Long-standing practices were usually thought to require an evolutionary basis, or at the very least enjoyment or benefit to those practicing it, for its existence. In short, a practice had to be part of your nature, beneficial and/or enjoyable otherwise why else would it persist within society.
We however now know that while practices can be passed down from one generation to the next through genes, it can as easily be passed down as memes, usually through culture, tradition or religion. It is also crucial to note that indoctrinated ideas (or memes) can be irrational or detrimental and yet persist within society.
“It is quite possible for people to traffic in ideas and other cultural products that diminish their well-being for centuries on end.” – Sam Harris
It is also important to note that even if a practice or trait has an evolutionary basis for its existence, it can still be demonstrably irrational, detrimental or both. – To elaborate, we know that if a trait or practice exists as a product of evolution, it must have been beneficial to our species at some point, however it seems very possible that a trait could go from ‘beneficial’ to ‘unnecessary’ and then to ‘detrimental’ in a few hundred years or even less, especially if this change is aided by substantial changes to our environment and general circumstances.
With all the above mentioned in mind, it seems rather illogical to hold an opinion or participate in a practice merely because the opinion or practice has its roots in culture or tradition.
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in the view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible” – Bertrand Russell
Yet many of our opinions relating to some of the most crucial aspects of society are usually trapped inside the confines of tradition, culture and religion and these opinions are simultaneously granted a somewhat sacred status.
Unfortunately, if you allow tradition, culture or religion to dictate your actions and beliefs rather than, or at the expense of, evidence, logic and reason, you forfeit your position as a conscious member of society. You essentially render yourself unconscious to available evidence, arguments and logical conclusions.
Just to clarify my message, I’m not rallying against cultural, traditional and religious ideas as such, nor am I trying to label culture, tradition or religion as unnecessary or negative, I am instead opposing the sacred status that these ideas, opinions or practices are afforded, the way they become the unquestionable truth and the way they demand respect and too often receive it. In order to prosper as a country and as a species, we require a society of conscious citizens, willing to recognize and discard their own biases, willing to be objective and rational in determining their opinions, willing to recognize that others may be trapped by indoctrination and willing to extend the necessary sympathy and understanding that goes along with that recognition.