Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness Of Being A Conservative

If you are a conservative, all you need to do to swat away any rational opposition is to use the following sentence: "While the facts may support X (climate change, gun control, the census) that does not change my belief in Y ( that climate change is a hoax, the gun registry is useless, the a voluntary census is just as good as a mandatory one)". It is simple and it does not need any evidence to support it.
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  1. Michael Shermer has an interesting book, "Why People Believe Weird Things" that applies to many, many conservatives. Here's one take:

    Shermer's conclusion is very simple. People believe weird things because of wishful thinking and continue to believe in those things despite contrary evidence because they are unwilling to alter preconceived notions. The reasons for the unwillingness to shift paradigms are many. People don't want to admit they are wrong. They sometimes want something comfortable rather than something true (even if they play a game of pretend by calling their fantasies and wishes true). Racism and group think also play major roles. These weird theories are propagated through 'feedback loops' which Shermer explains by using the witch hunts as an example. Numerous other feedback loops have been created recently. The media (especially now with information being so easily exchanged on a national and global basis) has been a major player in starting and defusing these loops. The concept of 'memes' or mental viruses comes into play here although I don't think Shermer ever uses these terms.

  2. Thanks for that. The Internet is a gigantic feedback loop. Weirdness is definitely amplified by its use. I think though that what we are seeing is an outright rejection of rationalism and the scientific method, by a group given cohesion by (ironically) the availability of the Internet. It is a nascent movement to take us back to thepre-enlightenment way of thinking, when Angels danced and witches caused cows to give sour milk.