"A car driver approaches a border where there is a customs check. There are two checkpoints. One has a long line of vehicles in front of it, the other none. Which one will the driver opt for? Will he join the long line because he thinks something is wrong with the other checkpoint [or because he thinks everyone else knows what they are doing]? Or will he try the checkpoint without a line? If he does, then he is a chooser, not a follower." Darwin's Dreampond page 152
To think or to follow
(A mission statement for 2think.org)

Are you a thinker or a follower?

Evolutionary biology describes a form of sexual selection that deals with mate choice. (See Darwin's Dreampond beginning on page 152 for a more thorough treatment of this phenomena.) Organisms can make either an active or a passive choice when choosing a mate. To pass on as many of their genes as possible, they can study all the prospects and choose "the best" mate possible, or they can merely mate with the most popular organisms that other members of their sex are mating with. Imitation of this variety at the human level is known as memetics and is incredibly common.

Copying the behavior of others or our own previous behavior can have its rewards. Such a lifestyle choice can free up time for other pursuits. Decisions are ready-made. Comfort can be taken in the fact that you aren't going down the 'road less traveled'. Surely the others one copies know what they are doing, right? Previous thoughts didn't result in severly adverse results, right? Are you playing follow the leader or thinking enough to lead yourself?

I stumbled on a web page (which changed its content after I put up this page) that began with the bold statement, "IT IS UNREASONABLE TO THINK THAT SO MANY PEOPLE CONVERTED TO ISLAM WITHOUT CAREFUL CONSIDERATION AND DEEP CONTEMPLATION BEFORE CONCLUDING THAT ISLAM IS TRUE." I've heard similar lines of 'reasoning' from Mormons and Christians. Memes have not only become a powerful influence, but people are now promoting memes that have caught on well as being "True" simply because they are comparatively more infectious.

How many people frequently step back and examine the methodologies they use to carry on their life? Some go about many aspects of their life unconsciously living by the motto, "Mine not to question why. Mine just to do or die." If you ask someone if they live by such a motto they may quickly say 'absolutely not'. The quickness of their response, in part, tells the story. For, in fact, we all live by a similar slogan at times in our lives and to varying degrees depending on the specific aspect of our life we are questioning. To be able to step back, think, and then realize this fact is the first step in the process of living a thoughtful life.

Arriving at a tentative conclusion vs. beginning at a conclusion that must be defended

The above statement in regards to Islam is an example of someone who once forming (or being born with) a conclusion must do everything to defend it. If the author of the web page really believed his statement then it would be 'unreasonable' for him not to conclude that every large or rapidly growing movement or religion is "True". People tend to create their own conclusion boxes. They then make statements that can't be logically defended--but can help solidify the box they are living in. The assumptions that make up the box are not carefully evaluated.

An example of this from a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint can be found in the August 12, 1996 issue of Christianity Today. On page 64, Charles Colson, writing about what Christians must do to defend their beliefs against evolution, insists that "Christians must come together, craft a credible apologetic, and then refuse to back down". The author doesn't ask that the evidence be examined or that the Truth be sought. Similar statements have also been made by Mormon leaders.

The author Matt Berry states, "[The search for] Truth does not begin with an answer on behalf of which all questions must constantly rearrange themselves. The [search for] Truth begins with fearless questions." This all seems so basic and self-evident, but large segments of the population haven't been able to (or don't want to) grasp this fundamental Truth.

So what is the best method to arrive at tentative conclusions? Is it something along the lines of the scientific method? Can Occam's Razor help? Is it based, in part or in total, on faith? If so, how does one know what should be accepted and what should be rejected based on faith? If faith is (part of) the method, shouldn't all (unreasonable or faith-based) claims be accepted to keep one's methodology consistent? To me, this paradox is the most puzzling aspect of human behavior. People require evidence and use scientific methodologies in certain situations but see no contradiction when they rely completely on faith in other situations.

We all too frequently base our observations and decisions on opinions and personal projections rather than actual facts and evidence. Our own background, prejudices, and hopes cloud our view. With a little effort--requiring thoughtfulness as its basis--a philosophy/reality based on the true facts and evidence can be found which will frequently shatter the illusion a too-personal view can create.

Living wide awake vs. sleeping through life

Have you ever gone through a period of your life in which you later felt like you had been asleep? You suddenly feel wide awake--as if you were previously sleepwalking through life or living a very foggy existence. The waking-up period is frequently triggered by an event or crisis such as starting college, beginning a new year with resolutions for improvement, reading a life-changing book, going through a divorce, having a loved one die, or having a child.

Why must something happen to us for this to occur? Is there a way to be almost constantly clear-headed without having to have frequent external, triggering events? I don't pretend to have a quick and easy solution to these questions. A continual awareness of the situation is, I think, the necessary starting place.

(Tentative) Conclusion

For a person to become what they are--rather than what society makes them out to be--individual responsibility and courage are required. To become what you really are, you can't just go along with the flow and do what seems to be the most popular. Certainly, good ideas and such should be borrowed and incorporated into one's personal philosophy. To find those good ideas, however, requires a willingness to think, a willingness to change, and courage to explore.

So what's it going to be? Are you going to take my (or someone else's) word for it, or are you going to live your own thoughtful existence based on a solid methodology?

Also see a message related to the above, another, The Thinking Mind, and The Precepts of Men.
If you still don't understand what this site is about, check out my reply (in italics) to this message

If you are interested in the topics addressed above, some books you may want to read include: The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, The Biology of Belief: How Our Biology Biases Our Beliefs and Perceptions, Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition & Other Confusions of Our Time, and Post-Atheism.