How science can explain why you don’t believe in science

Here’s another recent commentary from the San Francisco Chronicle, this by Caille Millner: Free speech is a joke when laughing is a crime

It’s nominally about the 61-year-old woman who was just *convicted* of “disorderly and disruptive conduct” for laughing out loud at an assertion, during a hearing about attorney general Jeff Sessions — who has a history of racial bias — that he had a track record of “treating all American equally under the law”. An assertion she found ridiculous, and so laughed — and now finds herself convicted of disorderly conduct and potentially facing a year in jail.

And comparing that, as a first amendment issue, to the UC Berkeley controversies in which conservative speakers Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter were prevented from speaking due to sometimes violent protests.*

And then she follows the line of reasoning about how free speech is required by a liberal society…

They tell me it ensures a “marketplace of ideas” from which people can pick the strongest ones. The assumption, of course, is that people will “inevitably” pick the best ones.

That assumption’s based on an Enlightenment-era idea about the rationality of human beings. It makes my heart swell with nostalgia.

And then this, one of many comments recently about how the ideals of the Enlightenment may be in danger — because those ideals are based on notions of the rationality of human thinking that turn out to be not true.

As for the inevitability of rational judgment, it’s past time to put that old chestnut to rest.

If you believe in science, you may be aware of the growing body of research about the profound limitations of the human mind to successfully integrate facts contrary to our long-held belief systems. (If you don’t believe in science, well, this might be why.)

Usually, people are swayed not by facts but by our emotions and our social group.


*My thought about the UC Berkeley controversies is, is that the best the Cal conservatives can come up with? Them and Donald Trump? So much for any kind of intellectual debates of ideas.

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