Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Chris Mooney on the Science of Why We Deny Science...and Reality

Chris Mooney, Host of Post of Inquiry, discusses motivated reasoning and the "Smart Idiots" effect: he rebuts the conventional wisdom that if you put good information and argument out there and teach the public how to critically think, they will have a clearer idea of what is "truth." More education actually leads to higher degree of partisan beliefs. Arguing for facts alone does not help; more education is not the key: the public denies science not necessarily because they are uneducated but because they think "their" science is better.
This is rather fun, especially for us rational egalitarian, communitarian Democrats. It is also important.

Chris Mooney suggests that it will be hard to convince a large part of the population to believe in scientific evidence on key issues -- those who are hierarchical and individualistic. The better educated these hard to convince people are, the more they expose themselves to erroneous sources of information and the better able they are to argue against the scientific consensus.

As I have argued before, we think with our brains and not just our minds. We are subject to "motivated reasoning" in which we rationalize that which we emotionally want to believe.

Mooney suggests that some Republicans do accept the scientific consensus on issues such as anthropogenic climate change, evolution and stem cell research. They do so in part because their emotional style is different than that of the majority of their fellow Republicans. Perhaps if we can get them to educate their fellows and show by example that these scientific ideas are worthy of attention that education will work better than lectures by scientists (who are distrusted by so many Republicans).

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