1) Our beliefs are driven by evidence.
2) Our good deeds are driven by caring.
Let me explain why I believe this. And why it’s fundamental for the social sciences.
-we can gain a deeper understanding of how preferences & beliefs *actually* work
-we can see the problems w/ trusting our intuitions on these topics
-we can see what social science needs to do differently to make *real* progress
I don’t mean *all beliefs.” Or *all good deeds.*
I mean political, moral, and religious beliefs.
And deeds that are targeting strangers and “causes”—like trying to save the planet or feed the poor.
(Which makes a lot of evolutionary sense.)
Like whether smoking causes cancer. Or how frequently planes crash. If exercise is good for you. Or if certain types of people make good or bad life partners or bosses or employees.
But there is a genuine desire to know the truth, and a genuine concern for impact and efficacy.
(And it’s obvious why there evolved to be such.)
Is there any reason it’s helpful to know the truth?
To genuinely be concerned with the truth?
(Aside from the benefits of *appearing* to care about the truth!)
(Aside from the benefits of *appearing* well informed.)
If the voter *actually* ascertains the truth, that isn’t going to lead to better political decisions. (Cause her influence on national policy is negligible.)
(Other than via appearances. Whether appear like a good Christian. Or like a reasonable scientist.)
Cause few of us make decisions that depend on the age of the earth
To the extent that there are moral truths (what does that even mean?)
It wouldn’t actually matter if you know what they are.
(Other than the being able to justify your behavior. Persuade others. Etc.)
But no reason to think we are motivated, in these domains, by an actual desire for truth.
(Latter motive would offer no benefits. Only costs. No reason for it to evolve. Unlike former.)
Other than the benefits from *appearing* to do good. And from *appearing* to care about others. Or pro-social goals, like the environment, or contributing to science.
There isn’t actually any benefit, to the self, from *accomplishing* these things.
But nothing a typical person will do will have a meaningful impact on the world their grand children inhabit.
Likewise re feeding the poor. Or spreading democracy. Or ...
And we may even benefit from deeply internalizing that desire.
But internalizing a desire that depends on appearances is *quite* different from *actually* caring.
Just like it doesn’t make any evolutionary sense for us to *actually* wanna know the truth.
(In these domains.)
Because we evolved to look out for our genetic interest, not for the species or the planet.
But that’s a claim. One that we can check against evidence. And see if it makes a priori sense.
Might be. But that’s a claim. Is it true?
But instead they (mostly) are just presuming.
Presuming despite the fact that the presumption is not a priori obvious. And despite the fact, I will argue, the evidence is quite contrary.
Presumably because this presumption is rather intuitive.
It’s what we feel inside our heads. It’s what we as humans think. It’s also the propoganda we spew.
(All of which you would expect if appearances are what matter. And we internalize our own propoganda.)
Science is not supposed to be a propoganda arm of humanity. Or a codification of our intuitions.
It’s supposed to decipher what’s *actually* going on.
I already argued that a priori this is a rather dubious assumption. One we should be skeptical of. But nevertheless plausible.
Is it true?
And that thinking bout it that way just leads to confusion. And precludes all sense making.
-we give when asked, but avoid being asked
-we don’t knowingly do bad, but avoid finding out the bad impact of our deeds
-we avoid doing bad, but feel less bad not doing good.
To shitty charities. To people who don’t need it.
And seem entirely unresponsive to the efficacy of our gift or potential gift.
(See Eg Paul Bloom’s recent book.)
And to ensure others *believe* that we will comply with norms and act pro-socially.
But not at all consistent w/ *actually* caring
And less attentive to plausible deniability and observability.
Look at human history.
Or what you and I do in our daily lives
Despite the horrendous animal suffering caused. And the amount of good that can be done in the third world for the price of that latte.
Very hard to argue that’s consistent with our high minded claims to caring. (As Peter Singer rightly argues.)
Just not nearly as sad and not nearly as long as when we stub our toe.
Every government throughout human history (as a first approximation) that has had the power and ability to exploit their people, or kill off or enslave other people’s, has done so (and come up with ideology to justify).
Does that look like we care?
All the facts suggest we are *not* truth seeking.
Let me summarize some of these facts...
The extent and pervasiveness of such beliefs (long after the evidence that disproves becomes readily available.) <—really hard to jibe with a truth motive.
Or to realize that science has no reason to conspire to reach concensus on this.
Not hard to realize that all the doubt is being peddled by big oil (See “merchants of doubt”.) And that they have thrust this belief on the gop.
why else would *no scientists*, other than those few in their pay, deny man made climate change?
You literally just need to know the fact that mass shootings don’t happen outside of the US. That’s it. That’s all you need to know.
It would also suffice to learn that no one outside of US buys nra story.
Maybe here or there? But for all of our political and religious beliefs?
Which we claim as being founded in self-evident truths.
Except they weren’t self evident to the rest of humanity that ignored it, or even the proponents when they had incentives to look the other way.
In fact, an exercise in many high schools and colleges is to debate the morals of a dilemma designed to have no right answer.
(Is that how truth usually works?)
This is true in all 3 domains: moral, religious, political.
(climate denial benefits big oil, inferiority of non-whites helped justify slavery and colonialism, liberty benefitted American colonists who didn’t wanna pay British taxes.)
(Is that the best way to understand these differences in beliefs? Does better than the coalitional justification story?)
(Again, no non-American buys the NRA story. Or the gop story re climate denial.)
(And any effect of evidence and arguments are at best second order, and better explained by the need to seem reasonable.)
Are there any a priori reasons to suspect, counter to evolutionary pressures, that beliefs and preferences would “spill over” into these domains in such a costly and suboptimal way?
No. And social scientists who presume this should have just pondered that q for a min.
Well for one, it is uber costly. If we went against our coalitions and instead pursued policies or morals based on truth (not even sure what that would mean tbh) they would get in *a lot* of trouble.
Would there be *any* benefits? No (already argued.)
Evolution & learning works *very* hard against such.
Yeah, does it look like our morals and emotions (like empathy) and beliefs are *that* sticky?
Eg See “ordinary men”. Normal Germans, with typical empathy, turned genocidal. In days. Cause they learned to turn off their empathy.
(And no “becoming enlightened” doesn’t explain this at all. Again see ordinary men. And my discussion earlier in thread.)
Likewise there, it didn’t take long for republicans (post Koch takeover of party mid 2000s) to flip on climate science.
Or on anything trump post his takeover.
That seems like rather strong evidence imo that our belief system isn’t some rigid archaic system that’s super constrained by cognitive limitations, and a spillover from domains where is accuracy motive.
Again see ordinary men. Or changes in our treatment of minorities. Or animals. Or everything in Pinker’s two recent books. Who we treat well and “care” about is very very in-rigid.
Not easily explained in terms of genuine caring “spilling over.”
While completely misdiagnosing the most fundamental ones under your nose.
Compared to if we are genuinely motivated by doing good and discovering truth?