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« Political psychology according to Krugman: A degenerative research programme if ever I saw one ... | Main | "Is politically motivated reasoning rational?" A fragment ... »
Monday
Sep012014

"Krugman's 'magic motivated reasoning mirror' show"-- I've stopped watching but not trying to learn from reflective people who still are 

So here is an interesting thing to discuss. 

A commenter on the What's to explain? Kulkarni on "knowing disbelief" post made an interesting connection between “knowing disbelief” (KD) and the “asymmetry thesis.”  The occasion for his comment, it’s apparent, was not or not only the Kulkarni post but rather something he saw on the show “Paul Krugman & the Magic Motivated Reasoning Mirror,” in every episode of which Krugman looks in the mirror & sees the images of those who disagree with him & never himself. 

There are lots of episodes—almost as many as in Breaking Bad or 24.  Consider: 

But the "Krugman's magic motivated reasoning mirror show" is way too boring, too monotonous, too predictable.  

I’ve stopped watching – hence didn’t even bother to say anything about the most recent episode or the one before that.

But the commentator had a really interesting point that wasn’t monotonous and that far from being predictable is bound up with things that I’m feeling quite uncertain about recently. So I’ve “promoted” his comment & my response to "full post status" -- & invite others to weigh in.

Mitch:

I think that this discussion skips over what is really interesting here - and which actually can be connected to what Krugman was talking about when he was so derided on this blog.

Let's consider the yellow population on the right-hand side of this chart. As presented here, these are people who are of well-above-average scientific understanding. They are therefore presumably aware of the truly vast array of evidence that supports the proposition that the earth is not 10,000 years old and that today's living creatures are descended from ancestors that were of different species.

Despite this, many in this group answer false to the first question posed (and presumably many also to the question, "True or false, the age of the earth is about 4.5 billion years").

Now this raises the question "Is there any question on which the blue population displays a like disregard of the scientific evidence of which they're aware?"

This question cannot be answered by the sorts of experiments I've seen on this blog. Having read at this point a good number of the posts, what I have seen demonstrated here is that people's minds do work in the same way - and that nobody likes to hear evidence that contradicts their beliefs. However, the question being asked is different - how is this way-of-the-mind playing out in practice by yellow and blue groups on the right-hand side of the chart?

My belief (and evidenly Krugman's as well) is that *at the present moment in the US* there in fact is no symmetry. These two groups believe quite differently - one generally aligning with the scientific consensus and the other not.

I think this is a pretty reasonable question, not worthy of derision.

September 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter

Me: 

@Mitch:

A. I agree the question -- of asymmetry -- is not worthy of derision. Derision, though, is worthy of derision, particularly when it assumes an answer to the question & evinces a stubborn refusal to engage with contrary evidence. There are many who subscribe to the the "asymmetry thesis" who are serious and open-minded people just trying to figure things out. Krugman isn't in that category. He is an illiberal zealot & an embarrassment to critically reasoning people of all cultural & political outlooks.

B. The point you raise is for sure getting at what is "interesting here" more than most of the other other comments on this & related posts. Thanks for pointing out the KD/asymmetry connection.... (But note that it it would actually be a mistake to conflate NSF "human evolution disbelievers" w/ "young earth creationists"--the latter make up only a subset of former.)

C. I admit (as I have plainly stated) that I find the relationship between KD & cultural cognition & like mechanisms unclear & even disorienting & unsettling. But I think conflating the whole lot would be a huge error. There are many forms of cultural cognition that don't reflect KD. It's also not clear -- to me at least -- that KD necessarily aggravates the pernicious aspects of cultural cognition. As in the case of the Pakistani Dr -- & the SE Floridians who don't believe in climate change but who use evidence of it for collective decisionmaking -- my hunch is that it is a resource that can be used to counteract illiberal forms of status competition that prevent diverse democratic citizens from converging on valid decision-relevant science.  Rather than extracting empty, ritualistic statements of "belief in" one or the other side's tribal symbol, the point of collective exchange should be to enable acquisition and use of genuine knowledge. It works in the classroom for teaching evolution, so why not use the same sort of approach in the town hall meeting (start there; work your way up) to get something done on climate? Take a look at The Measurement Problem & you'll see where I'm coming from. And if you see where it would make more sense for me to go instead, I'm all ears.

D. But while waiting for anything more you might say on this, let me try to put KD aside -- as I have indicated, I am using the "compartmentalization" strategy for now --& come back to Kruggie's "asymmetry thesis challenge" (made in the last episode of "PK's Magic Motivated Reasoning Mirror" that I bothered watching).

Krugman asks "what is the liberal equivalent of climate change for conservatives?"

Well, what does he mean exactly? If he means an example of an issue in which critical engagement with evidence on a consequential issue is being distorted by cultural cognition, the answer is ... climate change.

Just as there's abundant evidence that most of those who say they "believe in" evolution don't understand natural selection, random mutation & genetic variance (the elements of the modern synthesis in evolutionary science), the vast majority of those who say they "believe in" global warming don't genuinely get the most basic mechanisms of cliamte change (same for "nonbelievers" in both cases-- correlations between believing & understanding the evidence are zero).

It's actually okay to accept what one can't understand: in order to live well-- or just live--people need to accept as known by science much  more than they have time or capacity to comprehend! To make use of science, people use a rational faculty exquisitely calibrated to discerning who actually knows what science knows & who is full of shit.

But here's what's not okay: there's abundant evidence that those on both sides of the climate debate-- "believer" as well as "nonbeliver"--are now using their "what does science know" recognition faculty in a biased way that fits all evidence to their cultural predispositions.

That means that we have a real problem in our science communication environment--one that everyone regardless of cultural outlook has a stake in fixing.

So maybe you can see why I think it is very noxious—a sign of lack of civic virtue as well as critical reasoning ability-- to keep insisting that a conflict like climate change is a consequence of one side being "stupid" or "unreasoning" when it can be shown that both sides are processing information in the same way?  Why doing that is stupid & illiberal, and actually makes things worse by reinforcing the signals of cultural conflict that are themselves poisoning our "who knows what science knows" reasoning faculty

Do you think I'm missing something here?

 

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Reader Comments (28)

When it comes to climate change in particular, I think that we need to look more closely at two classes of people who are likely, at least outwardly to deny climate change, and how the wealthier of those influences decision making by the second. I don't think that this has to do so much with anything much more than "Its the economy, stupid".

First, one of Krugman's favorite topics, the oligarchy. Type 1%: I know, but I don't care. Because with wealth, comes the ability to live anywhere on the planet, and maybe beyond. Type 2 is the working class, they may at least suspect also, but they need a job now, and figures that the rest of later can wait until later to work out.

Case study, Bellingham, Washington:
At this point in time this Russian coal baron has his yacht, and presumably himself, parked in Bellingham Bay: http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/Mega-yacht-arrives-in-Elliott-By-5722118.php He might have an interest in coal port terminal negotiations here, or perhaps it is just an exotic vacation. He is unlikely, I would imagine, to be overly perturbed by sea level rise.

Meanwhile, at the Bellingham shipyard, Shell Oil's Arctic Challenger is gearing up for another run at deep sea arctic oil extraction, for which polar ice would seem to me to be somewhat of a screw up: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/29/business/shell-submits-a-plan-for-new-alaskan-arctic-oil-exploration.html?_r=0

Nearby is the site of Bellingham's former Georgia Pacific Papermill sold to the Port of Bellingham for $10 and remediation, as I understand it, to be covered by an AIG insurance policy. There are hearings ongoing on regarding that now. What happens depends on a whole series of decisions as to what is determined to be "reasonable and practicable". It could be affected by sea level rise and being in an earthquake and volcano zone, not to mention failures at complete remediation, mercury being among the contaminants of concern. But by then this group would be, I presume, long time gone. Thus, AIG, whose stock is rising, may come out ahead. Which is, after all how insurance companies plan for things to operate, overall, when they give out insurance policies.

Waiting in the wings is an Irish developer, promising pretty fanciness on the site:
Before: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/02/19/3484909_port-of-bellingham-commission.html?rh=1
Hypothetical after: http://www.portofbellingham.com/documentcenter/view/2606 with some sticky points as to financial structures.

And on the other side, the working class of Bellingham, who once had good jobs in the paper mill and related wood products industries. And for whom the paper mill air and water pollution and related possible health issues was passed off as the "smell of money".

This is pretty much the same scenario as happened here earlier with the bountiful salmon and timberlands.

Some of us may think, that as a planet wide phenomena climate change really is significantly different.

But is the issue really one of failing to explain things to Type 2's or being too complicit in failing to rein in Type 1's?

September 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

As someone else has pointed out on Krugman's comment thread, and as I agreed with them then, the clearest mirror issue to climate change is GMO safety. US liberals tend to disagree with the broad scientific consensus that GMOs are safe, just as US conservatives tend to disagree with the broad scientific consensus that climate change is dangerous.

September 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdypoon

@dypoon --Well, I have to disagree... "GM food is to the left what climate is to right" is a meme the origins and perpetuation of which someone should study

September 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

==> "US liberals tend to disagree with the broad scientific consensus that GMOs are safe,"

What is your evidence? Dan has shown a good bit of evidence that there is little evidence of polarization around the issue of GMOs in the U.S. Perhaps still, despite no strong polarization, there is a "tendency" as you describe, but what is your evidence? Anything other than anecdotal?

And even if you do have empirical evidence of that tendency, it seems unlikely that it would be close to a "mirror' of the broad disagreement among conz to the prevalence of opinion among "experts" on climate change.

Not that I think that there is any asymmetry in tendency towards motivated reasoning across the political aisle. I see no reason why the cognitive and psychological underlying mechanisms of motivated reasoning would be disproportionately operational in people of different political/world view orientation. They underlying mechanisms are found in all humans.

But the argument that there is no asymmetry can't validly rest on false equivalencies.

September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

GMOs are not "safe". Like any other advances in science and technology that safety depends on how the advances are applied. Using this technology to enable the application of herbicides directly to food crops is a highly questionable "advancement". Instead of more efficiently killing the weeds we could be working to making food crops more like weeds, resilient and resourceful (but also tastier of course).

I think that what Big Ag is looking for is an unregulated playing field that maximizes profits.
I think that what Big Oil & Coal is looking for is quite similar.
They use their media clout to enhance framing the debate in manners which satisfy their objectives and maintain their position.

Both Big Ag and Big Oil & Coal can, when it is to their interest, be quite scientific. I think that their PR departments, for example, understand cultural cognition better than the rest of us..

I think that one thing that links both the GMO battles with that of climate change is the way that simplistic code words can come to replace actual battles. Many anti-GMO activists will, if you dig down, get to the point that they admit that their real battle is a bigger one, having to do with sustainable and small scale agriculture. GMO is then a point of leverage. The real battle might be with King Corn.

Other points of leverage exist. If you don't want to have a prairie develped, find a Preebles mouse. If you don't want to have a forest cut down find a spotted owl. Fighting at this level is not the same as fighting about ecosystems, but it works to protect ecosystems a bit anyway.

Similarly, I have heard individual local NE Washington raspberry growers express adamant opposition to the concept of climate change. And they vote for candidates who support those views: http://capitolrecord.tvw.org/tag/sen-doug-erickson// This is odd because these growers did not always produce 40% of the nations commercial raspberry crop. A rainy August, even with the best of modern herbicides could be highly detrimental to teh crop. And Bellingham iis an historically very rainy place. IMHO what they are really talking about is independence. I want to do what I want to do and I don't want the governent tielling me not to do it.

This example also demonstrates why Big Oil & Coal are sliding from a posture of climate denial to one that claims we can cope with it. If funding climate denial is still useful in attracting the support of certain politicians or demographic grougs, well they can still do that too.

September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Gaythia,

That's an interesting viewpoint. Although from my perspective, it seems to me that the 1% tend to be the followers rather than leaders in this.

That follows from the economics, too. It's only the rich and prosperous that can afford 'Green' alternatives. It's only the rich who can buy their way out of problems. As you say, a billionaire has no need to be overly perturbed by sea level rise - nor does he need to worry personally about higher gas prices, lower wages, fewer jobs, higher food prices, regulations, restrictions, or loss of business. Even if you shut all his businesses down completely, he could still live off his savings for the next thousand years. Why should he care?

The poor, however, are utterly dependent on the industrial world for their very survival; for being lifted up out of a serfdom always on the cusp of famine and disease. We rely on cheap energy. We rely on chemical fertilizers. We rely on industrial processes - furnaces and factories and machinery. We rely on cars, trucks, aeroplanes, and ships. We rely on the brains that run them all, that make this complex system possible. We rely on the network of businesses and dealers and bankers and traders who organise it. We'd be dead without it.

The Type 1% know it. They understand how it works, and how reliant the existence of modern soicety is on it. The working class of the old school know it too. Or at least, they understand that you have to produce to survive, that you need the businesses run by the 1% to create the jobs, to produce the goods for people to buy in the shops, and to pay the taxes that keep the government running. They're the people standing behind the scenery, where they can see the machinery working it all. They're the ones who know the technical details, who know how incredibly hard it is to get things to work right.

The people who don't understand it are those whose jobs (or lack of them) have taken them away from the backstage workings, who live in a world where goods appear in the shops by magic, and where the government has an endless supply of money, and they live in nice parks and houses paid for by other people. These are the people who think it would be so much nicer if we didn't have those horrible factories belching out smoke and pollution, and those horrible rich people hogging all the best stuff for no discernible reason. Or at least, none they can see.

And wouldn't the world be nicer if they shut down all the factories and just had parks and gardens, and at the same time they made all those rich people pay them higher wages and pay more taxes so the government could distribute it to everyone fairly, and everyone could have all the stuff they want.

And with their worldview, it's pretty easy for them to believe that those factories are messing up the planet, and the world is overcrowded (filling up the parks and open countryside with their houses and mess), and that heartless capitalists are ripping out the last of the Earth's resources for their own profit. It's pretty easy to sell them the line that the experts have said so. They're not going to question the assumptions or evidence too closely. Why bother when it's so obviously true?

This is pretty much the same scenario as happened here earlier with the overpopulation scare, the running-out-of-food scare, the pesticides scare, the running-out-of-coal scare, the food additives scare, the running-out-of-oil scare, the nuclear radiation scare, the acid rain scare, the plastic bag scare, the running-out-of-holes-in-the-ground-for-landfill scare, the running-out-of-phosphorus-and-potassium-and-rare-earth-metals-and-water-and-trees-and-polar-bears scare, and so on. The end-of-the-world scenario has always been a planetwide phenomenon.

But is the issue really one of failing to explain things to them? It seems to me we've often explained it, each and every time another apocalypse story comes around. Maybe it's that nobody is listening?

September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Dan: I didn't know that you had data already! I stand massively corrected. In the GMO risk vs. Lib/Con plot, |r| = 0.15 isn't very strong at all, likely representing an indirect effect. At p < 0.01, we're not seeing a phantom, but it's a real effect that explains only 2% of the variance, haha... What signal there is does come mostly from the relatively low numbers of identified liberals who think that there is low or no risk associated with GMOs, and I'm sure that you could find a range of x- and y-thresholds along which you could divide the population and get a significant result from a chi-squared test of independence, but it's not a strong signal compared to the baseline distribution of American attitudes.

In fact, it looks to me that liberals and conservatives are equally clueless about exactly what the scientific consensus is on GMOs, because most people across the board think the risk is high. I agree with you now - the reason why this issue doens't "mirror" the politicization of climate change is because the pot is calling the kettle black - by and large, conservatives don't perceive GMO risk to be lower, and aren't listening to the scientists -either-. As it stands, this doesn't represent an equivalent issue at all, and the original asymmetry stands...

@Joshua: Honestly? I'm probably just projecting my frustration with the ignorance of the scientific consensus position from people whom I think ought to know better. The part of the GW risk vs. GMO risk plot that I occupy, the upper left hand column, (which represents the scientific consensus position) is certainly very sparse. That result fully corresponds with my personal experience. It's a really uncommon position, especially in the circles I run in - I work with new, small farmers and local food system activists. I thought that the depletion effect around my own position would be strong enough to drive the correlation in the whole population, but instead, the most surprising thing about Dan's data to me is that the opposite corner is actually pretty well-occupied. I don't think I've ever met a person who cared about GMO risk but not about GW risk, and yet the data say they exist, so I am wrong.

@Gaythia: "I think that one thing that links both the GMO battles with that of climate change is the way that simplistic code words can come to replace actual battles. Many anti-GMO activists will, if you dig down, get to the point that they admit that their real battle is a bigger one, having to do with sustainable and small scale agriculture. GMO is then a point of leverage. The real battle might be with King Corn." Totally agree with this.

September 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdypoon

@dypoon--

Definitely people are clueless:

American consumers’ knowledge and awareness of GM foods are low. More than half (54%) say they know very little or nothing at all about genetically modified foods, and one in four (25%) say they have never heard of them.

Before introducing the idea of GM foods, the survey participants were asked simply ”What information would you like to see on food labels that is not already on there?” In response, most said that no additional information was needed on food labels. Only 7% of respondents raised GM food labeling on their own. . . .

Only about a quarter (26%) of Americans realize that current regulations do not require GM products to be labeled.

Hallman, W., Cuite, C. & Morin, X. Public Perceptions of Labeling Genetically Modified Foods. Rutgers School of Environ. Sci. Working Paper 2013-2001.

"Cluleless" is also how I interpret the middling mean on my 0-7 scale-- when people don't know what something is, they tend to be a bit afraid on avg but mainly all over the map. (Actually, even when they know what something is, I think the mean is meaningless; the industrial strength measure is good for identifying sources of variance in perception of known risks but nothing else.)

Take a look at Jason Delbourne's cool post on why it's really awful for researchers to present survey results as meaningful under such circumstances.

September 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Yes, I do think you're missing something. With all due respect, I think you have changed the subject back to the one you want to discuss, and not the one I was asking about.

I am specifically asking about the two populations on the *right* of the graph. These are the people who *do* have enough evidence to make a fairly good judgement about the evidence for evolution. (And no, I am not conflating disbelief in evolution with belief in a young earth - I said "many".) They *do* understand genetics and natural selection and are aware of the evidence supporting the theory of evolution, but they nonetheless reject it.

The comparible people on the climate change graph have a pretty good understanding of the science - maybe not enough to make a climate model but enough to assess the care with which the scientific case is being made. They can distinguish the repeated talking points used by the climate skeptics/deniers from the reasoned analysis made by the IPCC (for example) - and yet they choose to believe the former. They also know how the scientific process works, and yet they reject its output.

Therefore - it is not really correct to say that climate change for the (political) left is the same as climate change for the right. It is possibly a reasonable argument to make that claim with respect to the people in the middle or left of the (climate change version of) this graph. But that isn't what I was discussing.

I am still interested in your answer to the question as posed.

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMitch Golden

"The compar[a]ble people on the climate change graph have a pretty good understanding of the science - maybe not enough to make a climate model but enough to assess the care with which the scientific case is being made. They can distinguish the repeated talking points used by the climate skeptics/deniers from the reasoned analysis made by the IPCC (for example) - and yet they choose to believe the former. They also know how the scientific process works, and yet they reject its output. Therefore - it is not really correct to say that climate change for the (political) left is the same as climate change for the right."

The problem is that it is the same, in the sense that the right have a parallel interpretation and ask exactly the same questions about the left. The most scientifically literate on the left can certainly distinguish solid, mathematically-based arguments from transparent logical fallacies, and yet they choose to believe the latter. The literate left also know how the scientific process works, but they ignore it being routinely violated and ignored by climate scientists. The right don't see any symmetry either.

This was the basic problem with Krugman's argument. It fails to follow through the implications of Dan's results - that people suffer from subconscious cognitive biases that can cause them to be wrong while confidently believing that they are right, and do so equally on both sides of the political divide - and applying them properly to his own side.

Obviously if a typical liberal compares the shibboleth beliefs of both sides with the truth as perceived by himself, he will find all the liberal beliefs to be true and all the conservative beliefs to be false. This is not a surprise. It will happen whether liberals are right or wrong.

But given Dan's scientific result that the cognitive biases go both ways, the probability of it going the same way every time are minuscule. The implication is obvious. On about half the issues, the liberals think they're right when they're not. That's what the science says. Nevertheless, liberals are ignoring or denying this clear scientific result, although they can quite clearly see that their own beliefs are in conflict with it, and indeed find it a puzzlement.

This isn't exactly an example of the mirror issue you asked for, because conservatives generally reject this bit of science too. But roughly half of the battleground issues will be good examples - unfortunately it's not easy to determine specifically which ones.

Dan doesn't emphasise this implication, for obvious reasons. Nor the one that follows from noting that the more scientifically literate are more biased, and there's nobody more scientifically literate than scientists. But that doesn't mean they're not true.

Of course, Dan might be wrong - good science is always open to challenge. The challenge for the critic as always is to spot the gap in his reasoning.

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Mitch:

What you are intersested in is interesting.

If you tink that's what Krugman is interested in, fine. The only thing I ever see him doing is seizing on any evidence on motivated reasoning, including evidene specifically geared to showing symmetry, and treating it as evidence that the reason people diisagree with him is that they are stupid. That makes him an asshole, in my view.

But who cares what he thinks? Let's talk about what you think-- or in any case, I'll try harder to see if I can connect.

A. I don't know what's "fair." I think any version of the "whose is bigger" question is pointless b/c there is enough distortion of reasoning on all sides to make the problem one that everyone--regardless of outlook--has a stake in fixing.

B. What I thought was most interesting about your comment was the KD-motivated reasoning nexus. I don't knkow if there are "left" issues that display this profile, but I think the range of examples -- from mistaken brush fire expert to closeted gay to Iraqi Dr -- makes it implausible to see the phenomenon as connected distinctively to politics.

C. As I tried to indicate in my last C., I don't think it's obvious that the "dualism" variant is a source of political conflict.

In the case of evolution, my guess is that the people who correctly answerw "Evolution" when it is disentangled from religious identity include many people who use such knowledge, including scienitsts who happen to be religious. IN that case, it's the people telling them there is soemthig wrong w/ what they are doing who are more likely to be causing conflict -- or at least needlessly interfereing w/ the project to educate people in evolutionary science & science generally.

Similarly, if I'm right about SE Fla, then again it is a mistake to make politics be about "belief in" symbols rather than use of knowledge. Who would be making that mistake if so -- right or left?

That was main thing I wanted to convey last time: that the cool graphs to which you were referring say to me that the problem is *not* in the people whose beliefs are being measured but in the zealots who (in the way they present the issue politically) insist on asking people who they are instead of what they know.

What do you think of that?

--Dan

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

To answer the question "am I missing something", I think the answer is yes, you certainly are. Your main point (I take it) is that we are all weak reeds susceptible to the same cognitive weaknesses, but what Krugman and Ezra Klein are both talking about is the collective intelligence of groups of people. Stop me if you've heard this one: "Cognition is culturally distributed."

It's possible to contruct social institutions that are "smarter" than others (e.g. science).

Your take on "climate change" is that the left and right are both getting the answer the wrong way, and that the left is just lucky about having settled on the correct answer. That could be true, or it could be that the institutions of the left are smarter, or (perhaps more likely) the institutions of the right are dumber, despite having roughly equivalent raw material to work with.

So, unless I'm missing something, you and the other two Ks are talking past each other.

That said: I agree that a good answer to Krugman's challenge "what's the left equivalent of climate change" is GMOs. I think another good answer might be Nuclear Power (but it could be that's another example like anti-vaxxers, where's there's actually no clear left-right split). There are other examples that might be better, like the birther & benghazi obessions: you may be able to find beliefs on the left that are equally nutty, but they won't have Congressional support behind them.

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Brenner

@Gaythia:

how does the economic analysis explain polarization of ordinary members of the public? I don't get the mechanism.

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

@Josephbrenner:

scroll up a few comments for GMO; I'm tired of pushing the rock up the hill.

"Collective intelligence"? What do you mean? What is the "collective intelligence" of Republicans or of Democrats? I want to say I don't get it, but I think I do -- talk of "collectives" as entities (ones w/ varying degrees of "intelligence," no less) that exist independent of individuals is something serious people stopped doing long long ago.

Retreating to that to avoid dealing with evidence that individuals w/ opposing cultural or political orientations in fact reason in the same way is to jump out of the empirical frying pan & into the pseudoscience fire.

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

[Note: this is a comment about the polluted science comm environment generally, not the assymetry question.]

I was struck by this section from Mitch's comment:

"Let's consider the yellow population on the right-hand side of this chart. As presented here, these are people who are of well-above-average scientific understanding. They are therefore presumably aware of the truly vast array of evidence that supports the proposition that the earth is not 10,000 years old and that today's living creatures are descended from ancestors that were of different species.

Despite this, many in this group answer false to the first question posed (and presumably many also to the question, "True or false, the age of the earth is about 4.5 billion years")."

Now it could be that many of these people are *not* aware of the vast array of evidence. On climate change in particular, many of these people could have slanted news sources that don't describe the consensus accurately.

But let's assume that's not the case. Let's assume someone in that group is aware of the scientific consensus. There's something else that bothers me here. Have you ever spoken to someone in that group, about either evolution or climate change? My experience is that they can articulate very coherent arguments for their position. More often than not, they can reference scientific concepts and evidence. And rather than being ignorant of either evolution or climate change, they have an immense amount of knowledge about the topic.

It seems we (in the scientific community) are being inconsistent here. We routinely exhort the public to "think like scientists": they should examine evidence, think critically before drawing conclusions, etc. But then we get upset when they do that and don't end up agreeing with us! That's a bit unfair.

On complex topics like climate change and evolution, I think the message about critical/scientific thinking needs to be muted a bit. Trust rather than understanding should be the goal.

September 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPraj

I think the question is actually pretty fair. If everyone is equally likely to use motivated reasoning to fit evidence to a culturally determined best outcome, one really should be able to find an example of the left wing being extremely wrong on a scientific issue. The obvious answer is race and recent evolution.

So you have a left wing in US politics that is very concerned by the racial gap in academic achievement. From the standpoint of science some fraction of this gap is caused by the racial gap in average general intelligence, which is due in part to divergent evolutionary histories since out of Africa. A public policy properly informed by science would be along the lines of "are the children at this school achieving academically in line with what would be predicted by their average IQ? If so, there's no reason to start firing teachers for failing to do their jobs right. These children aren't being left behind, they're just a bit dull."

I once had someone tell me "I truly believe that every child can be above average!" Now, of course, it's not always that bad (and obviously it's a little mean of me to think they actually meant that literally). But the typical liberal response to a position like the one above is to muster all the power of their gray matter to explain away any evidence and maintain their belief in the fungibility of human ancestral groups when it comes to any non-physical characteristic.

@Praj:

"On complex topics like climate change and evolution, I think the message about critical/scientific thinking needs to be muted a bit. Trust rather than understanding should be the goal."

My suspicion is that if you pick a fight with human curiosity you'll lose.

September 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

"From the standpoint of science some fraction of this gap is caused by the racial gap in average general intelligence, which is due in part to divergent evolutionary histories since out of Africa"

From the standpoint of science this doesn't make sense. Skin colour is determined by only a handful of genes, none of which have anything to do with brain chemistry. There are thousands more. Africans of different tribes differ from each other far more genetically than Africans collectively differ from Europeans.

Certainly, intelligence is partially genetic, certainly it makes sense that people of some genetic groups will have higher intrinsic intelligence than others. But there's no reason to expect it to be correlated with skin colour. It's like saying that some people are taller than others, because of their genetics, but Africans as a group contain both the very tall and the very short.

I would agree that the fact that this hypothesis has an unpleasant history is not in itself a good reason not to consider it. But the fact people have tested it and found it isn't true is good reason to reject it.

No, the reason for the difference in test results is almost entirely cultural. There is, though, a difference in test results, which it is true that some people don't like to admit.

I can think of several alternatives that might fit your classification - nuclear power is safe, fracking is safe, commercially-used pesticides are safe, gun availability makes no difference to crime levels. And my personal view is that climate change is another one where the liberal consensus is horribly wrong, scientifically. But as I said above, the problem is that people don't know what the issues are, because the same bias clouds their assessment of who's right as affects their choice of belief in the first place. Maybe I'm just biased, and don't know it. Maybe they are. The point is, we can't tell by just looking.

September 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV

Two baseball enthusiasts have a discussion. The first claims that the Yankees have an average batting average of .310, while the Red Sox average is .270. This is why the Yankees tend to score more runs than the Red Sox. His interloper says, ah, but the Red Sox players batting averages range from .200 to .350. The Red Sox batters differ from each other individually far more than the Red Sox collectively differ from the Yankees collectively. Therefore the Yankees are not better at hitting and this doesn't account for their scoring more runs.


The following two statements are both true:

- There is no reason to expect light to show a diffraction pattern on the wall when it is passed through two slits.

- Light shows a diffraction pattern on the wall when it is passed through two slits.

These two statements are also both true:

- There is no reason to expect intrinsic intelligence to be correlated with skin color.

- Intrinsic intelligence is correlated with skin color.


The WISC-IV is not culturally biased. In addition from being completely wrong, your assertion to the contrary is a tremendous insult to the people who create, normalize, etc. intelligence tests. It's like saying climate science is a hoax.


"I can think of several alternatives that might fit your classification - nuclear power is safe, fracking is safe, commercially-used pesticides are safe, gun availability makes no difference to crime levels. And my personal view is that climate change is another one where the liberal consensus is horribly wrong, scientifically. But as I said above, the problem is that people don't know what the issues are, because the same bias clouds their assessment of who's right as affects their choice of belief in the first place. Maybe I'm just biased, and don't know it. Maybe they are. The point is, we can't tell by just looking."

I think you make a very good point here. Fracking might be my favorite, in that the technology to frack has existed since the 60's and the shale boom is due entirely to development of horizontal drilling. (which is, of course, also not dangerous if done correctly)

September 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

==> "which is, of course, also not dangerous if done correctly"

Walking on a high wire is not dangerous if done correctly.

September 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

==> "So you have a left wing in US politics that is very concerned by the racial gap in academic achievement. From the standpoint of science some fraction of this gap is caused by the racial gap in average general intelligence, which is due in part to divergent evolutionary histories since out of Africa."

First, there are factors that do a better job of explaining academic achievement than "general intelligence."

Second, there are factors which strongly mediate the association between "academic achievement" and "general intelligence.


Third, given that the ways that we typically measure "general intelligence" reflect certain biases - it may not necessarily be desirous to assess educational policy methodology on the basis of those measures of 'general intelligence."

So your leap from this: "From the standpoint of science some fraction of this gap is caused by the racial gap in average general intelligence" to this: "A public policy properly informed by science would be along the lines of "are the children at this school achieving academically in line with what would be predicted by their average IQ?" Is highly subjective. Assuming that "some fraction" of causality exists as you say does not logically lead to your conclusion. What is the fraction? What else might be causal? What else might be more causal? Should there be other goals for education other than maximizing the association between the measures of "general intelligence" and educational policies?

September 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua Post 1

There are two key issues. One, you have to build the well using enough cement. Don't use enough, you get deepwater horizon. The second is you have to give enough time to let the cement properly dry. If you don't you get leakage into groundwater.

Fracking has led to a "boom" of production of natural gas. This reduces profit margins on each individual well, and encourages cutting corners, unfortunately. I think that's a problem which simply plagues business in general. A patent monopoly on a successful pharmaceutical will encourage drug companies to downplay the risks of using the drug to doctors and cause them to lobby the FDA for forgiving warning labels. Same sort of thing I think.

@Joshua Post 2

Point of fact there is no factor which is a better predictor of academic success than general intelligence. As (I can only assume) an intelligent person, I suspect you intuitively find that obvious and unsurprising. Rest assured, your intuition is well supported by a large body of evidence.

On your second point, the issue is sample size. If the sample size is one, then factors like suffering a concussion at age 7, being malnourished as a toddler, joining a gang at age 9, having a dad that beats the shit out of you every night, will of course strongly impact a person's academic achievement. But when the sample size is 20 million, truths in the specific stop mattering so much and truths in the average start to dominate.

Third, I can assure you that intelligence testing is an indispensable tool for educational professionals. Now, perhaps you are skeptical. If so, why do they give so darn many IQ tests?

On the fourth point. I have a very strong problem with no child left behind and the policy of blaming teachers, even firing them, for the failures of their students. It's kafkaesque, borders on evil. These are very good people who work very hard, but they are tasked with teaching dim kids. Delusions like every racial group should be achieving equally to every other group only serve to harm good people.

September 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

'Ryan -

Post 2. ==> "Point of fact there is no factor which is a better predictor of academic success than general intelligence. "

Resiliency. Early academic success. Early development of academic skills. Being born into an educationally supportive environment. Having parents who read. Not living in poverty. Having access to good schools. Having supportive parents. Memory. Self-discipline. Having strong community support for educational values. Being willing to do as told. Motivation. Engagement.

Of course, it is fallacious to think that you can single out race as an predictor from any or all of those other predictors of academic success, or any of those other predictors from race, (or from IQ as a supposedly innate characteristic) for that matter. So it's a waste of time to even try to make your argument. It has no real meaning w/r/t development of educational methodology or policy.

==> "As (I can only assume) an intelligent person, I suspect you intuitively find that obvious and unsurprising.

No. I find it to be untrue. Obviously untrue.

==> "Third, I can assure you that intelligence testing is an indispensable tool for educational professionals. Now, perhaps you are skeptical. If so, why do they give so darn many IQ tests?"

Among the most backward reasoning I've seen in a while. There are many reasons why IQ testing is done. The main reason is because it provides a number that some people mistakenly think is a shorthand for something meaningful to educators. I spent years as an educator, and I can tell you that knowing a student's IQ is essentially meaningless as an instructional or methodological tool. In fact, very few teachers know what students' IQ scores are - and with reason, because there are many much more operational variables that are meaningful for teachers to use when evaluating the potential of individual students and the likely benefit of various methodological choices for those individual students.

==> "I have a very strong problem with no child left behind and the policy of blaming teachers, even firing them,"

I do agree with you there.

==> "Delusions like every racial group should be achieving equally to every other group only serve to harm good people."

And with that, I think it's clear we have nothing left to discuss.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Dan -

Regarding your answers:

*) I don't want to talk at all about Krugman, at least not yet. I suspect bringing him in will poison the well, and there's nothing important discussing his positions would add.


A. I don't know what's "fair." I think any version of the "whose is bigger" question is pointless b/c there is enough distortion of reasoning on all sides to make the problem one that everyone--regardless of outlook--has a stake in fixing.

I am not sure what you're trying to get at here. The point is that there are at least two major scientific matters, evolution and climate change, that have become major group identifiers (as I think you'd term it). Rejection of these scientific results is now a strong indicator of membership in a particular group - at least in the US at present. I think it's "fair" to say that the group that is rejecting the science is "objectively wrong" at least to the extent that those words can be given meaning at all. So it's "fair" to ask the question - if everyone instinctually reasons the same way (and I am perfectly happy to accept this) why doesn't the other group seem to be subject to the same mistakes?

Again - it's important to confine our discussion to the people on the right of the graph. They *do* have enough information to understand the arguments, and yet their group identity overrides all.


B. What I thought was most interesting about your comment was the KD-motivated reasoning nexus. I don't knkow if there are "left" issues that display this profile, but I think the range of examples -- from mistaken brush fire expert to closeted gay to Iraqi Dr -- makes it implausible to see the phenomenon as connected distinctively to politics.

(I don't know the references you're making.) I don't think I was starting from the politics, I was starting from the graphs, which I think speak for themselves. Are there people in the secular group (on the right-hand side of the chart) who reject other scienfic theories? (I would point out that there is a pretty strong strain of this in my libertarian acquaintances - they are atheists and accept evolution, but reject climate science.)

The political observation comes *after*. We see that there are groups the members of which are so strongly motivated by their group membership that *even with strong evidence (graph-right)* they reject science. In the obvious cases, this corresponds to the *current* *US* politcal right. (The political right in other countries BTW, does not correspond with climate science rejection.)

So what is the structure of this, and how does it come about?


C. As I tried to indicate in my last C., I don't think it's obvious that the "dualism" variant is a source of political conflict.

In the case of evolution, my guess is that the people who correctly answerw "Evolution" when it is disentangled from religious identity include many people who use such knowledge, including scienitsts who happen to be religious. IN that case, it's the people telling them there is soemthig wrong w/ what they are doing who are more likely to be causing conflict -- or at least needlessly interfereing w/ the project to educate people in evolutionary science & science generally.

Similarly, if I'm right about SE Fla, then again it is a mistake to make politics be about "belief in" symbols rather than use of knowledge. Who would be making that mistake if so -- right or left?

That was main thing I wanted to convey last time: that the cool graphs to which you were referring say to me that the problem is *not* in the people whose beliefs are being measured but in the zealots who (in the way they present the issue politically) insist on asking people who they are instead of what they know.

What do you think of that?

I don't disagree, but I think you may be pointing at the wrong culprits. It's the group members *themselves* who are making their group membership contingent on rejecting the science. There are plenty of people (from the Catholic church to Richard Dawkins) who state that evolution is consistent with religious faith. Why isn't that enough for the creationists?

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMitch Golden

" I think it's "fair" to say that the group that is rejecting the science is "objectively wrong" at least to the extent that those words can be given meaning at all. So it's "fair" to ask the question - if everyone instinctually reasons the same way (and I am perfectly happy to accept this) why doesn't the other group seem to be subject to the same mistakes?"

It depends what version of the science they're rejecting.

Many years ago, when I used to participate in the 'evolution wars', I found that people on *both* sides almost universally misunderstood the mechanisms by which evolution was supposed to work, and had a very spotty idea of what the evidence for it was. Even people who were quite well-educated scientifically.

The people who rejected it had gone through the explanation they had been given (often in school), identified a variety of flaws and gaps in those arguments, and concluded from that that the argument was invalid, and they therefore didn't accept the conclusion. They knew very well what conclusion the experts taught, but by their own reasoning considered the experts to be wrong.

The people who accepted it usually *hadn't* gone through the argument and evidence, and indeed were pretty vague about both; their primary argument was "all the scientists/experts say so". Their teachers had said so, the textbooks had said so, thousands of evolutionary biologists had said so, even the government said so, and mandated it as part of the school standards. They believed on the basis of faith in authority.

There was more to it than that - even after explaining the correct mechanism, those who opposed it still argued, and their arguments became increasingly unrealistic as the gaps were closed. And even after pointing out a perfectly genuine issue with a putative explanation, believers argued against the method being wrong. But on first contact, the arguments tended to be faith versus reason but with the opponents of evolution on the side of reason. I always found it ironic, and irritating, that I spent more time arguing against those nominally on the same 'side' as me.

In motivated reasoning, people first examine the argument and conclusion to see if there's anything they recognise as 'wrong'. If they don't see anything obviously wrong, and the concepts seem connected into a chain leading from things they know to the conclusion, they'll tend to accept it without devoting a lot of mental computational resources to it.

When they see something they regard as 'wrong' or anomalous, they devote more effort towards trying to find the error. They'll question the assumptions. They'll question the validity of the steps of the logical chain. They'll construct extensions and generalisations to the theory, and make predictions in extreme circumstances looking for counterexamples. (The more intelligent they are, the better they are at doing this, and the more likely they are to find a flaw or gap.) They'll seek out alternative arguments and authorities, explanations offered by others for why the seemingly plausible argument is wrong. They'll do this, even if the only thing they see 'wrong' with it is the conclusion.

Everybody knows about those paradox and fallacy puzzles, where (for fun) the teacher gives a sequence of apparently impeccable logical steps to prove that 1 = 2. People don't look at that and conclude that "Hey, maybe one really is equal to two!" No, they know it's a trick. They try to figure out how you did it.

But if you had used exactly the same fallacious steps to prove that 1 = 1, they wouldn't even blink. Nobody would be motivated to look for flaws in the argument.

This approach is itself perfectly reasonable and rational, since people are not simply minimising their probability of error, but some combination of error probability and effort. Even scientists take short-cuts, figuring they don't have time to chase down all those details if they're going to keep up with the cutting edge, get those grant proposals in, publish rather than perish, and so on. You suddenly get scientists arguing that 'argument from authority' is actually OK. (For a single paper, it might be. But papers build on the conclusions of earlier papers. For a long chain of 59 links, say, every one of them 95% certain, how likely is the chain to hold?)

Is it so clear, in these circumstances, who is 'objectively wrong', or even who is 'rejecting the science'? Is 'Science' about the method, or the conclusions?

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV:

It is for reasons like this that I confine my discussion to those on the right hand side of the chart. These are the people who *do* understand the science. My experience is different from yours: those who are well educated scientifically are pretty clear on what the evidence is.

And if that isn't enough for you - let's confine our discussions to people who believe in a young earth, but are weill educated scientifically. There, they have to disbelieve the evidence of their own eyes (as in - the earth doesn't even *look* 10000 years old.)

September 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMitch Golden

Even most of those on the right hand side of the chart don't know what the evidence is. They often think they do, but it usually doesn't take a lot of questioning before they start to struggle. I've yet to meet anyone who can explain coherently what the actual evidence for 95%-certain imminent climate catastrophe is; and most people don't even know what arguments have been put forward by the IPCC mainstream for detection/attribution. It's harder than it looks.

--

From an absolute empirical point of view, you couldn't tell it if the universe was five seconds old, and had just now been created with all the physical evidence and people's memories 'faked'. The standard interpretation of an objective external reality with an extended past depends on a bunch of deeply philosophical assumptions that are quite hard to articulate, even for experts. It's certainly possible to argue about them.

YECs are pretty extreme and not likely to be argued out of their positions, so I rarely bothered. Some of the philosophy could be interesting, though.

September 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Joshua

"Resiliency. Early academic success. Early development of academic skills. Being born into an educationally supportive environment. Having parents who read. Not living in poverty. Having access to good schools. Having supportive parents. Memory. Self-discipline. Having strong community support for educational values. Being willing to do as told. Motivation. Engagement."

IQ will in general be a better predictor of academic success than any of those factors. And, basically each of those factors will correlate better with IQ than they would with each other. So, for example, resiliency will correlate better with IQ than resiliency will correlate with having supporting parents.

It's interesting that you list things like resiliency, self-discipline and memory. Ability to concentrate and remember things are tested for in IQ tests. They're part of what academics mean by intelligence.

"Of course, it is fallacious to think that you can single out race as an predictor from any or all of those other predictors of academic success, or any of those other predictors from race, (or from IQ as a supposedly innate characteristic) for that matter. So it's a waste of time to even try to make your argument. It has no real meaning w/r/t development of educational methodology or policy."

I hope it doesn't surprise you to learn that the possibility of socioeconomic factors confounding IQ test results has not escaped the notice of decades of academic research. Rest assured, the correlations between ancestry and IQ hold even when socioeconomic factors are accounted for.

"There are many reasons why IQ testing is done. The main reason is because it provides a number that some people mistakenly think is a shorthand for something meaningful to educators. I spent years as an educator, and I can tell you that knowing a student's IQ is essentially meaningless as an instructional or methodological tool. In fact, very few teachers know what students' IQ scores are - and with reason, because there are many much more operational variables that are meaningful for teachers to use when evaluating the potential of individual students and the likely benefit of various methodological choices for those individual students."

So, for example, if the child psychologist told you "the IQ test shows Sara has a learning disability in math. This means you need to emphasize repetitive working of math problems for her to gain the most mathematical ability" you would respond by saying "I'll teach Sara math the way I want?" I mean I know that's a bit extreme but it seems like that's your sentiment.

I bet you wouldn't be biased against a diagnosis of dyslexia and instruction on how to teach dyslexic children to read, even though the way dyslexia is diagnosed is by noting a large gap between verbal IQ and reading proficiency.

September 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I believe that in addition to looking at how individuals accept or reject ideas or change based on their tribal affiliations, we need to evaluate how tribes themselves control their members. And also, how outsiders might use their knowledge of tribes to benefit their own economic and social interests.
None of this, of course, is really getting at Dan Kahan’s point: “Rather than extracting empty, ritualistic statements of "belief in" one or the other side's tribal symbol, the point of collective exchange should be to enable acquisition and use of genuine knowledge.” Because not everyone agrees that should be the point. The point very well may be to win elections and to make money. Or to ensure that one’s own tribe dominates against all others.
All of these discussions keep conflating liberal/Democrat and Conservative/Republican. It seems to me that true "conservatives" in a political sense would want to preserve structures of the past, which at this point ought to include programs that have been in place since the New Deal. Obviously, nobody means that. It should also be noted that our 2 political parties are now entrenched. But in many states a full third of the electorate registers independent. And the number of adults who bother to register at all is much lower than it ought to be. And the turnout among those who registered is also pathetic. The two political parties have grassroots activists (who tend to the extremes), a bureaucracy, and primaries in which both grassroots activity and money is very influential. I think that the need for money has driven the Democratic Party rightward. Thanks to Koch brothers support of tea party activists the Republicans have moved towards a far right extreme. I think it is significant to notice that there are lefty-liberals who look to the tea party with serious envy and wish to figure out ways in which they might be able to take over "their" party too. Or to start a new one. But they lack a Koch Brother style benefactor with the motivation to help out. Does a more corporatist Democratic Party seem more reasonable to the likes of Krugman? Is that what we are discussing here?

Dan Kahan makes quite a strong point that surveys are invalid if they don’t take into account the fact that many of the people answering are not really registering the full intent of the questions asked. Or the questions themselves are biased by the questioner. In politics, the grassroots committed voters matter in primaries, but it is the undecided and basically uncommitted that matter in swing elections. Jobs, a chicken in every pot, economic security, a key tribal sentiment like abortion, or a steady stream of social media headlines about how downright stupid the other side is serve to motivate the otherwise unmotivated.

I think NiV is incomplete in his characterization of those people non-reactive to “those horrible factories belching out smoke and pollution” . It is not just those isolated from the inner workings. It was the local paper mill workers who lived downwind from the plume. Sure there was labor organizing but there also was rationalization as to the necessity of what some saw as simply or perhaps grimly as “the smell of money”. Similarly, the political slogan for a potential coal export port is “Good Jobs Now”.

How people function depend not only if they understand a series of statements ("the facts") but how or if they choose to assimilate and use them. How things are processed depends on how one thinks things ought to be processed. Are facts a smorgasboard to be utilized as they seem to fit and adapted to situations as they present themselves? Do you change only if presented with evidence collected rigorously by the scientific method? Or is it dogma, a matter of believing the material in this book or that one? Different cultures approach change differently. Different cultures proceed in different manners depending on how they perceive the nature of truth and the meaning of life. Taos pueblo stayed in place for well over a thousand years. Other tribes swarm all over the place, leaving trash heaps of discarded materials in their wake. But also moving on to build bigger and better heaps. Some devote efforts to long years of education and fewer children upon whom even more educational efforts can be focused. Some proceed by precepts of be fruitful and multiply. Some, like street gangs or ISIS proceed by fear and intimidation.

In our current politics, for some, the need for the “now” can supersede thoughts of long term consequences. For example locally, this might be about the relationship between coal export to China and climate change. Or the export of that coal and the import of China produced manufacturing jobs and the impact that has on the prospect for such higher level jobs here. That doesn’t mean that such thoughts don’t exist. Later may be something that takes care of itself. Because the now is too important now to give it much consideration. Or perhaps a planned, perhaps supernatural, end to the world as we know it. Or some future fix of human ingenuity as yet unknown. This is why, IMHO, expanding the conversation to include geoengineering elicits more responsiveness on climate change (but counterproductively, as it might decreases willingness to take action presently).

Re: Mitch’s comment “It's the group members *themselves* who are making their group membership contingent on rejecting the science.” I’m not sure this is true in the case of climate change. In the case of fundamentalist Christianity, I think that warming could meld quite readily with concepts of Armageddon, (although this might lead to passivity not ingenuity). I believe Climate Change, as an item of significance was introduced by those who frequently tied it to efforts to introduce government enforced restrictions on lifestyles. ALEC and the Koch Brothers have played significant roles. This is not aided by glimpses of some climate change proponents who really can seem to be pushing for a return to some simpler way of human existence. Both Bill McKibbon and Al Gore can successfully be derided as duplicious. Deriding energy use by others while flying from place to place to do so.

If we are still talking about Krugman, we could note that we wouldn’t know he exists if it weren’t for his job as a NYt pundit. The newspaper hires him to to sell newspapers. They don't hire him to make their readership uncomfortable by forcing them to deeply examining their own values. The NYT decided to cut back on their science section. Science journalist Andrew Revkin might have aspired to a position like Krugman’s but now settles for a blog and banjo playing. Krugman now seems to be admitting that his definition of liberal is limited to people of the sort he feels comfortable with, those at places like Princeton and those that might want to read his columns in the NYT. He is not talking about liberals who might be massage therapists or blues guitarists or union pipefitters or organic farm commune members. Conversely, his perspective for analyzing "conservatives' is probably even more limited. There is no real reason to focus on Krugman in this regard. Similar lack of perspective is common for many.

So as to Mitch’s question: “My belief (and evidently Krugman's as well) is that *at the present moment in the US* there in fact is no symmetry. These two groups believe quite differently - one generally aligning with the scientific consensus and the other not.” I think that I agree also. If you focus on the Democratic Party power structure as it exists today (Barak Obama Hillary Clinton, with a touch of Elzabeth Warren but not Bill McKibbon, animal rights groups like PETA, or Occupy) as opposed to the current Republican Party, within which Tea Party groups have managed significant roles and within which people like Huntsman did not find much traction. I also think that those in a position of political leadership, and those funding those leaders do influence the viewpoints of citizens at large. This is also proceeding hand in hand with economic stressors and a widening gap between rich and poor. Such economic situations have not boded well for rational discussions. Nazi Germany is the obvious example of a nation for which being highly educated did not save it from falling off the abyss.

Obviously, now we are supposed to be working on figuring out how not to go there.

September 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

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