Truth or Reputation?
I continue to read the excellent book The Righteous Mind. He is telling people things they don’t want to hear, so he has to proceed cautiously, one step at a time. He refers to the results of many researchers, as a scientist must, but for a non-scientist this gets tiresome.
He is absolutely right, however, to do this, because social scientists have sometimes disgraced their profession – without being aware of it in the least. Just by chance, I am also watching the movie Project Nim, about how a chimp was raised as a human, taught to use sign language, only to be abandoned and used in medical research, which killed him. The moral justification for his expensive training program (where he sometimes became violent) was extremely doubtful, and proved nothing.
Page Six, which ends a chapter of the book, ends with this question “Which was more important for our ancestor’s survival: knowing the truth or having a good reputation?” A later sub-heading gives the answer:
We lie, cheat, and justify so well that we honestly believe we are honest.
Being able to impress people is much more important knowing the truth – which is almost irrelevant. The scientists in Project Nim were more interested in impressing other scientists than in knowing the truth. And this is what makes the movie so interesting.