Sunday 22 June 2014

What is the biggest delusion in the world today?


A lot of candidates, aren't there - but my vote goes to:

That human policy can control the earth's climate. 

Any other suggestions?


Adam G. said...

Happiness comes from doing what I want.

John K. said...

Human and human group equality.

Despair said...

That poverty is still an issue in the First World? That women still have it tough? That the bend-over-backwards mainstream churches must modernise more to be 'hip enough' for the young?

George Goerlich said...

That humans are simply randomly occurring forms of particles randomly bumping into each other, and everything can be reduced to this.

let it burn said...

infinity from finite.

David Stanley said...

"Because I'm worth it!"

Implying Implications said...

In the spirit of optimism, I'd say the biggest delusion in the world today is that history is going to end - either with the victory of Progress, or with the collapse of Western civilization (but I repeat myself.) Even on the most pessimistic timeline, the world's only been drifting leftward since the Reformation - a piddling 500 years. We can still turn it back, boys. You just have to think like a Byzantine - long-term.

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - I think you are perhaps making a bit of a straw man here.

I don't see people seriously arguing that 'history' is going to end - not least because this doesn't really mean anything.

But I do expect that several billion people will die in the next generation or two as population continues to (try to) expand by another two billion; when the already-in-place collapse of functional innovation begins to bite, and growth of vital resources slows then stops then declines - and when the rapid international decline of average intelligence prevents repair and maintenance of the infrastructure.

Boethius said...

Universal salvation or that most people are saved.

Implying Implications said...


To make a straw man was not my intention, and I do apologize if it seemed I was accusing anyone here or in wider reaction of seriously claiming that the sky is falling. I was merely thinking of the influence of that current in progressive orthodoxy (the influence of which none of us escapes entirely) represented by Francis Fukuyama. I agree that "the end of history" is nonsense taken at face value, but the essence of a delusion requires that the animating thought *be* nonsense, and I see a lot of pessimism beneath the surface of those on the right. In truth, my little straw man was more of a pinata, with the intent to amuse by breaking it open and finding a bit of humorous candy.

Though, your prediction that "several billion people will die in the next generation or two as population continues to (try to) expand by another two billion", and that "the rapid international decline of average intelligence [will prevent] repair and maintenance of the infrastructure" do sound bad enough to be mistaken by certain easily-excitable folks such as myself for the "end of history" - whatever that means. Personally, the prospect of average intelligence declining, along with the collection of other apparently unstoppable dysgenic mutational loads over time, gives me the willies.

Also, this is my first time commenting on a blog in this sphere after a very long period of lurking, so thank you for replying to a young nobody. I may now add "gently rebuked by Bruce Charlton" to my list of reactionary street cred. And on my first day!

In all seriousness, though, allow me to present an alternate candidate for the biggest delusion in the world today - that oblivion is the best fate we can hope for. You would be very surprised and discouraged, I think, to discover how many young men and women of my generation view life as an accident that must be waited out. And wait they do.

Bruce Charlton said...

@B - 1. It isn't necessarily a delusion - it depends on what proportion of people choose (some time after they die) to reject the salvation which is offered to them on very generous terms. I suspect this may be a high proportion of people in the UK, for example.

2. Very few people hold this view, in proportion to the population either of The West or of The World - because there are few who believe in the reality of salvation - the usual belief is in oblivion after death - as suggested by D (i.e. the idea that after death is nothing, extinction).

Arakawa said...


The delusion that most people are likely to be saved seems to me good to reject, so long as one also rejects the delusion that oneself is likely to be saved.

Imnobody said...

Human reason can explain everything. That is,

Truth -> Reason

(where you can read "->" as "implies" or "is included in").

Also the opposite (Human reason is infallible):

Reason -> Truth

(So it goes both ways. It can be said that, for the modern,

Reason = Truth


(While at the same time, humans are insignificant apes and human reason is a side product of evolution, which is contradictory. Human reason is divinized while humans are animalized)

As Voegelin said, when this belief appears (he identified Socrates, Descartes and Buddha as the first ones in each culture), it is a sign that the culture is in decline.

The second one is identifying human reason with the scientific method, so for the modern,

Truth = Reason = Science

(I think the former line is the modern equivalent to the Middle Age belief "planets must move in circles". Lots of epicycles come from this)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Imn - I would say that this kind of belief system was more of a dominant delusion in the mid twentieth century - but nowadays is confined to a small number of old fashioned 'rationalist'/ scientist atheists who are broadly libertarian in politics.

With respect to 'evidence', science and rationality, modern society has done a 'bait and switch' trick - in which bureaucratic consensus (eg peer review) has been substituted.

Also, modern people are much too impatient to be described as rational or scientific - I observe that the time-frame allocated to considering evidence or following a line of reason is typically less than twenty seconds - after which attention snaps and the whole thing is swept away with a gesture moralistic condemnation.

Bruce Charlton said...


The Gospel is Good News - and any interpretation of scripture must be compatible with this.

I think it is a mistake to focus on the percentage or proportion who are saved.

To be damned is not a punishment - it is a refusal to be saved.

We are saved unless we refuse it - refusing it includes not repenting sins once they are pointed out as sins. Refusing it includes not acknowledging that we are saved by the atonement of Jesus Christ even when we are actually confronted with this information after death. Refusing includes our pride at being able to deft God, creator of ourselves and the world - and assert our will against His.

What proportion of people this may be is unknowable to us - in the modern world it may be a lot of the adults.

But that is their choice. In principle minimal salvation is easy, wonderfully easy - humility is the main requirement: humility when after death we are confronted with the actual facts

Imnobody said...


What you say is true, but even those attention-deficit moderns assume that reason and science are the only ways to discover the truth.

When the average guy speaks, words like "rational" or "scientific" have the meaning of "true".

So, even if only the elites think these things through and the average person only repeats pre-canned slogans, sentences like "religion is irrational" or "this has been proved by science" prove that the average guy has internalized the worldview of

Truth = Reason = Science

tweedyprof said...

Yes, the delusion that man by means of insane "climate policies" can affect the climate, is indeed the worst.

I do not believe there is any chance for repentance after death. It is what we believe and do in this life that determines our eternal fate. That is why life is serious. I stand with Dante (and Tolkien) on this fundamental point.

Bruce Charlton said...

@tp - I certainly agree that 'life is serious' - in fact it is a thing which impels my theological searchings (because so much of theology undermines it). The difficulty is to develop an understanding of life as serious in the context of a wholly loving - as well as immensely powerful - God.

Tolkien was - through his life - always aware of the problem of the virtuous pagan (another similar one is the innocent child who dies outwith the church) and was never (I think) satisfied with the way that traditional RC theology dealt with it.

Nick said...

@Bruce: "In principle minimal salvation is easy, wonderfully easy - humility is the main requirement: humility when after death we are confronted with the actual facts".

This is the first time I've come across this notion of 'having the option to be saved after death' ... to a contemporary non-Christian it would make it sound like living the Christian life on this earth is pointless, as one would be likely to think "oh well, I'll just live how I want now and if I happen to be wrong about it I can change my mind after I die. In the meantime, let's do what I want and have fun." It's basically the reverse of Pascal's Wager.

For the child/native in the jungle who dies having never heard of Jesus, well I just always figured God knew whether they'd had the opportunity to learn or not, and then saved or didn't save them accordingly. Hence, our choices and conduct in this life matter. My thinking is obviously not very developed on this though; that's my childhood understanding.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nick - My theology is taken from Mormonism - which may explain why you haven't come across it: it isn't well known. But it is very beautiful and inspiring, as well as common sensically compatible with scripture and the revealed nature of God.