Why being Rational is often more Important than being Intelligent

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"Why being Rational is often more Important than being Intelligent"
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It is more important to be rational than it is to be intelligent.  An intelligent person is quite capable of believing in absurdities. But critical thinking skills, being rational about emotional belief systems such as religion and political leanings, are far more important in the world today. This is because the world today is threatened by climate change and the erroneous idea that destruction of resources and land is the only way for humans to thrive on the planet. A domineering attitude is asserted against nature and science. It is based on the absurd belief that if Earth dies it is what God actually intended.

Belonging is central to all systems of belief. Humans evolved by forming cooperative social bands of hunters and gatherers. Putting other human beings and even other parts of the creation in oppositional relationships (us versus them) invariably leads to war, discontent, oppression and exploitation. Rational thought is aware of this consequence. It always asks of the thinker to consider whether or not bias is introduced by nature or an evolved need for inclusion. Using fossil fuels, for example, when it is clear they are destructive, is based on the former (outdated) model that they are plentiful and (with less than seven billion people) did no permanent harm to the sustaining ecosystems of Earth.

That people believe what they need to believe is evident to any rational thinker. Take Isaac Newton as a superb example. He is possibly the most intelligent person who ever lived. However, he was a product of his time and place. He believed in a monotheistic god and a chain of being that science now has discredited. He did not have the advantage of knowing about evolution, DNA, cosmological historical events and much more that people now know of in science. Now that evolution is proven, would Newton continue to believe that all diversity could follow only by a biblical creator?

It is more likely he would see evolution as the means by which a creator devised creation and its natural laws. It is also logical to assume that in a world in which agnosticism and even atheism is more tolerated, Newton would be more willing to engage critical thinking skills rather than to fear punishment for heresy. In fact, it is social ostracism that is a much more influential factor in social systems than punishment. That is why, so far, no non-Christian has been an electable candidate for major office in the United States of America. Until humans can be more humble in their approach to certainty, this will persist.

In the world today, knowing how to think is more crucial than what is thought. Knowing that one should always approach a hypothesis with doubt is more important than thinking in certainty. Certainty almost always leads its believers to intolerance of those who do not share that certainty. For example, in the world today some who do not accept other faiths would rather kill the non-believers than accept diversity of opinion. Nationalism, religion and narrow-minded bias against those who are different are the basis for all oppression, exploitation and manipulation of beliefs and emotions by those who seek power. Yet, those who admit not having all the answers are more likely to assert tolerance and open inquiry into possible explanations of natural laws.

A person who accepts humans cannot know certainty is more open-minded. A person who thinks they own “the sacred truth” is much more dangerous to the world.  Irish poet  W. B. Yeats said it best: “…the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This accounts for such things as suicide bombers, hate crimes against women and homosexuals and all general bias-based morals.

More about this author: Christyl Rivers

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