Human progeny are neotonic

(The truth is, children can resist with determination what they are told to believe, but with no one to confirm their resistence and support their dissent, they gradually comply and come to forget their objections, stifling the feelings that came with them.) In adopting beliefs, children naturally identify with those who share those beliefs, and who insistently impart them. The transmission of belief, hugely celebrated in high-toned rhetoric about spiritual and cultural "tradition," is actually one of the great, unadmitted tragedies of the human condition.

Unlike other animals, human progeny are neotonic, taking a long time to mature. When we are born, the brain is not yet developed as an organ. It takes many years to ripen a brain. While it accounts for the exceptional scope of learning and innovation of our species, this neotonic handicap makes offspring excessively dependent upon what is inculcated in them by adults. The sight of children cramped in a madrasa, an Islamic kindergarten, nodding like zombies and repeating the Koran eight hours a day is only one example (an obviously flagrant one) of how children are programmed to believe. Such practices, which exist in many forms in diverse cultures and religions, ought to be regarded as child abuse.

Neotony offers to our species the unique advantage of a reverse transmission of generational assets, from younger to the older members of the tribe. (This is the theme of my book, Quest for the Zodiac.) In other words, nature requires the long-term maturation of human offspring so that the evolutionary potential to learn and innovate embodied in the new generation can be shared with the older generation. Children come into the human tribe for us to learn from them, not for us to tell them what we believe. We are all tulkus.