Don’t use reason, try a ladder

LSS freely admits to being a Whig blog, which of course makes us heirs to The Enlightenment. You remember-that heady time when thinkers like Locke and Voltaire advised the world to run on science and evidence, and roast beef and fine claret were the cult food statements. It seemed to work for a bit, it gave us the Industrial Revolution, modern medicine, computers and a whole host of other things that seemed to make life more interesting and bearable.

Except that now it doesn’t. There are huge groups of people who delight in denying evidence, denigrating reason and accusing scientists of being only in it for the money. (reality check; we have only met one rich scientist in our lives, and he spent more time in business meetings than in the lab) The problem is that with things like climate change, pandemics and any number of political delusions kicking around, the Ignorance of the Many becomes really dangerous. We can no longer afford to run the world from the saloon bar of the Dog and Duck.

Up to now, what may be euphemistically called the reason-based community has tries two things. Facts, and if they failed, trying to shame those whose mental processes are somewhat different. And, with a few exceptions, it hasn’t worked. Why people refuse to respond to evidence, and what to do about it has been a perennial fascination to us since long before Donald Trump invented the Interweb. Now Brooke Harrington seems to have some of the answers. Writing in The Guardian and taking the prickly subject of anti-vaccination as her muse [1], she recommends finding ways of giving the deluded a way to climb down in such a way that they do not lose face within their own little group. For it is there that opinions, prestige and social power are gained and lost, not in the wider world.

Perhaps the mistake of the Enlightenment philosophes was to inhabit their own little community, where reason and evidence were the touchstones. Forgetting that there were other cells where what counted was who had the best trainers, or could induce the most fear in those around them. The world is too small for multiple communities now, and unless we act, the dull will drag us all down with them Perhaps Professor Harrington has an answer.

#reason #education #donald j trump #vaccination #covid-19 #vaccination #public health

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