Help from Sam Harris fans

Total Posts:  1
Joined  26-12-2017
26 December 2017 12:21


I am hoping someone might be able to help with something Sam said in an old podcast. I can’t remember which one it was but hopefully my explanation will be enough for someone to recognise it. It went something like this:

Sam was explaining that people have an ability to very quickly form a plausible explanation for questions that they have never really considered. The example he used in the podcast was something like ‘will humans ever outgrow their tendency towards violence?’  The point is that this is an example of something that one would never have even heard before yet most people will be able to quickly reply with something that sounds plausible (but not necessarily correct). Sam explained that someone could just as easily jump to ‘yes they will outgrow their tendency towards violence because…’ or ‘no they they will never outgrow their tendency towards violence because…’ The quick speed at which someone could craft together a reasonable sounding answer is because they haven’t actually thought about it (how could they? They’ve never even heard the question before). Whichever way they jump will both sound equally (superficially) plausible. The extension to this (I think) is that this split second jump to an answer then becomes their opinion on this topic from that moment on which they will wish to defend - despite the fact that they came to that opinion on the basis of no thinking time.

My understanding is that, for evolutionary reasons, humans are actually very good at making split second decisions (and being right about the decisions) because survival would depend on this. This tendency, good for surviving, is not so useful if you are trying to get at the truth of something and that something requires some serious critical consideration. I often feel people are vigorously defending positions that they haven’t properly considered and that their natural ability for debating hides the fact that they haven’t really thought about it.

So I was wondering:

1) Have I got that explanation about right?
2) Does this tendency have a name? I find it fascinating and want to read more into it
3) Can anyone remember the podcast episode that Sam discusses this in? Do you know if Sam has written anything on it?

Many thanks to anyone who can help.