Unreasonable - Reason in Particular Fields of Study - Evolution of Reason

Evolution of Reason

A species could benefit greatly from better abilities to reason about, predict and understand the world. French social and cognitive scientist Dan Sperber, with his colleague Hugo Mercier, describes the idea that there could have been other forces driving the evolution of reason. Sperber points out that reasoning is very difficult for humans to do effectively, and that it is hard for individuals to doubt their own beliefs. Reasoning is most effective when it is done as a collective - as demonstrated by the success of projects like science. Sperber says this could suggest that there are not just individual, but group selection pressures at play. Any group that managed to find ways of reasoning effectively would reap benefits for all its members, increasing their fitness. This could also help explain why humans, according to Sperber, are not optimized to reason effectively alone. Patricia Cohen, writing for The New York Times, summarizes some of Mercier's thoughts on this "Argumentative Theory" (which states that reason is adapted to persuasion). To Cohen, the idea is that humans debate like lawyers: they often commit to one side of an argument and converse until the truth is discovered.

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