All 7 billion humans originated from one small tribe of hominids in Africa about 100,000 years ago. Despite their close relatedness individuals are born with considerable genetic variation in physical and mental characteristics. Examples of genetic variation include height, weight, strength, speed, eyesight, intelligence, aptitudes, demeanour, sexual orientation, dietary tolerance, disease susceptibility, addiction tendency, mental health, and longevity.
The laws and practices of most countries have acknowledged that genetic variation exists and that certain levels of variation can be harmful to society, or may prevent the individual from performing certain tasks. Examples include:
- Most professions such as engineering, medicine, science, and law implicitly screen candidates for adequate intelligence and aptitude with challenging university entrance and degree requirements, exams, and professional certifications.
- Airline pilots, air traffic controllers, train engineers, and truck drivers are required to have vision acuity and color vision above a minimum level.
- Law enforcement, firefighting, and some military roles require adequate strength and agility to perform the work.
- Many professional sports require a minimum speed, height, weight, or strength.
- Many employers screen for substance abuse which is known to have a genetic predisposition.
A recent scientific breakthrough by Varki and Brower shows that the behaviorly modern human brain was enabled about 100,000 years ago by a simultaneous mutation for an extended theory of mind and denial of reality.
Denial of reality is therefore central to the behavior of most humans, and is characterized by a tendency to deny the reality of anything unpleasant, regardless of evidence or science. As with other genetic characteristics like color blindness, the level and type of reality denial varies widely in the population from benign to dangerous.
Benign forms of reality denial may benefit or harm the individual, but rarely do serious harm to society, future generations, or other species. Examples of benign reality denial include:
- Belief in a god that promises life after death.
- Unhealthy lifestyles and diets.
- Use of mind altering substances.
- Wacky beliefs like miracles, fate, luck, conspiracy theories, and UFOs.
Dangerous forms of reality denial, on the other hand, often benefit the individual or society in the short-term, but cause severe mid and long-term harm to society, future generations, and other species. Examples of dangerous reality denial include:
- Denial of human overshoot.
- Denial of species decline and extinction, and damage to ecosystems.
- Denial of climate change severity, actions required to make the future less bad, and personal responsibility.
- Denial of many limits to growth, including some imminent threats like low-cost oil depletion.
- Denial of the implications of excessive debt and low interest rates.
Clearly, the risks and potential harm from genetic variation associated with reality denial, which for example could cause the collapse of civilization or extinction of many species, far exceed the risks and potential harm from the already regulated genetic variations, like vision accuracy, which could cause a fatal surgery mistake or a plane to crash.
We should therefore urgently act on the recent discovery of Varki and Brower and pass laws to screen and license people before they are permitted to function in roles inappropriate for certain levels of reality denial.
Upon reaching the legal age of consent, all citizens should be assessed for their inherited level of reality denial using a scale from 0 to 6 as follows:
- full reality acceptance (0)
- benign reality denial: low (1), medium (2), high (3)
- dangerous reality denial: low (4), medium (5), high (6)
The screening process would include a review of activities in the community, social media, interviews with teachers and acquaintances, and a written examination.
The process would focus on assessing the strength of the following beliefs:
- There are no limits to growth.
- Green growth is better.
- Technology is the solution to all problems including energy.
- There are two sides to the climate change debate.
- We must increase food production to keep pace with population growth.
- iPhones, the internet, and Tesla are more important innovations than Haber-Bosch, concrete, and the diesel engine.
- I’ve already done enough by shopping with a reusable bag.
In the future as brain scanning technologies improve, it is expected that the screening process will be replaced with a quick and inexpensive brain scan that will detect activity in the region of the brain responsible for reality denial.
Upon completion the individual will be issued an official government identification card stating the level of reality denial that they were born with.
Critical occupations and activities in society may not be filled or conducted by anyone exceeding a specified level of reality denial. Examples of maximum allowed levels include:
- right to vote (3)
- right to run for elected office (2)
- right to make political donations (3)
- senior position in any company (3)
- senior position in government (2)
- teachers and professors (1)
Please contact your elected representatives and make them aware of the new science associated with reality denial and lobby for this vital extension to existing harm prevention laws and practices.
9 thoughts on “Reality Denial Harm Prevention: A Proposal for Screening and Licensing”
Good post. Thank you. Excessive denial of reality will prevent such an idea from ever being implemented, and certainly not in time to avoid a major civilization collapse. This might have been beneficial in the 1970s. Reality suggests some form of major collapse is now inevitable. We’ve gone too far.
Any attempts to point out that denial is an important issue will be met with denial, no?
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Unfortunately probably yes. My form of benign reality denial is hope that awareness might head off disaster.
Or at least dampen the disaster… I suspect our species will have many millenia to sort out its affinity for denial once this flash of overshoot has settled. Like cockroaches I’m guessing the last few survivors will be pretty tough to exterminate!
No one can be trusted to implement this screening and licensing. We are all “infected” with these two mutations. Humans are a failed species and need to be removed from the planet. Better luck next time.
My copy of the Denial book has yet to arrive. I may change my opinion when I read it, but I don’t think so.
I wrote this tongue in cheek. The rarity of what we are experiencing makes it worth fighting to save, however I too am very pessimistic. Suggest you watch this video while waiting for the book to arrive:
Yes, I saw this awhile ago, and I was totally gobsmacked and ordered the book immediately. This conjecture explains so much about humans. Yet, because it is such a recent set of mutations, we see variable expression among the population. I look forward to reading more about it.
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Hi Rob I hope you’re still monitoring the comments on this topic. I finally got my copy of the book and have read it through. I think this is one of the most important theories about human beings in existence today. I don’t know if we have the time and energy to fund the science to provide evidence to support it, though. We’ll be extinct before we knew why we deserved it. This is such a new set of mutations that gave us the ability to “prosper” in the way we have, and as I said above, I’m not sure the genes involved are regulated all that well. For example, age seems to change the strength of the mutations in relation to each other in an unequal manner. Older people are much more concerned with their deaths than they were at a young age. Older people are less able to deny reality as they did when they were young, more accurately assessing their relative risks for activities they would have undertaken in a heartbeat when they were young. I’m old, and I see reality a lot more clearly now than when I was young.
One thing that bothers me about the book, however, is his faith in science as truth with a capital T. There is a place for science, a strong position, but there are other truths, and I’m not talking about religion – that’s just plain self-deception. I have other observations, but I’ll type more later.
Hi Apneaman! Good to see you here – hope you’re doing ok.
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Hi Ann, I’m glad you enjoyed the book. It’s nice to know there are a few other people in the world that see the significance of Varki’s theory.