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As prophets in every religion have tried to tell us, humankind is one big extended family. The simultaneous advent of globalization and the emergence of dignitarian values is no coincidence. Greater exposure to “foreigners” is making their demonization untenable, and, as discussed in previous posts, the predatory strategy is becoming obsolete.
An important factor in its demise is that it simply isn’t working as well as it used to. Victims of rankism have gained access to powerful weapons and can exact a high price for humiliations inflicted on them. Increasingly, they’re in a position to make the cost of predation exceed the value of the spoils. Weapons of mass destruction seize the imagination, but even if they’re never used, non-violent “weapons” of mass disruption, employed by aggrieved groups, can paralyze modern, highly interdependent societies. This represents a fundamental shift in the balance of power in favor of the disregarded, disenfranchised, and dispossessed.
Aversion to abuses of power can blind liberals to rank’s legitimate functions. Likewise, attachment to the status quo can turn conservatives into apologists for rank’s misuse. To paraphrase an unknown pundit, we have lunatic fringes so we know how far not to go.
The dignitarian strategy is to put rank and the power it signifies in the spotlight, and so make abuses of power, and the indignities resulting therefrom, indefensible. It sees a world of equal dignity as a steppingstone to the more just, fair, and decent societies long foreseen by those who prophesied the brotherhood of man.
If science and religion cooperate to uphold and extend dignity, and Left and Right remove the inequities that thwart fair competition, we can build a global society that’s as close to heaven as we have need for, and realize the brotherhood of man not merely in our dreams, but here on Earth, not in the indefinite future, but before this century is out.
This is the 19th in the series "Religion and Science: A Beautiful Friendship".
In 1970 psychologist Walter Mischel famously placed a cookie in front of a group of children and gave them a choice: they could eat the cookie immediately, or they could wait until he returned from a brief errand and then be rewarded with a second. If they didn’t wait, however, they’d be allowed to eat only the first one. Not surprisingly, once he left the room, many children ate the cookie almost immediately. A few, though, resisted eating the first cookie long enough to receive the second. Mischel termed these children high-delay children.
Interestingly, the children who were best able to delay gratification subsequently did better in school and had fewer behavioral problems than the children who could only resist eating the cookie for a few minutes—and, further, ended up on average with SAT scores that were 210 points higher. As adults, the high-delay children completed college at higher rates than the other children and then went on to earn higher incomes. In contrast, the children who had the most trouble delaying gratification had higher rates of incarceration as adults and were more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.
Which all suggests that the ability to delay gratification—that is, impulse control—may be one of the most important skills to learn to have a satisfying and successful life. The question is, how do we learn it?
The answer may lie in the strategies Mischel's high-delay children used. Rather than resist the urge to eat the cookie, these children distracted themselves from the urge itself. They played with toys in the room, sang songs to themselves, and looked everywhere but at the cookie. In short, they did everything they could to put the cookie out of their minds.
"According to terror management theory, people deal with their awareness of mortality by upholding cultural beliefs and seeking to become part of something larger and more enduring than themselves, such as nations or religions," said Jamie Arndt, study co-author and professor of psychological sciences. "Depending on how that manifests itself, positive outcomes can be the result."
For example, in one study American test subjects were reminded of death or a control topic and then either imagined a local catastrophe or were reminded of the global threat of climate change. Their militaristic attitudes toward Iran were then evaluated. After being reminded of death, people who were reminded of climate change were more likely to express lower levels of militarism than those who imagined a local disaster.
Scientists have discovered proof that the evolution of intelligence and larger brain sizes can be driven by cooperation and teamwork, shedding new light on the origins of what it means to be human. The study appears online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B and was led by scientists at Trinity College Dublin: PhD student, Luke McNally and Assistant Professor Dr Andrew Jackson at the School of Natural Sciences in collaboration with Dr Sam Brown of the University of Edinburgh.