Can human minds be educated so that we always prefer the relentless pursuit of evidence and unyielding arguments to comforting and easy falsehoods? That is surely an empirical question. Unfortunately, many of the foibles of human reasoning exploited by the masters of propaganda and marketing turn out to be rather robust. On the other hand, there is a growing body of evidence that at least some of our foibles do disappear when matters are rightly framed. This is a complex subject to which I won't even try to do justice here. The temporary bottom line is that we just don't know decisively how much education can achieve in correcting the cognitive foibles that make us all so vulnerable to the masters of manipulation. Moreover, our educational institutions being what they are are controlled by who they are controlled by, I doubt that education alone will ever supplant the need for wide-scale social reforms that redistribute and reconfigure the means of public communication and representation.
Thursday, 20 October 2005