The 31 Flavors of Fundamentalism

In order to spot a pattern, you have to have seen enough variations on it. The challenge for most people today is that they haven’t had the privilege of moving between many cultures and so they’re often acting with only one or two data points. Within science, it’s known you can’t draw good conclusions from one or two data points. You have to gather a large and diverse data set. Then, you can spot the pattern.

The quality, variety and clarity of the data set determines the quality of the conclusion.

Darwin had to see a lot of different species to be able to see the simple pattern of evolution. However, in the Reluctant Mr. Darwin, David Quammen makes an interesting observation. Alfred Russel Wallace reached the same conclusions in a fraction of the time that Darwin did. The interesting question is why?

Well, it turns out that a lot of it comes down to the nature of the data they gathered. Wallace paid his bills by collecting as many types of a species as possible. Then, he stuffed them, preserved them and sent them back to England where wealthy collectors would buy them. The result was that he was seeing a lot of variations within species. Darwin, on the other hand, was generally relying only on one member of each species. That all changed when for seven years Darwin studied barnacles.

Seven years of barnacles. What did Darwin learn from studying this one group of species for seven years? He learned that species are categories our minds create to make sense of the world. Are species a useful concept? Of course. We can’t comprehend the world if we have to regard every creature as a unique individual. And yet, it can obscure something. There are huge variations among members of the species.

One of the long recurring patterns of human history is that humans are incredibly bad at spotting the fundamentalists in their own midst. They’re even bad at in the 24th Century as you can see in this episode of Star Trek which I’ll return to later. In it, an Admiral comes along and begins a witch hunt in the name of security. Picard calls the Admiral out and suddenly everyone sees her for what she is. Afterwards, Lieutenant Worf comes to him and is shocked that he ever went along with her. Even in the 24th Century, they haven’t escaped the basic problem of human psychology.

Lieutenant Worf: Am I bothering you, captain?
Captain Picard: No, please Mr. Worf, come in.
Lieutenant Worf: It is over. Admiral Henry has called an end to any more hearings on this matter.
Captain Picard: That’s good.
Lieutenant Worf: Admiral Satie has left the Enterprise.
Captain Picard: We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, it’s all ancient history. And then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly it threatens to start all over again.
Lieutenant Worf: I believed her. I-I HELPED her! I did not see what she was.
Captain Picard: Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged.
Lieutenant Worf: I think, after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her.
Captain Picard: Maybe. But she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish – spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay.

This is clearly the right climate for Fundamentalism to flourish. Why is that? Well, a large part of it is what has happened in media. In the 50’s, people like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite thought long and hard about what they put on TV. And newspapers had the money to pay reporters like Woodward and Bernstein to do long in depth investigations of government corruption. Now, that’s gone. There are no more barriers. People can sell anything. And Fundamentalism sells well. It sells because it’s simple.

Four Legs Good. Two Legs Bad.

Islam Good. The Great White Satan Bad.

Minorities Good. White Men Bad.

White Men Good. Minorities Bad.

Capitalism Good. Government Bad.

Capitalism Bad. Government Good.

People say fundamentalism is bad. It may be bad for you. It may be bad for your society. But it is delicious. Yum! It is the delicious taste of ideas that are easy to get and offer you the endless satisfaction of confirmation bias. No cognitive dissonance required. Just empty, empty calories. Yum.

I like ice cream!!! I ate a bunch last night.

But I know that if I only eat ice cream that it’s not good for me. It will make me fat, sloppy and unhealthy and the same is true for a mind that consumes only fundamentalism.

If you want your mind to be in shape, you need to challenge it and that means confronting thoughts that don’t fit with what you believe. And that can bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings. It means leaving the safe space of fundamentalism.

It’s hard for people to see the pattern because they’re not lucky enough to have had the experiences I have. And so, I’m going to help clear up the pattern. I’m going to line up 31 flavors of fundamentalism so you can see them in all their technicolored glory. We’re going to make a Baskin-Robbins of Fundamentalism.

I’m not sure how Baskin-Robbins will feel about this. 🙂

In the end, Baskin-Robbins has lots of flavors of ice cream. All of them are different in the flavors that have been added to them. But all of them are the same in that their base is ice cream. There’s milk, eggs, sugar…and god knows what else. All of them consumed to excess will make you fat.

 In the end, knowledge is power. You deserve to know what you’re consuming when you take in an educational product. Are you being challenged? Are you being made to confront uncomfortable feelings? Are you in a Mixed Mental Arts Dojo? Or are you just endlessly consuming the empty calories of a Fundamentalist Ice Cream Shop? Yummy. But not doing you any favors in the future.

The world is only going to get more competitive. We will all need to be more agile in our thinking so we can adapt to and solve any problem that comes up. Fundamentalism like ice cream may taste good but it’s not turning you into a Mixed Mental Artist. And so, I’m going to let you know which educational institutes are Fundamentalist Ice Cream Shops. Because I can’t pretend we’re offering the same or even nearly equivalent products. All flavors of ice cream are radically different from a Mixed Mental Arts Dojo.

Eat all the ice cream you want. But don’t fool yourself about what you’re doing.

Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom is Libertarian Fundamentalist Ice Cream. Is it tasty? Sure. But it’s not getting your mind in shape for the world that’s coming. Nor is Peter “FDA Fingers” Schiff. Nor are the safe spaces at massively expensive schools like Harvard or Oberlin or Yale. That’s just Social Justice Fundamentalist Ice Cream. Who cares what the flavor is? It’s all just ice cream. It may feel nice…but is it really preparing you for what’s to come?

That’s your choice. I just know that consumers need good information to make wise shopping decisions.

Personally, I find fundamentalists very entertaining. I loved playing with Piggy Wiggy and his followers. And I’m sure I’ll love playing with more fundamentalists. They just take themselves so seriously.

You guys work in an ice cream shop. If you can’t have fun there, then where can you have fun?

I mean…I think if you work in an ice cream shop you should be having fun. Why not put the fun back in fundamentalists?

Right after being born in Saudi Arabia, I was taken to the Callen house. Since then, Bryan and I have travelled the world with our Citibank fathers and somehow ended up in LA together. There we'd run into each other at family gatherings and do something that no one else in LA seemed to be doing: we talked about books. Since Bryan was kind of a big deal, Hunter and Bryan hatched a scheme to use his podcast to get on their favorite authors and professors. Out of that evolved Mixed Mental Arts and this tribe. For me, the marriage of entertainment and education is a return to how things used to be before our culture split story into two separate things. It's exciting to be able to build on the work Katie O'Brien and I did for The Straight-A Conspiracy and expand it out to every area of life. While I play a series of roles in the Mixed Mental Arts community (including Shitty Dutch Uncle and Bryan's #1 fan) my favorite role is as Toto who pulls back the curtain and let's the world see that there are no wizards...only men and women who try and puff themselves up to seem important.

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