arguing is natural

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A recent article in ‘New Scientist’ (‘The Argumentative Ape’, 26 May 2012) looks at the idea that humans have evolved as a species in which arguing (making a case) is an essential feature of the way in which we interact with each other. ‘Providing and evaluating reasons is fundamental to the success of human communities.’ However, as the article shows, we’re not necessarily very good at evaluating reasoning or making choices between alternatives. For example, we can’t usefully choose between options when making purchases (and we often buy things with more features than we need). But notable evidence for many people’s worrying inabilities to reason well is the popularity of newspapers that show very, very poor reasoning (which people presumably believe). Perhaps critical thinking needs to be seen as making a contribution to the continuing evolutionary development of the human species…

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