I agree with the idea that there are evolutionary reasons behind the whole "not thinking for yourself thing".
Kids have a tendency to listen to their parents because this increases their chances of survival.
Adults have a tendency to listen to authority figures because this increases their chances of survival,as well as the tribe's chances of survival.
I guess that's why it seems that most people remain stuck in a never ending childhood where they feel the need for an authority figure to show them the way.
I also agree that the most effective way to improve society is probably by leveraging this herd mentality, not going against it. I know it's not a politically correct thing to say, but people can be brainwashed into doing anything (e.g. Nazi Germany), so why not brainwash them into doing something positive?