Some Sources of Social Pollution

Social pollution could come from anywhere. Our schools, churches, television shows, radio shows, newspapers, friends, and coworkers are all potential sources of bad ideas. I guess you already knew that, or at least suspected it!

I want to spend the next few weeks opining about one funamental cause of social pollution: the tendency to simplistically focus on one aspect of the world as a source of ideas about how society works or how it should work. OK, that’s really two things.


We can oversimplify our thinking about society in eight general ways. I’ll try to keep this interesting 🙂

Nature often gets used as a model for what’s good and bad, what should be done, what shouldn’t be done, or why things are a  certain way. Geography explains why the US is rich and Uzbekistan is poor.A male homemaker is going against the natural order of things. We should only eat natural things.

Science provides a solid, factual foundation for building societies, designing social policies, and for defining how our relationships should work. We try to find moral principles in scientific research, then we try to apply those principles. Auschwitz was a rational place, but it was not a reasonable place. (paraphrased from a forgotten source.)

Biology/Genetics – No, they are not the same, or even pretty much the same. We think that everything in human behavior boils down to biology or genetics. Everything we do is really aimed at reproducing successfully. Revolutions start because males want access to the resources they need to attract females.

Religion often introduces bias into our thinking about society. God decides who is rich and who is poor. Life is a veil of tears. My set of religious principles should govern society. My interpretation of Christianity/Judaism/Islam should guide society and screw you if you disagree.

Morality often leads us astray. This is really the same problem as we get with religion. A grandiose vision of how society could work biases our thinking. we may insist on rigidly enforcing a moral code without regard to the suffering the code causes.

Economic thinking pollutes our minds in many ways. We think everything comes down to money. Some sociologists assert that the society’s economic system determines all other aspects of that society.

Individualism gets us into big trouble sometimes. We think that people do what they want to do. We think of our own little selves as the most important thing in society, so we have no need to be concerned about anything else.

Stay tuned for details on each of those eight problem areas. Why are they problems? What is the truth? What are the consequences for us and for society?

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~ by chetdavis on July 20, 2006.

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