Escaping the progress trap, Chapter 10 – Summary: We humans are very adept at creating systems, institutions and cultures which insulate and isolate from our surroundings. While learning is one of our species’ special skills, under certain circumstances it fails. A progress trap is one of them. Innovation has unpredictable results that often defy solutions. Science creates unknown factors: pollution and disease, climate instability. Subjugating nature is part of man’s culture, but while science has given us powers for dominating nature, it is weak in the area of observing and retreating from mistakes. We humans are also highly skilled at rationalizing our failures.

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These split-brain experiments show that a rational explanation can be an incomplete, inappropriate or incorrect rendering of the actual stimulus, and this raises the possibility that: Any experience can be rationalized, if the vocabulary is available.

General faith in sensory observation, in intuition, in art and emotion all have declined drastically with the ascendancy of empirical science. State budgets for art are minimal compared to those for road building. Churches are commonly remodeled as apartments. One is far more likely to be institutionalized for being overly emotional than for being excessively intellectual. But Descartes was indeed in error when he said “I think therefore I am.” The empirically correct statement would be I am, therefore I think. Hume was close to the truth when he said that reason is the slave of passion. The thinking brain is in fact the instrument of the being wherein it resides.

The similarity between the decline of intuitive, non-rational factors in the technical world and the emotional hijacking identified and elaborated by LeDoux, and Goleman, cannot be ignored. The difference is that their hijacking is sudden, resulting in the fight or flight response, while reflection and deliberation are suspended. The process identified in this study is a slow ‘sabotaging’ of the moderating role the intuitive mind plays over a long period of time, a process imperceptible to individuals or societies.