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Is the mind wired to think it’s eternal?

February 14, 2014

I’m quite leery of the kind of research that goes out and asks questions across a couple of different communities, and then tries to draw inferences about humanity as a whole. There are too many cautionary tales about that, from academics generations ago. You don’t have to be a Whorfian to think “two” is too small a number. When the subjects are children, it’s worst still, the questions too easily leading them down a primrose path. So I’m not much impressed when children from two different cultures both imagine various things about themselves before they were conceived. Maybe there’s something in the mind that wants to imagine itself eternal. Maybe if you ask children the right questions, you’ll find they all believe in fairies. Enjoy the stories your heart tells. But don’t turn off your critical faculties.

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