Are we born ‘creationists’?

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It seems to have become an established truth that science and religion can never merge or go hand in hand. They both are incompatible with each other. The former proves that we are a product of evolution while the latter fails to make sense of evolution and puts faith in the ‘Intelligent design’. Now the argument of this blog isn’t about which one is right and which one is wrong. That’s a completely different story for another day. The argument is regarding our biases towards creationism because studies in developmental psychology are showing how children tend to believe in the blind watchmaker. 

Pascal Boyer, a French American Cognitive Anthropologist and Evolutionary Psychologist gave a theory called ‘Hypertrophy of social cognition’ which simply puts the fact that we have a natural willingness to see purpose, design, intention even when it is not there at all. Stewart Guthrie who is a Professor Emeritus at Fordham University, wrote a book “Faces in the Clouds” (1993) in which he explained how humans are always looking for some signs. So if we see a cloud or a tree or a bird or a leaf we try hard to perceive it as something even when it is nothing but a mere leaf or a tree. He further said that we look for intention even when it’s not there. Two prominent social psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel conducted an important experiment in 1944 to explore the experience of animacy. They made a movie using geometric figures including circle, triangles, squares. The movie was made in a way as if storytelling was going on. It was found that the participants started attributing figures to people in which every figure was either a hero or a villain or a bully or a victim. It was done instinctively. 

Developmental psychologists believe cognitive biases might be playing their role and help explain why intelligent design is so popular among people even in children. These biases are:

  1. Psychological Essentialism 
  2. Teleological explanations

Psychological essentialism is a belief that a basic, internal quality of a species will never change throughout life. When three year old children were asked if a Labrador undergoing a surgery will still look like a Labrador and not Rottwieler, they agreed. This showed that the pre-schoolers  have a basic understanding of an individual identity even when appearances change. In a way, psychological essentialism is a useful tool because it helps us categorize and get all sorts of other information for free. However, the fact that internal qualities in species do not change contradicts with the theory of evolution . Natural selection in evolution is a process which says that species constantly change and adapt so that they have better traits to survive in the environment than others. Maybe psychological essentialism is why people find it hard to digest evolution theory. 

Teleological explanations is another cognitive bias we have that underpins the importance of intelligent design among us. As already discussed in previous paragraphs that humans have a bad eye for randomness and believe everything has a purpose, this is what makes us not prioritise the theory of evolution. When children are asked why some mountains look like mushroom or why some rocks are very sharp and pointy they tell it’s because animals do not sit on them. Thus indicating a purpose or an intention. Rather the real explanation is that it is so because of processes like wind erosion taking place for thousands of years. It looks like creationism lies deeply in us. 

But Charles Darwin changed everything. His theory explained complex structure in living organisms without seeking help of a creator or an intelligent design. It’s very unfortunate that still many people do not believe in evolution. A lot of intellectuals belonging to the field of science do not believe in evolution. They rather believe the earth is only 10,000 years old. 

An important question remains: can we tackle these biases among people (even among children) so that there is more room for natural selection? Probably. Scientists need to understand that understanding evolution is not a piece of cake. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. People might study it at schools and colleges for the sake of passing the exams. But that doesn’t guarantee any firm belief in it. So, in the simplest possible ways, without getting too technical evolution should be taught to children. The illustrations should be filled with pictures and colours to make it all look very appealing and interesting. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that we are born creationists. 

How to measure success?

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If I ask you to google the meaning of a word ‘success’ I am sure you’re going to find many definitions of it. 

  1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  2. a desired outcome of an undertaking
  3. the attainment of wealth and eminence
  4. or put simply, excellence

Success has become a very important part of our lives. And that’s why we are so fixated on becoming successful. It’s linked to how much money we earn, how powerful we are, how many powerful people we know, what university did we go to, how multi-tasking we are, what clothes we wear, what devices we own, etc. Alain De Botton, who is a brilliant philosopher (and one of my favourites) has rightly said that the most iconic question of the 21st century is nothing but “WHAT DO YOU DO?” and by that question we are obviously pointing out at each other’s careers. People who have all the things I have mentioned earlier in the paragraph leave no stone unturned in flaunting their success while people who implicitly believe they haven’t got the best job in the world try avoiding that question in every possible way. When we look at celebrities we tell ourselves ‘This is exactly what I want. These people are so successful. They have the best life ever.’ When we look at billionaires or millionaires we start believing that is what success is all about and therefore we make it our life’s purpose to accumulate as much wealth as possible. The thing is no one has an idea what success is like and what it should look like. Our biggest problem is that we decide if we are successful based on an the external things. We let societies, money, power, etc. define our life as successful. Guess what? We never feel successful. And sadly, we never will as long as our metrics of success are faulty.

Inner V/s Outer Scorecard

Warren Buffet who is an American investor, philanthropist, business tycoon and the CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway once said, “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard.” Majority of us look at an Outer scorecard, not an inner one and that’s exactly why we never feel satisfied or successful in our lives. We are constantly focused upon money, power, other people’s validations to define us; to define our levels of success. C H Cooley and Han-Joachim Schubert gave a name to this phenomenon and it’s called “Looking- Glass- Self”. They summed it up by a wonderful line: “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” While it is important from time to time take into consideration other people’s good pieces of advice it is not an entirely good idea to rest our whole lives on what the world thinks how successful we are. If we are earning $1000 lesser than our friends and relatives does it mean we are poor and our lives are not as good as theirs? If we own only a single car or no car at all does it mean a vehicle is going to become one of the metrics of our success? Maybe we want to use public transportation because it saves up a lot of our time and contributes in saving the environment. It’s like we are always chasing what the next person has and until we get it we are a failure. 

Potential metrics of success

Since time immemorial it has been told to all of us that a successful life means good quality education, a good job, a happy marriage with lovely children and having caring and supportive family & friends. That’s true. I couldn’t agree more. But humans seem to have no appetite when it comes to success. Therefore, we are always doing ‘something’ yet we want more and more of it.

So how should we define what a successful life should be? A life can be defined in terms of:

Well being

We sacrifice our health (both physical and mental) for a better project at our jobs so that we climb ladders of success instantly. Sadly, we forget the age old saying, “Health is Wealth.” Just imagine, if you are not physically fit and mentally serene do you think that life is worth that bigger project you’re chasing. Prioritize health because when you’re healthy you’re way more successful than someone who is digging his/her own grave by making ‘work’ everything. By being well you’re giving yourself more opportunities to do your best work. Having tons of money in your bank account with an ailing health doesn’t account for a successful life. You are still miserable. 


A loving, caring and supportive family is the biggest blessing of one’s life. A blessing we often take for granted because we are busy measuring our lives through other external means. Someone with a great family support can withstand everything life will offer and we don’t think of it as something to be grateful for. We care more about what our bosses, colleagues, strangers think of us that we miss out on how much our family loves us. Their love gets shadowed in front of other people’s constant approvals. We are always trying to please everyone other than our families yet no one gets pleased enough. Is that the kind of life we should be striving for? Would you call that a successful life because a successful person clearly knows his/her priorities. Having a great family is a sign of a successful life no matter what everybody says. 

True fans

Kevin Kelley, founder of Wired Magazine coined a term called “1000 true fans”. He believes these are the people who will buy anything and everything you will make because you have earned their trust. He further believes these 1,000 people will be enough for you to have a decent living standard (according to Kelley’s math).These are the people we must focus on. They can be our close friends, family members, spouses, colleagues or even complete strangers. What everybody else thinks should be of no concern to us. When we start caring about our true fans we will start feeling successful too. 


We all want to land prestigious universities and companies so that one day we have a prestigious life. There is nothing wrong with wanting something ‘better’ in our lives. It’s human nature after all. But sometimes we are so desperate that we often forget when everything should be enough. We are so desperate that we are even ready to lose our autonomy to reach the stars. Look at celebrities for instance. They have luxurious lives. They have a lot of money. They go on vacations all over the world as if it’s like taking our dogs for a walk every evening. They have the best cars and the best houses. Yet they feel something is missing in their lives. That’s probably their ‘autonomy’. Ryan holiday, a best selling author of The Obstacle is the Way has said that the definition of success is autonomy or independence. If we are not free, if we are always being told what to do (the way celebrities have to comply to their PR agents, lawyers, managers, etc before uttering a single word) then I am sorry but I don’t think that’s success. And even if that is what success looks like then it’s not worth it. We should do big things but autonomy should never be compromised with.

I think it’s time to re-define the definition of success. Probably it is going to help us become more content and happier.

If You’re Blessed. Be a Blessing.

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No one ever became poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a German- Dutch diarist, a Holocaust survivor who posthumously gained fame with the publication of her all time famous book “The Diary of a Young Girl”. For approximately two years she and her family lived in a secret annex to avoid getting caught by the Nazis. However, they got caught and only her father , Otto Frank managed to survive. The times she and her entire family was going through is completely unimaginable for all of us. In spite of living in such ordeals Anne Frank did not stop being optimistic and the best version of herself. While she had nothing to give to anyone outside that secret place she was living in, she believed in the power of giving. She said that no one in this world has ever become impoverished by giving to other people. 

Why you must give?

We all talk about giving. We all say if we have so much to be grateful for we must never back down from helping others. In other words, if we have so many countable blessings we must become a blessing to someone else too. I think that’s appropriate because life is not a life if it is lived not in the service of others (please mind that living in the service of others doesn’t mean we should forget our own selves). Many pundits and philosophers also believed in this and made the best usage of words to express themselves:

“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”Leo Tolstoy

“We make a living by what we get, we make life by what we give.”- Winston Churchill

And finally…

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.  If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.  If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.  If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”  –Chinese Proverb

Is this enough? I mean is this the only reason we must give to other people? No. While poets and philosophers were right, science has now ample amount of data to prove that giving is a good thing and it adds meaning to our lives. 

In the year 2008 an interesting study was conducted by researchers at Harvard University and University of British Columbia on the benefits of giving. In the study they found that spending money on others lead to lasting improvements in people’s overall happiness levels. Another study was conducted by Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University and in one of their annual studies ‘Women Give 2017’ it was found that there is a connection between charitable giving and life satisfaction. In other words, there is a relation between how satisfied we feel in our lives and how charitable our attitudes are. Economists Bill Harbaugh & Daniel Burghart and psychologist Ulrich Mayr conducted a study in the year 2007 which was published in a prestigious journal Science. They were interested in observing the changes in brain activities when donations were voluntary or mandatory. Every participant was given a sum of $100 and were told no one would know how much of it they had kept with themselves or donated. The participants were kept under fMRI machines while they made decisions whether to keep some money or donate it. Their brain activity was measured by an fMRI. Sometimes subjects had a choice to choose if they were willing to donate some money to a local food bank while other times tax was levied and some of the money was sent to a local food bank without seeking the permission of the participants. Researchers found that when the participants chose to donate, the areas of the brain were lit up that release pleasure chemical called dopamine. These are the same brain areas which respond when we are involved in activities including eating and sex. On the other hand, when subjects had to donate in spite of their choice same brain areas were lit up but the activity was slower than in the previous case. 

These experiments are only a drop in the ocean. There are tons of other studies that clearly demonstrate that giving to other people is a good thing. Bill Gates is one of the names that is cited the most when it comes to philanthropy. His wealth is estimated to be nearly $94 billion and he has given away approximately $50 billion over the years to various charities. Other well-known philanthropists include Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, J K Rowling, etc. They all seem to have understood that by giving no one becomes poor. Ever. 

What can you give?

Now we know donating money to charities is an excellent practice to boost our psychological well-being. Even science agrees. But is it really about money? Does it always have to be about dollars or pounds or euros? Is it really that only if I am donating a part of my income to various charities and people in general then I am contributing in uplifting the society? Was Anne Frank merely talking about money when she said about ‘giving’? 

While it is true that it’s money which often comes to our minds whenever we are talking about giving something, we need to expand our perspective. Not everyone is in a position to help someone financially. Sometimes you’re helping someone if you are being kind and understanding with them. You’re also helping someone if you’re guiding them correctly so that they stay on the right path throughout their lives. Moreover, you’re helping someone by being the best version of yourself. They may not be given much worth but they are definitely worthy. Currently, I am not earning any money and I cannot help someone money wise. I cannot buy anyone any gifts on their birthdays. Until that day comes I am trying to help people with everything else. I am trying to become a better person each day so that my goodness is out there in the world. 

The 4 Don’ts in Your Relationships

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Relationship is one of the pillars of our lives without which we cannot sustain. Sabotaging our good relationships for lesser important things is not a wise move. We know this truth but often times we forget our own learned lessons and do the exact thing we try hard to refrain ourselves from doing. Then comes the toxic relationships. In such relationships we are more of a slave to another person and loses our individuality in trying to conform to their ideas and beliefs. Sometimes we become so accustomed to such relationships that we forget there can be a liberation from such people. 

In this modern age we seem to have forgotten the importance of spending quality time with quality people. We are sacrificing them for another promotion, another job and another business project. We are depriving them of our full attention for another post on social media. And finally we are valuing our material possessions over them. Isn’t this all messed up? Yes. It is all messed up. But we can always fix things in our lives. We just need an intention and awareness. We can definitely start with these 4 don’ts if we want to start valuing people in our lives. 

1. The First Don’t/: Don’t text if you can call or meet in person.

Texting is the new normal. Is it New Year? Let’s text. Is it Christmas? Let’s text. Has someone got a promotion? Let’s congratulate through a text. Someone going through some hard time we are aware of? Let’s ask them how they are through a text message. Or even better- lets WhatsApp because it’s the perfect way to communicate. Personally I don’t like receiving text messages especially on occasions or when I am not feeling very good and people choosing texting to know about my well-being. I also do not like sending someone a text message on special occasions or when we haven’t been in touch for some time. I prefer calling at least. If possible meeting them. It is understandable when someone is far away from us and distance is a big issue because of which we can’t meet in person. It is also understandable that calling or meeting people is not possible all the time. In such cases texting is fine. Even during times like these when we have to abide by physical distancing. Unfortunately we have adopted texting so religiously that we don’t realise if that’s even the right thing to do. If you want to nurture your relationships you have to put in the efforts and time. You don’t have to call your loved ones every single day. You don’t even have to meet them every weekend. But whenever you plan to call them or meet them make sure you do that. And don’t let text messages come in between. 

2. The Second Don’t: Don’t let too much time come in between you and your loved ones.

There is this idea that prevails a lot and when I hear people talking about it I say to myself, “But, it’s ridiculous”. People think it is completely okay if they haven’t been in touch with their closed friends and family members for like 3 months or 6 months or even an year. They tell themselves that when there is love deep down their hearts then not being in touch is not an issue. Well, it is true. But only to an extent. We are living in a fast paced world and losing touch with people is very common. It happens with everyone. And letting ‘busyness’ come in between is just an excuse. While it is not possible and appropriate to call people everyday we should definitely make time. If you and your friend have very demanding jobs and family commitments schedule a call or meeting that works for both of you. However you do it just do not let too much time come in between. Sometimes it ruins a lot of relationships and we should know how to keep good people in our lives. 

3. The Third Don’t: Don’t make everything about yourself.

I am sure you have met many people who make everything about themselves. When you message or call them or even meet them they will eventually divert the whole conversation towards themselves. I have met such people and I do not prefer this quality in them. It’s not that they are bad people it’s just that they are not mature enough to understand a good and healthy conversation happens when everyone participates equally. If only one person is talking and the other person is listening then it’s not a conversation. Often times it happens that our friend is going through some hardships and in such situations it is our responsibility to become better listeners than talkers. Maybe the moment demands us to just listen mindfully and let our friend talk. This is a completely different scenario and it is completely apt to let our friend makes things about himself/herself. But a lot of times things are not so vulnerable and delicate and if we are arrogant we are definitely going to gather all the attention towards ourselves. There is so much that the other person might have to say and he/she will fail to do so if we are not going to give them a chance. So the next time you are having a conversation either with your loved ones or people in general make sure you take a step back and tell yourself that not everything is about you.

4. The Fourth Don’t: Don’t take people for granted.

We should not take good people in our lives for granted. I know it is easier said than done. But it’s worth the idea. It’s quite easy these days to form new relationships because of all this constant connectivity we have with everyone. Thanks to technology! At the same time, it is very hard to maintain and nurture them. It’s like watering a plant regularly and making sure it gets enough sunlight. The moment we stop doing all the necessary things the plant is going to die. The same thing happens in human relationships. If both the parties are not going to put in the necessary time and efforts in their relationship and take the other person for granted then the relationship is going to die soon. If you expect your friends or family to call you every time and give forth an excuse that you have been busy then you are just fooling yourself. Why? Firstly, busy is a decision. People always have time for what’s important in their lives. The fact you don’t call them simply means it is not a priority for you right now. And secondly, you are taking them for granted and they know you are. You believe if you are not calling them then they will because they do it every time and you don’t bother picking up the phone. Stop taking people for granted. Nobody is here till eternity.

Can we use ‘disgust’ to combat COVID-19?

Picture credits: The Brink

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV-2) which causes COVID-19 has completely changed the course of our lives. We are already experiencing the social and economic implications. What’s notable is that such implications are going to unfold more in the coming years. Evolutionary scientists are paying attention to many evolutionary insights that can help us better understand the pandemic and how it can be tackled. One such evolutionary insight is the use of ‘disgust’ emotion. 

Surprised? Confused? I mean what could possibly a single emotion called disgust help us craft solutions to the problems related to the pandemic. I believe it can. Evolutionary psychologists believe it can.

In recent years a great deal of psychological research has been conducted to study the emotion called disgust. Psychologists have found that disgust influences our social, political and moral judgements. People who are easily disgusted have different opinions in social, political and moral domains than people who are not so easily disgusted in their everyday lives. Evolutionary scientists propose that disgust is a ‘social protective system’ and tells a lot about how it continued to be a part of our evolutionary past. Disgust is a part of:

  1. Food psychology
  2. Sexual psychology 
  3. Physical contact psychology

When it comes to food psychology, the emotion protects us from ingesting food items that are rotten and full of toxins & pathogens. It had been helping our ancestors and it is helping us as well. When it comes to sexual psychology, disgust helps us to not get involved sexually with people (e.g. family members). Finally being a part of physical contact psychology, disgust makes sure we do not get in physical contact with surfaces displaying unknown bodily fluids, microbial infestation and people having some sort of visible infection.

When disgusting things are visible to the naked eye it is quite easy to stay away from them. For an example, if some food item is rotten and yet it is resting in our refrigerator we will immediately get rid of it because of the bad appearance and foul smell. However, that is not the case during the pandemic. A virus is not visible to a naked eye. And approximately 80% of the population stay asymptomatic while transmitting the virus at the same time. So when our closed relatives, friends and colleagues look perfectly well (even though they might be infected) we believe they are all well because a disgusting pathogen like SARS-CoV-2 is beyond our visibility. 

Psychologists believe we can use disgust to tackle the situation. But how? By showing images of people who are sick due to COVID-19 or images of the pathogen sitting on surfaces. This might trigger our ancient disgust system and people might start practicing physical distancing and and they might start wearing masks. It may sound unethical because it can be traumatic for some people. So it should be done with proper care. 

(This blog is inspired by one of the arguments presented in a paper titled “The pandemic exposes human nature: 10 evolutionary insights”).