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Thursday
Sep182014

Will a "knowing disbeliever" be the next President (or at least Republican nominee)?

Subjects participate anonymously in CCP studies and supply responses in a form that prevents their being identified.

Still, I have to wonder whether Govr. Jindal might not have been one of the intriguing "knowing disbelievers" featured in The Measurement Problem study.

According to Howard Fineman,

America needs a leader to bridge the widening gulf between faith and science, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a devout Roman Catholic with Ivy League-level science training, thinks he can be that person. . . .

On Tuesday, Jindal showed his strategy for straddling the politics of the divide -- but also the political risks of doing so -- during an hourlong Q&A with reporters at a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast, a traditional early stop on the presidential campaign circuit.

Like the experienced tennis player he is, Jindal repeatedly batted away questions about whether he believes the theory of evolution explains the existence of complex life forms on Earth. Pressed for his personal view, Jindal -- who earned a specialized biology degree in an elite pre-med program at Brown University -- declined to give one. He said only that "as a parent I want my children taught the best science." He didn’t say what that "science" was.

He conceded that human activity has something to do with climate change, but declined to agree that there is now widespread scientific consensus on the severity and urgency of the problem.

Sounds a lot like a harassed "dualist" to me.

In truth, I don't think it is very convincing to use cultural cogntion & like dynamics, which are geared to making sense of the distribution of perceptions of risk and like facts in aggregate, to explain the beliefs of specified individuals, particularly politicians, whose reasoning and incentives for disclosing the same will be shaped by influences very different from those that affect ordinary members of the public.

But I think the spectacle of Jindal's predicament, including the fly-wing-plucking torment he & like-situated poltical figures on the right face in negotiating these issues in the media, definitely illustrates the discourse pathology diagnosed by The Measurement Problem: the relentless, pervasive pressure to force reasoning individuals to make a choice between using their reason to know what's known by science or using it to enjoy their identities as members of particular cultural communities.

There is something deeply disturbing about the demand that people give an account of how they can be "knowing disbelievers," and something deeply flawed about public institutions, whether in education or in politics, that insist on interfering with this apparently widespread and unremarkable way for people to apportion what they know and believe across the different integrated identities that they occupy. 

Escaping from this sort of dysfunction is what good educators do in order to teach evolution to culturally diverse students.  It's also what regions like S.E. Florida are doing to promote constructive political engagement with climate change among culturally diverse citizens....

But in any case, the real issue with Jindal should be how he thinks we could possibly expect nasty foreign terrorists to be afraid of us if we had a leader who insists on being called "Bobby" because his childhood hero was the youngest brother in the Brady Bunch.

 

h/t to my friend David Burns.

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Reader Comments (2)

It seems to me that the analysis of Bobby Jindal is best started by analyzing his actions from the point of view of the financing and power structures that a politician must attend to to maintain his own status.

This isn't, IMHO, about identity first, as in: "the relentless, pervasive pressure to force reasoning individuals to make a choice between using their reason to know what's known by science or using it to enjoy their identities as members of particular cultural communities." This is about making a Faustian bargain to stake one's political future on the oil and gas version of the Merchants of Doubt.

Those merchants, in turn, know a lot about cultural cognition, as good marketers do. Among Jindal's potential supporters are those for whom climate change and environmental degradation concerns ought to resonate. The older ones have seen the bayous and wetlands of the Mississippi Delta disintegrate before their very eyes, and nearly all at voting age have directly experienced Hurricane Katrina.

But there are key identity issues, like evolution or abortion, about which the oil and gas industry has little interest, but has learn can be linked to climate change in ways that re-enforce linkages between these issues in the minds of significant numbers of members of the public.

Jindal is not really responding to pressure from the public to adhere to their cultural values regarding climate change. He is set up as a leader and a cog in the machine organized by Big Oil and Gas, to keep their profits rolling in, regardless of how the Mississippi rolls on.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

@Gaythia:

What about the spectacle of "do you believe? do you?? do you???" in coverage of political figures? I'm pretty sure that, say, climate advocates think this is a devestatingly effective thing to do. I suspect they are wrong; that the image of Jindal or Rubio fending this off -- whatever their motivations -- hardens resentment & steels resolve of lots of people for whom the spectacle is a symbol of an ordeal in their own lives; that the spectacle reinforces the association in people's minds that positions on these issues are in fact badges of identity... It's pollution of science communication environment.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

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