Monday, March 12, 2012

Buy the book -- The Republican Brain

Chris Mooney has an article based on his forthcoming book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality. He cites a 2008 Pew Research Center Report which produced the following graph:

The striking feature of the graph is Republican college grads are less likely than Republican non-college grads to believe in anthropogenic global warming, while more educated independents and Democrats are more likely to accept the scientific consensus. This is an example of what Mooney has come to "call the 'smart idiots' effect: The fact that politically sophisticated or knowledgeable people are often more biased, and less persuadable, than the ignorant."

Mooney goes on to state:
Republicans or conservatives who say they know more about the topic, or are more educated, are shown to be more in denial, and often more sure of themselves as well—and are confident they don’t need any more information on the issue. 
Tea Party members appear to be the worst of all. In a recent survey by Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, they rejected the science of global warming even more strongly than average Republicans did.......Most strikingly, the Tea Party members were very sure of themselves—they considered themselves “very well-informed” about global warming and were more likely than other groups to say they “do not need any more information” to make up their minds on the issue.
Mooney says the effect is found in other controversial issues in which there is factual evidence relevant to the validity of the alternative positions. Moreover, he cites a study indicating that more scientific knowledge and greater mathematical ability makes Republicans more dogmatic in rejecting scientific evidence that conflicts with their political positions.
(T)here is even research suggesting that the most rigid and inflexible breed of conservatives—so-called authoritarians—do not really become their ideological selves until they actually learn something about politics first.
In contrast, liberals apparently really do like facts and are more likely to modify their opinions if provided with contrary factual information.

This is very disturbing. If conservatives have ideological positions that are contrary to factual evidence, how then is one to reach them with reasoned arguments? Perhaps the only real conclusion is that we need to go to the polls and vote to assure that liberals are in the majority in the Congress and hold the presidency. 

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