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Monday
Aug012016

Science curiosity & climate change (de)polarization (new paper)

Consider four propositions of ascending curiousness.

  1. Increasing science curiosity is associated with greater acceptance of human-caused climate change in the general population.

  2. This effect holds regardless of political outlooks

  3. Increasing science curiosity counteracts the association between increased science comprehension and and political polarization on societal risks such as climate change and fracking.

  4. As science curiosity goes up, individuals of all political outlooks become more interested in engaging information contrary to their political predispositions on climate change.

Proposition (1) is kind of interesting, but until it is combined with proposition (2), it doesn’t tell one much of anything.  A population-wide association between some disposition and a belief or attitude is interesting only if there isn’t significant variation in that relationship among different sorts of people. If there is, then the population-wide effect obscures that and invites specious inferences about how the disposition in question influences the relevant belief or attitude.

Let’s call the class of specious inferences the “Pat” fallacy: because “Pat," who is “average” along every conceivable dimension, doesn’t exist, it is a meaningless exercise to treat how some disposition in “Pat” affects “Pat’s” beliefs, attitudes, etc., if in fact relevant dimensions of identity affect the relationship of the disposition to beliefs, attitudes, etc., in real-life, truly existing people.

Click me! I'm the best image in this post!But once we know that there is a uniform relationship between some disposition and some belief or attitude (or one that is uniform in relation to some meaningful aspect of individuals' identities), then we can start to assess the significance of that.

The clue to the significance here is revealed by (3).  We know (because it’s been shown 15x10^3 times) that pretty much every conceivable reasoning disposition relevant to science comprehension magnifies rather than ameliorates political polarization on societal risks.  That happens because where positions on a risk or like fact become badges of membership in and loyalty to one or another tribal group, people will face strong psychic pressure to use their reasoning proficiencies to filter information in a manner that promotes their beliefs to the ones that that predominate in their groups.

Science curiosity is a reasoning disposition that can reasonably be understood to be integral to science comprehension. So one might expect it to magnify polarization on issues like climate change, too.

No! Don't listen to her! I'm the best image! Click me!!!!But it doesn’t. It has the opposite effect!

Why? Why?? Why???

This is the question that the 14 billion readers of this blog were left to grapple with about 5 mos ago when propositions 1-3, which were observed in Study No. 1 of the Cultural Cognition Project/Annenberg Public Policy Center “Science of Science Filmmaking Initiative.”

One conjecture was that science-curious individuals might be using their reason in a way that counteracts the usual consequences of politically motivated reasoning (PMR). 

Generally speaking, PMR is associated with biased information search: that is, partisans tend not only to fit their assessments of information to their predispositions, but to focus their attention on information sources that can be expected to confirm rather than challenge the positions that cohere with their political outlooks (Hart, Albarracín, et al. 2009)..

But scientifically curious people have an appetite to be surprised by the insights generated by the use of science’s signature methods of disciplined observation, measurement, and inference.  That appetite might impel them, unconsciously, to expose themselves more readily than their less curious political peers to expose themselves to information that is contrary to their predispositions.  If so, they might end up with perceptions of risk that are at least a bit closer to those of their political opposites who are scientifically curious and who are doing the same thing.

That was the animating hypothesis of an experiment, the outcome of which is the basis of proposition 4.  In that experiment, we—my collaborators at CCP and APPC—tested just how readily partisans would expose themselves to surprising scientific evidence on climate change when that evidence was contrary to their political predispositions (Kahan, Landrum, Carpenter, Helft & Jamieson in press).

Absurd! I'm clearly the coolest image in this post. Click me, or I'll destroy the entire internet!!!We found that individuals who were low to moderate in curiosity wouldn’t do it. They opted for “familiar” evidence supportive of the position associated with their own political outlooks.

But highly curious subjects behaved differently. Confronted with the chance to peruse some surprising evidence that challenged their existing views, they went for it.

I guess they just couldn’t resist!

What exactly did we do to elicit this observation? Well, I’ll tell you about that “tomorrow.”

Or if you are just so curious you can’t wait until then, you can check out our new CCP/APPC Science of Science Communication Initiative paper, “Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing” for details!

References

Hart, W., Albarracín, D., Eagly, A.H., Brechan, I., Lindberg, M.J. & Merrill, L. Feeling validated versus being correct: a meta-analysis of selective exposure to information. Psychological bulletin 135, 555 (2009).

Kahan, D.M., Landrum, A.R., Carpenter, K., Helft, L. & Jamieson, K.H. Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing. Advances in Political Psychology  (in press).

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Reader Comments (16)

It seems reasonable.

We are agreed, I think, that the vast majority of the general public on both sides of the debate are not particularly knowledgeable on the technicalities of climate science. They don't get their opinions by evaluating the scientific evidence themselves, they instead get it from trusted authorities. So the question to answer when figuring out what someone is likely to believe is to ask where they get their scientific opinions from.

It seems reasonable to suppose there is a group of people who like get it from the scientific media - scientific film-making, documentaries, science magazines, and so on. There may well be other groups who like to get it from the wilder shores of the internet, talking with friends and acquaintances socially or professionally, or who pick it up casually in passing as they view material on their own personal interests. So if a person gets their views on scientific topics from the popular science media, their views will tend to reflect the views extant in that media.

And of course, virtually all of the mainstream science documentaries believe in global warming, and those that talk about fracking tend to be the ones talking up the dramatic claims of possible environmental pollution.

Politically motivated reasoning is not simply about whether new information conforms to one's prior political beliefs, or those with low OSI would be as motivated to disbelieve uncongenial information as those more able. It's the *combination* of the (politically) selective motivation to challenge uncongenial information contrary to one's prior beliefs with the enhanced ability to find or construct scientific counter-arguments that leads to the difference in outcome. Scientific literacy is related to the accessibility of counter-arguments and opposing views, with which to knock down and dismiss uncomfortable findings - that's what leads to the increased polarisation. And so the ability is linked to the availability of such contrary information in your chosen trusted opinion sources.

I think the example you gave of fracking in figure 8 of your paper was most interesting. The scientific consensus on fracking (as I assume you know) is that it is safe. And yet, far from SCS causing people to converge on this consensus, it causes *both* political flavours to *diverge* from it. That's not at all what you would expect if you thought scientific curiosity was overcoming political biases. It's exactly what you would expect if you thought 'scientific curiosity' measured a tendency to get one's opinions from the mainstream media's science coverage.

I predict that on other topics where the overwhelmingly dominant mainstream media coverage of a topic is squarely contrary to the scientific evidence and scientific consensus, that the high-SCS subjects will tend to follow the media viewpoint.

--

(PS. I was disappointed to see the "Kentucky Farmer" myth being trotted out once again. That particular misinterpretation is entirely due to the failure to distinguish natural from man-made climate change, as I expect you know. Why keep on repeating it, when you know what the response to it will be?)

August 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV--

Thank you for the comments.

I think this is a perfectly reasonable (as well as helpful) assessment of the practical significance of the results. Certainly it is a leap-- of logic & faith-- to get from the results in this study to the conclusion that "science curious" folks are tending toward truth.

Actually, I'd say that that conclusion *is* perfectly plausible.

But you have suggested a reason to think it is plausible that they aren't -- that they are instead tending merely toward a modal view in the popular science media, one that could be wrong or right.

The interesting question then becomes how to test these competing, incompatible plausible conjectures. The starting point for all interesting & worthwhile empirical endeavors.

You cite Fracking result on your side. Fair enough, but as paper section --- mmmm 6? 5? -- of the paper notes, continuing to interrogate this data on the interesting questions that persist will do us less good than coming up w/ new studies more systematically tailored to answering them-- that is, more self-consciously designed to generating observations from which we can draw confident inferences. We need experiments that pose the competing hypotheses directly against one another.

How would you test the curiosity -> truth (or 'best evidence') vs. curiosity -> modal nontruth conjectures?

(PS Let's not get Talmudic/Jesuistic about the Ky Farmer, or about the schizophrenic high-OSI Liberal Democrat. Neither has a 'single position'; they have multiple, situation-specific action-enabling states of conviction that get the job at hand)

August 2, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

==> The scientific consensus on fracking (as I assume you know) is that it is safe. ==>

Really? On what basis do you quantify the "scientific consensus." Can you point to some kind of carefully controlled meta-analysis?

I haven't studied the issue in any detail, but my impression is that "safety" with respect to fracking is an inherently subjective determination - a determination that is most often made in association with ideological orientation (e.g., hardcore libertarians are absolutely convinced that it is "safe" whereas people who identify as environmentalists are absolutely convinced that it is dangerous).

To some extent, as least in various conditions, there is an element of risk from a purely theoretical standpoint (i.e., using the technology in areas where it has not been widely tested), and there is always a risk in terms of how properly the technology is implemented. Accidents happen and poor quality control takes place as a matter of definition to some extent. I know that people can easily claim political bias and influence (as opposed to purely scientific implications), but in my state (NY) an investigation was undertaken and the finding was that a consensus could not be reached.

And then, of course, there are also the inherently subjective determinations relative to economic risk and evaluations of who is subject to which economic risks.

August 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

NiV -

Not to mention, how fascinating it is to see you referencing the "consensus" position. :-)

August 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Fracking is obviously a side note to Dan's post above. But I think it is worthy of greater discussion because it is an example of how scientific advancements beget technologies, the application of which by those in a position to exploit them, outstrips the awareness of implications regarding such use by scientists in other fields, not to mention the public. The manner in which our culture regulates such matters is not first do no harm, but rather, exploitation of such technologies generally outstrips regulation. And this plays out in ways that allow early implementers to profiteer, often at the expense of the commons and greater ecological and social good. These sort of processes have been going on since the industrial revolution.

This makes Fracking a good lead in to a discussion of the nature of science, scientific discovery, what is science curiosity and a bunch of other stuff I'm ruminating on, all of which may eventually jell in my head to the point I come up with a MAPKIA question. Science,as developed in the European "Western" tradition, is both a knowledge base and a basis for implementing technological changes in the manner in which things are done. I think that two books by Peter Dear delve into this: The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World, and Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500-1700.

Like many issues of science informed technological implementations and their resulting policy regulations, fracking is situational.

Penn State has a great depiction of the idealized situation here: http://exploreshale.org/. Everything could work out well if the rock layers are as depicted, a nice layer cake arrangement, with impenetrable layers separating oil and gas yielding layers from those more porous ones that might contain aquifers. But even if this layer cake geology is accurate, problems may still ensue. Any previous deep well drilling needs to be capped and sealed. And excellent maintenance of the fracked well as it is fracked and refracked is needed to protect aquifers. Unfortunately, the least solid layers, sandstone or sediments are the ones that contain aquifers and also the layers most prone to sidewall failure of the well bore. In the process of hydraulic fracturing, the water and other fluids sent down the well bore come back up again. These return waters are often quite salty, and may contain heavy metals and radionuclides. This make them much more hazardous than the original fracking fluids used. These waters need to be recycled and eventually disposed of. Deep well re-injection of the return waters is the usual cause of induced earthquakes and some of the potential for groundwater aquifer contamination. Pennsylvania is not a flat layer cake. An example of an actual cross section is given here: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_007794.pdf. In many areas of the US, such as in Colorado, mineral rights have been separated long ago from surface rights. Many wellhead areas are now overrun by subdivisions. Horizontal drilling can now extend more than a mile out from the wellhead, and also be 1 or 2 miles deep. That means that the well head, when drilled or fracked, is the site of a massive industrial operation. Even between fracking episodes there is danger from potential leakage of oil and gas. Implementation has outstripped regulation. The EPA just released in June of this year a draft assessment of potential impacts. https://www.epa.gov/hfstudy. What they have been able to study is limited by funding issues. Meanwhile, the corporations involved in oil and gas exploration have forged ahead.

What might be reasonable if implemented in rural Wyoming, http://www.wyohistory.org/essays/jonah-field-and-pinedale-anticline-natural-gas-success-story, becomes much less so if implemented directly next to homes and schools. http://www.denverpost.com/2016/05/22/colorado-residents-push-to-protect-homes-river-from-fracking/.

ProPublica has done a great series on fracking issues that can be accessed from here: https://www.propublica.org/series/fracking.

Certain directly affected members of the public may have become aware of fracking as a result of neighborhood actions. But I believe that the bulk of people become aware of the issue because it is brought to their attention by motivated entities who themselves are driving their point of view by trying to targeting their message in ways that will fit with pre-existing values. I don't think widespread awareness happened before the politically driven messaging.

August 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

@All--

To reinforce @NiV's point, which I don't think depends on knowing what the answer is to fracking risks.

Highly science curious types also are uninformly more concerned about the risks posed by illegal immigration. The idea that subjects are converging on the "truth" there seems less plausible to me than that left-leaning subjects are forming more "conservative" views precisely b/c they are exposing themselves more to right-leaning information than most other left-leajnging sorts. That seems more plausible to me regardless of what the "truth" is.

The paper in revision should say that it is unclear that movement of science curious spports inference on what "truth" is-- someting that I think it is always very hazardous to try to derive from public opinion data!

August 3, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan -

==> Highly science curious types... ==>


I haven't particulalry been following the focus on scientific curiosity, but to me it doesn't seem that "science curious" isnt a particularly meaningful or definitional attribute for identifying a "type" of person.

Perhaps "open-minded" might be such a trait. Or perphaps "culturally influenced towards making intellectual exploration a part of everyday life," or perhaps "someone comfortable with and confident about logico-mathematical reasoning" would be equally or more meaningful for understanding people who moderate their views from reading on both sides of issues. Or perhaps "comfortable with ambiguity" would be more useful as a "type" of person. More and more I have been thinking that so much of the polarization I see stems from an intolerance for ambiguity.

August 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Errr. Doesn't seem to me that it IS.....

August 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Actually, I'd say that that conclusion *is* perfectly plausible."

I agree.

But more things are plausible than are true. :-)

"How would you test the curiosity -> truth (or 'best evidence') vs. curiosity -> modal nontruth conjectures?"

That was what my final paragraph was about. "I predict that on other topics where the overwhelmingly dominant mainstream media coverage of a topic is squarely contrary to the scientific evidence and scientific consensus, that the high-SCS subjects will tend to follow the media viewpoint." That is to say - given competing hypotheses of truth-seeking and media-following, identify experiments where the hypotheses predict different results. Maximise the likelihood ratio.

The hard part will be identifying good examples without falling subject to the same biases.

"Really? On what basis do you quantify the "scientific consensus.""

Because they've been using the technique for the past 50 years or so without a problem. It's a heavily-regulated industry, safety-wise: they'd not be doing that if there wasn't general agreement among the geologists and engineers that it was acceptably safe.

It's only recently become controversial, after the newly-developed ability to get the drill head to turn corners (so they could tap a much broader area from a single hole by drilling through the gas-bearing layer horizontally) expanded the commercially-accessible resources so massively. But fracking itself is old technology.

"there is always a risk in terms of how properly the technology is implemented. Accidents happen and poor quality control takes place as a matter of definition to some extent."

True, which is why the decision is made on the basis of an acceptable degree of risk. But if the risk is no greater than for many other industrial processes that society allows without blinking, then it's clear enough that whatever your reasons are for banning it, it's not because of the risk.

"Everything could work out well if the rock layers are as depicted, a nice layer cake arrangement, with impenetrable layers separating oil and gas yielding layers from those more porous ones that might contain aquifers."

It varies. There are plenty of places in the world where the layers above are *not* impenetrable, and oil and gas *have* been leaking out for the past few million years. Some of the wells under the Gulf of Mexico were located by 'sniffing' for oil naturally leaking into the water. And of course mankind first discovered and found uses for petroleum when it leaked out onto the surface at places like oil pits and tar pits. Thousands of tons of the stuff leaks into the environment naturally, all the time. There's not a lot we can do about that, though.

"In the process of hydraulic fracturing, the water and other fluids sent down the well bore come back up again. These return waters are often quite salty, and may contain heavy metals and radionuclides. This make them much more hazardous than the original fracking fluids used."

The same may be said of anything that comes out of a mine, but we've been allowing mining operations to occur for centuries.

The oceans are quite salty, and contain heavy metals and radionuclides. And that's because as coastline is eroded, deep layers of rock laid down millions of years ago are broken up and washed into the sea, in just the same way. The oceans would be clean and fresh too, if they hadn't been so polluted by millennia of erosion. But because it's happening entirely naturally, people look at the associated risks completely differently. It's a matter of context and perspective.

"Deep well re-injection of the return waters is the usual cause of induced earthquakes and some of the potential for groundwater aquifer contamination."

So far as I know, the earthquakes are all on the same sort of level as the rumble of a heavy truck driving nearby. And if re-injection was really a problem, I'd not have any difficulty with insisting they use a different method. That's an easily solvable problem, that we don't have to ban the entire industry to prevent.

"What might be reasonable if implemented in rural Wyoming, [...] becomes much less so if implemented directly next to homes and schools."

Do you really think so? OK, so tell me what you think of *this* scheme...

What I propose to do is to run tens of thousands of miles of gas and sewer pipes from central locations to every home and school in the country. Down the gas pipes we will run natural gas - the same stuff coming out of those fracked wells. And down the sewers we will pour a mixture of sand, grit, detergent, waste food, bactericide, and thickener - the contents of the water bucket after cleaning the kitchen floor - that closely mimics fracking fluid. Not to mention the toxic blend of human, cooking, and industrial waste that goes down the drains of every city.

Given the thousands of miles of pipe involved, I think it's pretty certain that there will be leaks. These leaks will unarguably go directly into the layers of rock that constitute the aquifer. Moreover, these pipes will pass through, under, and actually open out directly into people's homes and schools! Children - Oh, won't someone please think of the children! - will be allowed to come within a few feet of this stinky nightmare world of slimy rat-infested biohazardous waste! Cholera and typhoid and dysentery, oh my...

Oh, and if the gas leaked into people's houses, there could be explosions!

On any objective assessment, my crazy scheme is clearly *far* more dangerous than fracking. The stuff in them is far more toxic, the pipes are weaker, thinner, and more vulnerable, they run directly through the aquifer, or the shifting soil on top of it, there are thousands of miles of them, they're much, much closer to schools and homes, they're less firmly regulated and monitored for safety, and they're down there and in constant use for a lot longer. Do you therefore want to propose that we ban it?
:-)

For safety regulation to be rational and objective, there needs to be a single, across-the-board level of acceptable risk, (or an acceptable level of the risk-to-benefit ratio) such that we ban anything more dangerous and allow anything safer than it. If we allow kids to be exposed to certain dangerous products, like peanut butter, or cabbages, we can't rationally justify banning far safer products. Or at least, not and truthfully claim that it is purely the risk we're concerned about - rather than any cultural shibboleths regarding "natural" versus "artificial" produce.

"To reinforce @NiV's point, which I don't think depends on knowing what the answer is to fracking risks."

Agreed. I think it was inevitable that mentioning it would raise the same cultural antagonisms and disagreements over the assessment of the risk. I apologize for diverting down the rabbit hole...

I just thought it was interesting because, in the same way that I recognise the consensus of scientists on climate change, even though I don't agree with it, I am aware that there's a similar consensus on fracking among professional geologists and drilling engineers, which I hoped others would recognise even if they didn't agree with it. I also - for separate reasons, having looked at the physics myself - happen to think they're right, although I accept that it's also a political matter how we decide what fears and risks to accept.

I know you're not going to accept my view on what constitutes "truth-seeking" behaviour on climate change science, but I thought that you might find fracking a more plausible counter-example to illustrate my primary point.

"The idea that subjects are converging on the "truth" there seems less plausible to me than that left-leaning subjects are forming more "conservative" views precisely b/c they are exposing themselves more to right-leaning information than most other left-leajnging sorts."

I can't judge the overall balance of science-media coverage of the illegal immigration issue in the US from over here, but from what little I know it sounds plausible to me too.

"The paper in revision should say that it is unclear that movement of science curious spports inference on what "truth" is-- someting that I think it is always very hazardous to try to derive from public opinion data!"

Absolutely!!
:-)

August 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV, I think it is very naive to assume that somehow geologists or engineers have the power or desire to enforce what is an acceptably safe corporate operation. The amount of regulation applied currently varies considerably by state: http://www.nlfan.ca/resources/Fracklit26.pdf As I stated above, I think responses to fracking and regulation need to be situational. The Jonah field linked to above for example is in a very dry and isolated part of Wyoming. Maybe a handful of ranchers needed to be bought off. As industrial sacrifice zones sites go, this seems as good a place as any imaginable. Three is a huge difference in scale even within the past few years, regarding a state of the art fracking operation and the smaller wells that were used previously. New wellheads may take a number of horizontal drill directions (over a mile in length). Also, in many areas such as the part of Colorado with which I am familiar suburban development has now overrun many of the wellfield areas. When the oil and gas operations come back to re-frack a well, this can be a mammoth industrial operation. At the moment Colorado mandates setbacks of 500 feet from homes or 1000 feet from schools. The City I live in did try to pass an ordinance banning fracking within city limits. This was overruled by the state supreme court which held that mining rights superseded local zoning law. The City is in negotiations with and oil and gas company to close a well near a school: http://www.timescall.com/longmont-local-news/ci_30195231/rider-well-near-longmont-school-be-plugged-next.

I think that your point about the hazards of existing gas lines is well taken. This points to the need for greater regulation in that area also. http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article22200432.html and http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/06/15/fatal-san-bruno-gas-line-explosion-looms-large-at-pge-trial/.

But the modern fracking well sites are more like being next to a major gas compression station than simply a gas line. Except in this case, residential zoning would preclude industrial operations opening up next to one's school or house.

The wells in this area are quite dense. See the map here: http://www.cpr.org/news/story/maps-watch-oil-and-gas-wells-spread-across-colorado Most of the leakage is due to the time of fracking and not normal operation conditions at least if the corporation is well managed. But there are also old wells in the area, and these were drilled without thought as to what others might be doing decades into the future. It is these older wells that often are the source points for groundwater contamination problems as well as surface venting.

The return waters are often quite salty and also can contain radionuclides. The drill rigs themselves have in some cases become radioactive with repeated use and there is concern that exposures to workers is not as well monitored as it ought to be.

The current lower oil and gas prices are putting severe financial pressure on corporations, who because of huge debt loads to service must continue fracking even if not very profitable. This puts enormous pressure on them to cut corners.

There are a number of Fracking related initiatives proposed for the November ballot in Colorado. The environmentalist supported ones increase setbacks and increase potential liability.

August 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

@NiV et al.

I have pretty strong sense that if one looks across expanse of issues, all one can infer is that science curiosity tends toward convergence--not truth. The converngence of high OSI (ordinary science ingelligence) on nonpolarized issues *feels" more like convergence on "best evidence." The convergence of high science curious, across run of issues, just feels like people being more middling-- whch is still pretty interesting & a sign of the impact of freely exposing oneself to counter-attitudinal sources but is not a very reliable guide for "what's true."

Another intepretation would be that science curious people are political moderates but I don't think that that's right. Data seem to suggest, as paper points out, they seem as partisann as members of general population generally.

I've taken this up before. Also will address in connection w/ the ongoing MAPKIA (answers to which have been delayed at request of vacationing former champions).

August 4, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

NiV -

==> Because they've been using the technique for the past 50 years or so without a problem. It's a heavily-regulated industry, safety-wise: they'd not be doing that if there wasn't general agreement among the geologists and engineers that it was acceptably safe. ==>

So does that mean that in answer to the other part of my question, you don't have any links to any meta-analyses that show a scientific consensus that you referred to, and that you are just assuming a consensus without on the basis of an assumption about what might lead industry insiders that perhaps have vested interests to formulate certain conclusions? What's your reaction when people apply such reasoning to the question of "consensus" re: climate change?

What do you think about the consensus among geologists and engineers with respect to something like mountaintop removal, or burning coal? Should we assume that there's a scientific consensus among them that those practices are safe merely because those practices are ongoing, and following on, that because they must have formulated a consensus it is safe (because they are ongoing), we should therefore not question the validity of said consensus?

And, of course, there are also the issues that I reference before but that Gaythia speaks to much more clearlyl, in terms of new technologies and practices, questions of scale, and questions of taking methods and technologies that haven't had problems in some areas and assuming that you can generalize about their safety when practicing them in new areas.

==> True, which is why the decision is made on the basis of an acceptable degree of risk. ==>

Acceptable to whom?

==> But if the risk is no greater than for many other industrial processes that society allows without blinking, then it's clear enough that whatever your reasons are for banning it, it's not because of the risk. ==>

See comment above. But it's entirely logical that people who have not been subject to the inherent risks previously would question a change where they now are subject to such risks. Again

August 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

While I'm strongly optimistic for the result that curiosity is a character trait that may counteract polarizing cultural influences, I also want to note a different and possibly simpler way of interpreting this study. This study provides evidence supporting NiV's model, in which cultural cognition is heavily moderated by selective checking. In this experiment, Dan measured peoples' checking habits directly and confirmed that the people who are willing to check what they know are less prone to background polarization.

Of course, NiV beat me to it, 'coz NiV writes fast. I think the point is worth repeating.

August 4, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdypoon

@Dypoon-- But not *checking* is part & parcel of politically motivated reasoning. Partisans normally engage in biased information search as well as biased assimilation of information. So if SCS predicts resistance to biased search, it is presumably is measuring a cognitive disposition that is opposed to politically motivated reasoning.

I undersstood @NiV only to be making the point that such a disosition isn't necessarily truth convergent (it's a necessary but not sufficient condition of truth-convergent reasoning that one not spurn evidence that is contrary to one's predispositions).

August 4, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

I love your work! I use it in my critical thinking class, which focuses on climate change. There is one problem, however. The results you have published to date focus on issues that either are settled science (climate change, evolution) that the left has correct or that are not settled science at all (gun control, legalization of marijuana, undocumented immigrants). I suggest analyzing beliefs about scientific facts that the left tend to get wrong (immunizations and autism, "chemtrails"). Thanks!

December 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Bykerk-Kauffman

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