The problem with the term “animals” is that it is too general. What rioters do is below many member of the animal kingdom. Do primates or dolphins act this way? Of course not. Also, if black people are involved, the term “animals” sets off an escalating cycle of dichotomous noise around the comparison with monkeys.  The result is a lot of time wasted, more dichotomous thinking and a clear insult to monkeys.

Riots are in response to real longstanding injustices. The problem is the disconnect between the goal of addressing injustice and the counter productive acts of rioting and looting. Higher animals are capable of learning and making connections between actions and consequences. I suggest a more useful pejorative is to compare rioters specifically to reptiles.

For years I have been promoting the use of the word “dichotomous” as a way of promoting problem solving. I have never had any illusion that teenagers or those who think like teenagers would ever pick this word up. When it comes to the problem of rioting and looting, only teenagers will be able to influence other teenagers. Teenagers love to call each other names, but terms like “idiot’ and “moron” are too worn out to be effective.

The term “reptilian brain” is often used to refer to the more primitive anatomical structures that underlie dichotomous thinking. Rioting is as good an example of dichotomous thinking usurping problem-solving as there can be. If we could encourage a comparison between rioters and reptiles we might be able to embarrass some individuals into rethinking their actions without introducing new cycles of dichotomous noise.


On the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, we ask: Will Turkey ever own up to what really happened? The barrier of course is dichotomous thinking. As long as preserving national pride is more important than acknowledging the truth, we can not expect their position to change.

Should the crime be labeled as genocide? There is no question it was an atrocity and a war crime. It was clearly a crime against humanity. Proving it was genocide, however, means proving there was an intent to destroy the Armenian people. As long as an argument can be made that the Ottoman Empire faced an existential threat (which it did in the form of Russia) it can be argued that the actions against the Armenians was in self-defense. (An argument still used to this day to justify a variety of dichotomous actions)

If we set human evolution as our goal, we hope to see the Turks develop into a modern people who can admit the truth about their past. Demanding they admit to genocide before they are ready is counter productive. It simply amplifies the dichotomous noise. It plays into the “You say we are bad, but we are not bad, we are good, your are bad…” mentality.

We in the modern world may look down on those who deny the truth out of fear of being called “bad”, but unless we give them the space they need, they will never get past this very dichotomous way of thinking.  Without giving them the space they need, they will never see that denying the truth today does much more to hurt their national image than anything that was done100 years ago.


We can not think of Iran as a monolith. Some in Iran see nuclear weapons as essential for their national security while others see them as a waste of time and more trouble than they are worth. As long as the belligerence between Iran and the rest of the world continues, there will remain a compelling argument that Iran needs nuclear weapons to remain safe.

Once again, I would like to propose that the battle line is horizontal rather than vertical. The battle is not between Iranians and the rest of the world, it is between the small-minded and the problem solvers. As in so many other conflicts, the small-minded have the ability to work together. Fox news and the some Republicans in the U.S. Congress will say we can not trust the Mullahs so we should not negotiate.  The Mullahs will prove them right by trying any way they can to cheat. The Mullahs will use the belligerence as their excuse and the Republicans and the Israelis will essentially support the legitimacy of their argument.

Dichotomous thinking spreads like a virus and reverberates like the world is one big echo chamber. Step one is to recognize this process.