Sunday, January 28, 2018

Brief blurts about tribes and tribalism in America — Steven Pinker via Thomas Edsall

Thomas Edsall’s article on “Is President Trump a Stealth Postmodernist or Just a Liar?”(Jan 2018) observes that “If postmodernism does not account for Trump’s bludgeoning of the truth, what does? A field that provides insight into the Trump phenomenon is evolutionary theory.”

Edsall then quotes from Steven Pinker:
"Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard and author of the forthcoming book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress,” emailed me his thoughts:
“The answer lies in raw tribalism: when someone is perceived as a champion of one’s coalition, all is forgiven. The same is true for opinions: a particular issue can become a sacred value, shibboleth, or affirmation of allegiance to one’s team, and its content no longer matters. This is part of a growing realization in political psychology that tribalism has been underestimated in our understanding of politics, and ideological coherence and political and scientific literacy overestimated.”
“Once tribalism becomes embedded in the political system, Pinker wrote,
“the full ingenuity of human cognition is recruited to valorize the champion and shore up the sacred beliefs. You can always dismiss criticism as being motivated by the bias of one’s enemies. Our cognitive and linguistic faculties are endlessly creative — that’s what makes our species so smart — and that creativity can be always deployed to reframe issues in congenial or invidious terms.”
Edsall then goes on to say:
“If tribalism has begun to supplant traditional partisanship, their argument suggests, lying in politics will metastasize as traditional constraints continue to fall by the wayside."

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