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Thursday
Sep212017

How should I be updating views on impact of fake news based on new evidence?

So . . . here are my “fake-news priors,” which are informed by the study of cultural cognition & affiliated types of politically motivated reasoning, and which are spelled out at (slightly) greater length in a paper entitled, “Misconceptions, Misinformation, and the Logic of Identity-Protective Cognition”:

My competing "models"A great deal of if not all the time, misinformation is not something that happens to the mass public but rather something that its members are complicit in producing as a result of identity-protective cognition. Persons using this mode of reasoning are not trying to form an accurate understanding of the facts in support of a decision that can be made only with the benefit of the best available evidence. Instead they are using their reasoning to cultivate an affective stance that expresses their identity and their solidarity with others who share their commitments (Kahan 2015, 2017). Individuals are quite able to accomplish this aim by selectively crediting and dismissing genuine information. Yet the same mechanisms of information processing will also impel them to credit misinformation suited to gratifying their identity-expressive aims.

Will the motivated public’s attraction to misinformation change the world in any particular way? It no doubt has (Flynn, Nyhan & Reifler 2017). But precisely because individuals’ cultural predispositions exist independently of, and are cognitively prior to, the misinformation they consume for identity-protective purposes (§ 2, supra), what these individuals do with misinformation in most circumstances will not differ from what they would have done without it.

But here are a couple of empirical studies that address incidence and effect of fake news.

 

My question is, how should I revise my priors based on these studies & by how much? What sort of likelihood ratios should I assign them, bearing in mind that the entire exercise is in the nature of a heuristic, designed to discipline and extend thoughts & inferences?

 Refs.

Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. J. Econ. Perspectives, 31, 211-236.

Flynn, D. J., Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2017). The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions: Understanding False and Unsupported Beliefs About Politics. Political Psychology, 38, 127-150. doi:10.1111/pops.12394

Kahan, D. M. (2015). Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem. Advances in Political Psychology, 36, 1-43. doi:10.1111/pops.12244

Kahan, D. M. (2017). The expressive rationality of inaccurate perceptions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40. doi:10.1017/S0140525X15002332

Kahan, Dan M., Misconceptions, Misinformation, and the Logic of Identity-Protective Cognition (May 24, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2973067

Pennycook, Gordon and Rand, David G., Who Falls for Fake News? The Roles of Analytic Thinking, Motivated Reasoning, Political Ideology, and Bullshit Receptivity (September 12, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3023545

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Reader Comments (39)

People have to be paying attention (and altering their behavior accordingly) to something. People who are largely group-identity protective have to be paying attention to the group, or to some proxy for the group, as with Barber & Pope's piece on how easily GOPites are swayed by made-up Trump positions.

That, combined with people having low investigative skills & motivation, would make fake news about those objects-of-attention sway people rather easily (as it does in Barber & Pope). In just these cases "what these individuals do with misinformation in most circumstances" will "differ from what they would have done without it."

Those wrestling for control may know this quite well, although the full field of such objects-of-attention may not be well known - so the shotgun approach is used for fake news. Why not, when using the shotgun (the internet) is free and easy?

Another thought - if one is only paying attention to some proxy for one's group, how can one be sure it's a suitable proxy? Maybe the best strategy is to choose a group/proxy pair such that, based on constant characteristics, the two will tend to track each other diligently. Maybe RWA is just this heuristic.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

a great deal of if not all the time, misinformation is not something that happens to the mass public but rather something that its members are complicit in producing as a result of identity-protective cognition. Persons using this mode of reasoning are not trying to form an accurate understanding of the facts in support of a decision that can be made only with the benefit of the best available evidence. Instead they are using their reasoning to cultivate an affective stance... .

Why lay this out as a binary choice? Doesn't seem to make much sense, to me. Seems to me that looking at this through a binary frame is likely to over-simplify the causal mechanisms.

Likewise:

.... that expresses their identity and their solidarity with others

Do (1) expressing identity and (2) [expressing?] solidarity with others, exist as independent "motivations, " as compared to exists as essentially the same "motivation?" If the former, where do the differentiations lie? In other words, I think that often (if certainly not always) my own "motivations" are more to maintain my own view of my own identity, than to align myself so as to protect against reputational risk within my group. Us that something that is important to understanding why outliers exist (not saying that I am an outlier, but that there may be a spectrum in which those motivations exist independently, which might result in outliers among those heavily towards one side of that spectrum). It seems that the literature deals with this question as if no distinction exists, and I have asked this question many times, but still don't understand whether such a distinction exists at all, let alone is significant.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

I am wondering if the use of "identity" in "identity protective cognition" is causing problems here. Dan's definition from his "Misconceptions..." paper is:

Identity protective cognition refers to the tendency of culturally diverse individuals to selectively credit and dismiss evidence in patterns that reflect the beliefs that predominate in their group.

This definition has nothing to do with the individualistic notion of "identity" - as something created by the self independent of social pressures (whether nor not such a thing even exists). Identity protection, as Dan is using it is, by definition, all about groups. Hence, that apparent binary choice you point out in Dan's wording is instead part of the definition - it's just saying that people using identity protective cognition are (by Dan's definition) paying attention to groups, not group-independent facts.

So, when you suggest that group identity and personal identity may not be that distinct, I don't think this is a point of argument.

All IMO, of course...

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Thanks, Jonathan. Let me think about that.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Jonathan -

So after thought, I'm still confused. First, by the notion that identity protection in the group identity sense is ever an either/or, that someone is or isn't trying to form an accurate understanding of facts via a vis using reasoning to cultivate an affective stance. Seems to me that in the real world, it is more a matter of degree in one direction or the other depending on individual characteristics and context. Second, is that in the real world group identity orientation is ever free of influence from motivation to protect identity in an individualistic sense. Seems to me that it doesn't make a lot of sense to conceptualize the one as something distinct from the other. Just creating a definition, as such, doesn't explain how it might be manifest in reality.

September 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

First, by the notion that identity protection in the group identity sense is ever an either/or, that someone is or isn't trying to form an accurate understanding of facts via a vis using reasoning to cultivate an affective stance.

Dan's theory, if I recall correctly, is that most people have much less motivation to get an accurate understanding of facts on certain issues than to maintain and improve their group status. Those issues would be ones where their inaccuracy has little impact on their personal lives, but significant impact (as perceived by them) on their group status.

In those cases where there is impact on their personal lives and impact on group status, there's the Kentucky farmer/Pakistani doctor effect. There are probably other ways people cope in such cases. Some might even find it possible to become ambivalent about their group. That might lower their in-group status. Or, maybe they're among other like-minded ambivalents, and enhance their status there.

Second, is that in the real world group identity orientation is ever free of influence from motivation to protect identity in an individualistic sense. Seems to me that it doesn't make a lot of sense to conceptualize the one as something distinct from the other.

This might still just be the unfortunate choice of terminology. What if Dan had called it "in-group status protection" instead of "identity protection", keeping the definition the same?

September 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

Dan's theory, if I recall correctly, is that most people have much less motivation to get an accurate understanding of facts on certain issues than to maintain and improve their group status.

I don't understand why they are viewed in opposition. Why can't someone be fully motivated to obtain an accurate understanding and maintain group status? And to maintain group status, they may filter facts to confirm biases - but it isn't as if they are diminishing their goal towards accuracy....they are just willingly accepting (what may seem like others as) illogical rationalizations. Like knowing disbelief. Someone who used to think that an individual mandate was a requirement of personal responsibility, but after Obama embraced the concept decided that an individual mandate is the height of tyranny, hasn't sacrificed their previous determination of an "accurate" assessment of the implications of an individual mandate. They are just tweaking their interpretation of accuracy. It isn't like they say to themselves, "ok, now I no longer care about accurately evaluating the implications of an individual mandate."

What if Dan had called it "in-group status protection" instead of "identity protection", keeping the definition the same?

OK. Now I get your point.

September 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan - isn't this all getting too esoteric? Some humor seems indicated - here is the inimitable Taibbi of Rolling Stone

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/taibbi-steve-bannon-splits-from-trump-hilarity-ensues-w504732

September 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

"Like knowing disbelief. Someone who used to think that an individual mandate was a requirement of personal responsibility, but after Obama embraced the concept decided that an individual mandate is the height of tyranny, hasn't sacrificed their previous determination of an "accurate" assessment of the implications of an individual mandate."

Why are your examples all same-way political? Politics obscures the issue, because different people interpret your words differently - half your audience necessarily won't understand your words the way you intended them.

Try this.

"Like a physicist who used to think that instantaneous action at a distance in Newton's law of gravity was a requirement of observed scientific reality, but after Einstein rejected the concept decided that instantaneous action at a distance is the height of unphysicality, hasn't sacrificed their previous determination of an "accurate" assessment of the implications of the laws of physics."

Doesn't that make your point better? People can change their mind when they see better arguments, better evidence, or (sadly) more trusted authorities saying it. They're still truth-seeking. They're still aiming for accuracy. But they're also paying close attention to what their fellows in the physics community are all saying, and conforming their opinions to the current fashions in their in-group.

The point is, they see their in-group as a trusted source of truth. So there's no inconsistency between truth-seeking and group-following.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Ecoute-- esoterc discussion is not so bad. But comic interludes are always welcome.

September 24, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

That Flynn, Nyhan & Reifler paper Dan cites is a good read with an excellent biblio. Got me to go down this rabbit hole:

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2930362

which is a new version of an paper from 2013 that is cited by Flynn, Nyhan & Reifler:

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csdi/miller-stokes/08_MillerStokes_BroockmanSkovron.pdf

Anyone want to guess what's causing the robust asymmetry here?

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Broockman also has a recent paper lending support to that Barber & Pope's piece I cited above:

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.711.8724&rep=rep1&type=pdf

So, we consistently elect politicians that are more conservative than we are, and then we adopt their more conservative positions. Lather, rinse and repeat...

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Hmmm - that link to Broockman & Butler looks broken. Try this:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12243

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Doesn't that make your point better? People can change their mind when they see better arguments, better evidence, or (sadly) more trusted authorities saying it.

That is a different point, a different direction of causality. For example, I'm not saying that people change their mind because of a better argument or better "authority," but that they change their mind because of ideological motivation and then find a "better" argument or "authority" which are congruent with that "motivation." (I don't doubt that both directions of causality are manifest).

So there's no inconsistency between truth-seeking and group following.

I agree.

I don't think it's particularly accurate to suggest that people sacrifice a goal for accuracy in some kind of zero sum relationship with protecting identity. No such sacrifice is necessary - you just change your views of what is accurate. "

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I don't think it's particularly accurate to suggest that people sacrifice a goal for accuracy in some kind of zero sum relationship with protecting identity. No such sacrifice is necessary - you just change your views of what is accurate.

Then what about the Kentucky farmer and Pakistani doctor? Don't you think they are differentiating between accuracy and belonging?

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"Then what about the Kentucky farmer and Pakistani doctor?"

The 'Kentucky farmer' is a misinterpretation on Dan's part. The farmers expressed a belief in natural climate change (which they said would affect the way they farm), but not anthropogenic. Because it's common in the public debate to conflate the term "climate change" with "anthropogenic climate change" (since one side has been using any evidence of changing weather as evidence of anthropogenic change), Dan interpreted them saying they expected climate change to affect their jobs while not believing in AGW s evidence of inconsistency - they believe in "climate change" when it matters practically/financially to them, but not when it doesn't.

The Pakistani doctor I'm not sure about. I've not been able to find any proper transcripts of what was actually said. The bits I have seen are a bit unclear. I got the impression it was garbled versions of a couple of "outlier" comments from a couple of people. But I could be misunderstanding. I'm not convinced.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Dan - so glad to see you welcome a sense of humor here, because satirists, like Taibbi, or my favorite jokers at the Daily Stormer (now domiciled in Iceland at https://dailystormer.is/ ), cartoonists like Scott Adams (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/a-cartoonists-nihilistic-defense-of-donald-trump/537297/ ) or comedians like Michael Moore (https://www.fastcompany.com/40459122/michael-moore-says-trump-is-on-track-to-win-again-in-2020 ) really have a better handle on the electorate than the two articles you cite.

The Allcott, Gentzkow, article measures re-postings on Facebook, which means nothing as far as fake news are concerned - we forward to our friends jokes, not news. Most people figure their friends have the brains to look up news for themselves. Then there is a backfire effect, caused by the latest frantic effort to tag news items as disputed: here is an article on that one >
"Assessing the effect of “disputed” warnings and source salience on perceptions of fake news accuracy
Gordon Pennycook & David G. Rand*
> where they discover that Trump supporters and those under 26 are likely to get attracted to the "disputed" tag.

The Pennycook, Rand paper gets the conclusion right:
".... Ironically, the
invention of the internet and social media – which resulted from a great deal of analytic thinking
– may now be exacerbating our tendency to rely on intuition, to the
potential peril of both ourselves and society as a whole....."
The main irony here is that the authors completely fail to get the joke - precisely because there is such an avalanche of incoming data, the only way to effectively process it is heuristically, not analytically. That also confirms Dan's result that greater scientific knowledge increases, rather than decreases, polarization on topics such as guns and climate change.

And as to this alleged misperception by politicians of how conservative the electorate is - look at the German election results!

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Maybe we are overestimating the motivation (or ability) of most people to maintain consistency in their beliefs.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"Maybe we are overestimating the motivation (or ability) of most people to maintain consistency in their beliefs."

Or underestimating it.

It depends who we're talking about.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

...who we're talking about : most people

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Which "most"? ;-)

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

What the satirists get right is that the only effective defense against all the "virtue signaling" propaganda is laughter. Labeling the entire alt-right - including the Daily Stormer, the AfD, and recently, the son of the Israeli prime minister >

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ztj6CZzmgDA

> as "Nazis" obeys the law of unintended consequences. The labelers make themselves look like complete fools.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ah, "most". Most of those I personally know or know from social media, which FYI extends far beyond the media commonly reviewed in all the studies I see cited here and similar. Graphic here is instructive:
https://www.cjr.org/analysis/breitbart-media-trump-harvard-study.php

The entire study reminds me of the drunk looking for his keys under a streetlight even though he knows he dropped the keys in a far-off ditch, because "the light is better here".

An entire class of people have been booted from Facebook, Twitter, and other indexable websites, but can be found far from the aforementioned streetlight in any number of sites like GAB, and of course on the dark web accessible via Tor. If you want to locate Trump supporters - I seem to be the only one here, for which I must thank Dan's generous hospitality - you must know where to look.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute,

IMO satire is virtue signalling. Also IMO, virtue signalling probably isn't some unfortunate human failing, but probably has some pro-social reason it persists. Even when it is costly - as with sacrifice.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Can we maybe clear up what is meant by "sacrifice"? My friends at the Daily Stormer getting banned from the entire internet? Sakharov ridiculing Lysenko and ending up in Siberia? Aristophanes satirizing Socrates, who stood by his ideas and had to drink poison? Yair Natanyahu - new hero of the alt right - lambasting Soros for funding the Israel boycott? Stating a truth is not identical to virtue signaling.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

By sacrifice, I mean premeditated understood-to-be personally costly behavior done for the purpose of enhancing one's status in one's in-group. So, in this case, not merely stating beliefs to challenge, criticize or check for agreement, but instead broadcasting beliefs one knows their in-group already agrees with so that others recognize your in-group commitment.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"By sacrifice, I mean premeditated understood-to-be personally costly behavior done for the purpose of enhancing one's status in one's in-group."

Presumably, by "sacrifice" specifically, you mean behaviour enhancing your status with the in-group that you know or expect the out-group to punish severely.

Although that would raise questions over "Dan's theory, if I recall correctly, is that most people have much less motivation to get an accurate understanding of facts on certain issues than to maintain and improve their group status." What's their motivation, if showing group membership is more costly than not doing so?

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

What's their motivation, if showing group membership is more costly than not doing so?

Being part of a cohesive and powerful group enhances one's survival potential. And having high status in that group is even better. So, even when sacrifice is costly, the cost/benefit can still be in its favor.

There's also the benefit to the group when those with low commitment can be excluded. The remaining group is more committed to its survival.

In the case of satire, and many other modern virtue signals - the cost is very low. That probably means it only has use for the individual, not the group. However, it doesn't take much to reinforce norms, so maybe that's the group benefit.

September 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"Being part of a cohesive and powerful group enhances one's survival potential. And having high status in that group is even better. So, even when sacrifice is costly, the cost/benefit can still be in its favor."

But generally the groups people sacrifice most to identify with are not powerful. Soviet dissidents were not powerful. Minority religions (like the Jews, historically, or the early Christian martyrs) were not powerful. Climate sceptics are not powerful. Ant-vaxxers are not powerful. The alt-Right was not and probably still is not powerful. Protestors for free speech and fair trials on university campuses are not powerful. Campaigners for any political or social movement, at the very start of their history, do not generally begin being powerful.

And yet people will risk their jobs and their reputations - in extreme cases their own lives - to stand up as members of groups that most of the rest of society vilifies and persecutes. Why?

Unless, of course, it's because they believe their beliefs are the truth?

--

I think my point is that 'virtue signalling' is something you do when the group you're identifying with has all the power, while costly sacrifice is something that mostly happens when you're the underdog. There are exceptions, of course, often highly informative about the subtleties of costs and benefits. which is why the evolutionary biologists were so interested in them.

Peacock's tails are interesting, but perhaps more interesting is the fact that almost all birds don't have them. Costly sacrifices to show group membership are highly unusual.

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Contrary to Jonathan's claim, the cost of satire is so incredibly high that satire itself is either banned altogether (viz. Daily Stormer) or viciously persecuted. There is a reason this excellent article from today's London Times starts with a quote of Mel Brooks.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/new-enemies-threaten-theenlightenment-6xsj58mhg

September 25 2017, 12:01am, The Times

New enemies threaten the Enlightenment

Censorious students and online witch-hunts have joined religious dogma in challenging liberties won over centuries.

Matt Ridley


Mel Brooks said last week that comedy is becoming impossible in this censorious age and he never could have made his 1974 film Blazing Saddles today. A recent poll found that 38 per cent of Britons and 70 per cent of Germans think the government should be able to prevent speech that is offensive to minorities. If you give a commencement speech at a US university these days and don’t attract a shouty mob, you’re clearly a nobody. “There’s an almost religious quality to many of the protests,” says Jonathan Haidt of New York University, citing the denunciations.

Bret Weinstein tweeted last week: “We are witnessing the sabotage of the core principle of a free society — rationalised as self-defence.” He is a left-wing former biology professor at Evergreen College in Washington state, who objected to white students and professors being asked to stay away from the university for a day on the grounds that this was a form of racism. For this he was confronted by a mob, and the university authorities told the campus police to stand down rather than protect him.

The statue-toppling mob has now turned its wrath on Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. In a display of “virtue signalling . . . written with the sanctimonious purity of a Red Guard during China’s Cultural Revolution”, as the biologist Jerry Coyne puts it, a Harvard academic has written in The Guardian that Crick’s name should be removed from the Francis Crick Institute because of some things he once said about eugenics.
The no-platforming, safe-space, trigger-warning culture is no longer confined to academia, or to America, but lies behind the judgmentalism of many social media campaigns. Every writer I know feels that he or she is one remark away from disgrace. A de facto blasphemy prohibition has re-emerged in western society and is being enforced not just by the Islamists who murder cartoonists, but, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the black, feminist victim of female genital mutilation has experienced, by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called her an anti-Muslim extremist.

Countries where in my youth women wore mini-skirts in public now enforce hijabs or burkas. Sharia law, homophobia and explicit antisemitism are spreading in Britain, where in some state-funded schools four-year-olds are made to wear hijabs. Turkey’s government has joined US Christian evangelicals in trying to expunge evolution from the school curriculum.

This is not just about Islam, though it is curious how silent feminists are on Islamic sexism. The enforcement of dogma is happening everywhere. Members of a transgender campaign group have refused to condemn an activist for punching a feminist. Anybody questioning the idea that climate change is an imminent catastrophe, however gently, is quickly labelled a “denier” (ie, blasphemer). How bad is this spasm of intolerance going to get? Perhaps it is a brief hiatus in rationalism, a dimming of the hard-won secular enlightenment, which will soon re-brighten after doing little harm. Or perhaps it is like China’s Cultural Revolution: a short-lived but vicious phenomenon confined to one part of the world that will do terrible harm then cease.

Or maybe the entire world is heading into a great endarkenment, in which an atmosphere of illiberal orthodoxy threatens the achievement of recent centuries. “The world simply cannot afford an American descent into illiberal tyranny,” says Professor Weinstein.

My optimism, usually rather robust, has been shaken by an eloquent new book, The Darkening Age, by Catherine Nixey, a writer for this newspaper. Her topic is the Christian takeover of the Roman empire, and her argument is that it was more violent, intolerant and destructive than we have been led to believe. Edward Gibbon argued in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that Christianity was more damaging than barbarian invasions to classical civilisation. But Nixey tells the tale with fresh passion and horrifying detail.

The enforcement of dogma is happening all over the world

As she recounts, in the fourth and fifth centuries, in Alexandria, Athens, Rome and elsewhere, “the Christian church demolished, vandalised and melted down a simply staggering quantity of art. Classical statues were knocked from their plinths, defaced, defiled and torn limb from limb. Temples were razed to their foundations and burned to the ground . . . many of the Parthenon sculptures were attacked . . . monasteries start to erase the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca and Archimedes. ‘Heretical’ — and brilliant — ideas crumble into dust. Pliny is scraped from the page. Cicero and Seneca are overwritten. Archimedes is covered over. Every single work of Democritus and his heretical ‘atomism’ vanishes. Ninety per cent of all classical literature fades away.”

In 415AD Hypatia of Alexandria, the finest mathematician and philosopher of her day, was seized by a Christian mob, urged on by “Saint” Cyril, who objected to her symbols and astrolabes, which seemed to prove she was an emissary of Satan. They dragged her to a church, stripped her naked, flayed her alive, gouged out her eyes and burnt her body. In 529AD the philosopher Damascius was forced by Christians to close the Academy in Athens, more than 900 years after it began its history of rich intellectual inquiry. In the words of the Princeton historian Brent Shaw, the Christians brought “a hectoring moralising of the individual, and a ceaseless management of the minutiae of everyday life. Above all, it was a form of speech marked by an absence of humour. It was a morose and a deadly serious world. The joke, the humorous kick, the hilarious satires, the funny cut-them-down-to-size jibe, have vanished.”

Bit by bit, Hume and others won the right to question everything

If this reminds you of Mel Brooks’s remark, or Evergreen College, or sounds a bit like Isis today, note that the Christians also desecrated Palmyra.

The struggle to shake off this censorious culture was long and difficult. Although Christianity became less nasty, as late as the 18th century Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume and Smith had to watch what they said for fear of persecution. Bit by bit, however, they won the right to question everything, mock anything and challenge everybody.

I am fairly certain that the Enlightenment is not over, that discovery and reason will overwhelm dogma and superstition. Seven years ago my book The Rational Optimist set out a positive vision of the world. But the spread of fundamentalist Islam, the growth of Hindu nationalism and Russian autocracy, the intolerance of dissent in western universities and the puritanical hectoring of social media give grounds for concern that the flowering of freedom in the past several centuries may come under threat. We have a fight on our hands.

© Times Newspapers Limited 2017.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Anybody still doubting that we have gone collectively neo-Stalinist can read this marvelous sample of Sovriet psychiatry from the Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2017/09/22/is-trump-mentally-ill-or-is-america-psychiatrists-weigh-in/

Wake up, people! We are one step away from a new dark age.

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Final - note to Dan:

On your question about fake news, there is a simple answer: all news funded exclusively by advertising - or some other indirect financial interest - is by definition suspect. There is a biological basis for addictions that make us obese, and addictions that make us look for more fake news, and the man who explained the first has now written a book where he explains the second:

https://www.amazon.com/Hacking-American-Mind-Corporate-Takeover-ebook/dp/B01N802BNX

As an aside, I have met in person vast numbers of my fellow alt-right / libertarian friends and can confirm not one of them (M,F, of all religious and ethnic backgrounds,etc) was fat. Now just because we appear immune to the first addiction does not prove we are immune to the second, but given the addiction mechanism described in the book I have hopes :)

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Jonathan -

Then what about the Kentucky farmer and Pakistani doctor? Don't you think they are differentiating between accuracy and belonging?

Not withstanding some questions about the Kentucky farmer (e.g., among others I think that NiV and Andy raise some points that afaict Dan hasn't really reconciled), no, I don't think that they are conceptualizing some dichotomous relationship between accuracy and belonging. I happen to believe that a major piece of motivated reasoning is that people (rather easily and almost as a matter of course) construct workaround logical matrices that enable them to avoid confronting what may appear from the outside to be logical inconsistencies.

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I happen to believe that a major piece of motivated reasoning is that people (rather easily and almost as a matter of course) construct workaround logical matrices that enable them to avoid confronting what may appear from the outside to be logical inconsistencies.

That's an excellent way of putting it. I agree. I also really like Walt Whitman's "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." admission. And an anarchic multitude at that.

The sciences may hold logical consistency as a necessary virtue, but I think people find it mostly just a thankless chore. Some perhaps even see it as a sign of weakness.

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"The sciences may hold logical consistency as a necessary virtue"

A virtue, sure, but not necessary. General relativity is not consistent with quantum mechanics. Newtonian gravity is not consistent with special relativity. rigid bodies are definitely not consistent with relativity, and highly dubious even in classical Newtonian physics. Electrodynamics and quantum field theory still have deep mathematical problems that nobody has yet figured a way around. Black hole singularities are probably inconsistencies, (as is the black hole information paradox,) but nobody is really sure.

The real laws of physics have to be logically consistent, but we don't have access to the real laws. Scientific theories and methods are models of the world. So long as they make sufficiently accurate and unambiguous predictions, perfect consistency is not required.

As George Box said, "All models are wrong, but some are useful."

September 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Box-Jenkins assumes residuals are white noise - as you knew, NiV. But what is going on right now is explosive, not simply beyond Cauchy but unrelated to any distribution with finite moments. Even the Socialists - no friends of mine - are out complaining:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/technology/google-search-bias-claims.html

I've no idea where that leaves Dan's cultural cognition model. But as I said at the start here there is useful data to be obtained by following comedians like Taibbi (see post here earlier).

See 2-minute video on last night's Alabama rally for Judge Moore, featuring Nigel Farage of the UK and Steve Bannon. As Taibbi said, Charles Manson and the ghost of Heinrich Himmler were not available.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN0PXGjyxoE

September 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

"Box-Jenkins assumes residuals are white noise - as you knew, NiV."

Obviously. Box-Jenkins is about explaining distributions that are *not* white noise, by describing how they differ from it. It's like picking an origin for your coordinate system. You get to the point by starting at the origin and moving 5 metres east, 10 metres north. You get to the test sequence by starting with white noise and then filtering low frequencies this much and high frequencies that much. Start with the observation and reverse the process, and you should get back to the origin. If you don't, you must have picked the wrong model to fit.

From a definitional point of view, you could just as easily pick a different 'origin' and start with a non-white noise sequence. It would just make the calculation and tests more complicated. But whatever. It's not relevant to the discussion, I just thought it was interesting. :-)

"But what is going on right now is explosive, not simply beyond Cauchy but unrelated to any distribution with finite moments. Even the Socialists - no friends of mine - are out complaining"

I've seen lots of complaints of this sort, and it's never what people think. Something weird happens, and a certain sort of person jumps to the conclusion that it's a conspiracy to silence them or shut them down. Usually it's an unintended consequence of something entirely unrelated, a bug, or just random noise. People see patterns, even when there aren't any. The article certainly offers zero evidence that this is deliberate on Google's part.

Rankings for a search term like "socialism vs capitalism" would naturally change if lots of other people suddenly started writing about the subject. Given the protests against Trump, it's suddenly in the news a lot more. You're standing in the middle of a bigger crowd - obviously you're not going to stand out as much.

Or any one of a million similar explanations. More evidence, please.

"As Taibbi said, Charles Manson and the ghost of Heinrich Himmler were not available."

Tut! Haven't comedians heard of Godwin's law? :-)

September 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Judge Moore WON.

I rest my case.

September 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Back to Dan's original query on fake news filters: I am now joined in my technique of following posts by assorted jokers as best indicators of public sentiment by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Perhaps y'all should consider it:

http://thebulletin.org/onion-takes-clock11148

September 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

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