Why Don’t People Listen to Your Reasoning?

by Bill Pratt

Christian apologists try to convince other people that Christianity is true (all Christians are supposed to be doing this, by the way). We have excellent arguments and we have powerful evidence from philosophy, science, and history to support those arguments. That is why Christian apologetics is in a golden age. Yet, more often than not, these arguments fall on deaf ears. Why?

Meet Daniel Kahneman. He is a world-renowned, Nobel-prize-winning psychologist who wrote a book called Thinking Fast and Slow. The book argues that there are two systems operating in your mind: system 1 and system 2. Kahneman describes the two systems as follows:

System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.

Here are some of the activities attributed to system 1:

  • Detect that one object is more distant than another.
  • Orient to the source of a sudden sound.
  • Complete the phrase “bread and…”
  • Make a “disgust face” when shown a horrible picture.
  • Detect hostility in a voice.
  • Answer to 2 + 2 = ?
  • Read words on large billboards.
  • Drive a car on an empty road.
  • Find a strong move in chess (if you are a chess master).
  • Understand simple sentences.
  • Recognize that a “meek and tidy soul with a passion for detail” resembles an occupational stereotype.

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Here are some activities attributed to system 2:

  • Brace for the starter gun in a race.
  • Focus attention on the clowns in the circus.
  • Focus on the voice of a particular person in a crowded and noisy room.
  • Look for a woman with white hair.
  • Search memory to identify a surprising sound.
  • Maintain a faster walking speed than is natural for you.
  • Monitor the appropriateness of your behavior in a social situation.
  • Count the occurrences of the letter a in a page of text.
  • Tell someone your phone number.
  • Park in a narrow space (for most people except garage attendants).
  • Compare two washing machines for overall value.
  • Fill out a tax form.
  • Check the validity of a complex logical argument.

Before I proceed, I want to point out that most apologists are trying to interact with system 2 and not system 1. All of our arguments generally require the person we are communicating with to activate their system 2…


Why Don’t People Listen to Your Reasoning? | Tough Questions Answered