Subtracting is sometimes the best answer

My husband showed me this interesting article today.

It’s some research from neuroscience that shows people have a preference for additive solutions even when the most obvious solution is subtractive.

I wonder if that applies to beliefs too. Like when people’s beliefs are challenged they prefer to modify them by adding caveats or more complicated explanations instead of just letting some things go.


Of course it does. And sometimes they will not allow good additions because of things which they are unwilling to subtract.

But it is not so hard to understand. Most subtraction implies rebuilding and this is expensive in time and work if not in money and resources. In many ways it is only natural that we have preference for moving forward. To much backward motion and we end up going in circles and nowhere.

And yet this suggests to me a lack of experience in creation and building because experience will quickly show that subtracting is a pretty routine necessity if you want to do a good job. On the other hand, perhaps this also explains why bad jobs are often done when people refuse to tear things down which need some rebuilding.


Of course some of us take that too far. :wink:


…meaning some take the subtracting too far… only deconstruction and no construction… right? Or to put it another way… all skepticism and avoiding leaps of faith as much as possible.

Just thought I would spell it out and clear up the ambiguity which might confuse some people.

Right. Although seriously I know I do take leaps of faith even if not to something so specific as that to which your leap took you. It was never my intent to leap right past the mystery altogether.

Buddhism demonstrates that you can have plenty of faith and mystery without theism.

…though I suppose I would prefer the words “spirituality” or even “mysticism” to “mystery.” In my case the word “mystery” begs for an explanation, and I am not so crazy about the idea that we have to leave unanswered questions alone for some reason. I think mysticism is close to what you mean, for it ties to eastern thinking which challenges the idea that reason is the universal medicine.

What I mean by mystery is something one feels is real but recognizes there is no way to verify what it is. Surely God is one such.

“Spiritual” has a greater negative association for me than does “mystery”. A mystery is simply something that necessitates faith. But I think of spirituality as escapist in intent, a desire to get above or beyond the world. I find “soul” a much more attractive concept, as it seems to refer to something essential and genuine. Abiding with ones soul and accepting those challenges rather than adopting a spiritual doctrine to discount and ignore them seems like the better path.

I wonder if our tendency to do this doesn’t expose a kind of “IDist mindset” we all tend to default toward? I.e. If I’m examining a complicated mechanism and trying to “fix” something about it or to improve it in someway, I’ll be inclined to leave all its existing parts in place if I don’t fully understand them; I’ll cling to the assumption that they all must be there for very good (designed) reasons, and that removing any of them will probably be detrimental, if not catastrophic to the overall system. To just get rid of something may, at first blush, strike us as an arrogant proclamation that we are in a position to know “this thing” is no longer needed by anything or under any circumstance. Our conservatism balks at such confidence.

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