Today’s Odds and Ends: Conservative rejection of science; Christians’ perceived persecution; Dinesh D’Souza’s paranoia

There have been several articles in recent days about how people [conservatives] who don’t accept evolution or climate science don’t necessarily know less about those subjects than others… they do so because their “community” rejects such conclusions, by instinct.

New York Times: Brendan Nyhan on When Beliefs and Fact Collide.

Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. This finding helps us understand why my colleagues and I have found that factual and scientific evidence is often ineffective at reducing misperceptions and can even backfire on issues like weapons of mass destruction, health care reform and vaccines. With science as with politics, identity often trumps the facts.

Jerry Coyne’s take: Do people who deny evolution know less about it than others?, with lots of graphs. Referring to his book Why Evolution is True [WEIT],

As I’ve been saying repeatedly, the way to eliminate creationism is not to teach people about evolution (as I tried to do in WEIT), but to get rid of the major factor that make them deny evolution: religion. Granted, WEIT was successful in changing some people’s minds (I have lots of emails attesting to that), but I suspect its main effect was simply to tell people who already accepted evolution about the kind and amount of evidence supporting it.


Another piece about how Christians, the dominate religious sect in the US, feel themselves persecuted. By the gays.

Slate: The Christian Persecution Complex Moves Into the Workplace

All of this is extravagantly silly, and I respect Dreher and George’s intellects too much to believe that they’re actually taking it seriously. But for the unhinged Ruse and his acolytes, I’m sure the story plays right into a developing narrative on the far right: LGBTQ people, they insist, are the true oppressors, and conservative Christians an embattled, discriminated-against minority.

This persecution complex—which actually began long before the Brendan Eich controversy—is so asinine that I almost regret wasting space refuting it. But the fear needs a rebuttal, because, daft as it may be, it’s also dangerous. Recasting a tiny, historically despised minority as a covertly powerful conspiracy of puppeteers is a time-honored smear tactic used to vilify Jews and other disfavored demographics. It’s a darkly clever strategy here, especially given Americans’ traditional love for an underdog. Suddenly, gays aren’t a small minority fighting for basic equal rights; they’re unduly influential string-pullers, using behind-the-scenes machinations to persecute Christians.


And finally, Salon on how right-wingnut Dinesh Di’Souza thinks the whole world is against him. Conspiracy! Between The New York Times, Costco, and Google!

Salon: Dinesh D’Souza’s paranoid nightmare: Everything is a vast conspiracy against him

Or maybe he’s just a paranoid religious franatic (like so many right-wing heroes are) who does not, in fact, and fortunately, have very many followers.

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