The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty.
Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined skepticism, when he declines to tie himself down to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass.
- G. K. Chesterton, ‘Heretics’
This also is true:
Our mental superiority over the animals is perhaps largely due to the fact that we never develop certain characteristics found in most adult animals. Our behaviour is less determined by instinct, that is to say inborn reaction patterns, and we are more teachable. A large proportion of mankind, after a more or less human childhood, become almost unteachable. The know what is right in politics, religion, art, and human behaviour. They are the pillars of Church and State. Perhaps they are a social necessity. But they have grown out of a large part of their humanity. And I sometimes feel that it would be more appropriate if they were hairy all over.
- J. B. S. Haldane, ‘Possibilities of Human Evolution’
Ideally, we don’t make up the rules. And we don’t follow the rules. We try to figure out the best possible framework within which we can figure out the rules. Walk the line, gentle readers, walk the line!