Are Humans Rational by Nature
This site is based on the assumption that there are irrational and rational beliefs. People on this site generally cite either fallacious, illogical, or just plain wrong beliefs from others in the world and then attempt to show how they are irrational. So the question that I want to put forward here is are humans rational?
There are two main camps on whether humans are rational or not. One group is the classical group. They propose that the crowning glory of humanity is that we are able to reason. That our brains have evolved to make complicated decisions using the power of logic and the laws of probability. So whenever someone is irrational, that is an exception rather than the rule, since humans are rational. Theodore Lipps was a proponent of this school and said that logic "is nothing if not the physics of thought."
The second camp says no way. It claims we aren't able to possibly deal with the vast amount of data necessary to even use the laws of probability, and that we make constant mistakes trying to attempt logic problems. This camp, known as the heuristics and biases camp, claims we use heuristics and experiential knowledge to make descisions. Further that these heuristics work pretty well, and make us appear to be logical and rational in our decision making, thus allowing for a post hoc explanation that we must be rational. Stephen J. Gould said, "Our minds are not built (for whatever reason) to work by the rules of probability."
So who's right? Well. One question to ask is if we're good at logic? The answer is pretty simple: not really. Our short term memory capacity is 7(+/- 2). So we're just not able to put that much into our workspace and manipulate it around before we lose track of information and lose it. In short, complicated logic problems wear us out and we most of the time can't finish them. And that's only with a logic problem. Once you get into real life the problems become much bigger.
Gilovitch in 1991 published a book that had the most common mistakes that humans make. There are the 5 most common:
1. Making something out of nothing
2. See what we expect to see
3. Too much from too little
4. Believe what we are told
5. Imagine agreements with others
I won't go into detail with these 5 mistakes, but it becomes clear that humans are not using logic and the laws of probability to make decisions once you read all of the studies. We make up systems where there is chaos, we look for evidence that confirms what we believe, we don't question assumptions, we think we're better than everyone else....etc. etc.
Our worst problem is that we can't understand uncertainty. In one experiment the only way experimenters could get subjects to treat a data set as random was to manipulate the data and make it look "random." So they would delete any random patterns out of it, like a series of letters. We just can't compete with a rat when it comes to maximizing on a random test....even Harvard students.
And we're definitely not fair. When presented with competing evidence. We choose the evidence that goes against our belief and try and refute it, but leave the confirmatory evidence unchallenged. This forum has seen a lot of that. If we we're logical, we'd give critiques of all evidence presented.
So if humans think highly of themselves, look for confirmatory evidence for their beliefs, aren't logical and don't use the laws of probability well at all, then what hope does that afford to a site that tries to sway people to another belief by using logic and the laws of probability? This is the question that I bring to the forum. As a follow up question, what else could be done? Second, I would ask, what is the problem in the first place?
I'm interested to hear responses.