Tuesday, September 17, 2013
An Alternet article titled "The Most Depressing Discovery About the Brain, Ever", along with the related Grist article, "Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math", sheds a great deal of light on why it is so hard to get people to accept the truth when it conflicts with their political views. A recent study found that our political passions can easily (and unfortunately) undermine our most basic reasoning skills. That is, no matter how good one is at math, one may get the answer to a math problem wrong if the right answer contradicts their political beliefs. Worse, when people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct such errors only makes them cling to their erroneous beliefs even more. And this is true no matter how smart someone is--in fact political passion appeared to trump reason even more so for those who were better at math! A truly depressing discovery indeed.
All this explains why our movement in particular has had such a hard time convincing the opposition about the error of their ways. For an issue as fraught and passionate as the drinking age, it seems that for many of our opponents, no amount of evidence is enough to convince them that their unscientific and pseudo-scientific positions really don't stand up to scrutiny. A particular debate that our group's leader had with an otherwise intelligent and well-educated member of the pro-21 crowd (with a PhD no less!) comes to mind. The opponent's "evidence" and faulty logic were refuted over and over again by citing the best studies on the matter, and yet he still refused to budge one bit, finding every conceivable reason to believe that our data were suspect. This literally went on for weeks. But eventually he just got tired of arguing and walked away with his proverbial tail between his legs, after which we proudly declared victory.
In other words, we really do have our work cut out for us, and more so than we ever thought.