Be Rational

Be Rational. By Steven Pinker.

Rationality is uncool. To describe someone with a slang word for the cerebral, like nerd, wonk, geek, or brainiac, is to imply they are terminally challenged in hipness.

For decades, Hollywood screenplays and rock-song lyrics have equated joy and freedom with an escape from reason. “A man needs a little madness or else he never dares cut the rope and be free,” said Zorba the Greek. “Stop Making Sense,” advised Talking Heads; “Let’s go crazy,” adjured the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

Fashionable academic movements like postmodernism and critical theory (not to be confused with critical thinking) hold that reason, truth, and objectivity are social constructions that justify the privilege of dominant groups. These movements have an air of sophistication about them, implying that Western philosophy and science are provincial, old-fashioned, naïve to the diversity of ways of knowing found across periods and cultures.

To be sure, not far from where I live in downtown Boston there is a splendid turquoise and gold mosaic that proclaims, “Follow reason.” But it is affixed to the Grand Lodge of the Masons, the fez- and apron-sporting fraternal organization that is the answer to the question “What’s the opposite of hip?” …

Western civilization built rationality into society:

The rules are designed to sideline the biases that get in the way of rationality: the cognitive illusions built into human nature, and the bigotries, prejudices, phobias, and -isms that infect the members of a race, class, gender, sexuality, or civilization.

These rules include principles of critical thinking and the normative systems of logic, probability, and empirical reasoning. They are implemented among flesh-and-blood people by social institutions that prevent people from imposing their egos or biases or delusions on everyone else. …



Examples include the adversarial system in law, peer review in science, editing and fact-checking in journalism, academic freedom in universities, and freedom of speech in the public sphere. Disagreement is necessary in deliberations among mortals. As the saying goes, the more we disagree, the more chance there is that at least one of us is right.

Chuck it out, we got SJWs and diversity mobs on Twitter now. Rationality is so systematically racist.