4-30-11 Hodgepodge

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Another Thought on Biased Thinking while Thinking about Biased Thinking


Earlier in the week, I looked at an article that made good points about biased thinking -- only to end with an example of its author's own biased thinking! Yesterday, I encountered another such discussion. Here's a good point, from a post called, "Climate, Vaccines, and Human Psychology: The Public vs. Science," over at Ars Technica.

David Ropeik, a journalist turned lecturer and consultant, started off by describing why the public doesn't always come to terms with science. The first point he mentioned is that all of us, even experts, never have a complete picture of a complex topic -- he termed the situation "bounded rationality," where we try to make reasonable extrapolations from the information we do have. He also pointed to the work of Dan Kahan, which has indicated that we accept or reject information in a way that reinforces our identity as part of a social group. If you think your peers don't like evolution, for example, you're more likely to reject information that supports it. [links removed]
On the one hand, Ropeik does a good job of describing some of the problems related to the fact that we can't all be experts in every scientific field -- as have quite a few other scientists and commentators lately. On the other hand, I find it richly ironic that these same commentators exhibit a sheep-like conformity of political opinion on the matter of whether certain issues, like man-made global warming, are legitimate political concerns.

Might many scientists, dependent as they are on government funding, and as fashionable as socialism is, be making the very kinds of cognitive errors (innocently or not) regarding political philosophy, as they see laymen making about their fields of specialization? At the end of the day, economy-wide fuel rationing imposed by the Leviathan state does not follow from even the most ironclad case for global warming.

Weekend Reading

"... America now faces a dangerous duopoly: a religious left and right alike that have made peace with the welfare-warfare state, to the detriment of lovers of reason, liberty and capitalism." -- Richard Salsman, in "Holy Scripture and the Welfare State" at Forbes

"Bernanke has an opinion on the economy, but so do millions of other participants -- and their actions drive the market prices of everything we trade. That's what we should watch." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "Beranke's Confident. Why Isn't Anyone Else?" at SmartMoney

"People who achieve excellence and develop competence along the way avoid an irrational desire for infallibility." -- Michael Hurd, in "You Can't Be too Perfect" at DrHurd.com

"If you've seen the new Atlas Shrugged movie but haven't yet read the book, you may be wondering what the novel itself has to offer." -- Onkar Ghate, in "The Radicalness of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged" at Fox News

My Two Cents

The Ghate quote is his first sentence. I haven't chuckled this much from the hook of an op-ed in a long time. And that's because I am aware that so much was left out of the movie.

A Douglas Adams Anecdote

Either of these gentlemen could have been me about fifteen years ago.
We went through the whole packet like this. When I say the whole packet, I mean there were only about eight cookies, but it felt like a lifetime. He took one, I took one, he took one, I took one. Finally, when we got to the end, [the stranger] stood up and walked away.
I'd react differently to such a situation now, but I'd leave without an amusing story. I'll stop now so as not to spoil it. Go ahead and read it all: It's short and very funny.

-- CAV


Benpercent said...

Lol. That cookie story is great. Thanks for sharing.

Gus Van Horn said...

Glad you liked it!

Anonymous said...

Re: the cookies. Apparently context is very important! Loved it.

Did you catch this piece at Rational Public Radio?


c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for that link. That is the most soulful commercial I have seen in ages, or, perhaps, ever.

And no, I hadn't caught it.