NAKED REDHEAD & Ridiculous Rant

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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…

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Photos by swo81, all subject to this creative commons license Click image for details

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