Given these two diverging views, I was curious about the evidence for each side. But I was disappointed in how little evidence the article presented. In fact, it presented no evidence at all! I've decided the article is a self-referential parody.
The article instead talks about how resilient cognitive biases are.
Mr. Mercier, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, contends that attempts to rid people of biases have failed because reasoning does exactly what it is supposed to do: help win an argument.If cognitive biases are adaptive this does not imply that they are harder to be rid of. If cognitive biases represent limitations of evolution, this does not imply that they are easier to be rid of.
“People have been trying to reform something that works perfectly well,” he said, “as if they had decided that hands were made for walking and that everybody should be taught that.”Never mind that no evidence has been put forward for argumentative theory, let's march onwards to even more questionable conclusions! In this case, the inference is that if we're adapted for something, we better not mess with what nature wants.
Later, the article gets into the political implications of argumentative theory.
Because “individual reasoning mechanisms work best when used to produce and evaluate arguments during a public deliberation,” Mr. Mercier and Ms. Landemore, as a practical matter, endorse the theory of deliberative democracy...I'm not sure what this has to do with argumentative theory at all, but then, we don't even know whether argumentative theory is true or not, so what does it matter?
The NY Times article does cite its original source, which is a hundred-page paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. I not willing to read this paper, so I will remain agnostic as to whether the lack of evidence is NY Times' fault, or the scientists' fault. However, my boyfriend was trying to read the paper earlier, and said it was merely a review of evidence for cognitive biases, without any evidence that these are adaptive. There is additional hearsay from Massimo Pigliucci, who says, "The first substantive thing to notice about the paper is that there isn’t a single new datum to back up the central hypothesis."
I could write a rant about panadaptationism, but then it's not like these rants are in short supply.