Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

Why Evidence is Not Enough
by Michael E. Marotta

People accept or reject expert opinions based on their own prior assumptions.  We know that "you cannot rationally argue a person out of a position they were not rationally argued into in the first place."  OrgTheory is a blog written by economic sociologists.  A recent entry pointed to a paper that objectively tested the reactions of people whose political stances were previously measured. 

Attitudes were labeled according to "communitarian" or "individualist" and "hierarchical" or "egalitarian."   Subjects were shown the resumes of authors and samples of their work and then were asked to rate the expertise of the authors.

Generally, people rated authors as experts when the views coincided with their own.

Realize that all three authors and their books were inventions.  All three had the same high level of academic standing. (Doctorates from major schools.)  In every case, two different, opposing views were written for each author and randomly shown to subjects.  The topics were gun control, nuclear power plants, and global warming.

Originally published by the Yale Law School as "Research Paper #205: Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus by Dan M. Kahan, Hank Jenkins-Smith and Donald Braman," the paper can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network Paper Collection at: http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract#1549444

However, it was popularized by our comrades at Mother Jones who also offer it here.

This is really just another arithmetic validation of what we know as the "confirmation bias" and the "attribution fallacy."  Richard Feynman warned young scientists about the need for ruthless honesty in his famous speech on "Cargo Cult Science."  In Human Action, Ludwig von Mises granted that advocates of the free market and state planning both will agree on the facts: a certain commodity had a certain price in some place at some time.  What they disagree about is what the facts mean.

Objectivism is a formal school of rational-empirical philosophy.  Theory explains facts.  Facts alone prove nothing.  Thus, in the "war for men's minds" you can never have enough evidence until and unless you share a common frame of thought based ultimately on the law of identity, a material world independent of the subject, and the validity of logic as formalized reasoning.
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