The Ultimate Explanation of the Psychology Behind the Spread of Fake News

“Crazy fairy tales have become numbingly common,” Vox’s David Roberts recently observed. We are more apt to be wrong about basic facts than at any time in the recent past. I have often been left frustrated by someone who subscribes to absurd stuff — about evolution or immigrants or Obama’s birth certificate or you name it — and proceeded to shrugs off any appeal to facts or […]

Do We Really Disagree That Much?

Paradoxically, in our post-truth era of culture wars, echo-chambers, information overload and fake news, this is considered self-evident: “Each group lives in its own echo chamber, which it believes is the “true” reality” — Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble In this essay, I argue that this is a wild exaggeration. Many people do not believe (i) their echo […]

Why Your Skepticism about Science and Journalism Is Dangerous

A lot of people, myself included, deep down feel there is such a thing as truth. And that it matters when it’s spoken, even if no one listens. When you see an expert, someone with access to the facts, what they say sounds like a lot of dark Balinese magic, perhaps. But we’re aware that’s […]

Why the Crisis of Expertise Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

These days, sitting at McDonalds, it is possible to consume virtually every possible point of view on just about anything before you’re halfway through your burger. Economist Tyler Cowen estimates that the single biggest recent change in Western life has been the dramatic decline in the cost and inconvenience of getting information. Yet, as ellen rhymes points out, just the very high […]

The Fallacy of Origins and How to Be Less Wrong

Chris has grown up in an extremely religious family and as a result he grows a strong faith in God as well. Katie’s parents are politically liberal and she has been exposed to many of their arguments. As a result, she shares a lot of typically liberal beliefs. Caleb comes from southern USA and develops […]

What’s Wrong with “True Enough”?

Long before alt-right was born, studies had already shown truth isn’t so important to most people. Psychologists since Freud have argued humans construct views of themselves and of the world and they experience potentially crippling anxiety when these constructions are threatened. As such, “rationality” is frequently hijacked by adefense motivation: the “desire to hold attitudes and beliefs congruent with existing self-definitional attitudes and […]

Human Nature Is Created, Not Discovered

Barry Schwartz is one of the most interesting thinkers of our time. He is most famous for his work on The Paradox of Choice.Where conventional wisdom tells us that more possibilities is better, Schwartz makes a compelling case that the abundance of choice in today’s western world is actually making us worse off. Infinite choice is paralyzing, Schwartz argues, and exhausting to […]

How Can Stories Be So Powerful?

A lot has been said recently about narratives. If you are at all interested in how humans understand reality, the term seems to show up everywhere Their omnipresence is well-deserved. Stories are unique devices for making sense of the world. It’s how our brains work. As cognitive scientist Mark Tuner has said: “Narrative imagining — story — is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities depend upon it. It is our chief […]

Christmas Essay: Why Objectivity Is Still A Thing

‘Maarten, what do you want to do for Christmas?’, I asked myself a while ago. My answer: I would like to try write an essay about something that has been bothering me for a long time now. (Yeah, I know I’m weird.) I promise it will change the way you look at our society. It […]

The Problems of Science: What We Do to Things When We Study Them

ver the last two centuries, science has become more modest in its epistemological presumptions. After the failure of logical positivism, cracks appearing in the analytic project, and relatively recent discoveries such as the theory-ladenness of human perception, its original aim of mapping reality as it is independent of human cognizers seems to be as elusive as […]