Peering Through Reverent Fingers

Any evolutionary advantage must come from a feature affecting our behavior. Thus, there is no evolutionary advantage to simply having a belief about our identity. Self-identity can matter and could have mattered only if it affects behavior, in which case it is really a process of self-identification. Moreover, it is not a matter of affirming a self-identity that we possess. For a belief that needs to be affirmed is not a belief at all.

—Joseph M. Whitmeyer, "How Evolutionary Psychology Can Contribute to Group Process Research", in The Oxford Handbook of Evolution, Biology, and Society

As an atheist, I'm not really a fan of religions, but I'll give them one thing: at least their packages of delusions are stable. The experience of losing your religion is a painful one, but once you've overcome the trauma of finding out that everything you believed was a lie, the process of figuring out how to live among the still-faithful now that you are no longer one of them, is something you only have to do once; it's not like everyone will have adopted a new Jesus Two while you were off having your crisis of faith. And the first Jesus was invisible anyway; you won't be able to pray sincerely, and that does set you apart from your—the—community, but your day-to-day life will be mostly unaffected.

The progressive Zeitgeist does not even offer this respite. Getting over psychological-sex-differences denialism was painful, but after many years of study and meditation, I think I've finally come to accept the horrible truth: women and men really are psychologically different. This sets me apart from the community, but not very much. The original lie wasn't invisible exactly, but it never caused too many problems, because it's easy to doublethink around. Most of the functional use of sex categories in Society is handled by seamless subconscious reference-classing, without anyone needing to consciously, verbally reason about sex differences: no one actually makes the same predictions or decisions about women and men—that would be crazy—but since you don't have direct introspective access to what computations your brain used to cough up a prediction or decision, you can just assume that you're treating everyone equally, and only rarely does the course of ordinary events force you to acknowledge or even notice the lie.

But in the decade I had my back turned reading science books, my former quasi-religion somehow came up with new lies: now, it's not enough to believe that women and men are mentally the same, you're also supposed to accept that those categories refer to some atomic mental property that can only be known by verbal self-report. But this actually breaks the mechanism that made the first lie so harmless: the shear stress of your prediction-and-decision classifier disagreeing with the punishment signals that the intelligent social web is using to train your pronoun-selection classifier throws the previously-backgrounded existence of the former into sharp relief. You really are expected to believe in Jesus Two! And it's far more ridiculous than the first one! I'm never going to get over this!

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