Deciding What Is True

First [reposted from my Facebook page], a fascinating article in The Atlantic (via Andrew Sullivan) about how Rush Limbaugh decides what is true.

Essentially, if someone is a conservative (the example is Clarence Thomas), Limbaugh *knows* they are innocent of any charges; if they are not (the example is Chris Christie), there’s no way to tell.

Perhaps this is a clue as to why ideologues on the one side vs rational people on the other seem to keep speaking past each other – they have such different methods of deciding what to believe. For ideologues (of any stripe), ideology trumps evidence and reason.

Second, via Jerry Coyne, a 2007 article about The religious recalcitrance of Americans. Coyne is quoting a commentator about that survey, whom I will in turn quote:

When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll.

This isn’t really a surprise, since many things religions have taught over the past millennia have been proven to be untrue, notably the six-day creation story. How much more evidence would anyone need for evolution? And yet millions reject it in favor of religious myths.

But both of these examples show that many people simply are not rational; they are not guided by evidence and reason, but by ideology, tradition, and faith. Which is sad; they are apparently unable to engage with the real world.

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