Science: Wrong People Sometimes Win Arguments

The New York Times has a shocking story about new developments in social science: Apparently, our faculty for reason evolved not as a tool for enlightenment and pursuit of truth, but as a way to get people to do what we want. This changes everything. I'm rethinking the whole debate over invading Iraq, and I feel sick.

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....

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.

The implications of this discovery are truly astounding. Next time you fight with your spouse or significant other, please keep in mind for your own safety that he or she might have an agenda other than the discovery of higher truths, and may be using "logic" to advance this agenda.

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