Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science - Mooney, in MoJo

How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link; in the latest issue of Mother Jones.
"...motivated reasoning... our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts..." etc.

Very much worth reading.

1 comment:

Don Pelton said...


Thanks for the pointer to this great great article by longtime science writer Chris Mooney.

It's ironic that "motivated reasoning" must have evolved in us due to its survival value: often we do best to accept information from sources we already trust. This probably worked best in our tribal past.

But now we face challenges that require us to act rationally as a global species, a context in which our local tribally-motivated reasoning fails (many of) us, and to that extent works against our survival.

It's tempting also to wonder if this mixture of reason and unreason is related to the fact that our reasoning cortex evolved later than our limbic (what some people call our "reptile") brain?

In reading Mooney's article, I have the slight consolation of knowing that I haven't fallen prey (since my sentiments are predominantly left-wing)to the left's signature case of "motivated reasoning:" the anti-vaccine mania.

All of this is a reminder that the greatest intellectual achievement of mankind -- an achievement that transcends all cultures and civilizations -- is the scientific method, including peer review.

This is our surest method of beating ourselves at our own "motivated reasoning" prejudices.

Great great article, which I'm going to keep close and come back to for reference again and again.