We live in a society that values and prioritises social bonding, while providing lip service to intellectualism (and often times deploring it).
Seemingly intellectual questions are asked and tackled in social settings. However, the main purpose of such transactions appears to be a collective indulgence in the emotions evoked by probing areas of the brain (mind) *, analogous to the communal eating of a chocolate cake. Favoured questions are of the kind “What is true (sic**) love?”, which offer maximum juice from squeezing the touchy-feely centres of a mind. The name of the game is to play with the cognitive tools that are at our disposal to engage in a joyful (not necessarily pleasurable) wallowing in the titillations*** provoked by the analysis, and there is no actual effort to get at an answer. For example, if a deviant offers a fundamental neuroscientific attempt to honestly answer the above question, he/she is cast as a killjoy (- which demonstrates the game-nature of the transaction.)
This norm leads to positive reinforcement of social bonding at the cost of intellectual integrity ****. People routinely* demonstrate tendencies to form social bonds. It doesn’t take much (little things like shared gossip, sense of humour, fashion-sense, common joke-targets, willingness to participate in fake discussions such as the above and so on) to establish and sustain a social bond. Intellectual support structures are a lot rarer to come by*****.
Intellectual integrity consists in sticking your neck out, saying something that you are honestly attempting to explore and understand to your best capability. It consists in saying things which are extremely likely to be misconstrued, and while knowing this factoid as well. It consists in saying things that reflect your best expression of your current understanding, which may be exposed as untrue upon further deliberation and fact-seeking (aka google-searching). It consists in saying unpopular things that you hold true, and in losing the popularity contest of social bonding.
Not saying something meaningful – for it cannot be backed up by a mountain of data, or maybe disproved later, or it takes away social brownie points, or it is (“only”) a (meaningful) generalization – is losing perspective of this.
* Generalizations are not evil. Generalizations are intended to convey information, and to encourage thinking along a direction. It is valueless to point out that generalizations have exceptions.
** “the real world”, “true happiness”, “true friendship” — these and scores of similar loosely used terms (very often, incorrectly*) assume i. the existence of their opposites, and ii. your compliance in accepting point i.
*** Use of written language is another example. Some writers get so lost in their wallowing in the ornamental possibilities that a language offers, that they pay a lot of attention to asking high-flying questions and setting up beautiful sounding phraseology and conundrums, and lose track of meanings that need to be conveyed. This is equivalent to getting charmed by the gift-wrapper, and never getting to the (presumably more valuable) present within.
**** Social bonding and intellectual integrity are not inherently at odds. It is the transactions we set up, and the attitudes we adopt that make it appear that way.
***** Intellectual support when offered is rarely recognized, is spurned, viewed as threatening, evangelical, hubristic, or offered for ulterior purposes such as status-building.