Say “I Don’t Know” More Often

Most topics are ones where either we hardly know anything or where we think know so much that we are very confident. Funny thing: regardless of the topic of discussion— whether we are uninformed or knowledgeable on it — when someone asks for our view, most of us can’t resist the urge. Many of us, my past […]

Why Truth Doesn’t Change People’s Minds (and What Does)

Today, everyone can get more information than ever. Paradoxically, this has made the truth less — not more — accessible. As ‘information’ became ideological, ‘the facts’ can no longer referee disagreements but are themselves contested. It’s easier than ever before for someone to live in a world built of his own ‘facts’. You might say: what happened to us? Why do facts not […]

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 […]

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 […]

How Wrong Ideas about Knowledge Can Ruin Decisions

Let’s do a quiz! What do these things have in common? My happiness level; The job performance of a knowledge worker; The societal engagement of young people; How democratic a country is. Well? ‘Things’ like happiness, job performance, democracy, and societal engagement don’t exist in a concrete sense. You can’t see or touch a happiness-particle or a democracy-atom. The things […]

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 […]

Evolution And The Myth Of The Selfish Human

Why do people do good things? Answer: “Because they benefit, stupid!” It hardly seems an exaggeration to say that it’s a truism in Western culture that human beings are self-interested animals driven by a desire to maximize pleasure or wealth or reproductive advantage. Many people just accept that this is how humans are and that they can’t be otherwise. […]

So You Think Capitalism Is Evil

Everywhere I go, I’m within earshot of someone ranting about capitalism. How it’s to blame for all the issues in the world — and in the angry person’s life. Inevitably, others will join in and before I realize it I’m in the middle of a Capitalism-Fucked-The-World-Up support group. If you give the same reason for every issue — global […]

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 […]