The biggest problem with the current version of American society is that we’ve lost the ability to reason and be reasonable. We’re not just hopelessly divided; we make false claims by presenting limited data to make one-sided viewpoints sound truthful. We do it chronically and purposely.

Why would otherwise intelligent creatures with such enormous brains do such a thing? Good question.

– So others will buy into our personal crusades and make us feel important?

– We think we’re supposed to resist Trump or hate Clinton and everything one side or the other stands for?

– We want attention and the best way to get it is with over-the-top statements and sensational headlines

– We see our leaders do it so naturally we emulate that behavior.

– Social media groupthink: We want to be popular and we know our followers will love us for it?

Who the hell knows why people do the idiotic things they do and some of it catches on like wildfire? All I know is I don’t just see and hear this sort of thing every day. I see and hear it everywhere I look and everywhere I go. And that is seriously messed up.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me but I’ve always been compelled to know the truth. Call me regressive but, to me, that means questioning everything — especially my own beliefs — learning all the facts and making informed decisions. And if the facts point in the opposite direction from my initial viewpoint, so be it.

Case in point: undocumented immigrants and their impact on society. This is a tweet from a DailyKos staff writer, along with my reply:

If you take his tweet verbatim you might conclude that illegal immigrants are a boon to society and all the naysayers have it wrong. But if you consider all the facts, that tells a completely different story. Not to pick on one viewpoint; the other side is just as guilty, railing about illegal immigrants’ drain on society and how they steal American jobs.

I’m sure we can all agree that the truth is quite a bit more nuanced than either side presents.

In reality this is a lose-lose debate. While the endless back-and-forth rages on for generation after generation, the immigration system never gets fixed and we’re stuck with this problem of a large chunk of our society coming to this country and living here illegally in the shadows. Nobody wins; everyone loses.

Getting back to the general point, if an alien – not an illegal one, a real one, like from another world — came to Earth and monitored our social and media networks they’d conclude that the world is made up entirely of humans with one-sided viewpoints. And for the most part, they’d be right.

The thing is, you’re not likely to reach the correct conclusion by rushing to judgement based on one side of an argument. Viewpoints that have the best chance of being right are based on questioning common knowledge and carefully considering all the facts from different perspectives.

It’s called critical thinking. The scientific method is based on it. Our judicial system is based on it. Our entire civilization is based on it. It’s been around since Socrates. And we’ve lost it. When a society loses its ability to reason, its members lose the ability to be reasonable. Welcome to the Dark Ages 2.0.

Image credit Tim Green via Flickr

  • E Van

    I cannot refrain from seeing this behavior of speaking of agenda instead of facts and calling names if you don’t toe the line as bullying (and I thought we were all against bullying). I’m not “racist” if I don’t want people walking into our country without an invite. People come in from all races and “hispanic” is not a race. I’m not a “nazi” if I want our laws followed by everyone everytime (called to me by a local pastor, of all people). Trump, the “unwanted” is the petite blond cheerleader who just moved into the school district. We hate her on sight and will do absolutely everything to destroy her. We’ll make up stories that are disgusting as well as untrue to ruin her. We’ll involve her in every kind of criminal behavior to get rid of her and leave our cheerleading group as it was before she came. We’re on a playground, taunting constantly. I’m not allowed to like her because I will be dragged under also and I will be ruined. I cannot stand up for her and her rights because I will be the next accused. What is the difference in the two scenarios? When we were in school it was a point of pride that Americans had the right to free speech, now we knock him down and all jump on his back. It’s sad and just so wrong. In deciding that religion and politics were “impolite” to speak about, we’ve made it impossible to stand up for our Constitution and the rights bestowed on us by our Creator.

  • See Sperber & Mercier’s “Why do humans reason,” and their follow-on book “The enigma of reason.” They argue that the “evolutionary adaptive” utility of “reasoning” is not to get at “objective truths” but to WIN arguments. A “Pen-Is-Mightier-Than-The-Sword” riff.

    • Steve Tobak

      Fascinating.