Friday, July 3, 2009

Kristof: When Our Brains Short-Circuit

Nicholas Kristof is at it again. This time his New York Times op-ed piece warns us that the human brain misjudges certain risks because "evolution has programmed us to be alert for snakes and enemies with clubs, but we aren’t well prepared to respond to dangers that require forethought."

For example, notes Kristof, a snake will startle our senses but the specter of global warming destroying the earth is a yawner for our brains. Kristof quotes evolutionist Paul Slovic:

We humans do strange things, perhaps because vestiges of our ancient brain still guide us in the modern world.

Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. Do we really need evolution to understand our reactions to things like snakes and global warming? Kristof tries some other politically correct examples, and the piece gradually evolves into a not so subtle mixture of science and politics where evolution is used to explain all manner of deficient and wrong-headed viewpoints.

Though Kristof and his evo buddies have transcended such mind control, your average red neck resists global warming and its remedy--the cap and trade legislation, rising seas, slow melting of the glaciers, and the gradual rise in the Earth’s temperature (did I mention global warming?), all because of evolution.

On the other hand, said red neck becomes overly agitated by things like sexual variations and flag burning. Funny how evolution causes all these wrong ideas (in the people who have them, of course).

At times Kristof's evolutionary logic turns on itself. For instance, on the one hand evolution is supposed to have made us extra sensitive to the threat of spoiled food, but on the other hand it has led to deficient funding of the FDA "even though food-poisoning kills more Americans than foreign armies and terrorists." Oh well, I'm sure the evolutionists will figure it out.

The main thing, Kristof concludes optimistically, is to "understand and acknowledge our neurological shortcomings--and try to compensate with rational analysis." Fortunately evolution has not precluded Kristof and the evolutionists from figuring all this out and arriving at the right political attitudes. Last time Kristof explained that our minds were not designed by evolution to discover the truth. I guess that doesn't include Kristof.