Why the Scientifically Literate Can Believe Silly Things

Why the Scientifically Literate Can Believe Silly Things August 3, 2011

Jim Kidder pointed to and quoted from a piece in Discover Magazine by Chris Mooney, and this quote from it is worth circulating widely:

If you understand motivated reasoning, then you understand that high levels of knowledge, education, and sophistication are no defense against wrongheaded views like climate change denial and anti-evolutionism.  What I’ll call “sophistication” may even make these phenomena worse, at least among those with deeply ideological or religious views.

The reason is that when we “reason” in areas where we have strong beliefs, our emotions come first and then we rationalize our pre-existing views. And those better at generating self-affirming arguments will be better rationalizers, will fall in love with their own seemingly brilliant arguments, and their minds will become harder to change (but they’ll love to argue).


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