Some of these “walking corpses” are quite harmless and capable of mockery, others are truly dangerous, but they can be disarmed.
The earth is flat. Men are smarter than women. The stars can tell a person’s fate. Vaccinations cause autism. All of these claims have long since been debunked, “killed and buried”, but they rise from their graves again and again and continue to live on in human minds. And often have a devastating effect on us. Let’s find out what zombie ideas are and where they come from.
What are zombie ideas?
This is what Nobel Prize-winning American economics professor Paul Krugman called the ideas, theories, beliefs and concepts that are still very much alive, even though science, life experience and common sense have repeatedly smashed them to pieces. Such “walking dead” are unimaginably numerous, and they occur in almost all fields of knowledge and life. Here are just a few examples:
- Medicine. Vaccination leads to autism. Homoeopathy cures. If you eat ice cream, you get the flu, and if you walk around without a hat, you get meningitis. When you get sick, you have to take antibiotics.
- Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Dieting helps you lose weight. Drink eight glasses of water a day and walk 10,000 steps.
- Gender roles. There is a whole panopticon of concepts about male and female roles, different levels of intelligence, predisposition to certain professions and hobbies, and rigidly fixed family roles. Men do not knit and women do not program. The husband is the head and the woman the neck. And other things in that order.
- The structure of the world. The Earth is flat. The pyramids were built by giants or aliens. Hedgehogs carry apples on their backs. There is no climate change. No one has ever flown to the moon.
- Spirituality. All sorts of divination, astrology, chiropractic, torsion fields, NLP, higher energies, karma, reincarnation, telepathy – that’s it.
- Education. Children should be raised strictly or, on the contrary, everything should be allowed. After three, it’s too late to bring up. The baby needs to be tightly swaddled and put on a hat even in the summer. God gave you a bunny, and he’ll give you a lawn. For a normal upbringing, you do not need any special knowledge, skills and resources — “I was raised somehow, and nothing happened.”
- Psychology. We only use 10% of our brain. If a person looks to the left he is lying, if he intertwines his arms across his chest he is defending himself. Going to a psychologist or psychiatrist is embarrassing. It is not good to complain or stir up trouble.
- Social relations. People of one race are stupider or worse than another. All the elderly are stiff and conservative and the young are not so serious. People with disabilities should be isolated. The people, for the most part, are quite irrational, and they need a tough and authoritarian leader.
Why zombie ideas are still alive?
They make the world more understandable
Zombie ideas explain the unexplainable and provide some frame of reference in this complex and confusing world. It is much easier to make decisions when someone has determined beforehand what your purpose is, with which zodiac signs you should not start a relationship and how you should bring up your children. You don’t have to waste resources on doubting, thinking, choosing and searching for information.
We lack the knowledge and critical thinking skills
You can have as many college degrees as you like and still “cure” yourself with homoeopathy, go to fortune-tellers and believe that Americans are to blame for all our misfortunes. Simply because it is easier to repeat a worn-out false claim than to conduct a minimum of fact-checking on our own. And also because there are still so many gullible people in the world.
Alexander Panchin believes that it is the reluctance to check facts and look for simple solutions that are the main reason why misconceptions are formed and live on.
It is easier for us not to “fight back” from society
Of course, a lot depends on the individual’s surroundings. When everyone around you believes in horoscopes, “hedgehogs with apples”, a good king and bad boyars, the healing power of soda, urine and milk thistle, it takes courage to openly call it all game.
We are prone to magical thinking
In other words, to believe that there are some invisible forces which we can influence if we perform certain actions. So we willingly believe in witchcraft, astrology, subtle energies and similar near-magical things, especially in a state of stress and uncertainty.
We are influenced by propaganda
No, not political propaganda, although that too. It is more about spreading obscurantism, fakes and false doctrines. Usually the adherents of the anti-vaccine movement, feminine purpose, herbal medicine.
Some recognise all these clever polemical tricks in no time at all, while others, alas, fall for them and then use them themselves.
What are the dangers of zombie ideas?
Some of them are simply silly and harmless. If a person believes that space looks like how it looks in science fiction movies and chewing gum stays in the stomach for seven years, that’s basically no big deal. Unless, of course, he’s an astrophysicist or a doctor.
But there are “zombies” who can do serious harm. Or prevent us from building a happy relationship.
How to kill zombie ideas?
Unfortunately, no headshot, chainsaw, napalm or other methods from zombie movies will do the trick. Scientists have been fighting these “dead” people for a long time, but they still “resurrect” them. And they will always be resurrected because that is the way our brains and our society work.
But zombie ideas can be weakened a little, and the main weapon for this is to exercise curiosity. Read more, question any information, don’t listen to those who appeal only to emotion and don’t back up their words with facts. And do not be afraid to say out loud that an idea is dead and “stale” and there is no point in repeating it.