If you actually experienced these worlds, and contrasted them with the normal world of high-minded liberal secularism, it was the charismatic-religious and “health food” regions
- where people were the most personally empirical,
- least inclined to meekly submit to authority, and
- most determined to reason independently and keep trying things until they worked.
That’s because those worlds’ inhabitants were a self-selected population who had either experienced something transformative or suffered something debilitating and been told by the official consensus, “We have no answers for you yet.”
.. If you refuse any non-F.D.A.-blessed treatment for chronic illness because there’s no controlled study proving that it works, or have a religious experience and pre-emptively dismiss it as an illusion without seeing what happens if you pray, you may be many things, but you are not really much of an empiricist.
.. Which is why in many instances the interests that Pinker dismisses as irrational hugger-mugger, everything from astrology to spiritualism, have tended to strengthen during periods of real scientific ferment.
.. It’s not that there is some quantum of unreason that needs an outlet when reason’s power grows. Rather, it’s that when people and societies are genuinely curious they are very reasonably curious about everything
.. Which is why if Pinker and others are genuinely worried about a waning appreciation of the inquiring scientific spirit, they should consider the possibility that some of their own smug secular certainties might be part of the problem — that they might, indeed, be stifling the more comprehensive kind of curiosity upon which the scientific enterprise ultimately depends.