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.