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I read somewhere there’s fairly solid evidence there are actually brain differences between conservatives and liberals. I believe it. Forgive my obvious bias, but it seems to me conservatives have – at least now – a harder time connecting to reality. Not that we liberals don’t have a difficult time seeing past our preconceived notions as well. It’s a matter of degree and not in kind.
Still, for the most part liberals accept science as a guide to reality. The evidence for climate change and evolution is overwhelming. Many, if not most, conservatives are immune to scientific persuasion (unless, of course, they think some particular discovery supports their mindset) and claim both “theories” are merely products of left wing pseudo science created to deprive us of our freedoms. Its all a conspiracy, don’t you know…
This is a detour, but I wonder how people – conservatives, in this case – can believe in a conspiracy that would require thousands of evildoers to act in concert. Try to figure out just how such a massive deceit would work. It wouldn’t; it would be impossible to coordinate without leaving a massive paper trail, not to mention scores of defectors who would expose the fraud. Of course, our more rational conservative brothers would claim scientists are led astray by groupthink. Why such an overwhelming number of climate scientists believe in man made climate change, however, is never explained (or why the overwhelming majority of biologists, geneticists, geologists, etc., etc. accept evolution as a solid scientific answer to why animal and plant life – and we – are the way we are). Is it just coincidence? Each scientist one morning decided to believe in climate change despite the obviousness (conservatives say) of it being wrong. It always amazes me climate change deniers will take some obvious fact – there’s a glacier in South America that grew in size – and argue climate change therefore i wrong. As if scientists didn’t know about it, or willfully refused to believe it.
Years ago I was in Atlantic City and did a bit of gambling. I had a sudden brainstorm and came up with a surefire way to win at roulette. My idea was to double any red or black bet I lost but pocket my winnings. Say I bet ten dollars on each spin on black. If I win I put the sawbuck in my pocket, then bet another ten. Should I lose I next bet twenty. If I lose again I bet forty… My losing streak will end when I win and I’ll break even over the losing streak once I win. If I win my next bet I once more pocket my winnings.
Can’t lose! I’ll be rich!
Well, no. I knew my theory had to be wrong. Surely someone – shortly after the invention of roulette – would have thought of my plan and bankrupted the casino and ended roulette as we know it. I was right. There is something called the law of large numbers which would eventually destroy me. Sooner or later I’d hit a long losing streak that would be impossible for me to survive. Suppose, for instance, I lost thirteen bets in a row with a starting bet of twenty dollars. On the fourteenth bet I’d have to wager $82,000 to break even. Run the losing streak to twenty-five and my break even bet must be approximately $168,000,000. I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally carry that kind of cash around.
Sure the odds of a twenty-five bet losing streak is quite low – but sooner or later a losing streak will come along that bankrupts you. Even a string of ten losses – betting ten bucks initially – will require an eleventh bet of more than ten thousand dollars (make the streak eleven and now you need more than twenty grand to just break even – twelve requires forty).
This digression seems to me to have some relevance to the way conservatives think. When faced with something the want to disbelieve they latch onto some simple set of facts – true or false – they claim proves the provocative theory false. It was warmer in the past. It’s just sunspots. Glaciers in Asia are actually growing. Carbon dating is wrong. The human eye is too complex to have been the product of natural selection. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Manmade global warming is overwhelmingly supported by scientific evidence and enjoys the support of a very high majority of climatologists and other scientists. More and more the theory is refined and alarming evidence continues to rolls in. The same is true of the theory of evolution. No major scientific study has proven Darwin’s original insights wrong. Tens of thousands of discoveries in the fields of biology, paleontology, genetics, geology, molecular biology, physics, and countless other scientific disciplines have been consistent with the theory.
Conservatives, for the most part, are able to ignore the avalanche of evidence underpinning both scientific theories. They offer simplistic rebuttals: the planet was warmer in the past, the human eye is too complex to have evolved by random chance. Glaciers in Asia are getting bigger, carbon dating is wrong.
You can’t argue with them. Studies show the more educated a conservative is the more she believes the scientific consensus in climatology and biology is wrong. A little learning is a dangerous thing. The educated right winger more easily embraces the pseudosciences of denial.
Another digression… You cannot convince a Indian shaman his rain dance doesn’t work. If he does the dance and it rains it proves, of course, his high steppin’ worked. If it doesn’t, and you say, “see, I told you it didn’t work!” he just smiles and assures you he just didn’t do the dance right. To the shaman his rain dance always works so long as h
e manages to gyrate in proper precision. How does he know he hoofed without fault? It rains, of course. See also superstition, random reinforcement and religion.
Sure, we lefties are not immune. We, too, see what we want to see all to often. We too easily favor public policies because their goals are, to us, noble and pure. We too easily forget government, particularly at the federal level, is horribly inefficient and subject to corruption and the rule of unintended consequences. Our guys are wonderful (he was set up – she seduced him – he didn’t really mean any harm…) Their guys are bastards (he set them up – he seduced her (him) – he meant to do real harm). We see our leaders virtues, we too often deny their faults. Obama’s embrace of most of Bush’s draconian security practices is too easily excused.
But we don’t do it as often. We are more willing to accept science even when it contradicts our beliefs. We are more willing to learn, to investigate facts that make us realize we have been wrong. As Andrew Sullivan quotes George Orwell: To see what’s in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, also comes to mind.
Anyway, that’s my opinion but I could be wrong…
Photos by swo81, all subject to this creative commons license Click image for details
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SEX BLOGGER SHARES SHAMEFUL SECRET!
There are plumbers, nurses, engineers, gardeners, and cabbies; all of them, and thousands more, pursue honorable vocations. While their skill and efficiency may vary, at the end of the day each may say she earned an honest dollar for her honest labors.
Because newspapers and magazines desperately wanted you to buy their rag, the front page – or cover – screamed a bevy of large type come ons: The Shocking Truth About…. Will the World End Next Week… Goat Born with Three Heads… If you fell for the lure of one of the headlines you usually found out, when your read the article, the truth was much less shocking than the cover’s implied promise.
Today, as newspapers and magazines fade from the scene, digital media has taken up the art of writing alluring headlines. If old media angled for sales, Internet outlets crave hits. They don’t really care if you read the piece you click through to; your click is enough.
I admit, given my modest audience, I’ve been tempted to attempt to imitate my Internet betters. I normally try to find a song, book or film title or quote, or a play on words to head a post. These headers are usually honest in an plain spoken kind of way; they do not promise more than their subsequent text delivers. But with each post I edge closer to hyping the content: The Most Depraved Women in the World! – Shocking Tales of Sexual Depravity! – Depraved Political Tricks! Monster Ants Attack!
But – if I do fall prey to the unprincipled practice of pure postal prevarication – I promise, at least, to do my best to feel ashamed.
HILLBILLY COEDS PLAN CAMPUS ORGY!
There was a fairly bad English play once titled, “No Sex Please, We’re British.” While wildly popular in Britain in the seventies despite near universal critical scorn, the play managed a mere sixteen performances when it crossed the Atlantic.
I wouldn’t be surprised if someone writes a sequel entitled No Sex Please, We’re Tennesseans. The University of Tennessee’s student run Sex Week scheduled for early April has drawn the ire of several of our esteemed legislators. They were shocked – shocked – by the thought students might be interested in sex on campus and might actually want to enhance their sexual knowledge. The lawmakers demanded the University withdraw all funding for the one week program.
The university, citing the long cherished principle of academic freedom, stood firm…
You didn’t believe that, did you?
Of course the university mostly bailed and withdrew all university funding for the program but did allow a modest amount of student funds to remain available to fund the (greatly reduced) bacchanalian sex romp.
The outraged legislators are, of course, not mollified. They point out student fees are not voluntary and, therefore, money extracted from God fearing, pure minded Christian students will go to fund depravity.
The Vegas line is one in twenty-seven Sex Week will actually happen in Knoxville next month. Personally, I wouldn’t take those odds. This is Tennessee, after all.
THE SHOCKING SECRET DEMOCRATS DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW!
Politicians are a craven lot. Large majorities of the populace support universal background checks and restrictions on large gun magazines. The outlook for any gun control legislation passing, however, remains poor. The proposed assault rifle prohibition died prematurely without coming up for a vote at the hands of Harry Reid last week, done in by the defection of red state Democratic senators.
The NRA has managed to rouse its horde of single issue votes once again. “Safe district” Republicans would never support gun control (and would probably vote to legalize private ownership of bazookas and tanks). Democrats remain deeply traumatized by the party’s 1994 Congressional wipeout that followed their vote to ban assault rifles. Democrats in the house and Senate pray they won’t have to vote at all. Voting against would enflame the party’s base but voting for would likely mean facing a NRA firing squad. Public support for gun control, while temporarily strong, will wain as time passes. On the other hand, the NRA never forgets.
Once the public glare of Sandy Hook fades away, Democratic politicians will slither away in the gathering darkness, giving thanks they can make soothing noises but nothing more – at least until the next gun massacre hits the news.
photos by Alan Antiporda, subject to this creative commons license. Click images for details.
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According to the Kinsey Report
Ev’ry average man you know
Much prefers to play his favorite sport
When the temperature is low,
But when the thermometer goes ‘way up
And the weather is sizzling hot,
For his madam.
‘Cause it’s too, too
Too darn hot,
It’s too darn hot,
It’s too darn hot.
Too Darn Hot, by Cole Porter, from Kiss Me Kate
I caught Al Gore on the Daily Show last week. I’ve had a soft spot for Gore ever since I shook his hand during his last senate campaign back in the day. He would have been President in 2001 if he had only run an honest campaign – if he hadn’t treated Clinton, and his successful policies like radioactive shit and had paid no attention to the “experts” trying to rebrand him every other week. On the other hand, I think his loss allowed him to become an actual human being.
Anyway, he was talking on the show about global warming. I agreed with everything he said. Its staggeringly stupid we, as a nation, treat climate change as just below the lack of Washington parking as a problem. One political party pretends climate change is a hoax, the other barely mentions it.
The less developed countries, particularly India and China, ignore the issue, too, in their frantic effort to modernize. Think Beijing smog and add another million plus cars then add another million plus in India (oh, yes, add about another couple of thousand coal fired power plants). When the West’s industries came of age in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries no country did – or even thought to do – anything about climate change. When America barely preaches on the subject of climate how can we expect China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the dozen other nations clawing themselves up the economic ladder with dirty carbon based fuels.
Not that it really matters.
It’s too damn late to do anything about the climate. Think about this: suppose we could wave a magic wand and reduce carbon emissions to 1985 levels and kept them there for a decade or so. 1985 levels would not reverse global warming, it would only slow it down a bit. Indeed, if we could eliminate all carbon emissions global warming would continue for decades.
Perhaps in another decade or so there will be such a catastrophic climate event world leaders will finally realize the seriousness of the problem. But what will they do? More to the point, will they be willing to drastically reduce emissions? By that time will serious cuts do any good? I suspect every industrial nation will demand the others go first (or falsely claim they are cooperating).
I’m a pessimist. If we discovered a huge asteroid hurtling toward earth with the potential to destroy all life on our planet, I have no doubt world leaders would quickly coalesce around a massive effort to solve the problem, no matter the cost.
On the other hand, its not beyond the possible that the GOP would decry the vast astronomical conspiracy to further th UN’s goal of world domination…
But with climate change, the evidence will accrue so slowly that it will be long past way too late by the time the world gets even semi-serious…
All photos by Mario Mercea, and subject to this creative commons license
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