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Studies Say Ideology Trumps Facts

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the water-still-wet dept.

Science 784

Anti-Globalism writes "We like to think that people will be well informed before making important decisions, such as who to vote for, but the truth is that's not always the case. Being uninformed is one thing, but having a population that's actively misinformed presents problems when it comes to participating in the national debate, or the democratic process. If the findings of some political scientists are right, attempting to correct misinformation might do nothing more than reinforce the false belief."

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Yes (4, Insightful)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147917)

I guess that nothing supports false-facts better than trying to debunk them. It's all a conspiracy after all.

Re:Yes (5, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148047)

No it's not.

Not even conspiracy (5, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148179)

Actually, my best bet would be on "cognitive dissonance" rather than "conspiracy theory."

The best way to illustrate cognitive dissonance is via the classic experiment: you assign someone (e.g., a student) a Homer Simpson-esque job that's boring him to tears. Then you one day say he can stop doing it, you have something better to do with him. But you ask him if he can find a replacement for that previous crap job. You even offer a dollar if he does. So he'll go try to convince someone else that it's a great job to take. The fun thing is, after a while he'll have convinced himself too that it's a great job.

Apparently, having to reconcile between "I'm a nice and honest guy" and "I just lied to a bunch of people for a lousy dollar", he'll alter the latter to, basically, "yeah, well, it wasn't really a lie." Just to keep his mental model consistent.

It seems to be a function of at least the mammalian brain. When you have two contradictory ideas in your model, one has to give. With humans, though, if one idea is too important to let go, something else has to give.

Even more fun is that the strength of the effect is inversely proportional to how sustainable or justifiable that action is. If you offer him a lot more money, he has the escape of, basically, "yeah, well, I needed the money. So I have my price too. Bite me." If it's a precondition to getting out of that crap job, same thing, he has an excuse. But when there's no excuse he can wrap his mind around, he'll alter the truth so he doesn't need an excuse.

A similar fun effect is with kids. Apparently when they really want something or to do something, as silly deterrent like "mommy will pout" is often actually more effective than a harsh punishment, if applied consistently. When there is no real justification for "why didn't I do that, if I wanted to anyway?" something else has to give, and it becomes, "I didn't really want that in the first place." Fun stuff.

I find that the same applies to politics, religion, fanboys, or, for that matter, everything else. The least justifiable a position is, the more people will warp reality to keep it. And the more rabidly they'll defend that redefinition of reality, lest their whole mental model comes crashing down around their ears.

And, yes, applying more force just creates more resistance.

And for a last bit of fun, there's no defender more stalwart of a piece of bullshit, than someone whose model already broke down once and was patched to that bullshit. If they're going to have to admit "I was wrong and doing wrong" anyway, they'll run with that to the hilt, and make an even more warped model in the other direction. So funnily enough, there is no more rabid, say, XBox fanboy, than one who was a PS2 fanboy and felt betrayed by Sony and had to let their whole "Sony for ever!!!" model crash. And viceversa. There is no bible-thumper for puritan morals more rabid than someone who was a prostitute until last week. And viceversa: nobody does a good christian-baiting trolling like someone who still went to church last month. There is no Republican more rabid about every single aspect of that ideology, than someone who was a Democrat until they felt somehow betrayed. And viceversa.

But now they won't just change about the aspect where they thought they were cheated, they'll go for the whole list, from military spending to abortion stance to gay marriage to everything else. Now Party X is right in everything, and Party Y is wrong about everything, because I don't like Party Y any more. And I must enlighten the masses about how wrong and evil Party Y is!

And the least justifiable that position is (e.g., don't be silly, Sony didn't "betray" anyone and didn't owe you anything in the first place), the more immovable it will be. As I was saying, fun stuff.

Re:Not even conspiracy (1, Interesting)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148209)

You would make a very good troll.

Re:Not even conspiracy (4, Informative)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148375)

I suspect what you meant to say is that your money is on self-delusional behaviors, such as religion, groupthink, dogmatism, fanaticism, etc. Cognitive dissonance is what then happens when reality comes knocking at the door of this fantasy world. Unfortunately, all too often the doorbell goes unanswered or ignored. That's pretty much to what these studies refer: people choosing to maintain a self-delusion rather than answer the door and be faced with uncertainties.

Re:Not even conspiracy (5, Informative)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148421)

Cognitive dissonance is just what happens when you have two conflicting ideas, and basically have to choose one. It happens just as well when reality came and rang the door bell, but it's the same mechanism that was at work when that delusion rang the bell and you let it in. You have two options and you can't have both. You choose one. Whether it was the right one or you sank deeper into delusional behaviour, is rather irrelevant for the mechanism at work. Choosing the wrong one is nevertheless just the same mechanism at work.

Basically I don't disagree with you when you call those behaviours names, or anything. I'm just saying that the term "cognitive dissonance" is used to mean a very specific mechanism, and how, yes, such self-delusional behaviours come to be.

The dissonance itself is just the fact that (temporarily) two pieces of your mental model are at odds with each other. You have to solve that somehow, because your brain is wired to need one consistent model and try to solve such conflicts. But, at any rate, that's the dissonance: propositions X and Y can't both be true. How you solve that, is already one step further. You can go with the truth, or manufacture a lie, but the dissonance was just the same.

Re:Not even conspiracy (0)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148469)

To summarise: manufacture a false belief (well, it may not be false) to cope with your views on the subject--avoid feeling "bad". Moraelin is spot on.

Re:Not even conspiracy (5, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148397)


That's a very nice summation of a serious problem. This issue is why I always teach (and try to practice) that it is important to admit when you are wrong. The nice thing about doing so, is that you have to do it less often as time goes on. Well, a bit - but it becomes easier to do. One should never allow the value you have invested in believing something to be a factor in whether you believe it or not.

Re:Not even conspiracy (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148403)

No, if I were in a crap job and was asked to find my replacement before getting a better job, I'd wish my employer well and head for the door. I've been through enough crap in life that I would not wish it one someone else, no matter what incentive was waved in front of me.

Re:Not even conspiracy (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148461)

Well, not everyone goes for lying to themselves. So I don't doubt that some people will do just like you said. But look around you. Do you really doubt that half of your co-workers would try to sucker someone, even just to be on the boss's good side? :P

That said, not that I'm accusing you or anything, but having very strong and immutable ideas about what you'd do or wouldn't do, is what causes such dissonances to go wrong in the first place. People start with immutable ideas like "_I_ wouldn't ever do X", and when somehow they find themselves doing it, well, if that idea is immutable, the other one has to go. It becomes, "yeah, well, what I did doesn't _really_ qualify as X." That's when and how such lying to oneself happens.

So keeping a more open mind about your options could actually help.

But again, I don't know you enough to make a definitive pronouncement there. Maybe you have the will power to actually stick to your principles, no matter what. Most people have the principles, but not the will to stick to them. So they end up warping reality to be still able to think that they do have those principles.

Re:Not even conspiracy (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148443)

Actually, my best bet would be on "cognitive dissonance" rather than "conspiracy theory." The best way to illustrate cognitive dissonance is via the classic experiment: you assign someone (e.g., a student) a Homer Simpson-esque job that's boring him to tears. Then you one day say he can stop doing it, you have something better to do with him. But you ask him if he can find a replacement for that previous crap job. You even offer a dollar if he does. So he'll go try to convince someone else that it's a great job to take. The fun thing is, after a while he'll have convinced himself too that it's a great job. Apparently, having to reconcile between "I'm a nice and honest guy" and "I just lied to a bunch of people for a lousy dollar", he'll alter the latter to, basically, "yeah, well, it wasn't really a lie." Just to keep his mental model consistent.

That is very true. Cognitive dissonance basically refers to a "dissonance" (i.e. contradiction) between ones beliefs and actions. The dissonance is discomforting and, therefore, it makes sense that our minds formulate and mould beliefs to reduce the discomfort.

It seems to be a function of at least the mammalian brain. When you have two contradictory ideas in your model, one has to give. With humans, though, if one idea is too important to let go, something else has to give.

It has "to give" to relieve the mental stress. Actions that do not align with beliefs obviously cause negative emotions to arise. So, you're 100% correct. We (humans) do not like discomfort.

Even more fun is that the strength of the effect is inversely proportional to how sustainable or justifiable that action is. If you offer him a lot more money, he has the escape of, basically, "yeah, well, I needed the money. So I have my price too. Bite me." If it's a precondition to getting out of that crap job, same thing, he has an excuse. But when there's no excuse he can wrap his mind around, he'll alter the truth so he doesn't need an excuse.

Thus reducing the dissonance

Science education (5, Insightful)

tomalpha (746163) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147919)

What if your ideology is based around the careful analysis of facts - like a good science education?

Re:Science education (5, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147985)

Sadly, that's not what they're talking about. If anything, just watch the current "debate" that's going on on talk radio and blogs about the upcoming election. You still hear that Obama is a muslim or that Palin wants to ban specific books. Despite these ideas having been debunked multiple times, people keep repeating them. Why? Because that's what they want to believe - ideology trumping facts.

Re:Science education (4, Informative)

uhlume (597871) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148135)

That's a good point, and well taken, except that the Palin book-censorship "myth" was never debunked — the (truthful, as far as it goes) claim that she never attempted to ban specific books as mayor of Wassila is a straw man, a cynical diversion from the fact that she embarked on her campaign of attempted book-censorship as a city councilwoman, before being elected mayor.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book "Daddy's Roommate" on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. [Laura Chase, the campaign manager during Ms. Palin's first run for mayor in 1996,] and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

"Sarah said she didn't need to read that stuff," Ms. Chase said. "It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn't even read it."

"I'm still proud of Sarah," she added, "but she scares the bejeebers out of me."

(From this article [nytimes.com] in the New York Times.)

Re:Science education (1)

yetanotherforgottenl (1068684) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148401)

That there is +1 Scary.

You proved the point (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148419)

I think you just proved the point. She never tried to ban anything. Expressing an opinion that a particular book "does not belong there" is not an attempt to ban anything. You might think that Mein Kampf or the Turner Diaries don't belong in a children's library, but expressing that opinion is not an attempt to ban them. But believe what you will. On the other side one could make the argument that Obama was raised as a Muslim in a portion of his childhood. He was registered as a Muslim when he went to school in Indonesia for instance. That's the test. Believe both are debunked or that both have some truth in them and you are healthy. Believe one but not the other and you are just as described in the article -- unwilling to accept that your point of view is possibly incorrect.

Re:Science education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148215)

Or they just don't plain listen. I was in the bus one day, and I was overhearing the radio. The bus driver was obviously listening, and during a commercial, I heard "My name is Barack Obama, and I approve this message." The bus driver turned off the radio, to purposefully NOT listen, and turned it back on when it was over..

Re:Science education (2, Interesting)

uncqual (836337) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148363)

Did you hear how s/he responded to, say, McCain's ads? Is it possible that s/he just felt it inappropriate to subject passengers to overhearing any overt partisan messages originating from a publicly financed source (either the radio, or even the bus driver)?

I've got not idea since I wasn't there, but a non-partisan stance would seem like an appropriate one for a public employee while they are "on the taxpayer's clock" (barring, of course, elected officials who voters presumably may have elected in the expectation they would be partisan).

Re:Science education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148413)

Well, I don't answer the phone when my dad calls... I used to answer, and I did answer for over 10 years. In that 10 years, he has done nothing but annoy me and has never, not even once, had something useful to say to me. Not so much as an accurate greeting. (Good morning! - Dad, it's 2 p.m.)

Point being, there does come a time when you can make a truly educated guess that what a person is about to say is going to annoy, irritate, or inflame, and will be completely devoid of logic and reason. When I can avoid listening to these things, I sometimes do.

I'm not going to let some radio ad from a person who says things I don't agree with ruin my day. I have spent far too much time doing the research on this person's views and going through the pain of democracy being frustrated by ignorance and codependency. I cannot allow myself to revisit the cloudy mental state induced while trying to find the logic in things I have already deemed illogical after extensive study and consideration.

I dragged this out much longer than I intended, but I can completely identify with the bus driver.

Re:Science education (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148351)

Question: Even if Obama was a muslim, why on earth would it matter at all?

Oh right this is the US we are talking about. Nvm.

Re:Science education (1)

Nasajin (967925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148493)

Ironically, the reason is because Islamic faith is a type of ideology. Thus people would believe that it would alter his understanding of the facts.

Re:Science education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148063)

The article is in the context of correcting misconceptions. A person with a good science education would hopefully be able to correct his misconceptions if confronted with evidence updating his scientific education.

Re:Science education (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148083)

...Unless he is a liberal. If he thinks there were no WMD, there were no WMD. Nevermind the possibility they were shipped to Syria or Iran hours before the invasion.

To the topic though, this is really is sad. People immediately assume folks in power had the worst possible intentions, then they run right off the deep end with conspiracy theories and crazy assumptions, but desire no proof to support their belief. It's almost like...an organized religion for complete nutjobs.

Re:Science education (2, Insightful)

something_wicked_thi (918168) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148323)

[T]hen they run right off the deep end with conspiracy theories and crazy assumptions, but desire no proof to support their belief. It's almost like...an organized religion for complete nutjobs.

Sort of like claiming that the WMDs in Iraq were shipped to Syria or Iran hours before the invasion? Which country was it? Or are you just making shit up?

You realize that if they were making WMDs, they would also need factories and such, which we also presumably would have found. Or did those get shipped off to Israel or something?

It seems to me that you are the one believing in conspiracy theories. All any of the rest of us believe is that Bush lied to us or didn't know what the hell he was talking about. I really don't care which it was at this point, but it's not a conspiracy. Just a couple of liars or morons, pick your choice.

Re:Science education (1)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148359)

I am sure that man of these ACs are paid trolls by the Republicans spreading FUD. If they are willing to pay reporters to fluff No Child Left Behind do you think they wouldn't pay the moral equivalent of script kiddies to put out shit like this? Once you know that someone is a liar, e.g. Bush, why would you ever believe anything they say?

Re:Science education (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148097)

The article is in the context of correcting misconceptions.

True, but in the political arena, nobody gains votes by using validated data. They get votes by pandering to the lowest common denominator among the populace.

And scientific or any other education is not necessarily a useful measure of someone's ability to think critically. I know any number of people with PhD and Master's degrees whose inability to reason critically is absolutely staggering to the point that I wonder how they manage to function at all.

Re:Science education (0, Flamebait)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148141)

I know any number of people with PhD and Master's degrees whose inability to reason critically is absolutely staggering to the point that I wonder how they manage to function at all.

Since all Republicans only (like Rush Limbaugh) have high skool edjumications, these must be Democrats you are referring to.

Re:Science education (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148263)

Since all Republicans only (like Rush Limbaugh) have high skool edjumications, these must be Democrats you are referring to.

What about Condoleeza Rice? Anyway, no, I am not a US citizen, so I won't be voting in your elections.

Re:Science education (2, Insightful)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148147)

In my experience, even people who pride themselves in always having fact to back up their opinions usually had the opinions first and found the facts to back it up afterwards.

What's behind door #3? (1)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147923)

...Or some of us really are apathetic.

I'm not sure if I'm going to not vote as a protest, or to cast a ballot for whomever is going to make my life less miserable. And, no, I haven't decided who that is just yet.

Re:What's behind door #3? (1)

mtempsch (524313) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148287)

...Or some of us really are apathetic. I'm not sure if I'm going to not vote as a protest, or to cast a ballot for whomever is going to make my life less miserable.

Less miserable? Won't happen. Best you can hope for would be for least amount of more miserable...

Confirmed by experiment (4, Insightful)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147927)

Interestingly, an experiment was conducted a few years ago in which a completely incompetent ruler was set up as a head of state of one of the worlds larger nations. After four years of bad rule that included a record deficit, starting two illegal wars, and alienating most of their allies, the people of that nation were asked if they would vote for him again. And they did! So yes, I would say that ideology certainly trumps facts.

In fact I probably shouldn't be talking about this, since the experiment is still ongoing...

Re:Confirmed by experiment (0, Troll)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148099)

Does the second phase of said experiment contain a vote as to whether leaders in said country can now have more than two periods in office to see whether he gets voted in a third and possibly a fourth time?

Seriously, that would be a blast.

Re:Confirmed by experiment (2, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148183)

Well, he obviously isn't trying to be elected a third time. The only way he can remain President is through a constitutional amendment (which I doubt Congress will give him) or a coup d'etat.

Indeed, the second expiriment fared no better (2, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148131)

After four years of bad rule that included a record deficit, starting two illegal wars, and alienating most of their allies, the people of that nation were asked if they would vote for him again. And they did!

Interestingly, in the follow-up expiriment a group of people were set up to control the purse strings of the same nation, and after four years of exponential spending it appears people are still willing to vote for them as well!

Amazing what people will do, and further proof of the theorem.

Indeed the expiriment is still ongoing, with any luck the monkeys at the switch will pull the lever for once that gives them the smaller banana instead of pulling the big 'ol lever of "free" bananas forever, supplied by magical forces from above.

Re:Confirmed by experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148275)

I always knew it was just God testing us.

Re:Confirmed by experiment (1, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148289)

and what the hell constitues a "legal" war????

Actively misinformed? (5, Funny)

NaCh0 (6124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147929)

Good thing slashdot is here to set the record straight.

I don't believe it (5, Funny)

soundhack (179543) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147931)

I haven't RTF article, but I don't need to-facts don't matter.

Duh (4, Informative)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147935)

This is why we mock conspiracy theorists and computer "hacking" in cinema. Misinformation is what keeps the masses happy. Just like security theatre.

Fox News got it right (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25147937)

Iraq did have WMD you insensitive clod.

Re:Fox News got it right (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148305)

Well, we don't have much proof... Just some VX munitions that had been drained of the agent. As I said in an earlier post, though, they probably just shipped it all out to Iran or Syria hours before the invasion to add insult to injury for Bush.

That, or they're still buried a mile underground.

Again, no proof, so the question will likely never be answered either way.

Stems from anthromorphosizing theists (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25147943)

Once something believes in god, it'll believe in anything.

Dupe? (5, Insightful)

Bjorn_Redtail (848817) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147951)

I think I read a similar article sporting the same statistics quite a while ago. Has ArsTechnia posted a dupe? Besides that, the questions they used to measure 'misinformation' aren't the best: There's quite a bit of different meanings to both of them. Could 'possessing weapons of mass destruction' mean having hundreds of thousands shells loaded and ready to go, or could it mean having no more than a couple of arterially shells with expired nerve-gas that even the Iraqis had forgoten about (I THINK we have found the latter). Does being involved with Al-Quida mean planning and bankrolling every attack and operation together, or does it mean that Saddam tentatively let some Al Quida members into the country? Ars' summery doesn't even agree with the graphic they used: The graphic says the question was "The US has found evidence that Saddam Hussain was working closely with terrorist groups" while the article says that the numbers represent folks who though "there was a credible link between the 9/11 attack and Saddam Hussein". Bit of a difference there.

The best example (0, Troll)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147955)

The best example of this is how people of both major parties continue to believe in government.

Witness the current crisis, whose root cause is the concentration of power in Washington, D.C. Everybody proposes all kinds of solutions, and every one of them is to increase the power of government, which caused the problem in the first place!

That's just one example; this vicious cycle of government growth, especially at the federal level, happens in pretty much every area.

Re:The best example (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148165)

Why is this modded Flamebait?

Re:The best example (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148417)

Because the Democrats are about to win an election?

Still... (1)

Xero_One (803051) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147957)

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.

--Gerry Spence

Re:Still... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148427)

If your mind is too open, dark thoughts might creep in.

fourth branch of government (5, Insightful)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147963)

The American media has a good deal of power, and that power carries a good deal of responsibility. When the media creates false debates, unreasoned arguments, and promotes trivia above important things, they abuse that power. A single newsperson instilling spin into a popular story has done more evil than many purse-snatchers.

I speak of the American media because I don't understand enough of the rest of the world's media to comment.

Re:fourth branch of government (5, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148093)

Yeah, you're right, you have no idea how important that is, and how abuse by the media has led to so many of our current problems. I live abroad, in a country with a censored media, and I even run my own publication which has to be reviewed before it hits print. It's so blatantly obvious when a doctored media report comes out of the state press. After a steady diet of such misrepresentations, I look back at the Western media - they're exactly the same! Two differences are that they're not under government control, and their censorship has different goals. Otherwise, they're doing the exact same thing, distorting the news to support their political positions. It's so readily obvious when looked upon from outside.

Re:fourth branch of government (2, Insightful)

eggnet (75425) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148309)

I think you're almost dead on. Having a political position is a means to an end, not an end.

Having a known political position guarantees a certain market with your now established brand recognition. If your political view is all over the place, you'll piss everyone off eventually. Hard to keep a steady viewership / readership that way.

At the end of the day it's all about selling advertisements and subscriptions in American news.

Re:fourth branch of government (1)

eggnet (75425) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148329)

I'll add that the American method produces different outlets with different spins, the equivalent of multiple governments censoring the same news, but you can read all of the different viewpoints (as well as news from outside of the country, blogs etc) and draw your own conclusions.

In a county where news was censored by one government with a defined set of goals applied uniformly, I suspect it is harder to cut through the BS.

Re:fourth branch of government (1)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148379)

Ever read any Noam Chomsky?

In b4 shitstorm. (-1, Offtopic)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147969)

n/t

YES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25147975)

Just ask twitter [slashdot.org] .

Re:YES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148225)

ha ha, oh my god! i had not realized before, but he's actually serious about all that crap he says!!

Duh (-1, Redundant)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147987)

See title

Democracy - "the least worst form of government"? (4, Insightful)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 5 years ago | (#25147991)

The cynic in me is beginning to believe that Winston Churchill was wrong in saying that "Democracy was the least worst form of government". After being a part of the American political process for the last 8 years I've seen how ideology has, time and again, trumped reason. Still I'm not completely impressed with other systems, the "meritocratic" technocratic bureaucracy espoused by the Chinese communist party seems flawed as well (don't buy Chinese Milk!). That's despite being described as "the Harvard Alumni Association with an Army".

Maybe the fact is that, as humans (and 98% chimp) we're only slightly beyond our animal forebears. Perhaps we just cannot handle a technologic civilization with complex issues like genetic engineering, nuclear weapons, climate change, nano technology. If Fukuyama is right in saying that Liberal Democracies are "the end of history" maybe it means that that's the end of our progress. - Then again maybe the United States (with its 70% of the population being strongly religious) is an aberration and the future lies with other less religious societies.

Re:Democracy - "the least worst form of government (1)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148119)

What we need is one lone ruler who tells us what to do who has no ulterior motives and hidden agendas beyond making this world the most livable and efficient for as large a fraction of the population as possible.

Now making sure we get one of those is the tough part. Since the 'making sure' involves, most probably, human action, the whole idea is bound to fail, naturally.

Re:Democracy - "the least worst form of government (4, Funny)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148187)

What we need is one lone ruler who tells us what to do who has no ulterior motives and hidden agendas beyond making this world the most livable and efficient for as large a fraction of the population as possible.

A Benevolent Dictatorship? That never works in any organization larger than the Python Development Community.

Re:Democracy - "the least worst form of government (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148217)

Only a machine fits that purpose. Any mortal ruler would eventually die leaving a power vacuum and subsequent power struggle.

I would accept rule by a well programmed machine, but only if the source code was available and the whole system was transparent. On the flip side, no human is really fit to rule any other because they inevitably succumb to greed and corruption.

Scratch the above, they were greedy and corrupt which is why the pursue politics in the first place.

Re:Democracy - "the least worst form of government (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148231)

I know what you're getting at. OK, OK - I'll take the job. I was reluctant, but if I have to be the God-Emperor to keep things sorted, that's just a burden I'll have to bear.

I get a harem, don't I?

Re:Democracy - "the least worst form of government (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148163)

Humanity as a whole has definitely peaked. We continue to enhance out technology, but the lump of meat at the centre of it has a fundamental flaw, built in by the evolutionary process. Our imaginations that make all the technology possible is a double edged sword that also results in all the useless and often destructive ideology.

If humanity has something approaching a "purpose", it is to create a successor intelligence (machine, biological or hybrid) and at that moment we will have become the gods we conjure in our imaginations, and also obsolete.

Re:Democracy - "the least worst form of government (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148367)

Still I'm not completely impressed with other systems, the "meritocratic" technocratic bureaucracy espoused by the Chinese communist party seems flawed as well (don't buy Chinese Milk!).

Or, maybe, don't by American Ford Explorers?

Re:Democracy - "the least worst form of government (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148395)

BUY... grr. Must remember to actually re-read my post in preview.

Boy, is that the truth. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148007)

Start with a mass of people. Rile them up with talk radio. Tell them everything they hear and see outside of that is the "liberal media", demonize higher education, and encourage them to convert or drive away anybody who doesn't think like they do by loudly "arguing" whatever talking points are being pushed this week.

It's cult-like, and downright scary. For some reason, it didn't exactly cheer me when Air America came around either. People think it's enough to load up with a handful of "facts" from these shows and regurgitate/copy-and-paste them at the nonbelievers, and the result looks more like a verbal soccer brawl than reasoned debate.

Bring back critical thinking.

The real problem (2, Insightful)

isBandGeek() (1369017) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148011)

The real problem is that many Americans don't usually educate themselves about the issues, but rely on misinformation. You would be surprised at how many Americans still think Republicans are in control of Congress, or where Iraq is (even after all these years), or even that Obama is a Muslim.

Also, the other thing is that people tend to make opinions based on emotion, and then use facts to back these opinions up, not the other way around.

If you're a closed minded prejudiced moron (3, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148027)

Ideology Trumps Facts...if you're a closed minded prejudiced moron who can't face reality.

The ability to learn, grow and change your opinion is something we all possess. If we choose to close our eyes and pray instead of looking at the facts, it's our own fault. It may be easier from an emotional perspective to deal with our limited existence and the hardships life throws at us by subscribing to a belief system handed down to us, or that we've found in a "time of need" but if you actively ignore reality you're doomed to end up destroying yourself.

The trouble with studies like this is that they tell us we can justify our own stupidity. Sure, go ahead, but you'll face the consequences.

O RLY? (4, Funny)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148035)

In other news, new studies say that Cookie Monster thinks cookies are more healthy than broccoli!

-1 Redundant. (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148365)

Seriously, how can I mod the article redundant?

Belief (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148037)

I'm entirely not surprised.

In my opinion, broadly speaking, there are two kinds of people in the world; those who prefer an internal moral compass and those who prefer an external moral compass. The former tend to analyse things for themselves, look at all the facts and come up with a decision- is this "right/true/a good idea/etc". The latter tend to look to some higher authority- religion, the government, parents, spouse, boss, etc to make the majority of these decisions for them.

This doesn't mean that the former is automatically better than the latter- the latter have a vast pool of opinions to draw upon, while the former only have themselves and can be often actively disregard the opinions of others in the name of "doing what *they* want". Individualism for the sake of individualism, you might say.

Most people, I think, fall somewhere in the middle and lean one way or the other. I tend to lean towards the former, but I recognise the traps that can befall these kind of people and actively seek to avoid them.

Re:Belief (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148241)

those who prefer an internal moral compass and those who prefer an external moral compass. The former tend to analyse things for themselves, look at all the facts

Or become narcissists and/or psycopaths.

and come up with a decision- is this "right/true/a good idea/etc".
[snip]
can be often actively disregard the opinions of others in the name of "doing what *they* want". Individualism for the sake of individualism, you might say.

Or, really try to make the best choice, but be ultimately thwarted by a lack of education, ability to reason, or by having been propagandized into being unable to see more than one side of an issue.

Makes sense to me... (1, Redundant)

Sasayaki (1096761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148043)

Well, I'm entirely not surprised.

In my opinion, broadly speaking, there are two kinds of people in the world; those who prefer an internal moral compass and those who prefer an external moral compass. The former tend to analyse things for themselves, look at all the facts and come up with a decision- is this "right/true/a good idea/etc". The latter tend to look to some higher authority- religion, the government, parents, spouse, boss, etc to make the majority of these decisions for them.

This doesn't mean that the former is automatically better than the latter- the latter have a vast pool of opinions to draw upon, while the former only have themselves and can be often actively disregard the opinions of others in the name of "doing what *they* want". Individualism for the sake of individualism, you might say.

Most people, I think, fall somewhere in the middle and lean one way or the other. I tend to lean towards the former, but I recognise the traps that can befall these kind of people and actively seek to avoid them.

Pavlovian Conditioning At Work (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148053)

This strong counter-reaction to the introduction of "inconvenient truths" is a classic product of pavlovian conditioning.

For more on this, read the battle for your mind [the7thfire.com]

Presenting "problems" (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148061)

...having a population that's actively misinformed presents problems when it comes to participating in the national debate, or the democratic process.

That all depends on your point of view and who you are. For many political parties then a misinformed populace is a major boon. If they're dumb/misinformed then you can tell them what you like and they'll support you. If they're intelligent/informed then you might get to that problem point where the voters actually question what the politicians are doing and whether it's for the best.

Still, at least ideology doesn't trump everything - here in the UK the Labour party are abandoning their "for the working masses" ideology and picking up a more right-wing ideology because it gets them votes. Then again, maybe that's one place where ideology should have won out.

Re:Presenting "problems" (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148169)

here in the UK the Labour party are abandoning their "for the working masses" ideology and picking up a more right-wing ideology because it gets them votes. Then again, maybe that's one place where ideology should have won out.

Indeed, we have the same situation here in Australia. Rather than even attempting to pursue any "social justice" issues, our Labor party has embraced the worst of the knee-jerk idiocies of the so-called "Liberal" party with abandon, and there's not much difference between the two any more.

On three. 1.... 2.... 3.... (1)

Flounder (42112) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148079)

Cue the Dem and Repubs pointing and accusing each other of doing just that.

Re:On three. 1.... 2.... 3.... (2, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148243)

Cue the Dem and Repubs pointing and accusing each other of doing just that.

You know, sometimes, one side really is right, or at least substantially less wrong than the other.

ideology trumps facts and so what? (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148091)

ideology trumps facts. ok. so what?

1. this observation is ideologically neutral. that is, it evens out in every ideological direction, such that no particular ideology is favored

2. this observation applies to everyone. this observation applies most of all to those of you who think you are immune to prejudice. that's you, reading these words. yes, you are guilty of this. how passionately you dispute the notion that you have prejudices is directly proportional to how prejudiced you are, blindly. meanwhile, if you start with the assumption that you prejudiced, you are better able to identify your prejudices in your thought processes, and work around them

3. this observation applies to all societies, in all cultures, in all time periods, including the future. in other words, make peace with the concept that ideology trumps facts. nothing you do will ever change that, it is a simple aspect of human nature. unless you seek to disrespect democracy and free will, and somehow "reeducate" people. which makes the cure worse than the disease

we are all prejudiced. individually, and as societies. so it is better to recognize your weaknesses and work around them than somehow fantasize it is possible to have no prejudices at all. the story summary is nothing more than the sound of someone shockingly realizing a truth about their world, and trying to come to grips with it

Re:ideology trumps facts and so what? (5, Funny)

rk (6314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148227)

This is the very kind of [eggheaded woolly liberal|reactionary anti-intellectual conservative] thinking that has led our country to a [godless communist|theocratic fascist] condition. Surely you will be [sent to hell|purged in class warfare] for your [sins|crimes].

Re:ideology trumps facts and so what? (2, Funny)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148237)

i'm sorry, but i'm not.

I've adjusted my views when presented with evidence which contradicted those initial views.

I have never held irrationally to a belief when all evidence pointed to the contrary.

The study is crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148171)

Based on the article it is a simple matter of spinning things the way you want in order to make those you disagree with seem uninformed.

Re:The study is crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148177)

Ironically, your post just proved that the study is dead on correct.

Ideal orgy thumps over anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148181)

Ideal orgy thumps Ideology even.

It's Simple (3, Insightful)

CentralScrutiniser (1371657) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148191)

Accepting Scientific fact in the modern world usually requires an amout of thought and analysis. Accepting an ideology requires no thought at all. Humans are basically lazy.

Douglas Adams knew it all along (4, Insightful)

francium de neobie (590783) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148253)

From the immortal H2G2:

The major problem - one of the major problems, for there are several - one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

Re:Douglas Adams knew it all along (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148429)

Much as I like Douglas Adams, really, he's just paraphrasing Plato. Give credit where credit's due.

Anti-Globalism Says Ideology Trumps Facts. (1, Insightful)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148267)

So true ; )
Self awareness is a road to enlightenment, Anti-Globalism.
Keep up the good work. /sarcasm

 

I don't believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148285)

I don't believe it

Totally disagree (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148303)

This whole study goes against my worldview so I'm going to disregard it entirely.

Crafting 'Truth' (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148313)

"If the findings of some political scientists are right, attempting to correct misinformation might do nothing more than reinforce the false belief."

Political scientists? That's been the finding of psychologists since Leon Festinger outlined cognitive dissonance 50 years ago. Even before it had that name, psychological operations specialists knew they could devise a falsehood that was so preferable to truth that people would adhere to it in the face of contrary evidence, including being told the falseness of the installed belief. And yes, they would hold to the preferable all the tighter rather than face the less secure situation of changing beliefs even to "truth". Throw some FUD (warranted or not) in with it, and people become desperate to believe the comfortable.

The only thing remotely novel about TFA is its overt application towards the US government and people. The fact that it occurs it not surprising to anyone who understands the concepts and applications. I'm thinking /. only finds it newsworthy because Ars Technica seems to. Well, it's worthy but it's not news. Unless you've been asleep since 2000. Come to think of it, that might explain things.

People don't believe scientists, only celebrities (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148333)

To promote your cause, get someone famous on your side. The masses will accept whatever they say - provided your pet celeb. is a "goody". However put someone in a white coat (unless they're famous, of course) up as your representative and you get an immediate turn-off.

Why is this? Because what people believe is based on trust, not facts. They trust faces that are familiar to them and (thanks to the education system) are not capable of working out for themselves which answer is correct.

Ultimately it comes down to emotions

Sound Bites Don't Implement Logic (2, Interesting)

BlahBlahWhatBlah (1369929) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148377)

Sound Bites just implement association and association is the basis of our emotional responses.
Mass media typically just hit us with sound bites, knowing that most people will just skim the news. They see Obama and Muslim in one sentence and even if it's saying that he's not one, Obama-Muslim is still the association created in many minds. Couple this with a Muslim- Terrorism association similarly constructed and Obama is now connected to that too. The association creates an emotional response and that is what drives most people.

It's not about logic. Just association.

This is well understood by spin doctors. You may notice that newspaper articles contain spin in the form of opinion and association building sound bites at the beginning but still include the actual facts at the very end. They do this knowing full well that most people won't read to the end and parse the data and process the logical inconsistencies but they can still provide counter arguments about bias by pointing to the end and saying "Look we really did include all the facts".

What doesn't? (2, Insightful)

charlesbakerharris (623282) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148385)

These days, is there *anything* that doesn't trump facts?

Test and vote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148425)

So should people pass a test first to see if they have the facts straight, before they are allowed to vote?

Message from 2004 (1)

tmk (712144) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148459)

Hear this: [thisamericanlife.org]

A journey through the minds of undecided voters. For months -- through the Swift Boat ads, the convention speeches, the debates -- we tracked a few of these voters to find out why they just can't make up their minds. Plus, a story of someone courting undecided voters, and another about people trying to sabotage undecided voters (and everyone else).

Prologue.

Host Ira Glass asks how it's possible that some people still don't know what they think of President Bush just a few days before election day. Act One. My Buddy, Hackett. Ira spends hours talking to James Hackett, known to his friends, and by the end of the story, to Ira, as Gig. He's a doctor in Cincinnati and a lifelong Republican. But he hates President Bush. Pretty much hates everything he's done since taking office. Over several months, he sways from Kerry to Bush and back again, sometimes with Ira's help, before coming to a final decision -- one that probably surprises even him.

I'm confused. WMDs were found, no? (1)

bboxman (1342573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25148475)

With all this postering, media attention, UN speeches, and this righteous war, I was sure there were WMDs in Iraq. After all, Bush would not tell a lie, would he?

unfortunately... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25148489)

the study is absolutely right:
Most of the people in Russia still believe that their ancestors "liberated" Europe during WW2. In reality - the Russian communist regime MURDERED in total over 100 million innocent people from Russia and abroad, way more that Hitler did.

Of course, this is not in Russian historybooks. The communist party and also the current leaders of Russia have taken care of this...
Everyone that attempts to shed light on the REAL history and events of WW2 is immediately regarded as a fascist...
The truth is just too painful...

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