Thursday, August 7, 2014

Evidential Futility

There are certain debates which can never be won. The sides are entrenched, the topics too complicated or personal, there is not really a right answer. Pro-choice vs. pro-life, Israel vs. Palestine, vi vs. emacs. But there are also some arguments that should be rationally resolved, such as creationism vs. evolution, climate change, and green energy. And yet, the debates rage on. Politics goes the same way. All the actors do the same things over and over again, and both sides perpetually claim their ideology is right and the other will destroy America while both fail at their lofty goals. What is going on there?

Funny story... It turns out, and this is completely logical if you consider it, it turns out that the people most informed and capable of looking at evidence are also the people best equipped to rationalize their own views on a subject, and that cultural identity drives public opinion more than evidence. Thus people who identify with/as Democrats/Republicans/Bible literalists/Pastafarians/insert-ideology-you-disagree-with-here are not going to be persuaded by your evidence. Ever. Sure, there may be an exception here or there, but that's just statistics for you. In general people are going to believe what the group they identify with believes. Now what the heck do I do with that knowledge?

If I'm perfectly honest, it felt a bit revelatory when I read about the studies. In the sense that it confirmed something I had long been trying to resolve (thus making me more likely to give the story credence). I have long believed that certain debates that rage in our society are literal wastes of time. And now I have evidence (Evidence!) to back up my rationalized claim. I also have a great excuse not to engage in such debates anymore. Y'all believe what y'all are going to believe in any case, and I will do the same.

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