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On Being Judgy - Scott Adam's Blog

On Being Judgy

I’m not judgmental when it comes to other people’s lifestyle choices and I’ve always wondered if that is learned or natural behavior.

I saw a segment on 60 Minutes recently in which researchers purported to discover some sort of gene-based morality in babies, as well as a preference for people like themselves. That makes sense from a survival standpoint. I assume I have as much gene-based bias as any other human. But for some reason it doesn’t translate into being judgmental about people in my everyday life. I’m hoping this is an example of mind over genes, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

What I do know is that over the years I have developed a worldview that makes the idea of being judgmental feel nonsensical. Here are the pillars of my worldview, some of which you already know from earlier posts.

1.     Willpower isn’t a real thing. Some people just have greater urges than others. If I resist a cookie and you don’t, it doesn’t say anything about your willpower, but it might say you are hungrier than I am, or you simply like cookies more than I do.

2.     I don’t believe in a creator. I see humans as a collection of particles bumping into each other. Or maybe we’re a computer simulation created by some earlier civilization. In either case, no group of particles, or arrangement of ones and zeroes, is superior to another.

3.     I have no individual skill that is not topped by at least one person in every demographic group. Every group has people who are smarter than me, stronger than me, kinder than me, more generous than me, more talented, and so on.

4.     There is no logical way to rank talents or virtues. Is one person’s excellent musical skill somehow better than another’s good parenting skills? Is your kindness better than your friend’s work ethic? None of these things can be compared objectively.

5.     Genes are often destiny. You were probably born with your personality and your preferences, in which case you are not to blame. Or you might have been the victim of some sort of nastiness in your past that changed you permanently, and that probably wasn’t your “fault” in any objective way either. Your particles bumped around until something bad happened, nothing more.

6.     For purely practical reasons, the legal system assigns “fault” to some actions and excuses others. We don’t have a good alternative to that system. But since we are all a bunch of particles bumping around according to the laws of physics (or perhaps the laws of our programmers) there is no sense of “fault” that is natural to the universe.

I’m avoiding the term “free will” here because experience shows that using that term turns into a debate about the definition. I prefer to say we’re all just particles bumping around. Personally, I don’t see how any of those particles, no matter how they are arranged, can sometimes choose to ignore the laws of physics and go their own way.

I’m curious about the rest of you. Are you judgy? And if so, do you think it is learned or genetic?