Tuesday, June 14, 2011

People Argue Just to Win, Scholars Assert. - NYTimes.com

A recurring theme of information responsibility: Knowing how your brain can let you down (e.g., through confirmation bias).  Now we have a a theory about why your brain lets you down.

For centuries thinkers have assumed that the uniquely human capacity for reasoning has existed to let people reach beyond mere perception and reflex in the search for truth. Rationality allowed a solitary thinker to blaze a path to philosophical, moral and scientific enlightenment.

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

People Argue Just to Win, Scholars Assert. - NYTimes.com

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