Monday, April 15, 2013

We're a little more honest -- honestly.

Emotional reasoning: we all do it.  Liberals and conservatives all have our pet pieties and our ways of protecting them against facts.  I don't need to summarize my posts about right wing hypocrisy and self-contradictory arguments or the tendency to invent scenarios independent of statistics or facts or logic.  You've heard it from me for years. It's not true that half the country pays no taxes and "Obama is giving them all our money," but they'll string you up from a light pole or drag you behind a truck for contradicting their beliefs.  They're delusional.

But, as I said, everyone does it. Liberals will jump all over drone attacks while ignoring the fact that it's the least likely way to produce unwanted casualties, while ignoring the fact that no war does not involve civilian casualties, that we are fighting a war against non-uniformed civilians and we insist that our drone strikes in Pakistan are a violation of their sovereignty even though they gave us permission to do so because many of us are invested in the notion of American imperialism.  We make the evidence fit the conviction even when there is no evidence and a few selected facts are proof.

They on the other hand will tell you condoms don't work, rape doesn't cause pregnancy, vaccination against HPV will make you daughter promiscuous.  They'll insist that advertisements showing a woman in a car with a pig promote bestiality (I'm not joking,) that same sex marriage destroys heterosexual marriage and there is a plot to turn kids gay. America is a Christian Nation, the constitution doesn't separate church and State and the Founders were pious Christians we are told.  Roosevelt caused the Depression.  Obama's 'policies' are bankrupting us. The media are saturated with "creation science" lies and other fictions on a daily basis and worse on Sunday. You know it all too well.

I find it depressing.  I find myself looking for reasons to tell myself that maybe I and the folks I agree with most of the time are human, with all the self delusion and fact twisting that involves, but we're still better than the the people I blame for most of our backwardness and our pursuit of bankruptcy in the name of prosperity: the American Right. I mean, we have to be better, right?

I think encouragement is at hand.  A study described in, appearing in in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, claims that

 "when it comes to evaluating facts that are relevant to our deep-seated morals or beliefs, we don’t act like scientists. Rather, we act like lawyers, contorting the evidence to support our moral argument."

But they're much worse.  OK, we knew Trayvon Marton was murdered for being black before we knew the facts. We may still not know them, but we're still certain.  We knew that the "stand your ground" legislation justified it when it certainly did not in any way and we knew Zimmerman was a homicidal racist because it was in line with our deep seated convictions about guns and gun laws and racists. We constructed a scenario that made what we knew fit the puzzle and in a way that justified our Liberal faith.

But Conservatives, says the study, score higher on a trait called the need for cognitive closure, they are more uncomfortable with uncertainty and need to hold strong convictions -- to be certain that Liberals.  We can't have some abortions and not others -- it's good or evil and nothing in between. An egg has to be a "baby" else we can't be sure when it becomes fully human.  

This asymmetrical need for certainty despite the facts between Right and Left is of course debatable and is being debated amongst psychologists and yet it seems obvious to me -- because, no doubt, it fits my deep seated convictions about the righteousness of my opinions -- and that's why I'm sticking with it!  We're better than they are.

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