Haidt on the limits of reason’s ability to convince

Jonathan Haidt, at NYU, whose work is the most interesting I know of in psychology:

Jonathan Haidt: See, the enlightenment project was we could use our minds–we could use the new institution of science from the 17th century–we could use it to answer these difficult questions and to do social policy better. In that sense I’m an enlightenment, I’m a big fan of the enlightenment, and I think this new work is part of the enlightenment project. What it says, paradoxically, is that if you think that reason, individual reason, is the way forward, then you’re wrong. And so for 300 years, the project has been barking up the wrong tree. Because we’re all so crippled by the confirmation bias, because we all as individuals —

Host: Explain what confirmation bias is?

Jonathan Haidt: Basically we use our reason just to confirm what we already believe. If that’s true of all of us, then I think we all have to get a bit more humble as individuals, recognise that as individuals we’re not very good at finding the truth, that we can only find the truth when we’re put into relationships in which other people can question our confirmation bias, and this is what has changed: science works because each of us individually-flawed scientists challenge each other, and so over time the scientific data does update, whereas the state of the religious right may not.