Response to David Brooks, July 1 2016
Mr. Brooks's last statement, "if facts still matter," is at the crux of the political dilemma facing virtually all democratic countries. To those who support Mr. Trump, facts as Mr. Brooks and I understand them really don't matter. Nobelist Daniel Kahneman explained that we all think in two incommensurate ways, which he called fast thinking and slow thinking. Fast thinking is instinctive, emotional, and instantaneous; it's what saved our ancestors from poisonous foods and dangerous animals, and helps account for the grace of extraordinary athletes. Slow thinking is reasoning from facts, and we use it to solve complex problems like how best to plant crops, how to navigate city streets, or how to win a war. When people vote, those who operate in fast think mode are highly susceptible to emotional appeals and conjecture-based thinking. A "fact" for them is a plausible assertion stated repeatedly, loudly, and with certainty, the way Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump do it. Facts as Brooks and I would understand them are assertions based on verified observation or logical reasoning. If not presented to fast think voters in the emotionally effective way that Limbaugh, Trump, and others like them use, these assertions mean little or nothing. The coming elections in the US, France, and the Netherlands will be decided by whether fast thought or slow thought voters predominate.