's "The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science
: How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link" at Mother Jones
(April 18, 2011).
hris Mooney summarizes a host of studies underlining our human capacity for rationalization, for what is called, "motivated-reasoning". When confronted with new information that threatens to undermine our deeply held beliefs, we readily turn to an arsenal of defensive psychological tools to rebuff disconfirmation. Mooney covers several terms of art in psychology and neuroscience, such as "confirmation bias", and the "backfire effect". Remember Fox Mulder's wall-hanging: "I want to believe." Mooney writes: "The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience: Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion (or what researchers often call "affect"). Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds..." Though epistemologists and rhetoricians have long been preoccupied with the role of presuppositions, desires, and pathos
in persuasion and belief formation, these studies serve to bring many of our age-old epistemic worries into sharp focus. It is worth noting that the tradition of epistemic virtues
is largely shaped by the evident need to ward off rationalization and self-deception. Consider circumspection, intellectual humility, teachability, and objectivity. The informal logical fallacies
also have in mind our capacity for poor reasoning when we are so inclined. Though not mentioned in the piece, our ability to be stubborn or recalcitrant toward undesired evidence has relevance to yet another longstanding philosophical subject: direct and indirect doxastic voluntarism