and omega of evil.

    • Interesting take Geoff. So basically you argue that morals or morality comes from or is the product of religion or alleged supernatural beings.
      Humanism is very concerned with fairness and “morality”. It is not a religion and discussion centres around logical thought an consequences of action. Ethics are separate to morals.

  6. Kia ora John
    I don’t use the term “supernatural”, and I argue that morality is a primary concern of religion, rather than a product of religion. Rather as medicine is not a product of the College of Surgeons or “The Lancet” but these are institutions which are concerned with medicine and where the practice of medicine is reviewed, debated and promoted. So if we have an interest in medicine we heed these institutions even when they comprise disparate voices.
    Moral philosophy shares the same interest in a secular context, and philosophy might seem to be a more objective and scientific way than religion of separating right from wrong. The trouble with philosophy however is its sheer objectivity. It struggles to define what is real while morality is a visceral thing. Something in your heart or your gut tells you “This is wrong” and that feeling overwhelms the questions of philosophy such as “How well does this behaviour serve the individual or society?” or “How does this fit with the autonomy of the individual?”
    That is not to say that any feeling of right or wrong is necessarily valid. Faith movements (as institutionalized religions) act as checks and balances upon and guides and tutors to the individual conscience.
    To the extent that humanism is concerned with fairness and morality it also has the characteristics of a religion. What is humanity? When you think about it, not something that you can see, hear, smell or touch with the senses. Is it male or female? Black or white? Perfect or imperfect of form? What would it look like if it was perfect? Does it have a material existence? Can we with certainty decide which beings are included in or excluded from the category of “human”?
    The same difficulty which the religious believer experiences in defining what he or she means by “God”, the humanist suffers when trying to define “humanity”. Essentially, the two concepts are closely related. The Bible tells us that man was made in the image of God, and the humanist responds that God was made in the image of man. The “Son of God” in some verses becomes “The Son of Man” in others. Humanity and God are concepts deeply entrenched in the individual consciousness. They are not one and the same, but one is the mirror image of the other.
    So is humanism a big step forward from belief and faith in God? I am not convinced that it is, and “faith” is one of the reasons why. It is all too easy to lose faith in humanity. But faith in God can remain when the whole world is against you, and even God Himself seems to be absent from the picture.

    • Geoff you speak of faith and we may have a different take on what that means.

      To me the word “faith” means a confidence in actions or events that are consistent and can be tested.
      I hold no belief attached and if an event or consequence changes then my understanding is broadened as I understand why or just accept a change has happened.

      Fixed beliefs make science very difficult or impossible.

      The chicken or the egg question about religion may well depend on how you test information and what parameters you use. The “image” you mentioned presents an interesting and continuing shift in a baseline.

      To many the natural world is that formed by processes that science is aggregating information on and research keeps expanding that body of information in both detail and wider theories that challenge what was accepted say a generation ago.

      The billions of Suns out there, many with some form of planetary system just leaves Earth and its temporary inhabitants to be somewhat insignificant, but important to mankind for his brief existence.

      The possibility that there may be some other form of life out there is a reasonable assumption but yet to be tested as we don’t have a means of testing that. So its a speculation.

      Some may even believe there is life out there as they want an answer rather than doubt or uncertainty.
      Beliefs that are not based on solid testable evidence are blind beliefs. Possibilities are different.

      We are programmed for survival. and the best shot to reach reproductive age. Beyond that age we add to the group culture as a support and bank of experience which may well enhance group survival.

      Early man brought a lot of learning from his parent species.

      If an unexplained noise behind a bush was encountered the fear brought an immediate flight response. The unknown was a source of fear and flight a survival mechanism.

      A belief constructed to allay that fear may creating an understanding that seemed compatible with the fearful event. Beliefs added security where ignorance created doubt and fear.

      The older and wiser group members had power in this respect as they could postulate a reason or belief to fill a space where ignorance created doubt, or pass on one handed down to them.

      Superstitions where guesses became accepted, filled the gaps where unknowns left doubt. The problem with superstitions is they can grow, can be rationalised and be built on by successive constructions with new fears attached.
      The group Sharman had a very powerful position being keeper of this dark knowledge so reinforcing this authoritarian rule.

      This pattern survives right through to modern civilisations where children are very susceptible to learning superstitions as a part of their world. Those “beliefs” become very hard to shake as they are often held subconsciously and never dealt with in the open.

      So on one level we have rational man with an objective process for testing information and for many there is another level of beliefs that are sometimes immutable, steering thinking processes down a different course.

      Confirmation bias and preservation of deeply held beliefs can prevent many from moving outside that framework to engage on more open testing of information. Blind faith is the result the seeds which are often sown in young minds and interfere with logical thought. Emotional appeal of associated social “hooks” or often feelings of being parented, can be powerful in locking a person into a belief system. Breaking free can mean social ostracism or rejection from the group.

      People who try to break out usually need support until confidence in their ability to think outside the constraints they have been accustom to is established. A wider social network may be also needed.

      People who set out to prove information or sets of ideas are not equipped with a method described as “scientific”. They seek to establish answers which may be interesting but are not being systematically tested.

      So beware statements such as “To prove it I will…”, “The proof is there”, or the typical common one found in American circles is “the scientific proof” which of course is an anachronism.

      To distinguish between truth and lies in today’s world does mean possessing a fairly sophisticated strategy of testing. Accepting a hearsay element may cause you to commit yourself to accepting many things based on that. You can become committed.

      Better not to be polite and get lost.

  7. As I suggested in my first comment above, religious scripture and teaching is often misconstrued – not least by religious believers themselves. From one perspective Genesis 4 is a harmless but totally implausible tale of two natural brothers that has no relation to reality, and from another it is an allegory on the spiritual and the profane sides of our existence that is full of insight. Religion may be closer to poetry than to science. That does not mean it is without value.
    Are there, or should there be, absolute and fixed beliefs? More generally, are there absolutes in the world or is everything relative?
    The answer to that is that science and mathematics recognises absolutes such as infinity, eternity, the absolute zero of temperature, the speed of light in a vacuum ideal, gases, pure substances and so on. Would science or mathematics be possible without these absolutes (call them constructs if you like)?
    Religion likewise concerns itself with things that are as difficult to conceive as infinity, eternity and so on. Things that are given out of consciousness, rather than perceived in experience. Science itself is not devoid of such concepts, constructs and assumptions.
    A statement like “God is love” is not verifiable and it cannot be invalidated. It cannot be tested. Therefore it is a fixed belief. Never-the-less it has meaning and value. It provides us with a key to living in the world socially rather than as “nature, red in tooth and claw”. (Alfred Tennyson “In Memorium”).
    There is a place for both science and faith. Indeed, there is a need for both.

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