What Is Your Dangerous Idea?

[ Wed. Jan. 31. 2007 ]

Dare to question. Most don't. Indeed, many people get alarmed, agitated, when difficult questions are posed.

Questioning settled assumptions forces people to think, which can be a frightening, radical exercise.

Consider the "dangerous ideas" listed here: "Do women, on average, have a different profile of aptitudes and emotions than men?

Were the events in the Bible fictitious — not just the miracles, but those involving kings and empires? Do most victims of sexual abuse suffer lifelong damage? Did Native Americans engage in genocide and despoil the landscape? Do men have an innate tendency to rape?

Are suicide terrorists well-educated, mentally healthy, and morally driven? Are Ashkenazi Jews, on average, smarter than Gentiles because their ancestors were selected for the shrewdness needed in money lending? ...

Steven Pinker, in his introduction, calls these "dangerous ideas - ideas that are denounced not because they are self-evidently false, not because they advocate harmful action, but because they are thought to corrode the prevailing moral order"....

...psychologist Daniel Gilbert employs just 131 words to shoot down the thought "that ideas can be dangerous".

Paradoxically, he states "the most dangerous idea is the only dangerous idea: The idea that ideas can be dangerous."

Whew! I was worried for a moment. Like the meaning of life, there's no simple answer. Which is why so many, desperate for certainty, shy away books like this.

Personally, I relish such questions, and if you have any sort of an open, enquiring mind, then so will you.

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