One of the more interesting things to come out of the last few months in my own personal Mixed Mental Arts experience has been hearing more from all of you how these ideas resonate with all of you. In particular, I appreciated a conversation with Matty (@Matt_Maurer on Twitter) about how he appreciated that history could be seen as one long progression. Humanity has always been trying to solve very much the same problems. It is just that over time we have been able to see further because we have had more and more shoulders to stand on. Why are we so much smarter than the people of the past? Well, coming of age in the culture of science, I was led to draw a sharp line between the scientific project and religions. Science was real. It was tangible. It was based on evidence. It was TRUTH. And anyone who disagreed, questioned or thought anything else was an idiot and a fool. However, as I've mentioned elsewhere, in reading the science that simple narrative has become increasingly problematic for me. The people of the past weren't so biologically different. Their brains recognized patterns. Did they not recognize patterns in human behavior that have stood the test of time? Yes. They did. And it wasn't until I was confronted by having to spend time among Christian Fundamentalists that I had to really think hard about what, if anything, made science special. Someone else who has had to think hard about these questions is today's guest sensei in the dojo Mohamed Ghilan. Mohamed was born in Saudi Arabia like yours truly. Unlike yours truly, he has a PhD in Neuroscience, is getting an MD and is a Muslim. As a scientist and a Muslim, he knows full well that the evolution of better and better beliefs and mental tools was going on well before science showed up on the scene. Today, someone like Mohamed is often portrayed in the media as a bit of a unicorn. He's a Muslim AND a scientist. Whaaaaaat?!? Is that even possible?!? But in the first four or so centuries of Islam the majority of "scientists" were Muslim. Richard Dawkins captured the two parts of this story in his now infamous tweet "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though." Dawkins' own tweet creates problems in his narrative that religion is the problem. If Muslims did great things in the Middle Ages, then why is the problem Islam? If Newton was religious AND a scientist AND an alchemist, then why is the problem Christianity or even magical thinking? And what is science anyway? As I've discussed in previous podcasts, some Christians objected to Newton's Theory of Gravity because the idea that the planets moved all by themselves conflicted with their belief that God actively moved the planets. Then, they moved on. Gravity was something they could confirm with their own eyes and to keep Christianity relevant and practical they had to evolve their understanding of God. Did they stop believing in God? Nope. They just adopted a more mature of God. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." - 1 Corinthians 13:11 Were the people who didn't understand Newton's Universal Theory of Gravitation idiots? Nope. In large part, they just didn't have the glassmaking technology to make the kind of telescopes necessary to observe the planets. And The Scientific Method itself evolved over time but some consider the founder of The Scientific Method to have been a Muslim named Ibn al-Haytham due to his emphasis on experimental data and reproducibility of results. Why then are we repeatedly told the story that science and religion are somehow incompatible? By some analyses, a Muslim FOUNDED Science. If we want to popularize science, then isn't it in science's interest to tear down this popular story that science and religion are at odds. Of course, some of the beliefs of science and religion don't overlap, notably on the age of the Earth and the origins of life. But, it turns out that science has found its way back to many of the beliefs that religious people figured out long ago. In my article Was Jesus Christ a Better Neuroscientist than Sam Harris?, I explored my own journey towards the painful realization that in the realm of human affairs science had 2000 years later merely reinvented the wheel. In response, I got a comment from someone named Arslan Atajanov asked "Since when science became a belief system?" Ten years ago, I would have asked the same question as Arslan. Now, I know better. Science has always been a belief system. It is a response to how our minds work. Humans form beliefs. We have always formed beliefs. And apparently by the time of Ibn Haytham there was already awareness that testing one's beliefs against the evidence was a good thing to do. In practice, people do this all the time. Look at Game of Thrones. People had theories about Jon Snow being dead or not. Then, they watched the next season. Oh! He wasn't dead. They changed their beliefs and moved on. But now imagine that what you believed about Jon Snow being dead or alive became tribal. Now, the French believed that Jon Snow was alive. The Americans believed Jon Snow was dead. Real Americans believed Jon Snow was dead. Then Season 6 Episode 1 airs. New evidence surfaces. Yep. It looks like Jon Snow is alive. The French gloat. They insult the Americans' intelligence. How could they have been SO STUPID to have thought that Jon Snow was ever alive? Now, the Americans get defensive and come up with a series of rationalizations to defend their beliefs. It becomes a point of pride and identity. And so, the conflict builds for 150 years after the show originally aired. Pretty soon neither side is looking at the evidence. It has simple become an article of faith for both sides. How do you end this conflict? Well, you point out that before Season 6 aired no one could have known whether Jon Snow was dead or alive and that we all happily kept track with the story for the first five seasons. You could also point out that in this sectarian feud both sides have been losers. We're all better off moving on. Of course, some people have built their whole brand around this idea of incompatibility. That's their shtick. They're not likely to back down anytime soon. I understand that some people are annoyed with hearing about Sam Harris but the Mixed Mental Arts audience is perhaps unusually diverse. We have Christians in the dojo who are trying to figure out how to reconcile their faith with science like Jason Scott Sanders and Kim Ares. And we have numerous Muslims who rather than listening to Bryan and me talk about Islam wanted actual Muslims on the show. You couldn't ask for a better ambassador than Mohamed Ghilan. In this conversation with Mohamed, we clarified what science is. It's a formalization of what humans already do. If you ask me, science has become overformalized. That's why I'm so excited about Mixed Mental Arts. Science has become so bogged down in internal tribal disputes. (A problem Sam Harris has also complained about when he talks about the balkanization of science.) The question is what do you do about that? Well, scientists aren't likely to overcome their tribalism internally. Famous scientists often end up standing in the way of the progress of science as a whole. And if you're someone like Sam who is still imprisoned by his intuitions of authority, then you are stuck there. You complain to Joe Rogan about the fact that people like me have a Twitter account and then complain that scientists don't work together to form better beliefs. Complain. Complain. Complain. What's the solution, Sam? The solution is harnessing the wisdom of the crowds to sift through the evidence and evolve better beliefs. You abandon all intuitions of human authority and make the evidence the authority with the knowledge that you need to take into account all the evidence. And this is where the beliefs of The New Atheists about the Islamic world FAIL as scientific hypotheses. They fit a very selective cherrypicking of the data. They make sense to someone with limited experience of the Middle East. They don't make sense to someone like Mohamed (or even me with my much more limited experience). Well, in this interview, Mohamed focused on corruption and that's a HUGE factor. However, there are others. Muslims don't read. When they do, they don't read widely. The central belief system is not well organized and there is no coherent messaging so people can believe lots of things and CLAIM they're being Muslims. And, on top of all that, there's a focus on past historical greatness that doesn't fit present realities. All those things describe not just Islam. They describe America. Fixing all that takes a lot of work. It's a game of inches. Do you know what doesn't help? Constantly being told that your culture is the problem. It just creates defensiveness. There are problems with Islamic and American culture. And no...I'm not saying they're equivalent. But, in no situation, does indiscriminately criticizing people's culture help establish a bridge. You have to find things of value and then build strength where strength exists and then use that trust to together and reciprocally examine problematic areas. How do I know? Because I just did the opposite of that with The New Atheists. This was the response I got. In the end, The New Atheists have alienated religious people from science and I have al
In Part 1 of "What Does Your Hinky Meter Tell You?", Bryan and Hunter explored the controversy that the Frying Dutchman, Hunter Maats, had created in calling out Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. In Part 2, we look at why that behavior is so problematic: it creates an emotional climate that divides cultures rather than uniting them. At the end of a great stand-up comedy show, something truly wonderful happens. People's differences fall away and people of all races, genders, colors and creeds come together. In that moment, there's a possibility in the air. The possibility that people from totally different experiences strike up a conversation and connect because they realize that beyond their superficial differences that they can learn things from each other. The spirit at the end of one of Bryan's stand up shows is the Spirit of '76. It's the spirit of curiosity and possibility that fills garages where great start-ups are born. It's the spirit of openness, curiosity and possibility that filled the Caliphate in the age of its greatest scientific breakthroughs. It's the spirit that Hunter wants the Callenphate to create worldwide...and that Bryan thinks we probably won't. Whatever happens, it's what these two silly geese are aiming to spread. The problem is that there are divisive figures among us who thrive on using lawyerly rhetoric to promote bad ideas. In the write up to the last episode, I asked you to recommend someone who set off your hinky meter. One of you did. You suggested Ben Shapiro. And so, the Tutor of Death looked at Ben Shapiro and in this episode you can hear his rhetorical strategy broken down. People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Ben Shapiro, SJWs and Tom Woods are critics. They criticize religious people or liberals or government or the red states. People like Alex Jones spread division. They don't get into the ring and try and practically solve problems. Mixed Mental Arts is not about theory. It is about turning the best available theory into practice. As Teddy Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Do we know exactly what we're doing? Of course not. If someone knew how to solve the world's problems, they would. We're a stand-up comedian and a tutor and if we fail, at least we will fail while daring greatly. And so, this podcast marks our commitment to do a very simple thing: to try, to fail and try again and again. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the answer to a question that Bryan and I have both been trying to answer for a very long time: what makes a real man? It's someone who can bet it all on a single game of pitch and toss, lose and start again. We are done with trying to be liked. Instead, we choose to grow up and become men. The world is on the verge of doing something truly stupid. And so, perhaps it takes two guys who aren't worried about looking stupid to help fix that. Perhaps the Cincinnatuses...or should that be Cincinnati...of our age are one, two cutie pies. Maybe not. But we're certainly willing to have a go. After all, if we can do that, then we might finally become the men our fathers raised us to be. Over to Rudyard Kipling... If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
One of the major challenges of our age is that there are a lot of words everyone uses as if we're all talking about the same thing but actually mean entirely different things. Case in point: "capitalism" gets thrown around a lot but it means something totally different to the Chicago School of Economists, Behavioral Economists, the Austrian School of Economics and to Adam Smith. Today, Hunter interviews Peter Schiff one of the most prominent voices in the libertarian movement, a word that has so many different meanings that it's hard to criticize as a whole. We can, however, look at what one man believes in this interview. What and how does Peter Schiff think? Well, I've got to say that I don't think that Peter Schiff's worldview makes much sense either internally, with what we know about human thinking, the historical record or what Adam Smith and America's Founding Fathers taught. In short, I don't think the cargo cult Peter Schiff is proposing will deliver prosperity for humanity. It will, however, deliver prosperity for him. In any evolutionary system, parasitism will emerge as a strategy and the same is true in human societies. You can create a following peddling a plausible-sounding worldview and then extract both money and political power from your followers. Usually, people think of this behavior only in terms of religion but, in fact, you can do it any arena. It applies to self-help. It applies to financial advice. It applies to political promises that gain you power but are so out of touch with reality that they have no chance of delivering your followers prosperity. So, let's look at what I took away from this. Firstly, there's where Peter and I agree. Wall Street has severe problems. It has lost touch with capitalism and confused self-interest with short-term greed that will line the pockets of bankers while destabilizing society as a whole. And I'm quite sure that Peter can help his followers make money by shorting the market. However, in that sense, he is little different from the people he criticizes. He profits while potentially destroying the system that allows him to profit. America's Founding Fathers believed in checks and balances. Nowhere is this laid out more clearly than in Federalist Paper 51 where James Madison writes "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition." The key lies in setting the ambitions of men against each other. You make people compete and check each other's behavior. In the same way, the free market is not about a free for all. As Adam Smith, Capitalism's Founding Father wrote, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” And one of the things that merchants of drugs or ideas like Peter will do if left to their own devices is peddle things that enrich themselves while harming the people to whom they sell. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. As I mention in this podcast, one of the reasons why the FDA was given increased powers was because of the case of Eben Byers. At the time, one of many patent/quack medicines was Radithor. It was water filled with radium. People drank radioactive water which was marketed as "Perpetual Sunshine." Eben Byers' doctor prescribed it to him (in part because he was getting kickbacks) and Eben Byers ended up becoming riddled with cancer and with holes forming in his skull. He became so radioactive that he had to be buried in a lead-lined coffin. As The Wall Street Journal titled an article about his death ""The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off." Now, Peter Schiff had never heard of this story. As far as I can tell, he never bothered to try and understand why the FDA or any other government bureaucracy was founded. As I explained to him, I understand that too much government regulation is a problem. That's why I brought Luigi Zingales on to talk about A Capitalism for the People. It's also why I'm such a huge fan of Hernando DeSoto's Other Path. However, I don't know that no government regulation is the answer because that is simply removing the checks and balances. Further on in Federalist 51, James Madison pretty much nails it: "The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions." It's hard to top that. Checks and balances and checks on that. So, if Peter Schiff believes the FDA has grown too large and wants to figure out how to check it, then I think that's a great conversation to have. Instead though, when I tried to engage Peter in a conversation about what was the proper role of government–or what was the baby and what was the bathwater–he said, "There is no baby!" He doesn't understand why the FDA was founded and he just wants to throw it all out. How to describe such a man? Well, he's certainly not very wise and if he's not very wise then maybe he's a fool. Structuring a society is a complicated and fascinating challenge. You have to recognize (as the Founding Fathers of both the American representative democracy and capitalism did) that whatever holes you leave someone is going to come in and try and exploit them. There is a hole in American public life that has been counteracted by the failures of the educational system and the media and people will come in and try and exploit the hopes and fears of the general public with plausible-sounding ideologies that potentially destroy the goose that lays the golden eggs: our society. While Peter repeatedly tries to blame America's government for the problems of the American people, in a democracy both power and responsibility ultimately rest with the people. The fault, dear friends, lies not in our Senators, but in ourselves. And there are many holes and problems with Peter's thinking. If he can't even spot the problems in his own thinking what makes him think that he can understand all the intricacies of modern medicine? Arrogance. Peter overestimates his own intelligence. I used to do that too but I've come to realize that I'm not that smart. Modern society is complex and that is fantastic. There are people who sit around all day trying to cure diseases that I haven't even heard of. And there are people whose job is to check the claims of all those people. That's the FDA. Ambition counteracting ambition. It's all very Founding Fathers-y. As someone who has spent the last twelve years doing a pretty deep dive of the neuroscience, psychology, culture, economics and political science, I can tell you that evaluating everyone's claims is a lot of work and I can tell you that there are a lot of people who put themselves forward as authorities on these things who clearly haven't read most of the things they claim to be authorities on. My ambition is to counteract their ambition. I want to lay out the material clearly enough so that you can decide for yourself what to believe. I don't have the time to also go through all the research on what drugs are safe, the science of climate change, vaccinations, nutritional information, what car to buy and on and on. I need to rely on others for that. Some of that will be done by the free market and some of that will be done by the government, but, frankly, I'd rather have it done by both. I'd rather have the ambition of one counteracting the ambition of the other. Removing one source of accountability when you don't even understand why it was put in in the first place is dumb. Can we just say it? Peter's ideas are dumb. They may make him money. They may make you money in the short-term. But if society collapses you're fucked. The end of the world as we know it isn't fun. It's hell on earth. Markets and societies are held together by trust and responsible citizens use their voice to try and create a society with increasing levels of trust. They don't profit by spreading mistrust. There are problems with government and with Wall Street and we should be respectfully challenging the thinking of everyone to try and make those institutions work better. Peter isn't doing that. But he can always change his mind. I hope he will. As of our interview though, I find his thinking to be little different than that of the Wall Street investors he rails against. It's clear on the failings in the thinking of others and very unclear on its own failings and it is an ideology that narrow-mindedly serves his interests at the larger expense of society. Is Peter malicious? I don't think so. He does, however, strike me as oblivious. That can always change. We're all oblivious to many things but there is a chasm of difference between people who mostly seem interested in promoting their own view like Peter and those (like Yascha Mounk in episode 228) who are interested in serving the people by constantly trying to find the flaws in their own thinking. You'll make your own decision. I can just pull back the curtain and help you see what's behind all the jargon and rhetoric. Peter Schiff doesn't think in terms of checks and balances. He thinks in terms of throwing out whatever's in the bath because he thinks there is no baby. In my reading of Adam Smith, Peter Smith is not a capitalist. He doesn't believe in the free market. He believes in anarchy. To which I say: "If men
The number one book Hunter is getting recommended right now is Tribe by Sebastian Junger. It's an amazing book. Mostly, it's about why US soldiers often have such a hard time reintegrating back into US society. It's pretty easy to understand. You go off to war and you have a group of people who will die for you, who look out for you and who are engaged in a great mission together. And then you come back and there's no sense of shared purpose. In war, people have tribe. In the modern world, most of us don't. And when people don't have tribe, they go looking for it; they try and create it and that's a big part of why you have ISIS. What is it that tribes provide? They help provide food and defense against violent death. Modern societies do that incredibly well. Way better than hunter-gatherer tribes ever did. But tribes also provide belonging, shared purpose, community and a magical thing called dignity. When you bring back food, the tribe (your family) recognizes what you have done and they're grateful for it. You feel appreciated and that is no small thing. In fact, William James, the Founder of American Psychology, said "The deepest principle of human nature is a craving to be appreciated." Do you feel appreciated in your life? A lot of people don't. A lot of people feel like they get no respect. And that can make them very angry and resentful. And that's when they start or join groups like ISIS. ISIS provides its followers with many things: sex slaves, treasure and the chance to get shot at. However, besides the real life video game aspects, it also provides its followers (if not the women unfortunate enough to live in the region) with dignity and purpose. ISIS succeeds as a movement because the societies its followers have come from have failed to satisfy that deepest principle in human nature: the desire to be appreciated. One of Bryan's favorite quotes is from Amos Oz. It's about how the key to beating a bad idea is to provide a better idea. However, the full quote is instructive: "But Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force — not by siege, not by bombardment, not by being flattened with tank treads and not by marine commandos. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one." No idea has ever been defeated by force. It might be appealing to think that you can just make ISIS' ideas go away by bombing them out of existence but nothing makes ideas fascinating and intriguing like trying to kill the people who have them. Making martyrs doesn't destroy ideas; it gives them power. Boko Haram, for example, was a nothing movement until its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, died in police custody in 2009. At the time, Alhaji Boguma, a government official in the region, said that the "wave of fundamentalism" had been "crushed." In practice, Mohammed Yusuf was like Obi Wan Kenobi. He was struck down and became more powerful than Ahlaji Boguma could possibly imagine. An angry, ranting cleric with a crappy world view was transformed into a perfect symbol. And so, if we really want to defeat ISIS or Boko Haram, we need to "offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one." The problem is no one is really doing that. Imagine being born in Libya. You now have a Libyan passport which pretty much means your only opportunities are in Libya…where there are pretty much no opportunities. In order to get married–which in the Muslim world is your only real path to sex–you have to provide a lot of stuff. Depending on what kind of Libyan you are that might mean a house, a car and a washing machine or it might mean a bunch of camels. Either way, it's not something you're likely to be able to afford because the wealth of the country is controlled by a tiny number of families who use their power to prevent others from outcompeting them. Basically, you're screwed and with no chance of getting laid. What you want is an awesome house, a beautiful wife and maybe most importantly dignity. You want to contribute to society and be recognized for that contribution. Except, the international community constantly tells you your country is a sh*thole and your people suck. No dignity there. The success of ISIS isn't that it is a good idea. It's that it's basically the only idea that is being targeted at people that our global society values so little that we don't even bother to think about them until they create problems for us all. This problem isn't just a Libyan or a Nigerian problem. It's not even just a problem among marginalized Muslim communities in the West. It is a problem for an increasing number of people all over the world. People whose culture is geared towards Industrial Age factory work are finding that they can't make a living in an Information Age economy. They can't get dignity. And so, they want to do the only thing that makes any sense to them. They want to turn back the clock. They want to return to a time before the EU. They want to send back all the immigrants. They want to build a wall and bring back all the jobs to America that went overseas. The problem is that to go back to the time when coal mines provided as many jobs as they did in the 1950s you'd have to go back to the technology of the 1950s. It takes far fewer people to extract coal from the earth than it ever did before. The question is now "What do all those people do?" You can't simply give them busy work because humans want dignity. We want respect and we get respect when we really contribute something the group values. Fortunately, Mixed Mental Arts allows us to see what that is. The basis of progress is not from individuals. It emerges from between as many minds as possible. Progress comes from ideas having sex. And how do you have as much idea sex as possible? By putting together as many heads as possible. You have an idea orgy. Bryan Callen loves orgies. And that is the cornerstone of the better idea we're offering to the world. If you're a person who feels the current system isn't satisfying, there's an alternative to joining ISIS and that is to come and help figure out a better system with us. Come join our idea orgy. Because why build the Caliphate when you can build the Callenphate? Of course, we know that you're not going to join just because Bryan is incredibly charismatic. Though he is. You need an idea that is as Amos Oz says "a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one." And who are we? Just two guys in a garage in California trying to change the world. Kind of like Sergey Brin and Larry Page…or Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak…or the much larger number of whack jobs who thought they were making something great and failed. Ultimately, the success of the Caliphate or Apple Computer or the Callenphate rests on how much value it delivers to others. Our strength is not that we have all the answers; it's that we recognize that no individual ever has but that by combining our heads we can develop something better than the world has ever seen. The tribes are warring. They need a new vision to unite them in a greater historical purpose. Yes, Bryan will be the figurehead, because all movements need that symbol. Will the Nigerian government martyr him too? Tune in next week to find out more and tweet us with what you would want from The Callenphate. The Callenphate is a product and it's going to get better and better with customer feedback.
A lot of people have tried to kill political correctness. Mostly, they do this by just saying racist, sexist, offensive generalizations. That's not really killing it. That's just ignoring it. To actually kill it, you have to find political correctnesses vulnerabilities and attack those. That's what this episode of The Bryan Callen show does with the help of probably two of the only men on the planet who could do it, Richard Nisbett and Joe Henrich. Though, by the end of this episode, you'll be able to do it too. To be fair though, kill is such an aggressive, violent word and Richard and Joe are both intelligent, sophisticated individuals. So, while Hunter tries to kill it, Professors Nisbett and Henrich gently euthanize it. Political correctness was a well-intentioned idea but it's well past its prime. And that gets to the heart of the true nature of culture. Culture is simply a tool that people develop to survive and thrive in different environments but it is not who we are. Humans are infinitely adaptable and when we move from place to place we change clothing, diet, building styles and as we have moved into the modern world cultures have been quick to embrace technologies like cellphones and cars that give people greater control over their lives. However, when it comes to belief, we have all been guilty of confusing tools with innate qualities of both ourselves and others. The result has been that humanity has gone back and forth between trying to destroy people who have certain ideas and being so appalled by that that we've decided to simply not have an opinion on cultures. In the wake of the Holocaust, it's understandable that political correctness developed. If noticing cultural differences and thinking that they matter a lot leads to genocide, then let's just pretend that culture doesn't matter. Of course, culture does matter. And it turns out it matters a heck of a lot. Actually, the ability to acquire culture is what allows us to adapt to literally any environment on the planet. And when we only talk about technology and institutions we're leaving out a huge piece of the puzzle. Beliefs matter. And in a world where we can't agree on global warming, gun control, abortion or where prosperity comes from that has become increasingly obvious. Islamic terrorism has made that blindingly obvious. While we could have had a nuanced conversation about the effect of cultural differences, intellectual elites have instead poured scorn on anyone who dared to say that culture matters and that some of those cultures might need to change. With the rise of far right parties like Golden Dawn in Greece, the National Front in France and Trump's version of the Republican Party, we are seeing the consequences of that. Ironically, political correctness was designed to prevent fascism and yet it has pretty much brought us back to a significant part of the population getting behind the same xenophobic attitudes. Whether you fear the rise of the far right or you are someone who is fed up with political correctness, we need a new way of talking about culture that talks about specific beliefs, understands why they evolved and recognizes that you don't need to throw out or kill the person to get rid of unhelpful beliefs. In essence, the message of Henrich and Nisbett's work comes down to a very simple idea. Cultures aren't better or worse but they are adaptive. They help individuals thrive in different environments. Of course, the environment of the modern world is radically different from the world that most cultures evolved in with the result that many traits no longer make sense in the modern world. As Professor Nisbett has shown honor cultures are and were adaptive in herding environments with unstable property rights but lead to higher murder rates in the US South (and this interviewer would argue jihadism). On the other hand, the holistic thinking that predominates in Eastern cultures and the analytic thinking that predominates in Western cultures both have benefits and costs. Western thinking gave rise to science but unfettered individualism is unrealistic and impractical when, in reality, besides being individuals we are part of a larger society and share a planet and that in thinking purely selfishly we can end up destroying the system that helps individuals generate wealth. We would do well as individuals and as a society to learn to use both modes of thought. And, finally, as listeners of this podcast know, one of the best examples of a specific cultural trait that needs to be changed is what people believe about intelligence. The belief that intelligence is fixed (as Carol Dweck has shown) is incredibly harmful (and not supported by the latest neuroscience). Furthermore, the whole world would benefit from embracing mistakes more as cultures like Silicon Valley and organizations like the FAA do. We did the whole fascism thing once. It didn't work out well. But the antidote to that is not political correctness. It's honesty. Culture is not who we are. It's a set of tools we use to survive and thrive in different environments. Some of those tools served us in the past and no longer serve us now. It's time we learned to talk about that without threatening to kick out or ban entire groups or flipping out reflexively when someone even dares to suggest that cultural differences might be behind our different outcomes. Culture matters and some traits are more adaptive in certain environments than others. Beliefs are tools. And although they are inside of us, they are not who we are. We can choose the best tool for the job and we should. Actually, we need to. Because, currently, we're very often not using the best tools available. We all need to improve aspects of our cultures. But to do that we need to stop making it or taking it as a personal attack. Guest Promo The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South