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Neuroscience Suggests that Virtues are the Basis of Wisdom, Says Dr Howard Rankin

Neuroscience Suggests that Virtues are the Basis of Wisdom, Says Dr Howard Rankin

Compassion, Gratitude and other virtues aren't just about being a "nice" person.

PR Newswire

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C., Feb. 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- On the eve of Lent there is growing scientific evidence that virtues are the basis of wisdom.  In his recent book, I Think Therefore I Am Wrong: A Guide to Bias, Political Correctness, Fake News and the Future of Mankind, Dr Howard Rankin shines light on the human thought process and shows it often to be seriously flawed. Referencing dozens of cognitive biases, binary thinking and absurd simplicity, Rankin not only describes the process but the reasons uncritical thinking is rampant and how it affects many areas of the culture like education and healthcare.

A culture of reality-show emotionalism and egocentrism has contributed to the abandonment of critical thinking as have educational practices. Emotion almost always rules the narrative so the key to more objectivity is emotional awareness and control, writes Rankin.

"Wisdom is the recognition of complexity and the limits of knowledge," says Rankin.

How do you teach people to not just be more aware of these fundamental limitations of the human mind but also improve their thought processes?

"All the wise people of the past have suggested that virtue is the basis of wisdom. Now we are beginning to understand why," says Rankin.

Research over the recent past has shown a reciprocal relationship between wisdom and virtues, often perceived as greater self-awareness and a retreat from egotism. Research of those practicing virtues, like compassion and forgiveness, often shows an increase in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for planning and emotional regulation, and a reduction in the areas of the brain associated with emotion, like the amygdala.

"There's no question that the virtues, like humility, compassion and forgiveness involve emotional regulation and a reduction in egotism, which is exactly what is required of wisdom," says Rankin whose book outlines 20 core virtues and ways to engage in them.

"Being smart is not the same as being wise. Knowing facts is one thing, but awareness of the limitations of thinking is quite another. In that sense altruism is more important than algebra, compassion more important than chemistry and humility more important than history," says Rankin.

Referencing the future of mankind, Rankin expresses concerns that the continued drive towards egotism and the abandonment of critical thinking will lead to disaster. He cites research into the collapse of societies which shows that cognitive bias, egotism, and environmental change, have often been a prelude to disastrous collapse.

As Rankin writes in his book Power Talk: The Art of Effective Communication, "People aren't logical, they're psychological, often with the emphasis on the psycho."

Now, there is confirmation that by doing good, we can help ourselves as well as others.

Dr. Rankin's book can be found here.

Dr. Rankin also hosts the How Not To Think podcast


Howard Rankin


Ph: 843.247.2980

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SOURCE Dr Howard Rankin

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