Links and Comments: On believing; Waking up; Health care fantasies

Here’s a long, multi-panel cartoon from The Oatmeal called Believe, which illustrates how readily or not we take in new information that conflicts with our previous assumptions, or foundational beliefs. (Via We Should Celebrate New Information Even When It Means We Were Wrong.)

It’s inspired by a three-part series on the backfire effect from the You Are Not So Smart Podcast.

Topics like motivated reasoning and the backfire effect seem to have drizzled down into popular culture — or perhaps I just notice such references myself, having discovered such ideas four or five years ago, especially through David McRaney’s books (e.g.), and whose blog is cited there, an example of confirmation bias. No doubt the vast majority of the population remains unaware.


A Former Fundamentalist Describes How He Used to Think His Church (and Only His Church) Was Right

Tedious to say so but: there are fundamentalists in every religion, including the major ones popular on the planet currently, and since their beliefs conflict, they can’t all be right. More than likely, none of them are right. (Their communities of like-minded believers are functional, no doubt, and that’s why they endure. Not because their beliefs are true.) Realize this, and it’s possible to escape the fundamentalist trap, or at least to become aware of it, as this author did. And wake up.


On continuing a cultural/psychological theme, here’s a striking op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, from a professor emerita at UC Berkeley Kristin Luker: We don’t shop for health care like peas. (Print title: Republicans living in health care fantasy.)

She describes three fantasies: that people shop for health insurance they way they shop for peas; that the patient is the consumer (no, physicians are consumers and patients are end users); and that health care is an individual matter. This last point strikes a chord with me — how conservatives are basically selfish, consigning the poor and disadvantaged to their fates, since taking care of them would be government overreach, while liberals are relatively generous and caring, and willing to support an inclusive society. (Conservatives should ask themselves, WWJD?)

Fantasy No. 3 is that health care is an individual matter. This is nonsense — all health is public health. Like it or not, even in gated communities, we share the air we breathe, the sidewalks and subways we use, and the surfaces we touch with the human beings around us. You can eat healthily, work out until your muscles bulge, and fasten your seat belt religiously, but none of that will help you if your taxi driver or the person sitting next to you in the subway has drug resistant TB. Or if the busser clearing the table next to you in a restaurant is hosting a particularly nasty case of a gut bug, which, because he does not have health insurance or sick leave, he is hiding as best he can from his employers.

So dream on, libertarians and Republicans. I wish you very good luck in your stubborn belief in self-reliance, often admirable in other circumstances. But when it comes to health and health care you are — if you will excuse the expression — nuts. You, like me, have a vested interest in insuring — in the literal sense of the word — the optimum health of everyone we meet, citizen and noncitizen alike.

If you insist on sticking to your principles, you can move to a desert island, or you can hope people will visit you in the hospital. And when we do, I promise you I will not tell you, as I bring you flowers and chocolates, “I told you so.”

In the same way, we all depend on the highways built by the government, recalling the line, “you didn’t build that”.

And why a childless person such as myself is perfectly willing to pay taxes to support public schools. Because society is a better place with an educated citizenry. It’s not all about me.

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