Why is it so hard to be rational?

in #philosophy6 years ago

Humans are complicated creatures. We evolved in an environment that is not really match conditions of our modern lives. Evolution had no chance of preparing us for Internet and Cars, Computers and financial systems, multicultural metropolises and seemingly limitless availability of natural resources. There is a mismatch between what our programming tells us and reality around us.

Surely our brain is an amazing machine. It allowed us to adapt to the ever changing living conditions with a speed that evolution could never provide. Yet, our brain has its boundaries as well. I'd like to discuss in this post one artefact of our history, which is out of place in the modern world, but which ultimately cannot be avoided completely, because it is the crucial part of what it means of being human.

Thinking Ape
Image from Pixabay

I think, the single greatest invention of the past centuries is not a device or technology. It's a concept. Development of scientific method is what enabled us to step out of the shadows of the dark ages, and start using available resources to the best of our abilities. Simple idea that proof is more important than believe, that truth is more valuable than convince, allowed humans to transcend the limits of natural world and uncover the benefits of technology.

Yet, our brain was never a precise machine. It tries to predict the most probable causes of events based on information available, yet it fails to recognise lack of reliable information. When ancient people seen unexplainable phenomena like lightning, the did not simply concluded "well, we have no idea what's going on". Instead they filled in the gaps with something that made sense at that time: surely there must be some supernatural being in the sky that creates those lightnings.

I believe that such unreliable conclusions span from the very same attribute of our minds that has led to eventually establish scientific approach: our curiosity can be hold responsible. We, as a species, hate to not know something. It makes sense evolutionary: the more data you gather the easier it is to avoid being eaten by predator (by knowing it's hunting habits) or freeze to death in winter (by correctly predicting seasonal temperature changes, and preparing in advance). In this conditions, ungrounded speculation is better than admitting your ignorance: at least you have a chance, however slim, of lucky guess. And in evolutionary terms, even slight advantage over competition will, given enough time, become prevalent attribute of the population.

So if we evolved to guess, why do we even bothered to search for the proof of our theories? In short, we almost didn't. We lived for thousands upon thousands of years without considering that asking for the second opinion is a good idea. Second guessing ourselves was not in our nature. Yet, false theories can never fulfil our hungry minds. You can always dig one level deeper, asking questions about areas not yet explored, until false theory breaks into pieces.

Bit it doesn't break easily. We possess startling ability of juggle multiple conflicting believes in our minds, without dismissing any one of them as untrue. But eventually, incorrect theory grows in such a convoluted incomprehensible monster, that we have no choice except for abandon it for fresh, more consistent idea.

This is why being a critical thinker requires a conscious effort on our part. Nobody is born a sceptic, we are all preprogrammed into jumping to conclusions. It is easy to manipulate us simply by providing the theory we find convenient, because our natural response is to believe it, and rejecting it requires mental energy.

When somebody presents you a new ICO token that will multiply our investment ten fold over the next year, the default response is to believe it, even though it might not take much of research to find out exactly why it's unlikely to be real. In the absence of information our instincts tell us to make up something convenient to fill in the gaps. We must consciously override this decision if we are to do the right thing.

Thanks for reading my rant. I hope you enjoyed it. If that's the case - feel free to follow me for more content like this.

Stay rational.


you're making steemit a great community with your content ! keep it up!

Simple idea that proof is more important than believe, that truth is more valuable than convince, allowed humans to transcend the limits of natural world and uncover the benefits of technology.

Yes, truth is not belief, people need to understand this crucial importance.

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