Despite assumptions to the contrary, people are not fundamentally rational. Research shows that when disagreements arise, appeals to rational standards, facts, or statistics can often polarize people more. When people feel threatened or cornered by the evidence, rather than conceding, they often kick debates into the moral sphere, where claims become much more difficult to falsify. In these instances, empirical evidence not only loses most of its force, but even arguments appealing to rivals’ own perceived interests can backfire.
These strategies summarize how to approach moral disagreements in constructive ways. HxA members and other heterodox enthusiasts who wish to help their students engage in open inquiry and constructive disagreement can use these strategies to build mutual understanding and have better conversations on difficult issues.