The idea that truth-value is proven by use-value seems to rest upon a meta-meme, the notion that ideas firmly fit together in a tight system, that there is no looseness to the world.

It is my experience that there is a fair amount of looseness.

Nevertheless, I understand why we seek to make our beliefs fit together; avoiding cognitive dissonance is a good thing. But avoiding such dissonance should not be hastily accomplished, using short cuts that scuttle truth. Seeking cognitive consonance mainly by hunting to confirm previously held beliefs? That can lead us to error and prevent correction. Worse yet may be constructing theories that succeed not by mapping reality but by skipping cognitive steps. (My late boss R. W. Bradford called these “logical synapses.’ Though it may indeed be the case that bad ideas tend to lead to bad results, cooking up theories just to lead to good consequences can be perilous. The notion that something must be wrong because it leads to “bad consequences” is not only wrong, it can lead to bad consequences.

Too droll, that.

Examples abound. The belief in your own superiority may not be true, not in your career’s beginning — but it can lead to actual superiority, as in the case of “thinking like a winner” itself wins friends and followers, enabling you to become a winner in the end. Alas, the opposite can also be the case, as when an untrue belief in your inferiority can lead to demonstrable inferiority of status — thinking like a loser and appearing as a loser, despite many advantages, can derail an otherwise likely successful course of action, causing you to lose.

Sometimes having an incorrect belief can yield good outcomes; sometimes it can yield disastrous ones. What’s more, the same incorrect belief held by one person that serves to damage can prove helpful to another. Some people who believe they are spectacularly inferior to others take that hunch or prejudice as a spur to work harder, think harder, and place themselves in positions to take advantage of improvement. Just so, but mirror-opposite, are those many cases of people with high esteem who becomes criminals and thereby ruin their lives.

This variety of looseness turns out to be important in evolutionary theory.

Exaptation, for instance. This is a type of adaptation that Herbert Spencer relied upon in his discussion of the evolution of political institutions (see the first chapter of Political Institutions). The idea is this: a trait that was selected for — or arose because it was not selected against — can turn out to have much more significant advantages in some remote domain. The classic case seems to be in religion, where it appears that holding any “religious” or even merely metaphysical idea (such as the idea of truth not being logically and ineluctably linked to pragmatics) gives the person who holds to the belief a marker that encourages others to regard that religious person as more trustworthy than irreligious others. One person may hold to the belief in Zeus Pater and another in YHWH and another of Ishtar, but all three beliefs signal to co-religionists that the acolyte is cooperative and thus not anti-social.

The fact that piety to these three very different deities “works” — lead to good social results — does not prove that any of these deities exist.

What gets weird is the late-stage recognition that piety alone matters, that belief in some god is important, but which particular one does not. This ecumenical theory leads to a general tolerance, with only atheism to be despised, since only it would serve as a signal of a lack of trustworthiness. But things tend not to stand pat: general toleration eventually leads to tolerance of atheism.

And, contra The Jolly Heretic (anthropologist Edward Dutton on YouTube), it is obvious that a serious atheistic stance can also work as a signal of cooperativeness. Indeed, in America, atheists sport longer marriages than theists, on average — thus atheism proves a key indicator of what religion itself is supposed to indicate.

Perhaps what matters is that self-transcendence notion. Merely demonstrating recognition of one’s self as a being with a non-trivial consciousness of the cosmos (with or without supernatural elements) signals not only to others, but also to self, that selfishness and criminality and similar traits are dead ends. Furthermore, atheism in a theistic society may indicate a greater commitment to self-transcendence than does theism. (Here we see self-transcendence competing directly with conformism — conformity signaling one kind of cooperativeness, commitment to transcendent ideas signaling another, perhaps more valuable variety.)

Of course, there are atheists who hold to their atheism in a way that signals to me STAY AWAY. Just so, however, there are theists whose manners of belief signal obvious dangers. I think of Islam as a memeplex with disastrous social consequences except in one dimension: the Islamic memes tend to replicate, often in a predatory way. The modern world succeeded because Europe found a workaround for the bottleneck of Islam: America, really. So we have several different dimensions upon which to judge social utility, and then contrast it with truth.

My resistance to Islam — my confident resistance — is not exactly popular these days. Against it is the poisonous notion that “all cultures” are equal, an absurdity related to the idea that all races are equal, which is itself . . . problematic, in part because, whatever it means, it is irrelevant to the basic individualistic foundations of Western civilization.

What we now witness is our civilization in a decadent phase, with Christianity having metastasized into progressivism, a political cult that holds an abundance of absurd beliefs and destructive practices. One of them is to try to shame people for objecting to the Islamic memeplex, just as progressives shamed folks when I was young for ‘red-baiting,’ that is, for resisting the memeplex of communism. Progressivism is an unhinged meta-belief that opens up a society to many dangers (which itself helps define decadence), including being taken over by those it defends as “just as good as the rest of us,” meaning criminals, jihadists, communists, etc. It’s a childish way of looking at the world, thinking that “good” depends upon equality, and objecting to even thinking in terms of inferiority and superiority. It’s a hopeless muddle.

But it is a familiar muddle.

That muddle relates to the adoption of ideas not for their truth-value, but for their social effects.

Racists hold bundles of notions, some of them not incorrect, but with crucial and quite significant errors. Of course, racism itself can lead to horrifying injustices. But to fight racism, some folks go so far as to spout nonsense, like the currently popular pieties “race is a not a scientific concept” and “races do not exist,” and such malarky.

These are over-compensations. Rather than strike at the root of what is wrong in racism, anti-racists often prove too hysterical to bother with careful thought. Invidious racism being quite bad, its foundations in a kind of collectivism (individuals are less important than groups) and in folk statistics (imputing to individuals in a group traits that are commonly found in the group but not defining of it) leading to some dangerous results and infecting minds away from truth and towards social discord — sure. But anti-racists find it more convenient, especially when engaging with not very bright people, to attack the foundational notions of the distinctions upon which racism rests — especially the idea of “race” itself — rather than the precise errors that lead to bad results.

You often see this in philosophy, too, where the method becomes mere debunking, where debaters aim to show not merely that their opponents are wrong in one regrettable detail, or in a specific synapse in an argument, but totally.

Racists are bad because they (horrors!) believe in races!

How simple. How satisfying to say. How foolish.

And all this rests upon an expectation that ideas are best seen as fitting together in the tightest way possible. Progressives, having learned to argue incorrectly against racism, then apply the same sort of gambit to religion, and criticism of same. One mustn’t criticize a world religion! So I have been told, and this we often hear.

Funny thing is, most of the folks who marshal such an absurd prohibition themselves ridicule, mock and censure Christians relentlessly.

It is hard to consistently hold a goofy idea.

But it can be done, by gum.

The world of our experience is amazingly complicated, and navigating it is difficult. It takes a fairly high IQ to do so without cultic thoughts. It may be that the requirements for thinking well about the social world are too hard for current levels of IQ in our society.

If true, it would just be another form of looseness of the very systems that make up our complex reality.