The Instinctive Off-Switch

Today I overheard somebody make a statement that really caught my attention and got me thinking. The topic of discussion was Oscar Wilde's book De Profundis, in which Wilde talks about his views on many things, including art, Christ, and art and Christ, which was particularly interesting but a different story altogether. In response, a person whom we'll call J, said, "I was brought up Catholic so I have developed this instinctive off-switch that flips as soon as I feel God is unnecessarily being drilled into my head."

I didn’t get the impression that Wilde was unnecessarily drilling God in anyone’s head. Rather, he seemed to be speculating on alternative interpretations of God. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Wilde hints in the book that he gives little credence to the God of Catholics and Christians. It seemed to me that the instinctive off-switch flipped in error, at the mere recognition of language that provided cerebral cues as to the subject matter. These cues may or may not have been interpreted correctly, and I couldn't help but wonder how often logic gets obscured by this psychological tendency.

It cuts both ways. Many believers have an instinctive off-switch which flips as soon as anybody presents an objection to their beliefs. Evolution is perhaps the penultimate example. At the end of the day, whether in the head of an atheist, a believer, you, me or the guy at the 7-11 down the street, instinctive off-switches always hinder critical thinking to some degree. We would do well to identify and uproot them.

How about you? Do you have any instinctive off-switches?

2 Comments

  1. John Evo says:

    Good admonition. Like many other problems with humanity – we all do it. The question is, are you willing to admit to yourself that you do it and attempt to keep it in check.
    It’s like the entire “human nature” argument. Rape is probably human nature (among males). Marrying into a financially solid situation regardless of degree of love is probably human nature (among females). Physically striking out at our perceived enemies is almost certainly human nature. But, happily, a highly evolved consciousness working with a sense that altruism is a means to a (good)end is also part of our nature, and we can use it to keep of our disagreeable characteristics in check. Step one is recognition.

  2. cl says:

    Good admonition. Like many other problems with humanity – we all do it. The question is, are you willing to admit to yourself that you do it and attempt to keep it in check.

    Yes I am, though 100% objective “autoscopy” is elusive. And I agree with the rest of your well-reasoned comment in full.

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