Many human traits are manifestly irrational...
You need only observe the traffic on any road to see irrational behaviour;
few people drive in a way that is efficient in fuel use, conservative in
wear on their vehicle and its components, and maximises safety.
Young men, in particular, often drive with the subconscious aim of achieving
Our use of tobacco and many illicit drugs is harmful to our health, often
damaging to society, and produces no net benefits to anyone (apart from
the tobacco companies and organised crime).
Poker machines are designed to make money for their owners and for the
owners of the premises that house the machines; it is absolutely impossible
players to do anything other than loose a substantial part of the money
that they put into the machines; yet there are many who love to 'play' the
Playing poker machines makes as much sense as taking money from your bank
account and burning every fifth note.
Economists and governments refuse to recognise that growth cannot continue
for ever; both believe that the economy must grow if a nation is to
A growing economy generally means a growing amount of consumption, a growing rate of depletion of natural resources and a growing amount of waste being dumped in rivers, oceans and landfills. This is plainly not sustainable.
Religion is perhaps the most widespread and
important human irrationality; the majority of the world's people subscribe
to one or another conflicting and disparate set of beliefs on which they
largely base their lives, but for the veracity of which there is absolutely no evidence.
The great pity is that humans have, by our science and technology –
and in spite of this streak or irrationality, become very powerful.
We have, by our mining and burning of
, clearing of forests and other practices, changed the composition of
planet's atmosphere to the
point where the climate is changing and the oceans are becoming uncomfortably
acidic for many of the organisms that live in them.
This is all generally disadvantageous to, not only ourselves, but to many other species.
Why are the great majority of people unwilling to take action while our governments allow climate change
, ocean acidification
, sea level rise
and the air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels that kills millions of people
world wide each year to gradually destroy the world that we know and love?
It seems to be due to some basic flaw in human nature.
A very small part of the answer to climate change and related problems; Peterborough Solar Farm, South Australia
The world could and should, with great urgency, change from fossil fuels to renewable energy such as solar and wind. It is quite possible, is being done, but the urgency is missing!
It is ironic that many of us can be sufficiently intelligent to see this, to be able to understand the ways in which the Earth is changing, the consequences of
our actions and our inactions, but not have the rationality needed to make
the necessary changes to our behaviours.
Is it that some of us are rational, but many are not; some are governed by
their intelligence, others largely by emotions; some of us are
selfish and others altruistic
Our greatest irrationalities seem often to be associated with short-sighted
Climate change is a long-term threat, driving (rather than walking or
riding a bicycle) to the shop is a short-term activity.
We seem unable, individually or collectively, to change our short-term
behaviour for the sake of our long-term survival.
Many of our day-to-day activities need to change for us to control
Our use of antibiotics is another example of short-sited thinking harming
our long-term welfare.
Our farmers feed antibiotics to their animals because it slightly increases
the growth rates – at the same time as training bacteria to live
successfully in the presence of antibiotics.
Intelligent life on Earth has been one of nature's greatest experiments in
this wonderful Universe.
It seems a shame that it appears to have
failed because of an insufficiency
A list of things that can be done to reduce greenhouse impact is
given on another page; many
of them would also save money.
Why are we not doing them?
As I write this the proposed execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran,
the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine heroin trafficking group, is
due to happen in Indonesia within the next few weeks.
Just for the record, I'll say that I am opposed to the death penalty; it is
very final, if a conviction is found to be an error there is no way of
undoing an execution.
I'll also say that the two may well have been rehabilitated and, if they
were released, could prove to be useful members of society in the future.
But it is all a matter of proportion.
It has been a very convenient distraction for the
Abbott Australian government.
PM Abbott has done all he can to keep the
coal industry alive and to hold back renewable
energy development in Australia.
His actions have locked in a higher level of
climate change, ocean acidification, sea level rise and the air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels kills millions of people world wide each year than was necessary and these developing global disasters will displace millions of people and cause the extinction of thousands of species.
Similarly, millions of people have been displaced and tens or hundreds of
thousands killed in the Middle East due, at
least in part, to the meddling of Western nations, particularly the USA,
UK and Australia.
But in mid to late February 2015 the Abbott government and the Australian people seem to care far more about the lives of two convicted drug smugglers in Indonesia than they do for these enormously bigger problems.
This section added 2019/12/15
People often react emotionally rather than rationally to events that require thought and consideration rather than simple 'gut reactions'.
The opposition to a low-medium level radioactive waste repository in Australia seems to be due to an emotional fear of 'radioactivity'. I argue on
another page that there is no rational justification for the opposition and the whole thing is a 'storm in a teacup'.
People function best in daylight; our eyes are much more poorly adapted to operating at night than are those of nocturnal animals.
This being so, why do the great majority of people sleep during the first
few hours of daylight and remain wakeful during quite a few hours of
darkness in the evening?
This is not an efficient use of the daylight hours; rather than waking around
0800 and going to bed about midnight it would seem to make much more sense to
wake around 0400 and go to bed about 2000 – either way you can get the
required eight hours of sleep.
People must be somehow 'hard-wired' to keep these irrational hours.
I don't understand this behaviour, I've never read an explanation,
and can't even guess why it is so common.
I'd be interested to hear if someone has a reasonable explanation for it.
I live in an area with a long, hot summer (Mid-North South Australia).
Many days in summer are hot enough so that most people try to avoid going
out during the hottest part of the day.
On these hot days I rise at or before daylight so that I can use the best
part of the day; the period during morning twilight and the first few hours
after sunrise when the temperatures are pleasant, or at least tolerable;
but I see few others out and about then.
The evenings on these hot days are a little cooler than near the middle of
the day, but of course temperatures typically decline from sunset until
around sunrise of the next day, so the mornings are normally cooler than the
It is irrational to sleep during that part of the day that is most pleasant
to be out, and then try to be active in some less pleasant part of the day.
Surely we can all easily learn to go to bed and sleep earlier in the evening
and then rise earlier too?
Bruce Hood, in his book, 'Supersense: From Superstition to Religion
– the Brain Science of Belief' makes the point that our brain's
'design' is such that the formation of beliefs not based on evidence can
easily form, especially early in our lives.
Michael Shermer has made statements along the same lines.