Our current age is one riddled with several apparent contradictions and paradoxes.
Despite access to an almost unlimited flow of information, we are less certain of what is true. Further, we have a more difficult time in discerning fact from fiction, and rarely look to sources outside of our narrow ‘information ecosystems’.
The Enlightenment and the rise of objective scientific inquiry was supposed to rid us of superstition and group think. It promised to place reason at the bedrock of society and ensure that rationality and logic would be the basis for decision making.
So where did we go wrong, and why are we currently faced with so much polarization and division unable to come to a consensus on the most basic of facts?
Rather than exercising our freedom to think independently, we are moving closer and closer towards conformity and dogmatic thinking. As more issues become politicized, society sorts into its respective teams or ideologies insisting that those who don’t agree with us on certain issues are either blindly naïve or ignorant. It is the mentality that you are either with us or against us.
Yet, we are all exhausted by all the outrage and constant bickering of who is right or wrong on contentious issues.
Can’t we all just get along, be kind and give each other a hug (well maybe after the pandemic)?
To look at these issues I want to draw from the work of Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided over Politics and Religion and other research to look at why we have such a hard time discussing political issues.
This series of articles will focus on the following themes, exploring how:
- We aren’t as ‘rational’ as we think, and we rarely can get someone to change their view with a more logical or coherent argument. Emotion has the upper hand in our thinking and Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider is a good example the fight between reason vs emotion.
- We all share the same moral foundations, but differ in which morals and values we prioritize (Moral Foundations Theory).
- Evolution can explain our tendency to sort into groups or teams. As Haidt puts it, morality binds and blinds.
- We can restore good faith dialogue and compromise. The key is transcending the strict dichotomy of black\white or good\evil type thinking and being able understand the wisdom and truth found in many different positions or perspectives.
Hopefully this series will convince you to look critically at your own opinions, and look to others who share different views with a bit more kindness and understanding.