The Reason Why

How many times have you heard people say something like: I don’t know why people… add in your verbs of choice here.

Using the Global warming debate, Yale did a study to find out why people remain so divided. Is it because they don’t understand the science? Can’t do the math?

The study published in the journal Nature Climate Change asks the question: If Americans knew more basic science and were more proficient in technical reasoning, would public consensus match scientific consensus? The study suggests the answer is: no

I suppose this studies information could account for any number of cultural divides that would seem to be resolved by facts and good information.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the study was conducted by researchers associated with the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School and involved a nationally representative sample of 1500 U.S. adults.

“The aim of the study was to test two hypotheses,” said Dan Kahan, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School and a member of the study team. “The first attributes political controversy over climate change to the public’s limited ability to comprehend science, and the second, to opposing sets of cultural values. The findings supported the second hypothesis and not the first,” he said.

That seems to say it is not what you know but who you know. That would certainly be true of the drama in Second Life. The amazing part is the more capable one is of technical reasoning the more likely one is to be able to spin the data to match their groups agenda and actually do the spin without noticing. One of those lacks of self awareness things.

See: Reference

Obviously, the answer to life, the universe, and everything still stands as: 42.

5 thoughts on “The Reason Why

  1. Now this is a very interesting result for such a study since … speaking form outside of the US … there are many commants about the poor state of scientific education, religious sect like behaviour, bible-belters and creationists that impact on the ability to get into scientific topics. Now of course that is not the whole picture and while such people would defintevly see it as a cultural thing to decide one way and not another I am surprised that it seems like that the second hypothesis is indeed the one that seem to have been proven by the study. I would have expected that msot people would rather say that the complexity of the science and the different influences that have all their effects would be hard to get into and have an impact on the abiltiy of decission making.

    On the other hand, the result would show (or might show since I have not read the study and can’t know all the results it produced) that generally people are well informed and jsut chose not to be convinced sticking by what they beleive in even when it might be totally against any fact presented to them.

    It is like the saying about statistics .. that the only statistics one has to beleive in is the one that was set up and falsified by themselves. I think, by now many people just choose to mistrust any data presented to them thinking that the one trying to convince them of something they have not beleived in from the start must be up to something sinister.

    The explanation might be in the often lacking abiltiy of people to adopt to new ideas especially when they radically challenge what they beleived into before .. so then those things said people would have adopted as their cultural values would kick in and make them scream ‘heresy! evil! burn it!’ ( ;P ) no matter what kind of data and logical reasoning stood behind the new beleive challenging idea.

    The old problem of knowledge (science that challengs old ideas and brings in new ones) vs. believing (long lasting system of things that are ‘known’ and repeated from one person to another until they morph into ‘values’). Now of course there is a balance needed between both (knowledge vs. wisdom) but I often have the feeling that way too often ‘values’ are not much more then a excue to block out things that are difficult, dangerous or require acting. Or are just new …

    And there is one more thing that I feel like mentioning here. I read about it some time ago and don’t reall remember where it has been. But it is something I think might be true. That with the ammount of information available, people tend to gravitate towards those sources that just tell them what they already think of as the truth. So instead of geting a wide range of information people seem to look for where what they beleive in is reinforced. If this is indeed what is going on, it would only reinforce the result of the study where not the lack of scientific understanding is the key for decision making but the already existing set of personal beleives that is being reinforced by the selection of news sources and specific facts.

    It is all a extremaly interesting topic but I have written enough and I know that I should have put it through a spell-cheker and maybe get deeper into some of the thoughs presented here but it is very late and I should better stop. ^_^

    • Psychology has examples of people doing crazy things in the face of overwhelming evidence. Some people can simply not tolerate a change in their belief systems.

      American education has been under attack for over 100 years. The USA is now 25th in math skills. Those having to partake in public education are being ‘conditioned’ mare than they are being educated. That is not a problem unique only to the USA.

      • Oh yes. Both doing things for silly reasons and not tolarateing change are common I guess. There are souch people everyhwhere and I have to admit that I still wonder why often even prooven facts wont get through .. or sometimes even simple logic ;P ….

        The thinkg with the education is a common problem as well and I heard many complains about the state of the schools in the UK and it is just a few years past that Germany got shocked about how bad many schools turned out in studies that compared the performance in many different countries. The most visible result was lots of screaming, discussing and finger-pointing and little real change. So it is defintevly not a unique problem in any country.

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