This is a long, needlessly political, a little bit rambling, at points incoherent, but nevertheless interesting piece. Apparently human beings—and seriously, if only there had been some way to know this for millenia, some kind of document or text that is centuries old that says this very thing and even gives an explanation for why it is, it is right on the tip of my mind…oh never mind—are not moved very much by intellect and reason and will look for ways to confirm their own beliefs in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Writes the person at The New Yorker:
Mercier and Sperber prefer the term “myside bias.” Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.
Also known as the Dunning Kruger effect, I think. You remember that wonderful finding, that the less you know about something the more confident you are in your sense of yourself as ‘expert.’ I’m sure you don’t need a link because you have google who knows everything and will find it for you.
As with all these sciency sorts of things, the wheels start to come off the bus when they try to reconstruct the evolutionary origins of this heretofore completely unknown human proclivity. In this case, the reason we’re so unreasonable is not because there’s something fundamentally broken about who we are, it’s because natural selection picked out cooperation as its favorite trait, which was great when we were running away from lions, but turns out to be a real drag in the age of fake news, Donald Trump* and anti-vaxxers—the article throws in gun lovers for good measure, just to heap up the horror. My favorite part is where the author of the thing falls into the very pit she is peering into, confirming all her own biases all over the place:
If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Trump Administration.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, as I said in the beginning, if only there was some other narrative explanation for why human beings are so fluffy headed and irrational. If only there was an outside, whatchamacallit, personality? life force? objective reality? Someone who could look in and judge between good and evil, truth and lies, light and dark, sin and righteousness. Someone who could even communicate in some way…
Oh wait, there is! God, who literally said this about all humanity:
…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:10-18
The great thing about becoming a Christian is that you no longer have to rely on your faulty and ruined human reasoning and intuition. God gives you his Holy Spirit to correct, rebuke, and guide you. If you’re looking for some people who are able to change their minds about things—because of God supernaturally giving his own grace and mercy to clear away all the jumbled intellectual mess—look no further than the ordinary Christian, who, with humility and good cheer, doesn’t cling mindlessly to whatever the internet served up that afternoon.
*If you’re a new reader please wander around my archives where you will find that I’m no lover of Mr. Trump. But also, if you leave a lot of comments about Mr. Trump I will delete them all because this article is not about him.