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Monday
Oct082018

Piling on: still more studies rejecting "gateway belief" model

 

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Reader Comments (73)

Dan - the very interesting studies you post seem to me to focus on minutiae instead of the one issue overwhelmingly motivating the "conservative" attitudes concerning climate change. (Kindly refer also to Fukuyama excerpt posted on last page of your previous thread).

Here it is:
"...Many segments of the electorate find it hard to accept the reality of the data, even though 98 percent of the scientific community seems to agree that the general model holds up.

To me, it leads to a really interesting question and it goes back to the preamble of the Constitution: “To secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.” I’ve often asked the question: What does it mean to talk about posterity?

If you talk about posterity in terms of climate change, you are talking about posterity in a truly cosmic, massive-scale sense of the term."
https://news.stanford.edu/2016/09/01/presidency-strongest-branch-government/

But what does "posterity" mean? The answer has nothing to do with the good professor's cosmic massive scales.

Posterity means people who look like me.

The conservative refusal to take action on the "scientific consensus" is perfectly consistent with said consensus showing "climate change" will affect people who look nothing like me. As to those who do look like me, say the people of Holland, they've managed to survive quite well in lands mostly under sea level for centuries.

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

P.S. link to last page of previous thread referring to Fukuyama
http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2018/9/20/help-wanted-to-identify-cognitive-bias-at-work-in-peoples-pr.html?currentPage=2#comments

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

A similar themed, but opposite effect (?) non-paywall article by Kerr and Wilson:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0200295

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Ecoute,

"Posterity means people who look like me."

Just curious: how much like you must they look to meet your requirements?

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Academic opinion piece on distrust of academic research, particularly by business management:

https://phys.org/news/2018-10-facts-evidence.html

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0149206318796934

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

PLOS is publishing a collection this week called "Confronting climate change in the age of denial":

https://phys.org/news/2018-10-climate-age-denial.html

https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000033

https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2006004

https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2006720

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan - not my wording, the preamble's:

“To secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.”

The general look of"our" posterity has never, to my knowledge, been questioned in all those centuries.

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Jonathan,

Interesting PLOS articles - I was initially thinking this was just another "how scientists can use psychologically-proven propaganda techniques that change public beliefs" series, that as usual missed the point that any putative infallible mind-warping technique they can use to convince people, the other side can use too, when I saw the following: "People are hard-wired to respond to stories, but climate-denial narratives can be just as compelling as those that convey the facts about global warming."

A perfect case study of people's tendency to create their own narratives to explain the seemingly inexplicable is the recent viral response to a photo of a starving polar bear. The photographers had hoped the starving bear could help people grasp what the future may hold for animals who can no longer depend on sea ice for hunting and shelter as global warming continues to melt polar ice sheets. But climate change deniers countered by circulating photos of healthy bears to claim that global warming is a hoax.

Is it possible that they've now realised the huge flaw in their approach?! Astonishing!

It won't last.

--
"What does it mean to talk about posterity?"

"Posterity" obviously means future generations of citizens - the inheritors of the Constitution. It's not about what they look like or where they come from, but how they think. Being or becoming a citizen is not based on what you look like, but on whether you understand and uphold the Constitution, the laws, and the values of liberty they are based on.

October 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Hugo Mercier studies framing effects on how vaccine supporters spread their viewpoint:

https://psyarxiv.com/ubp5s/

October 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"Hugo Mercier studies framing effects on how vaccine supporters spread their viewpoint"

Sounds like a similar problem to climate change:

Unfortunately, most pro-vaccination members of the public are only willing or able to offer relatively weak arguments to defend their opinions, relying on personal anecdotes rather than proper evidence [...] This could reflect the fact that most vaccinees passively accept vaccination, without being well informed of its benefits

A point amply made by the appalling choice of proposed arguments used in the experiment! (Either a 90% scientific consensus statement, or a one-in-a-thousand 'serious' side effects rate.)

October 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV

Appalling arguments are ineffective, but the problem starts with a profound misreading of the counterparty to which all those communications are addressed.

Consider that the unvaccinated in the US tend to be California / New York liberals, Minnesota Somalis, and illegal migrants. Nobody on the right sees any need to agitate for their welfare. Ditto for carbon taxes - will the Chinese, Indians, Africans, other polluters, pay them? No, so we can forget about them.

Note that the logic here in no way depends on vaccine effectiveness or to climate modeling.

For an analysis of the phenomenon, see:
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/large-majorities-dislike-political-correctness/572581/
".............It is obvious that certain elements on the right mock instances in which political correctness goes awry in order to win the license to spew outright racial hatred.........."

I don't believe there is such a thing as hate speech, racial or otherwise. But there is definitely PC censorship to combat free speech. The leaked Google report documenting this can be downloaded here:
https://www.scribd.com/document/390521673/The-Good-Censor-GOOGLE-LEAK#from_embed

There is no need to convince anyone on the right on vaccines, global warming, benefits of illegal migration, and the like, since no amount of argument will change the underlying position. And attempts to do so by restricting free speech have already backfired spectacularly.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Consider that the unvaccinated in the US tend to be California / New York liberals, Minnesota Somalis, and illegal migrants...

Interesting.

There is no need to convince anyone on the right on vaccines,...

Interesting.
https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/4/6/15160486/alex-jones-vaccines-autism-gates-fungus-health-conspiracy-theories

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Consider that the unvaccinated in the US tend to be California / New York liberals, Minnesota Somalis, and illegal migrants...

Interesting. I guess there are quite a few California/New York non-hispanic white, educated, wealthy Minnesotian Somali illegal immigrants with insurance living in Colorado.

https://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/health/the-unvaccinated/index.html

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Consider that the unvaccinated in the US tend to be California / New York liberals, Minnesota Somalis, and illegal migrants."

Top urban hotspots for non-vaccination are: (Washington) - Seattle; Spokane; (Oregon) - Portland; (Arizona) - Phoenix; (Utah) - Salt Lake City; Provo; (Texas) - Houston; Fort Worth; Plano; Austin; (Michigan) - Troy; Warren; Detroit; (Missouri) - Kansas City; (Pennsylvania) - Pittsburgh.

There are 10 counties with more than 14% of kindergarten-age kids unvaccinated - 8 out of 10 are in Idaho.

Anti-vaxxers are found roughly equally on left and right - more of them towards the two ends of the political spectrum than the middle.

"Nobody on the right sees any need to agitate for their welfare."

Tribal thinking. The world is divided into "us" and "them", and only the "us" matter, or are worthy of any consideration or protection. Interaction with others is ruled by selfishness, spite, vindictiveness, contempt, and hostility. There is no reciprocity or altruism, no alliances formed, and blood feuds are common. Such groups tend to lose public sympathy, become isolated, and the same attitude applied in reverse. Why should anyone not of your tribe care about you, if you don't care about anyone not of your tribe? Extinction looms.

Authoritarianism in all its many incarnations has a bloody history, and rightly makes people nervous. No, people don't like political correctness; but they also don't like racism, sexism, and homophobia either. And there is a little bit of "why the hell should we care what happens to a bunch of racists?" about their attitude. Martin Niemöller certainly got that one right.

Also, other people getting vaccinated is in your interests because the vaccination doesn't give complete immunity against the diseases, but it does stop epidemics starting, so you're far less likely to be exposed to it. The main bebfit to any individual of vaccination is from *everyone else* being vaccinated.

"I don't believe there is such a thing as hate speech, racial or otherwise."

There has always been "hate speech", for as long as there has been speech (and longer, if you count animals' aggression displays). It's part of the human condition. Hate speech is used to enforce social norms - in those authoritarian societies that believe society has both the right and duty to impose its beliefs, rituals, tabboos, and behaviours on its members, for their own good and for the good of society.

Those social norms change from time to time, but society's justifications and methods for enforcing them does not. It used to be that people of certain races, religions, and sexual practices were 'hated' by society, and such hate was compulsory. Then the rules changed, and now it is the followers of the old rules who are 'hated' and hating them is now compulsory. The term "hate speech" is usually only used to refer to the hate-laden speech that subset used by out-of-date people who hate the wrong things - who are the new target of society's hate. Same sort of people, same sort of psychology - the people who angrily shout abuse at a homophobe today are essentially the same as those who would have angrily shouted abuse at a homosexual 50 years ago. The people who would fire or refuse to employ a homophobe today are essentially the same as those who would have done the same to a homosexual 50 years ago. Tribal rules, you see.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

The studies on psych roots of antivaxx sentiments that I've seen recently point to behaviors and moral foundations more closely associated with right than left: reactance, liberty/individualism, purity/disgust:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0256-5 (no non-paywall)

and

http://www.fsk.it/attach/Content/News/6464/o/170221_2.pdf

notably:

Political ideology significantly predicted antivaccination attitudes such that more conservative participants were more likely to hold antivaccination attitudes, p < .001.


The most recent US rate study I've seen is:

http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002578

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I found several pseudo-scientific anti-vaccine articles on the internet and they all seem to have been written in a madhouse. This, for instance:
https://www.naturalnews.com/2018-08-30-editors-of-medical-journals-confirm-hpv-vaccines-cause-more-harm-than-good.html

I seriously doubt the readership is more right- than left-wing - greens tend to be on the left.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute -

I seriously doubt the readership is more right- than left-wing....

Well, that might be an improvement that at least now, having been presented with evidence contrary-wise, you have doubt. And looking beyond the (ir?) relevance of the conclusions you draw based on guesses about the readership of cherry-picked articles...two questions remain, (1) was there any evidence that supported your previous certainty and, (2) what evidence supports your current serious doubt?

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Honestly, Ecoute, prior to finding the research on antivaxx, I thought it was primarily a left situation as well. That opinion was based on anecdotes like RFK Jr. and the anti-corporatist conspiracy framing of Wakefield et. al.. But, if there really is more antivaxx lit targeting the left, then perhaps the effect of conservative moral foundations and such is even larger than those papers I linked suggest.

Consider the purity/disgust framing of vaccines. When someone considers a vaccine, do the diseases elicit more disgust than the vaccine itself? Assuming the purity/disgust frame works primarily by affective means - system 1 - then it's probably the shots that trigger the disgust response, as the link between the vaccine and disease prevention isn't likely to be straightforward enough for a system 1 response.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

I have often seen rightwingers in blog comments expressing deep certainty that anti-vax sentiment is quite prevalent on the left, as well as more prevalent on the left than on the right And yes, I have often seen lefties express a similar view in blog comments.

The evidence that Dan has presented is interesting in that it not only shows a balance across the political spectrum (something, of course, that fits in with my beliefs about symmetry), but perhaps more importantly that anti-vax sentiment is not very prevalent overall (even if it were more prevalent on the left, it would still be relatively rare).

I'm not sure how much of a left/right imbalance exists w/r/t anti-corporate sentiment (look at people like Alex Jones), and I think that pro-conspiracy tendencies - a tendency shared symmetrically across political boundaries - is probably more explanatory than higher prevalence of anti-corporate sentiment on the left balanced out by higher disgust (or some other putative psychological or characterological association) on the right.

Methinks that as NiV references, what you get is people with extreme views on the political spectrum --->>> proclivity towards conspiracy ideation (which may take on a "flavor" such as anti-corporate sentiment) --->> belief that vaccine use hides a conspiracy among drug companies, organs of academic literature, and the medical establishment.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"The studies on psych roots of antivaxx sentiments that I've seen recently point to behaviors and moral foundations more closely associated with right than left: reactance, liberty/individualism, purity/disgust:"

But psychology researchers skew left, and I've seen an awful lot of "just-so story" research that ties all sorts of negatively-regarded beliefs to what they consider to be conservative characteristics. I suspect a lot of these associations are more accidental or for historical reasons. Neither side is especially more prone to scientific error than the other, and on most scientific topics, the general public are routinely in error. It's only a select and tiny subset of topics that acquire a cultural significance such that the errors are noticed, and thought worthy of investigation or moral judgement.

From a psychological point of view, it's the latter that is of more interest I would have thought. Why do certain scientific topics become subjects of cultural controversy, such that people are strongly *expected* to hold one particular belief, and them not doing is considered a major aberration? Other scientific topics, nobody cares that half the population hold a completely erroneous belief about it.

I expect part of it is to do with where science impinges on public policy - climate change, vaccination, GMOs, nuclear power, and fracking are all subjects used to justify political regulation and interference. The question isn't why people sometimes get it wrong, it's why they care about it enough to demand everyone share a common belief about it in the first place. And it's generally the case that most people engaging in the public debate and the politics are certainly not basing their opinions on their own scientific understanding of the matter.

As for vaccination - it look to me like a standard "health scare" story. The media routinely generate stories about how "X causes cancer" (or other frightening conditions) for and endless sequence of X's. Saturated fats, salt, sugar, mobile phones, power lines, pesticides, food additives, radiation, pollution, the list goes on to ever-increasing absurdity. On most health scares, people just shrug. On vaccination, they took a bit more of a stand, and people who believe in the scare story have become this group: anti-vaxxers. The people who feared saturated fats were never dubbed "anti-sat-fats" or anything similar. What's the difference?

In a lot of these cases, the explanation is simply a matter of different levels of quality demanded for evidence. If people don't care, they don't require much evidence to believe. If they do care, they demand far higher levels to disconfirm their beliefs than to confirm them. The people who believe put forward shoddy and inadequate evidence, and don't understand why everyone else is not convinced by what they themselves consider sufficient. As the paper says: "This could reflect the fact that most vaccinees passively accept vaccination, without being well informed of its benefits". The evidence available to most of the public is far from scientifically sufficient - the people who reject belief on that basis are generally being far more scientifically correct in doing so. (It is their *selectivity* in applying that scepticism that is their problem.) Whether there happens to be sufficient evidence on that topic available elsewhere in the deep literature is another matter, and not relevant to the psychology of public belief. If the public have no access to it, or ability to make a valid scientific assessment of it for themselves, it can have no influence on their decision, an no blame applies for not having taken it into account.

As I noted above, there seems to be an increase in anti-vaxxer belief towards both ends of the political spectrum, without any strong left-right association. While 'purity' might be expected to apply to vaccines, it surely applies even more strongly to the filthy diseases they're intended to prevent. (Precisely what the 'purity' instinct was designed to make you avoid!) Reactance/liberty is perpendicular to the left-right axis on the Nolan chart. It's not that conservatives are generally more individualistic or libertarian - it's that they are individualistic/libertarian about different things.

But I don't know. I've spent a lot less time on the anti-vaccination debate than I have on climate change. I don't know the people or their arguments as well.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Also, FWIW (repeat after me, don't extrapolate from anecdotes!), I have run across quite a few "skeptics" on "skept-o-spheric" blogs who believe quite strongly that vaccines cause autism. Such a belief fits in very nicely with the mindset that "consensus" isn't a viable indicator of scientific validity and that the "dogma" of "mainstream" or "consensus" "experts" often reflects nothing other than groupthink and a fallacious appeal to authority.

I happen to not believe that the association I have seen (repeat after me, don't extrapolate from anecdotes) isn't because of a direct association between the issues of climate change and vaccines, but a tendency towards conspiracy ideation, most likely that is (causally?) associated with political extremism. General political association on "skept-o-spheric" blogs tends to go pretty far right (IMO), and a lot of data show that "skepticism" is higher among farther-rightwingers than mainstream Republicans (in fact, there is probably a greater gap in "skepticism" levels between Tea Partiers and Republicans than there is between Republicans and independents, or even moderate Demz). Of course, being a believer in symmetry, I might would have to accept the idea that there is a similar ideological extremism and tendency towards conspiracy ideation on the other side of the great "climate-o-spheric" divide. Maybe there is and my ideological blind spot obscures it? Or, maybe, even if generally there is a symmetry across ideological orientation, that same asymmetry doesn't play out within the "climate-o-spheric" context: i.e., even if there is a balance ideologically there isn't any reason to necessarily assume that there is a similar degree of ideological extremism on "realist" and "skeptic" blogs, respectively.

I hope that made some sense.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

If you really took the symmetry vs. the field bet, then I hope that you were given really good odds, or you have Dan underwriting the wager. My lefty sensibilities say that taking symmetry over the field is an admirable stance. But, the field is too big.

BTW - that Hornsey et. al. paper shows that the correlation between conservative and antivaxx is only .1, while conspiracy beliefs and antivaxx correlate at .33 (both at p < .001) - to your point and NiV's. It also shows that conspiracy beliefs and conservative correlate at .06, with p only < .01. I guess you could say there's more symmetry here than asymmetry (no high correlates anywhere). But, still a tiny bit of asymmetry.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

On the theme of more symmetry than asymmetry:

Hidden Tribes: A Study of America's Polarized Landscape

mentioned in:

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/large-majorities-dislike-political-correctness/572581/

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"If you really took the symmetry vs. the field bet, then I hope that you were given really good odds, or you have Dan underwriting the wager."

I'm told that ExxonMobil, the oil industry, and the Koch brothers would underwrite my side of the bet, if you want to debate it... :-)

"On the theme of more symmetry than asymmetry"

That's a really impressive report! Thanks!

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Jonathan and NiV

The anti-vaxxers are kooks, period. The reason I think they're not on the right is that most of the anti-migrant arguments I see involve calling them "people who have never had a vaccination", or just plain "plague carriers" who should never be allowed anywhere near where they are largely employed, agriculture, meat processing, food preparation. There are some open borders advocates on the right as well, unfortunately, but most are in the "anti-racist" left.

The Atlantic article I quoted from uses the statistics of the report you linked - which, as I said, suffers from a category error. What it calls "hate speech" is in fact free speech, and free speech cannot be hate speech by definition - if it is in fact free and not imposed by political correctness, as in e.g. "I hate Trump".

I think that the report's numbers for extreme left (8%) and extreme right (25%) are roughly correct, however. And I know I speak for that 25%, at least, in seeing that the fight is not about hate speech v. PC, but rather for free speech against censorship. I assume the Google's leaked pro-censorship memo is known to you, if not, you can download it at:
https://www.scribd.com/document/390521673/The-Good-Censor-GOOGLE-LEAK#from_embed

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

NiV,

"...ExxonMobil ...would underwrite my side of the bet..."

They're into making strategic bets of their own:

https://phys.org/news/2018-10-exxon-mobil-mn-lobby-carbon.html

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Ecoute,

"I think that the report's numbers for extreme left (8%) and extreme right (25%) are roughly correct, however."

It's 8% on the extreme left and 6% on the extreme right, according to that report. The 25% is the right wing, 19% of which are considered by the report to be traditional conservatives. But, yeah - the point of the report is that this 25% isn't part of the exhausted majority. I guess those Never-Trump conservatives got left out, somehow. Probably because << 1%.

BTW - am having trouble with the oxymoronish label "traditional liberal". Wouldn't exactly call it hate speech, though. I know what they mean, it just feels ... unsettling. Prefer classic over traditional because traditional makes it sound like am adhering to some bronze age dogma. Also, classic has that nice double entendre. Maybe they're trying to coax me over to "progressive activist", which sounds a whole lot cooler than "traditional liberal".

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Not so, Jonathan.See page 6 of report for where I got my data - you usually read more carefully than that.

It's 8% and 25%, as I said, denoted as "wings". I would NEVER make such a mistake.

As to the allegedly "ex-conservative" Never Trumpers, they are more than 1%, but they overlap at about 80% with neocons, mostly Jewish, and mostly creeping back towards their original leftist home, which is why they're not counted in the 25%. Strangely topical subject - they are in increasing panic as Mohammed bin Salman may blame some Israelis for what looks like a failed rendition attempt of the unfortunate journalist, and decide to talk to the Iranians after all.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Rcoute -

As to the allegedly "ex-conservative" Never Trumpers, they are more than 1%, but they overlap at about 80% with neocons, mostly Jewish, and mostly creeping back towards their original leftist home,

Interesting. Looks like your characterization of never Trumpers is based on a similar analytical process as your characterization of amti-vaxers.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Republicans_who_opposed_the_Donald_Trump_presidential_campaign,_2016

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"What it calls "hate speech" is in fact free speech, and free speech cannot be hate speech by definition - if it is in fact free and not imposed by political correctness, as in e.g. "I hate Trump"."

Free speech includes hate speech. The definition of hate speech is just a question of which groups it's OK to hate, and which are protected/privileged. Fashions change on which groups are 'in' or 'out' at any given time. But the definition of free speech does not allow exceptions - free speech requires that you allow hate speech, offensive speech, blasphemy, heresy, and advocacy for illegality - although not speech that does direct harm, such as fraud, credible threats of imminent violence, or giving the orders for illegal actions. (In the latter cases, it is the effects of the speech that merit the punishment, not the speech act itself.)

"They're into making strategic bets of their own"

It's a rigged bet. It's partly marketing, and partly economics. I should think they've worked out where the tax incidence places the burden of a carbon tax, and figured it's not them. Tax incidence theory says that the parties to a transaction pay in inverse proportion to the elasticity of supply of demand - essentially, the party with the fewest alternatives to partaking in the trade being taxed pays the bulk of the costs. As an international oil company, they can easily diversify overseas, and being a big player they're not as affected by overheads of regulation and taxation. The shale gas people, on the other hand, cannot escape the US tax jurisdiction so easily, and neither can consumers. Given that their customers and competitors will pay the bulk of any local US carbon tax, to their relative advantage, then why not? And I'm sure they've already figured that with the Byrd-Hagel policy still in place, the chance of it being passed into legislation - particularly under the current administration - are essentially nil.

"BTW - am having trouble with the oxymoronish label "traditional liberal"."

It's always been a sore point with "classic liberals" that the American left co-opted the label. It's sometimes been said that American "liberals" are liberal on social policy (i.e. social liberalism), while American "conservatives" are liberal on economic policy. The term "classic liberal" is more commonly used to mean someone liberal on both.

I think by "traditional liberal" they just mean the version of American social liberal before the radical progressive extremists came along. ("Progressive" being another political term with multiple contradictory meanings. Advocating the economic progress of poor peoples becoming richer through free markets and industrialisation was originally considered "progressive".)

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I called the anti-vaxxers kooks, I did not call them traitors.

But I think treason is a charge that can be levied against all remaining neocon anti-Trumpers.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

NiV - then if hate speech is a subset of free speech, we are agreed it has no separate existence.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

NiV,

Funny thing is, when Ronald Reagan stigmatized "liberal" in 1980, we all knew who he was talking about, and it sure wasn't them. But, point taken, classic is too close to classical. How about Olde Tyme Lefty?

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Why do certain scientific topics become subjects of cultural controversy, such that people are strongly *expected* to hold one particular belief, and them not doing is considered a major aberration?...I expect part of it is to do with where science impinges on public policy - climate change, vaccination, GMOs, nuclear power, and fracking are all subjects used to justify political regulation and interference.

Vaccines is an interesting case - as people on extremes as opposite ends tend to converge on a belief that there's a conspiracy afoot. Obviously, that isn't the case with climate change.

In a sense, it isn't surprising that some people towards the extreme end of climate "skepticism" would embrace conspiracies on vaccines, as there is a lot of overlap (fraud in a cabal of scientists and the medical and research establishments so they can line their pockets and marginalize conservatives)...so maybe what stands out about views on vaccines is that people towards the extreme end of views on the other side of the great climate divide line up in much the same as the more extremist "skeptics." If the pattern holds, their political ideology, which is aligned with a more "realist" orientation on climate change should line them up with the "consensus" as it does on climate change.

Ecoute goes with "they're all a bunch o' kooks" - which is interesting given that rightwing vaxers line up in so many ways with many of the rightwing climate "skeptics" that Ecoute aligns with.

But although it isn't surprising to see Ecoute formulate that kind of (IMO facile) conclusion, from what I've seen, they aren't a bunch o' kooks any more than hardcore climate "skeptics" are a bunch o' kooks. For example (don't ever generalize from comments on climate blogs!!), I've run into a bunch of climate "skeptics"/anti-vaxers that have spent a lot of time looking at information on the topic of vaccines, and thinking about that information. I haven't found them to be kooky, just (IMO) far more willing to suspend disbelief than myself to get past obvious implausibilities in what it would take to manifest a conspiracy at the level to which they see one having formed.

So this is where we get to the inadequacy, IMO, of drawing conclusions about the influence of political identification to motivate reasoning so much as the influence of identity protective (and aggressive) reasoning. IMO, political identification is more likely a mediator on a more direct relationship between those other to aspects. Sometimes the mediating influence is stronger or weaker than at others.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

As for vaccination - it look to me like a standard "health scare" story....[...]On vaccination, they took a bit more of a stand, and people who believe in the scare story have become this group: anti-vaxxers. The people who feared saturated fats were never dubbed "anti-sat-fats" or anything similar. What's the difference?

It's an interesting question.

One possibility would be a bit of circular reasoning: you have picked a non-arbitrary distinction to align the vaccine issue with other "health scares," and then ask why it is different. But maybe "health scare" is not a very meaningful way to create a group of identity-oriented controversies/polarization. Thus, being different from other "health scares" is trivial.

Certainly, the set of identity-oriented controversies/polarization is far larger than the set of obviously health related controversies/polarization that involve people being "scared," and maybe it would be more meaningful and explanatory to examine the causes and associations with that larger set.

But even if controversies/polarization around "health scares" is a useful framework here we would circle back to a similar question: why do some scientific/medical controversies become more entangled with identity-protective reasoning than others. I suppose Dan might suggest that a key causal component originates with the "establishment" directing scorn or identity-antagonizing messaging towards the non-establishmentarians - as he seems to do, at least sometimes, with climate change. I don't get the sense that that causal mechanism generalizes broadly.

Maybe there is a mechanism that is specific to "health scares" but that doesn't generalize to other areas of polarization.

My own belief is that it tends to be a rather random mechanism. For one reason or another - of which there might be many - gets the ball rolling and triggers a set of internalized mechanisms that lean people towards using external factors to reinforce their own sense of identity, with alignment with a like group being one of those external factors.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

hmmm.

non-arbitrary wasn't quite the right term there...not sure exactly what the right term would be.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Jonthan -

If you really took the symmetry vs. the field bet, then I hope that you were given really good odds, or you have Dan underwriting the wager.

My take is somewhat different than NiV's (I don't see such a direct line between the political orientation of researchers and the outcomes in the body of research on overlap between psychological attributes and political orientation), but I recognize that I'm on thin ice here...going with my gut ...

But once again, my view is that a reasonable explanation for a mechanism of differentiation would go a long way towards getting me to go against my gut. How does it work, exactly? Are conservatives born with different brains, which then causes them to align in a conservative direction? If so, then why is their such a strong cultural association with ideological orientation? Or is it that the brain development of people born into conservative-leaning cultural contexts is affected by a particular set of environmental influences? Hmmm. I have a hard time believing that anyone can tease out a distinct set of causal environmental influences in that regard.

Or maybe it is that conservative views have a natural overlap (in a relative sense, on average) with conspiracy orientation? You know - the whole "drown government in a bathtub" desire could align more easily with distrust of government, which in turn is compatible with conspiracy ideation.... But then I see so many "conservatives" abandon anti-government orientation when it becomes convenient (or necessary) to do so in order to maintain a sense of group and identity coherence.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Vaccines is an interesting case - as people on extremes as opposite ends tend to converge on a belief that there's a conspiracy afoot."

I think the "conspiracy theorist" model is the wrong model of what's going on. The classic "conspiracy theory" is a belief for which there is no or negligible evidence, the explanation for which is that any evidence is "covered up" by powerful forces - the government, the military, a secret behind-the-scenes conspiracy of powerbrokers, secretive religious sects, ..., up to aliens and magicians. The real logical problem with conspiracy theories and the reason they're regarded as mentally aberrant is that they support belief in the total absence of evidence - the conspiracy element of it is not the problem. (There's no logical problem with conspiracies per se, they're inherent in human social interaction.) But it's really the result of a bug in the Bayesian formalism: you judge between hypotheses by making predictions and then eliminating hypotheses whose predictions are wrong; but if you posit an all-powerful conspiracy able to hide all the evidence, then a total lack of evidence is precisely what you would expect to see if it was true. The hypothesis cannot be eliminated, and if you add in the common "confirming the consequent" fallacy, can even be seen as proof of it.

However, this is NOT what is going on in either the anti-vaxxer case or the climate change case (on either side). In both those cases, people have plenty of evidence (or what they consider to be evidence). Here, it's used as a response to uses of the "argument ad populam" and "argument from authority" fallacies, when people ask: "If your evidence was valid, how come so many experts dismiss it?" For so many experts with the capability of assessing the evidence to independently dismiss it, if it was truly valid, can only be explained by a conspiracy among those experts.

Thus, the conspiracy theory is actually part of the argument of the users of "argument from a consensus of experts". The reason they reject the possibility of the consensus being wrong is that that would require a conspiracy, and conspiracy theories can be automatically dismissed as irrational, therefore the possibility of the consensus being wrong can be automatically dismissed likewise.

Now, sometimes the people who argue the consensus is wrong may go along with this alternative, but they didn't originate it and it's not essential to their argument. They believe what they believe because of what they consider to be good evidence. If a consensus of experts disagrees with them, then there are all sorts of possible explanations for that, of which conspiracy is one. They see it as the same as Galileo arguing against the consensus of the Church. Science is not decided by a vote, but by evidence.

Anti-vaxxers believe because of statistics dug up about the incidence of conditions like autism, or other neurological issues, around the time of vaccination. It's "post hoc ergo propter hoc" stuff, but it's not that they don't have what they consider to be sufficient convincing evidence. Likewise, climate change believers can point to rising global temperatures and a melting arctic and hot summers, they've got evidence too. And climate sceptics have sophisticated scientific presentations on tree rings and thermometers and climate models and statistics, they've got evidence as well. Why do doctors dismiss the anti-vaxxers evidence? Big Pharma wants to keep selling vaccines. Why do climate scientists dismiss the sceptics evidence? Academics want to keep getting funded and published and invited onto important policy committees. Why does the climate sceptic movement appear to be so large and powerful and hard-to-dismiss? Because Big Oil funds it, wanting to keep selling that ol' black gold... It's the same contra-consensus argument, and a totally different phenomenon from the "Bavarian Illuminati using stolen alien mind-control technology to run the Hidden Government" type of conspiracy theorist.

"But even if controversies/polarization around "health scares" is a useful framework here we would circle back to a similar question: why do some scientific/medical controversies become more entangled with identity-protective reasoning than others."

Agreed. That's the issue I was trying to get at.

"My own belief is that it tends to be a rather random mechanism."

Mine too. Although it's a hypothesis/informal model - I've got no real evidence on the issue.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

The classic "conspiracy theory" is a belief for which there is no or negligible evidence, the explanation for which is that any evidence is "covered up" by powerful forces - the government, the military, a secret behind-the-scenes conspiracy of powerbrokers, secretive religious sects, ..., up to aliens and magicians.

Not sure how it is determined what is or isn't classical, but views on evidence are often subjective. Seems to me that for the believer, a conspiracy is (always?) based on (rock solid) evidence. How would one believe that the evidence is being covered up if they think there's no evidence to be covered up.

Maybe you could provide an example for me of a conspiracy for which there is no evidence.

The real logical problem with conspiracy theories and the reason they're regarded as mentally aberrant is that they support belief in the total absence of evidence.

That's not what I see as the logical problem with conspiracy theories. The problem I see is that people fail to account for the implausibilities in their interpretations of what constitutes their evidence.

Here, it's used as a response to uses of the "argument ad populam" and "argument from authority" fallacies, when people ask: "If your evidence was valid, how come so many experts dismiss it?"

I don't see conspiracy theorists as usually being in the whole reactive (as it seems to me you're saying) thus locating the origin outside the theorists themselves. Staying away from the context of climate change, which would unnecessarily polarize our discussion, for vaccines, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do they believe that the link between vaccines and autism exists merely because their evidence is attacked? Or is their evidence attacked because it is flimsy, or based on non-mainstream sources? I don't think it's an either/or, actually. But I certainly, I think, that in balance, the interaction you describe tends toward the second phenomenon in a sequence. But preceeding either step, IMO, is likely a deeper predisposition, perhaps politically-based, but more usually identity-based -based. I have friends who don't believe in the use of vaccines because they trust a more faith-based approach to medicine, and they think that pharma and western medicine are corrupted by a profit motive. They think they see plenty of evidence to support both sets of beliefs. They happen to be lefty, and I could trace a line of leftyness through their narrative of beliefs related to vaccines, but you wouldn't know they're lefties simply from their orientation on the issue of vaccines. IMO, that's kind of interesting. And different from a whole host of science/empirical evidence-based polarization thst do lone up with political orientation. And to me, it suggests a complicating factir for imputing a causal relationship between political orientation and motivated reasoning more generally.

". The reason they reject the possibility of the consensus being wrong is that that would require a conspiracy,

Interestingly, I think this is likewise reductionist, and consign what is going on to a reactive mechanism, which denies the agency of "they. ". There is more to a rejection of the "consensus being wrong" than MERELY that for it to be wrong would require a conspiracy. This is an example of why, IMO, it would be better to frame the discussion in the vaccine framework.

IMO, the reason why (most) pro-vaxxers reject the views of anti-vaxxers is not MERELY because anti-vax views require a conspiracy to hold their views.

Anti-vaxxers believe because of statistics dug up about the incidence of conditions like autism, or other neurological issues, around the time of vaccination.

I've seen them present other "evidence," as well: most prominently, what they see as an exponential growth in diagnoses of autism.

It's "post hoc ergo propter hoc" stuff, but it's not that they don't have what they consider to be sufficient convincing evidence.

I agree. They do think they have evidence AND, they believe there is a conspiracy afoot.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Do they believe that the link between vaccines and autism exists merely because their evidence is attacked? Or is their evidence attacked because it is flimsy, or based on non-mainstream sources? I don't think it's an either/or, actually."

It isn't either/or. They think there is a link between vaccines and autism because the diagnosis for autism commonly appears at an age a little after vaccination, and it's the most immediately accessible potential cause in parents' minds. But rather than explaining why this reasoning is logically flimsy, the critics instead use the 'argument from consensus' - "Virtually all doctors and medical researchers say vaccination is safe - how do you explain that, then, eh?" It's not a proper answer to the argument, and so gets rejected.

Unfortunately, most pro-vaccination members of the public are only willing or able to offer relatively weak arguments to defend their opinions, relying on personal anecdotes rather than proper evidence [...] This could reflect the fact that most vaccinees passively accept vaccination, without being well informed of its benefits

The people who believe with the consensus have evidence as flimsy (in the main) as those who believe in opposition - they're unable to evaluate the scientific or statistical evidence themselves, or refute the arguments technically, which is why they fall back on fallacies like argument from authority/popularity.

"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." The problem is not properly addressing the "humble reasoning" - "the authority of a thousand" is not a valid response to it, and doesn't need to be explained.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV


. They think there is a link between vaccines and autism because the diagnosis for autism commonly appears at an age a little after vaccination.

Once again, I have often seen anti-vaxxiam based on the view that diagnoses growing exponentially. I would suspect that direct (perceived) personal experience with increased diagnoses is more common than deecr experience with temporally associate vaccination and diagnosis.

But rather than explaining why this reasoning is logically flimsy, the critics instead use the 'argument from consensus' -

"the critics" seems rather reductionist and broad at the same time.

I've seen plenty of critiques of anti-vax views that offer more scientifically sophisticated arguments against anti-vax conspiracy theories. I'm not sure whether the views of ant-vaxers as a group are more influenced by non-infirmed critics they meet in daily lives or more sophisticated critiques they are exposed to in the media.

And once again simply characterizing it as MERELY an "argument from consensus" seems, to me, to be in poor faith in addition to being effectively wrong.

IMO, there is validity to questioning the reasoning of someone who rejects a broad scientific consensus without possessing the skills or abilities to critique the scientific consensus. It's one thing to question an un-informed rejection of a scientific consensus without having a sound evidence basis for doing so, and another to argue that any scientific consensus must be, by definition, dispositive.

It seems to me that you are effectively arguing that if anti-vaxxers were simply provided dispassionate and non-identity threatening counter arguments they would then be convinced that their views are mistaken. I find that highly unlikely.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

On the off chance someone here is looking for actual evidence: early Friday a.m. the Metropolitan Republican Club at 122 East 83rd Street was attacked by masked Antifa. So much for free speech.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/12/nyregion/gavin-mcinnes-republican-club-vandalized.html

October 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

The Antifa left a note, which said, in part:
“our attack is merely a beginning.”
and
“We are not passive, we are not civil, and we will not apologize,”

Of course no connection to former AG Holder, Mrs Clinton, and that California loon, Maxine Waters, all calling for an end to civility" in recent days.

On the bright side, most of the club members already have at least one gun permit, and the rest should be soon convinced of the necessity for more guns. Manhattan is full of gun ranges, for anyone who didn't know, and even our restrictive laws permit concealed carry (gun unloaded, ammunition in separate container) on the way to and from the range ("to and from" has a very elastic interpretation, given our traffic situation). Any Antifa reading this have been warned.

October 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Full text of Antifa note was posted on what I am told is a homosexual dating website, dangerous.com

https://www.dangerous.com/50116/exclusive-antifa-strikes-ny-gop-club-in-overnight-attack-warns-this-is-only-the-beginning/

Fascinating vocabulary, syntax, grammar.

October 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

"I've seen plenty of critiques of anti-vax views that offer more scientifically sophisticated arguments against anti-vax conspiracy theories."

There are more sophisticated arguments out there, but they're rare.

I've seen exactly the same thing going on in the evolution debate and even the relativity debate. People raise technical objections to do with argument from design and fossil record gaps and the evolution of altruism, and the most common response I saw from the pro-evolution side was: "But all the experts support evolution. Who are you to disagree?" It's not that there aren't better arguments, it's that the vast majority of people who believe in evolution don't know them, and in general have no better scientific basis for their opinions than their opponents. Their belief happened to be true, but more by accident than design.

Likewise, I used to partake in arguments about Einstein's theory of relativity - there are people even today who find it intuitively unacceptable. Relativity opponents would come up with some quite clever technical objections, and again, the common response was "But physicists say..." or "But Einstein said...". Most people believe because they're told to believe, not because they've got valid logical reasons for their belief. It's faith, not reason.

And ironic, of course, because when Einstein first published the theory, German scientists and philosophers wrote a book "100 Authors against Einstein" that opposed it. His reply was "If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!"

You and I might know of the more scientifically sophisticated arguments and refutations, but as Dan has often shown, the majority of the public has very little accurate understanding of the science. If 26% of Americans thing the sun orbits around the Earth, what chance do they have to be able to answer tricky questions about time dilation in rotating frames of reference?

"And once again simply characterizing it as MERELY an "argument from consensus" seems, to me, to be in poor faith in addition to being effectively wrong."

It's not in poor faith - we simply hold different values here. It's one of the root causes of our philosophical disagreement.

It's about how and why the scientific method works - and there is a long history of science having to make the same point, over and over again. "Nullius in Verba" - take nobody's word for it. "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." "In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." "A central lesson of science is that to understand complex issues (or even simple ones), we must try to free our minds of dogma and to guarantee the freedom to publish, to contradict, and to experiment. Arguments from authority are unacceptable." "Arguments from authority carry little weight – authorities have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts." "Authority in science exists to be questioned, since heresy is the spring from which new ideas flow." "Authority. Man cannot exist without it, and yet it brings in its train just as much of error as of truth. It perpetuates one by one things which should pass away one by one; it rejects that which should be preserved and allows it to pass away; and it is chiefly to blame for mankind’s want of progress." "Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority." "For words are wise men's counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other Doctor whatsoever, if but a man." "I’m convinced that a controlled disrespect for authority is essential to a scientist." "In all things, therefore, where we have clear evidence from our ideas, and those principles of knowledge I have above mentioned, reason is the proper judge; and revelation, though it may, in consenting with it, confirm its dictates, yet cannot in such cases invalidate its decrees: nor can we be obliged, where we have the clear and evident sentience of reason, to quit it for the contrary opinion, under a pretence that it is matter of faith: which can have no authority against the plain and clear dictates of reason." "One of the great commandments of science is, 'Mistrust arguments from authority'. (Scientists, being primates, and thus given to dominance hierarchies, of course do not always follow this commandment.)" "The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties, blind faith the one unpardonable sin. The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification." "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth." And so on.

Rejection of authority is what made science different from everything that went before. It is the bedrock of scientific method. The only alternative to reason science allows is the declaration "I don't know". If you don't have the ability to assess the evidence, then you don't know. Not "I'm going to use a patently unscientific method that all scientists warn against and claim my opinions to be 'backed by science' and therefore better than my opponent's because I'm invoking the 'authority of scientists' as my justification!"

Of course, my long list of quotes above is, on its own, just another case of invoking the authority of a consensus of scientists! I'm obligated to give a better argument. But before I do - examine your feeling for a moment. Was you satisfied by my long list of authorities, that citing them answered your point? Or do you feel that your argument nevertheless has some logical validity, and that such luminaries as Einstein and Feynman and Galileo are wrong to condemn it? Don't you feel your "humble reasoning" still stands against the authority of a thousand?

-

I find it helps to pull apart the reasons why even scientists sometimes "take somebody's word for it" on a lot of what they believe. There are a number of prerequisite conditions to this, though.

1. The claims must have been *checked* before, multiple times, preferably many hundreds of times, by people motivated and capable of finding any error. Statements in a textbook have been read by thousands of students and teachers. If they all accepted them without question, that's of no use, but if every one of them had been taught to examine and test every statement for error and inconsistency, and has the knowledge to have spotted any, that's useful. You also have to consider that with each new scientific discovery made, whether it matters that none of the prior checkers knew about it. So even old and well-tested dogmas have to be periodically re-checked in light of new discoveries. Can you see the history of what checks were done, and when? Do you know who, and what their other beliefs were?

2. Any errors found must be *corrected*, and readers must be confident that any errors arising would have been brought to their attention. It's of no use if thousands of students spotted the error in the textbook but didn't say anything, or were told to shut up, or if the publisher ignored them.

3. Any apparent gaps, inconsistencies, or unanswered questions must be followed up and resolved - or the claim has to be returned to the "unknown" category. Trust in textbook science only applies so long as everything appears to be correct. If something looks odd or wrong, then either the textbook is wrong or your understanding is, and you need to sort out which it is before you can proceed. Textbook authority does not suffice here, because it may be the textbook that is wrong - you have to go back to basics. (Or say "I don't know" on the topic.) If it's not known that any inconsistencies would have been followed up and resolved, you've got no reason to think the textbook is correct.

4. You must understand the limitations, assumptions, and remaining uncertainties in the theory. "All models are wrong, but some are useful." Scientific theories are models of reality. They have a range of circumstances within which they're known to be valid, outside of which it's either unknown whether they're right or not, or they're known to be definitely wrong. To be useful, you need a guide to where they're sufficiently certain and accurate for your purposes. Or you might be walking around blindfold in a landscape full of cliffs and open mineshafts.

5. You must have an accessible way to find the complete chain of supporting argument if you need to. Does it give references? Are there links to sources, and data/algorithms, and supporting information? Is there somebody you can ask questions of? If a fact is discovered and checked, and then all the supporting evidence and argument lost/destroyed, the claim is without support. If it's challenged, or an inconsistency with other knowledge found, there's no way to go back to basics to check it, to find out if some subtle flaw was missed. And the longer the chain of reasoning, the more certain every step in it has to be to maintain confidence in the end result. Do you know how long and how strong all of it is?

There are a lot of preconditions that have to be met (even more than those I listed), and a lot of things that can go wrong. If you don't *know* that the conditions apply, it's unsafe to trust an authority blindly. If you don't have *evidence* that the above conditions apply, then your authority doesn't provide evidence for the conclusion. It's a dangerous area for the uninformed to be messing with, and a significant proportion of scientific blunders have to do with people (both scientists and non-scientists) trusting what others have said without checking.

The default (scientifically) should be that you *don't* trust hearsay - unless you have positive reasons in a particular case to believe it's safe to do so. It's not 'scientific' thinking, ever, but it sometimes can be justified.

If we're not required to be scientific, then of course it's a useful heuristic. But then so is following one's ideological doctrine, too. And one can claim no superiority over anyone using any other useful heuristic. Science is not decided by a vote.

"It's one thing to question an un-informed rejection of a scientific consensus without having a sound evidence basis for doing so"

You're welcome to question it! But people disagree over what constitutes "uninformed" or "a sound evidence basis". Why, in the absence of demonstration, should we assume theirs is any better than ours?

Consider Erasto Mpemba, an 'uninformed' Tanzanian schoolboy who had observed that hot water sometimes froze faster than cold. The textbooks and the scientists said this was impossible; a myth. This was not based on any empirical experimentation, but on the simple argument that hot water would have to become cold water first before freezing, so must necessarily take longer, (which initially sounds plausible but in retrospect is clearly insufficient). Mpemba didn't know this was the sum total of the consensus argument - he had no way to assess its validity. If you don't know what the chain of reasoning used by the consensus actually is, how can you know whether your evidence is better than theirs?

"It seems to me that you are effectively arguing that if anti-vaxxers were simply provided dispassionate and non-identity threatening counter arguments they would then be convinced that their views are mistaken. I find that highly unlikely."

I'm arguing that if anti-vaxxers are *not* provided such arguments, they're quite *right* to remain unconvinced that they're mistaken!

Some would be convinced, others probably wouldn't. Once you've been called rude names for holding the wrong opinion a few times, people get emotionally invested in their position, and refuse to back down. And once ideology and identity get mixed up in it, a refutation of the belief becomes a refutation of the ideology, which is even worse. Also, many wouldn't understand the technicalities. The majority of the public are not good scientists - we already knew that.

However, my point isn't really about whether we can persuade people. It's about the fact that even the people who by trusting the authority of a consensus happen to hold the correct belief are no better than those who don't (from the point of view of scientific philosophy). If everyone decided their yes/no beliefs by means of a coin toss, half of them would be right, but none of them would be justified.

October 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

People raise technical objections to do with argument from design and fossil record gaps and the evolution of altruism, and the most common response I saw from the pro-evolution side was: "But all the experts support evolution. Who are you to disagree?" It's not that there aren't better arguments, it's that the vast majority of people who believe in evolution don't know them, and in general have no better scientific basis for their opinions than their opponents. Their belief happened to be true, but more by accident than design.

This looks like basically the same problematic argument - just changed to a different context. I'm not sure why adding another context has any value here.

From where I sit, you take an overall topic, select among any variety of scenarios, pick one scenario, select among any variety of starting points for that scenario, start somewhere in the middle of the range of starting points, eliminate potentially key factors, to reach once again the same conclusion that conforms you a focus I've seen from you from a few years now. And once again, I wonder why you bother.

Those "people [who] raise technical question" might include people who actually have in-depth knowledge about those technical questions, but they would most probably also include people who have no deep level of understanding about those technical questions. In fact, from the context of climate change (and as you referenced), we know well that the vast majority of people who raise "technical questions," in fact, don't possess the skills or the knowledge to actually understand those questions (I could list many examples, such as "trace gas" arguments). I see no particular reason to think there is a difference in that regard in the vaccine context.

The technical questions are useful because they advance an identity-oriented goal, not because some poor innocent "science curious" and actually well-informed person (something we could probably measure pretty objectively by evaluating how much in-depth study they've actually done, or by asking technical questions that are tangential to the "technical question" they raised, that would require the application of actual technical understanding to answer). One doesn't need to actually have a technical understanding to raise a "technical question."

But instead, you gloss over that aspect, and instead focus on the lack of in-depth knowledge of their putative interlocutor - which is no less important, IMO, for looking at the overall dynamic but as well\, is no more important. What's interesting about that, IMO, is that you ignore the implications of Dan's research, that the lack of in-depth knowledge on both sides to portray a scenario where one side starts with "technical questions" (with no accounting for the high probability that those "technical questions" reflect no in-depth understanding), to focus more or less exclusively in the implications of the lack of technical understanding on the other side.

Now I don't think that is a particularly useful scenario-framework, as a way to interrogate why vaccines might be different than other topics. I also think it is a rather crude and simplistic and overly broad scenario. But I raise it merely to point out why I think your scenario, particularly when isolated out and highlighted among the range of scenaiors, is likewise pretty damn useless.

And once again, you pick a particular starting point, which for me has no particular justification. We could just as easily start with someone saying something as simple as "I don't understand the science myself, but as someone who doesn't have the understanding of the technical aspects of the issue, I'm not inclined to simply dismiss a widely shared opinion among experts just because a much smaller of experts say that their opinion is superior. So why do you dismiss that shared opinion among experts" Now we could just ignore the possibility that this hypothetical interlocutor would take such an approach, and instead lump everyone into another category (which looks much more to me like someone who would be a relatively rate, "activist" as opposed to most of the people who don't get identity-stimulated on the issue of vaccinations), but personally, I don't see much value in doing that. It doesn't seem to me to offer much relevance to the larger question at hand. But suppose that was a starting point - to which the response is "Argh, appeal to authority!!! Just another organ of the self-interested pharma/medical establishment/media establishment/research journal establishment/government cabal/conspiracy to promote groupthink and silence any opposition. FREE SPEECH IS UNDER ATTACK! FREE SPEECH IS UNDER ATTACK!"

Or, we could start with someone who raises a "technical question" but actually, as determined by objective measures, actually has no technical understanding - as a way to initiate a bias-confirming process of identity-strengthening, who then gets a rather innocent answer of, "I don't understand the science myself, but as someone who doesn't have the understanding of the technical aspects of the issue, I'm not inclined to simply dismiss a widely shared opinion among experts just because a much smaller of experts say that their opinion is superior." But who, in getting such a response, says "Argh, appeal to authority!!! Just another organ of the self-interested pharma/medical establishment/media establishment/research journal establishment/government cabal/conspiracy to promote groupthink and silence any opposition. FREE SPEECH IS UNDER ATTACK! FREE SPEECH IS UNDER ATTACK!"

And what is that question, anyway, as it seems that now your focus is, once again, as it has been so for a few years now, is your feelings about people who are inclined to defer to a shared opinion of experts, as a guide (not as an incontrovertible article of proof), when they lack the skills or knowledge to evaluate the topic themselves. Of course, we know that people are inclined to run their "experts" though an ideological filter. That problematicizes the situation, but IMO, it doesn't invalidate the general principle of using a non-foolproof heuristic, as a law of averages, for evaluating complex issues that lie beyond one's abilities to understand. I get what you think is problematic about an "appeal to authority" or an "argument ad populum."

I understand them as argumentative fallacies. But I see the situation as somewhat different than you. I think that you filter through the reality of how people are engaging, to overgeneralize, and simplify. I think that the basic constructs you're talking about are important, and useful, but that their importance and use is diminished when they are stretched so far.

Shifting context (1) doesn't change my impression and (2) as far as I can tell, does nothing to inform the question I thought was of more interest: What, if anything, makes the vaccine context somehow different from other contexts that share some attributes?


Anywho....

we simply hold different values here.

Perhaps. I haven't really seen evidence (at least certainly not in this discussion) of what I would consider to be "different values" here. I would be curious to read your description of my values which you don't share.

October 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Quick and easy test on irreconcilable scientific values:

>> Do you agree or disagree with prominently featuring following song in new movie ("First Man") about moon landing? <<

"A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And whitey's on the moon
I can't pay no doctor bills
But whitey's on the moon
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still
While whitey's on the moon
The man just upped my rent last night
Cause whitey's on the moon
No hot water, no toilets, no lights
But whitey's on the moon
I wonder why he's upping me?
Cause whitey's on the moon?
Well I was already giving him fifty a week
With whitey on the moon
Taxes taking my whole damn check
Junkies making me a nervous wreck
The price of food is going up
And as if all that shit wasn't enough:
A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arm began to swell
And whitey's on the moon
Was all that money I made last year
For whitey on the moon?
How come I ain't got no money here?
Hmm! Whitey's on the moon
Y'know I just 'bout had my fill
Of whitey on the moon
I think I'll send these doctor bills
Airmail special
To whitey on the moon"


:

October 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

"This looks like basically the same problematic argument - just changed to a different context. I'm not sure why adding another context has any value here."

Because this context isn't left-right entangled, and therefore you might be able to see my point instead of taking it as a partisan fight you must win.

"From where I sit, you take an overall topic, select among any variety of scenarios, [...], to reach once again the same conclusion that conforms you a focus I've seen from you from a few years now."

You're complaining that my examples all illustrate the point I wanted to make?

"Those "people [who] raise technical question" might include people who actually have in-depth knowledge about those technical questions, but they would most probably also include people who have no deep level of understanding about those technical questions."

Yes. That's exactly what I said.

My point is that the bulk of the public on *both* sides have no deep scientific understanding, which is why "Trace gas" arguments are not met with a technical refutation of "Trace gas" arguments but by a "Climate Scientists Say" argument.

"The technical questions are useful because they advance an identity-oriented goal, not because some poor innocent "science curious" and actually well-informed person..."

Except that vaccines and special relativity are not identity-oriented topics.

Participants in the debate (on both sides) generally are not just playing some identity-oriented partisan game with the arguments that they advance. They genuinely believe the arguments they put forward are conclusive and convincing.

People in the relativity debate would say things like that they could understand the idea that moving clocks run slow, except that if you are moving relative to me then according to you my clock runs slower than yours, but according to me your clock runs slower than mine! Both can't be true at the same time, so relativity is bunk. (It's a "Trace gas" sort of argument.) The other side would often respond not by explaining how it works, but by saying yes, actually, both clocks do run slower than the other, Einstein said so.

The first set did not pick the technical 'clock' argument as "useful" to some relativity-sceptic "identity". Their opponents did not use the 'Einstein' argument as "useful" to some relativity-believer "identity". They picked those arguments because they're the actual basis of their perfectly genuine disbelief/belief. Believers don't believe because they uderstand how both clocks can go slower than the other - they believe because that's what Einstein says happens, and it's just one of those amazing science things that are magical/midblowing but true.

You are not required or expected to understand relativity to believe it. But anyone who doesn't believe it is a fringe-science nutter.

It looks remarkably similar to the identity-entangled debates, but isn't identity-entangled. Don't you find that interesting?

"We could just as easily start with someone saying something as simple as "I don't understand the science myself, but as someone who doesn't have the understanding of the technical aspects of the issue, I'm not inclined to simply dismiss a widely shared opinion among experts just because a much smaller of experts say that their opinion is superior. So why do you dismiss that shared opinion among experts""

OK. I don't understand how both clocks can run slower than the other, but I'm not inclined to simply dismiss a widely shared opinion among experts that both clocks run slower than the other just because a much smaller of experts say that their 'common sense' opinion is superior. So why do you dismiss that shared opinion among experts?

Isn't that precisely a "Because Einstein said so" ad verecundiam argument? (What would Einstein himself have said about which argument was more 'scientific'?)

And isn't it obvious why they dismiss it? Saying that one clock (the moving one) runs slower than the other might be a bit weird but logically possible, but saying both clocks run slower than the other is just crazy! That makes no sense!

One participant is willing to take Einstein's word for it, the other isn't. What's the psychological difference between them that explains their different behaviour? It's not identity. It doesn't appear to be 'conspiracy ideation'. So what else might it be?

(For example, which position is "hierarchical" and "collectivist"? Which "individualistic"? Are there any other personality categories that might be useful? Is it just random?)

"Shifting context (1) doesn't change my impression and (2) as far as I can tell, does nothing to inform the question I thought was of more interest: What, if anything, makes the vaccine context somehow different from other contexts that share some attributes?"

Because it's not identity-entangled (or at least, not entangled with political identity), but shows the same general debating patterns.

October 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Except that vaccines and special relativity are not identity-oriented topics.

[...]

Because it's not identity-entangled

???

I thought we agreed that vaccines is identity-entangled. The interesting question is why is it identity entangled in a somewhat interesting way...that "way" being that there is a convergence of opposing political identities

(or at least, not entangled with political identity)

Ah....there it is. My point is the importance of that distinction - not something that should be addressed parenthetically.

I don't understand how you're approaching that dimension of differentiation. It seems to me that you're diminishing the significance. I'm suggesting that it is important - because it suggests the possibility that focusing on the political dimensions of identity struggle in other contexts is, to at least some degree, spurious.

Now I will admit, that is the drum that I've been banging here for quite a while (although with the drum that focusing on attributes of cognitive reasoning as measured by tests of cognitive reasoning is spurious)...

OK. I don't understand how both clocks can run slower than the other, but I'm not inclined to simply dismiss a widely shared opinion among experts that both clocks run slower than the other just because a much smaller of experts say that their 'common sense' opinion is superior. So why do you dismiss that shared opinion among experts?

Yes, well, that might be something I would say. Of course, the problem is that if my interlocutor had an actual technical answer to that question, chances are I wouldn't be able to evaluate (let alone even follow) their answer (unless he/she was a particularly talented communicator).

But I could try. Just like if they answered "Well, as you note, not all "experts" agree in that regard, and here are some reasons why I particularly trust a relatively few dissenting experts..." I could try to evaluate that answer...to try to parse their answer to see if the internal logic worked from my perspective. I do the same with climate "skeptics." There are some, for which I don't see gaping holes in their logic, and thus I look at the "consensus" view on the science with a grain of salt. But what is also interesting to me is that far more often than not, I do see gaping holes in their internal logic (and interestingly, one of those gaping holes is often, their application of the principle of how arguing ad populum or appealing to authority can be fallacious).

Still curious about that "values" differentiation you referenced.

October 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"I thought we agreed that vaccines is identity-entangled."

What I meant was that the sides in the debate are not identified with political sides - somebody is not going to automatically take a particular position because they're liberal/Democrat and that's what liberals/Democrats do.

I was also thinking was that it was also clear that they're not taking a position because they think of themselves as a strong political partisan (without specifying which) and this is the position strong political partisans are known to take. But in retrospect, maybe that's not obvious.

"It seems to me that you're diminishing the significance. I'm suggesting that it is important - because it suggests the possibility that focusing on the political dimensions of identity struggle in other contexts is, to at least some degree, spurious."

Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to get at.

"Now I will admit, that is the drum that I've been banging here for quite a while"

:-)

And I must confess, that's a large part of the reason I was trying to make that point!

"Yes, well, that might be something I would say. Of course, the problem is that if my interlocutor had an actual technical answer to that question, chances are I wouldn't be able to evaluate (let alone even follow) their answer (unless he/she was a particularly talented communicator)."

There are ways of doing it. I usually try using the geometrical analogy of two people walking at the same speed across an open field. For each person, the "forwards" direction acts as their time, and "sideways" is their space. If they walk in slightly different directions, each sees the other drifting away from them sideways (moving in space), and each sees the other fall slowly behind them (progressing more slowly through time). *Both* can see the other as moving more slowly through time than themselves, because they're using *different* forward directions to define their view of time.

The way geometry and distances work in spacetime is quite different (but still closely related) to that of an open field, but this is basically how it works. Time dilation is a purely geometrical effect, because you're using a different coordinate system and measuring events against a different time axis. You can take a bunch of kids out on the playing field and demonstrate the principle behind the effect (along with length-contraction, the twin paradox, the pole-and-barn paradox, and more) in half an hour or so.

Now sometimes that explanation works with people and sometimes it doesn't. But even if it doesn't, it's still a better answer than "Because Einstein says so". It takes the person's concerns seriously, and doesn't dismiss them as a fringe-science kook for asking exactly the sort of sceptical, challenging questions scientists would recommend. It's a good question. It deserves a good answer.

I'm just trying to get at the idea in a more neutral setting that even though here the consensus-follower is right and the consensus-critic is wrong, and using a technically flawed argument, the latter is being more 'scientific' in their approach than the consensus-follower, and doesn't deserve to be called a 'kook' for questioning the consensus or for dismissing the consensus-argument as not answering the question. A relativity-believer is not necessarily any better than a non-believer if they believe for the wrong reasons, (as most do).

"Still curious about that "values" differentiation you referenced."

All I meant was that I believe in "Nullius in Verba" as a principle and you evidently don't. I consider it a matter of "values" because it's an "ought" rather than an "is" question. As Hume said, you can't deduce an 'ought' from an 'is', so I can't argue that you're absolutely/objectively/factually wrong to do so. It's what I believe though, and I don't intend any 'bad faith' in continuing to say so.

October 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

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