This subject is everywhere — the rejection of reality by the current administration — and I don’t collect very many of these links, but here are a few more.
Tom Nichols at Scientific American, via Salon: Don’t go with your gut: How does the public’s view of science go so wrong?
Of course, Americans don’t really hate science: They rely on it every day in ways they don’t even notice. From tens of thousands of safe and effective over-the-counter drugs to the directions on a car’s GPS system, Americans trust the work of experts on a daily basis. Rather, it is more accurate to say that the American public distrusts scientists, rather than science itself. Scientists, however, should be consoled by the fact that they are disdained not for their work, but for being part of an undifferentiated mass of “experts” whom a fair number of Americans now view as, at best, a suspect political class, and, at worst, as an enemy.
Also in Salon, by the great Amanda Marcotte: Here’s the key to Trump’s outrageous lies: He sells them with conviction.
Subtitle: Research suggests people are more easily persuaded by apparent sincerity and wishful thinking than by actual facts
How can Trump’s supporters be so blind to the president’s measurable aversion to facts?
Part of the problem, as psychologist Bill von Hippel explained in a phone interview, is that Trump supporters “feel that what he’s saying he genuinely believes.” This sense that Trump believes in himself may matter more than the actual facts.
With a description of a psychological experiment to back up the claim.
More about that book, The Knowledge Illusion. Sean Illing at Vox, Why we pretend to know things, explained by a cognitive scientist; an interview with one of the co-authors.
On a much broader issue, there’s this in Washington Post, from March 3rd:
The leaders of once-powerful institutions are desperate to resurrect the faith of the people they serve. They act like they have misplaced a credit card and must find the number so that a replacement can be ordered and then FedEx-ed, if possible overnight.
But that delivery truck is never coming. The decline in trust isn’t because of what the press (or politicians or scientists) did or didn’t do. Americans didn’t lose their trust because of some particular event or scandal. And trust can’t be regained with a new app or even an outbreak of competence. To believe so is to misunderstand what was lost.
This is about the fallout of the Enlightenment…
Rising incomes and the welfare state brought Enlightenment individuality to the people. Political scientist Ron Inglehart proposed in the 1970s that as societies grow wealthier and less concerned about basic survival, we should expect a shift from communal to individual values: People express themselves more and trust authorities less.
Everything about modern life works against community and trust. Globalization and urbanization put people in touch with the different and the novel. Our economy rewards initiative over conformity, so that the weight of convention and tradition doesn’t squelch the latest gizmo from coming to the attention of the next Bill Gates. Whereas parents in the 1920s said it was most important for their children to be obedient, that quality has declined in importance, replaced by a desire for independence and autonomy. Widespread education gives people the tools to make up their own minds. And technology offers everyone the chance to be one’s own reporter, broadcaster and commentator.
Long essay, with graphs.
This goes to the core of our growing planetary civilization, which grates our inherited predispositions to align with our tribes and mistrust all other tribes — and tribes, throughout most of the history of our race, were hunter-gatherer groups of 30 or 100 individuals, in which everyone knew everybody else.
There’s no easy solution to this quandary. I’d like to think it’s just growing pains, and humanity, as we fill up the planet, inevitably must learn to deal with other societies, other groups, other tribes.
Finally, another essay that identifies the political divide as not so much Republicans v Democrats, or red states v blue states, exactly;
The Hill: Toward an American two-state solution
In their country — call it Redland — there will be no regulations. Cars won’t have seat belts or airbags and no motorcyclist has to wear a helmet. The water in Redland will be full of industrial run-off and the cities will sit under a smoggy haze. No Clean Air or Clean Water Act. White people will live in all-white communities — no immigrants or black people need apply — and everyone, child, teen, college student, adult, can own and carry guns openly.
There will be no “political correctness” in Redland. Citizens can use the N word as much as they like, can call Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians whatever name they like, and can do whatever they want with or to women—insult, demean, grope.
There will be only one TV station in Redland: Fox. And only one newspaper: Breitbart News. Right wing talk radio jocks and like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity will be broadcast 24/7.
Blueland – where my friends and I will live – is diverse. Our neighborhoods and workplaces include people from countries all over the world; their kids will go to school with our kids; our communities will be multiethnic and multi-colored. We will welcome the already well-vetted immigrants and embrace LGBT folks. In Blueland, we like our press doing its job and holding leaders accountable.
And so on. Amusing.