Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Obedience to Authority

Obedience to authority is often infantile foolishness.  In my previous post I mentioned the centuries of following Galen with regard to bloodletting and the harm that resulted.  The following quotation may be apocryphal but it highlights another area in which mindless authoritarianism held back human progress for more than a thousand years at the insistence of religious leaders:

“The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church.”
— As attributed to Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521), Portuguese navigator, by Robert G. Ingersoll. Source: The Great Quotations edited by George Seldes.

Obedience to authority is essentially the remnant of humanity's herding instinct.  This instinct is a harmful and archaic atavism--a remnant of billions of years of brutal evolution.  Its very early origins in human evolution, however, make it a pre-rational impulse--one that we often follow without thinking.  This makes it a perfect tool for those unscrupulous individuals who wish to manipulate us for their own ends.

In fact, I think it is not too much to say that authoritarianism is almost always a sign of evil in a person.  The individual who displays such a trait is probably either one of the unscrupulous psychopaths who wish to control others or one of the animalistic humans who follow them eagerly.  Indeed, it can be difficult at times to tell who is sheep and who is wolf.  Either way, such people are dangerous and immoral.

No comments:

Post a Comment