Cholla Cactus, Grand Canyon, 2009
We’ve discussed high conflict systems in the past — there are perils in responding forcefully to them, especially when you know that there is simply no way you’re going to be understood, because the v-Meme gap is just too wide.
Such was the case with Bill Nye, The Science Guy, and the battle over creation science and the existence of Noah’s Ark with Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. In this article from Grist, writer Katie Herzog makes the point that Ham’s project of building an Ark replica in Kentucky was floundering until Nye and Ham held a debate at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The resultant publicity resulted in a resurgence of donations that resurrected Ham’s Ark-building efforts.
Here’s a video of clips from the debate, compiled by Mashable.
It’s challenging to know what to do when confronted with obviously Magical v-Meme thinking. Ham fronts for a constituency, the Young Earth adherents, that say the Earth is only about 6000 years old, that believe deeply and are not going to respond to reason. At the same time, they’re not above some higher-level Authoritarian v-Meme borrowing to skewer their opposition. But it’s likely worse. People like Ham usually are apocalyptic adherents of Biblical prophesy like that contained in Revelations, which pretty dramatically proscribes the people who are going to get into Heaven at the end of the world. Can you think of a more profound In-group/Out-group division than someone deciding whether you’re going to spend eternity on a cloud, or burning in torment for all time? Pretty anti-empathetic and collapsed egocentric!
One of the rules we learned in politics is never repeat your opposition’s message. While I deeply admire Nye for boldly going where those of us favoring the higher v-Memes and science have little interest, I also think it would be instructive for Nye to read this blog. Social physics are social physics. And it’s obvious, at least in this circumstance, that he’s giving Ham a bigger audience, and more bucks.
Takeaway: for those looking for a refresher on a great model to understand how people think in the belief vs. reason space, I recommend reading this post on Ken Wilber’s Thought Hierarchy. The short take-away is this: if you’re up there in the rational space, but you’re debating with someone down in the magical/mythical ethos, the only way they can understand your argument is in context of projection — your reasoned argument (to you) is really just your own egocentric beliefs. And why should your beliefs be better than theirs, especially if they believe they’re decreed by some divine being? You’re certainly not going to change their minds. And in some contexts, you’re going to feed the beast. Or get others to — with cold, hard cash.