A couple of weeks ago, the Russian half governmental, educational foundation Vsenauka bought out the copyright from the holders of the most important popular science books of the last years. Some of them have already crossed my path, like “Brief history of time” by Stephen Hawking or “Hyperspace” by Michio Kaku (blown away by that book). Overall of 40 books in different formats directly downloadable. So if you speak Russian, you have an outstanding opportunity to widen your horizon.
That’s a huge deal because some of those books don’t really align with what Russia currently is — an authoritarian cybersuperstate with an aging sovereign trying to glue up the mismatching layers of communist ideological residual with religion.
One of the books listed is the “Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt, which Gretchen Rubin has mentioned multiple times in her “Happiness Project.” Such a reference seemed a significant validation because happiness research and psychology suffer from scams like no other matter, I guess.
For someone like me, who grew up in the Russian province in the nineties, when the Soviet Union was gone, cold war lost and phantom pains of the slipping imperial greatness is the only thing left to the millions, finding happiness no matter what became my modus operandi.
Through the astonishing poverty of my childhood, I have ultimately learned what money can give and how horrible life can become without it. So through my teenage years, the only thing I was dreaming about was escaping that hell. Now I’m in my early thirties, living in Berlin, having a different name and destiny, making enough money to work two days a week. And now I know what money cannot give..”
So with such a good reference for the book, I was keen on finding out about the happiness hypothesis Haidt was about to present. The first chapters are a nice journey to understanding how our brain works, what old and new cultural almanacs say about it, and which things have scientifically proven to influence happiness. I particularly loved it because most of the claims were actually supported by the reference to real research, baked by mathematics, and corresponding to modern standards.
But in Chapter 8, the book turns different. Science was replaced with religion and research — with believing. At the very conclusion, the author even equalizes science and religion, claiming “there is no morality without God,” so beloved by the radical Christians. Well, there are whole countries proving the opposite. He refers to the dichotomy east-west, individual-collective, and then suddenly liberal-conservative.
Jonathan Haidt claims himself an atheist but refers to the “God,” speaks of sacrality, holiness and sacredness right after he speaks about positive psychology, which he is undoubtedly the expert in. So what happened? Is his mind so volatile that he can actually live in doublethink? Or is it just a trick for his book to be better sold?
My (not happiness) hypothesis is that Jonathan Haidt is a good American. Like an average American, he HAS to accept religion as something valid, something comparable, alternative to science, because there is no greater crime than to be an atheist in the USA. Like a crystal form reflects the structure of the atoms alignments deep on the microscopic level of the matter, so does such a brilliant mind has to reflect the binarity of American thinking:
There are good guys and bad guys.
There are liberals and conservatives.
There is war, and there is no war.
There are friends and enemies.
There is science, and there is religion.
And there is nothing in between. So does being determine consciousness.