Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 13th, 2017

New York Governor Signs Bill Adding PTSD as Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana Program

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Sensible step, IMO. The Marijuana Policy Project reports:

A bipartisan bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for New York’s medical marijuana program was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during Veterans Day weekend. The Senate passed S 5629 in June (50-13), and the Assembly version, A 7006, received overwhelming approval in May (131-8). New York is the 28th state to allow medical marijuana to be used to treat PTSD.

“Gov. Cuomo should be applauded for helping thousands of New York veterans find relief with medical marijuana,” said Bob Becker, Legislative Director for the New York State Council of Veterans Organizations. “PTSD is a serious problem facing our state, and now we have one more tool available to alleviate suffering.” . . .

Continue reading.


Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2017 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Medical

Interesting answer to “Why do I have a hard time understanding liberal arguments on a lot of issues?”

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Mike Rightmire on Quora has an interesting answer to the question:

I’ve found one of the major differences between conservative and liberal viewpoints is; that liberals often (not always) try to drive legislation based on how humans tend to react to stimuli, whereas conservatives (often but not always) tend to drive legislation based on how they feel humans SHOULD respond to stimuli.

For example; trickle down. It makes sense that if a person growing a business gets to keep more of their money (lower taxes) they would invest that money in the business (making more jobs) so they can make more money.

That makes total sense!!

The problem is; the evidence suggests they don’t (or at least not after a certain point. Once a person has reached a “certain level” of wealth, speculation tends to be more profitable than trying to sell/ manufacture more widgets. Speculation does not create jobs…just wealth.)


“Liberals” (I hate these labels) generally (but not always) identify this issue, and change tactics. Conservatives (as implied by the very name) KNOW that this SHOULD work…so they must be doing it wrong…and tend to double down.

This is the same issue with most social problems…

Harder prison terms SHOULD deter criminals (they would deter “ME!”). But they don’t.

Making drugs illegal should stop drug use. But it doesn’t.

Killing terrorists should stop terrorists. But it doesn’t.

Teaching kids to stay abstinent until marriage should reduce unwanted pregnancies. But it doesn’t.

So, the question you must ask yourself is;

Am I having a problem understanding the liberal viewpoint, because I’m clinging to an unexamined fallacy(ies) about human nature.

A SECOND DIFFERENCE is an emotional one. I call it, “WHY SHOULD I?”

This is the harder one. In my (apparently liberal leaning) attitude I have discovered that what’s “fair” – when addressing humanity – is immaterial.

For example, healthcare. Conservatives (rightly so) believe people should take care of themselves. As well they should. But some don’t or can’t. And never will. So, the conservative say, “Well…WHY SHOULD I have to pay for them?!”

The answer is; it doesn’t matter. You will anyway.

You will either pay to house, feed, clothe, and heal them. Or you will pay to clean up the bodies, clean up the crime, clean up the parks (where they sleep and defecate), pay for the prisons, etc.

A liberal says, “Paying to house and feed them is cheaper. Let’s do that.”

A conservative says, “BUT IT’S NOT FAIR. So let them suffer.”
Liberal: “But why let them suffer?”
Conservative: “So they’ll learn.”

But sociologists and psychologists tell us, that they don’t learn from this.

So, the next question you have to ask yourself is; why is it better to let people suffer, even though it costs you more, than pay for something you “shouldn’t have to” pay for?

=== EDIT ===
A very reasonable comment was made, about how (perhaps) conservatives have a more “… ingrained and perhaps more ridged sense of right vs wrong.”

This was my response…which I think is a useful addition to the original post…


“… [conservatives have a more] ingrained and perhaps more ridged sense of right vs wrong.”

Or perhaps simply a more inflexible one. Whether it’s “wrong” to be unable to work, even when that inability appears as just “laziness” is a point of discussion.

As a molecular biologist who studied neuroscience heavily, I have come to the realization that the drives and morals that allow me to “function” are less a matter of my personal superiority as an individual, and more to do with luck (good genes, proper nutrition growing up – leading to proper brain development, good parents, good schools, ETC.)

I think this is another point of difference between “conservatives” or “liberals” (or moderate or any two humans on the planet regardless of “classification”)…

The experiences that shape our world.

My studies have show me, personally, that who we “choose to be” drives a much smaller portion of our personalities than we like to believe (or are willing to accept).

While I have worked very hard (as have most people) to cultivate those parts of me that are “good”, and correct those parts of me that are “bad”…the very fact that I’m psychologically capable of doing this, and even have a definition of “good” and “bad” personality traits, was entirely beyond my control.

Point being that I have run into many people (frequently conservatives) who are under the (IMHO) *delusion* that they are self-determined (or, at least, predominantly self-determined). SO when they see “a bum”, they believe they simply choose to be this way – so they deserve to suffer.

I do not think this is such a simple matter. As a result, I’m much more accepting of the (very Biblical) statement that, “There will always be poor (and lazy, and incompetent)…” so, simply dealing with that unalienable fact in the most pragmatic and humane way is simply reality.

And complaining about “Why should I have to”…just seems egocentric.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2017 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

The best books on Climate Change and Uncertainty

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Five Books interviews Kate Marvel:

‘When we talk about climate change, we sometimes assume people will be swayed by one more graph, one more coherent argument. But that’s not how people work. More facts don’t change minds, and deeply held views don’t always dictate behaviour.’ How, then, to grapple with a future that ‘might be weirder than we realise’? Kate Marvel, Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University and NASA, recommends an essential reading list for those ready to confront climate change and the uncertainties it brings.

OK, let’s start with some basics. What can we say for sure about anthropogenic climate change, and what can we not say for sure?

First, we know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. We know what its molecular structure looks like, and we know that this structure means that it absorbs infrared radiation. If we’re wrong about this, we’re wrong about the very basics of physics and chemistry.

Second, we know that burning fossil fuels increases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The chemical reactions that produce energy when we burn oil, gas, or coal inevitably produce CO2 as a byproduct. And that CO2 goes into the atmosphere. We have excellent measurements of atmospheric CO2, and they clearly show a dramatic increase since the industrial revolution.

Third, we know the climate has been changing. Multiple independent datasets show the global temperature rising. But that’s not all that’s been happening. There is more water vapour in the atmosphere. Spring is coming earlier. Rainfall patterns are shifting. Glaciers and sea ice are melting. There are more and deadlier heat waves.

Fourth, we know that these changes are very, very likely to be due to human activities. We know that the climate changes due to natural factors, but we also have a fairly good understanding of what the climate would look like without us. We can model this natural variability using powerful supercomputers, and we can also study the climate of the past using things like tree rings and ice cores. The changes we’ve observed are too large and too rapid to be attributable to any known natural factors. And they’re very consistent with what we expect increased carbon dioxide to do to the planet. An alternate explanation would have to come up with a plausible natural mechanism for these changes and explain why CO2 doesn’t act the way we think it should – and that’s a very tall order.

But we don’t know everything (otherwise my job would be very boring). We don’t know exactly how hot it’s going to get. That’s largely because we don’t know what society will do in the future – will we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or will it be business as usual? But even leaving aside this uncertainty, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the physical climate system. The planet responds to warming in ways that could either speed up or slow down that warming. A good example is ice melt: the north and south pole are covered in ice right now, and that ice is very good at reflecting sunlight. As the Earth warms, the ice melts, exposing darker ground or water. Without that reflective ice coating more sunlight gets absorbed and the planet gets even warmer, melting even more ice. It’s a vicious cycle, but one we understand fairly well. There are other effects that are much less well understood. For example, we’re pretty sure that global warming will change cloud cover, but we’re not sure exactly how, and we’re not sure if these changes will slow down or speed up the warming. This is an exciting scientific field, and we’re making considerable progress.

We also don’t know exactly how climate change will affect specific areas. Policymakers often want information about what to expect and when, and we’ll never have an exact answer. The computer models we use to project the future are improving, but we’ll always have to make decisions in an uncertain environment.

In a TED talk earlier this year you stressed the uncertainties relating to how cloud cover change – that they might help us out with global warming, but they might make it much worse. You also said in that talk that there was no observational evidence that clouds would substantially slow down global warming. Just now you told me that scientists like yourself are making considerable progress on this issue. Does that mean you and others are getting close to a significant reduction in uncertainty here?

That’s certainly the hope! Clouds are a real headache for climate scientists because we’re not sure what’s going to happen to them as the planet heats up. And that’s unfortunate, because clouds are incredibly important in regulating the climate. High clouds act a bit like a warm blanket, trapping heat from the planet below. This means that clouds have a very powerful greenhouse effect and make us much warmer. But clouds also play an opposite role. Anyone who’s ever had an outdoor party spoiled by clouds knows that they’re very effective at blocking sunlight. On a global scale, clouds block an enormous amount of sunlight that would otherwise warm the Earth, and so make it much colder. You can see right away how difficult it is to understand what’s going to happen. How will global warming change the greenhouse effect of clouds? Will it cause them to block more or less sunlight?

We’re making progress. Unfortunately, it’s mostly bad news. We’re now fairly confident that global warming will make the cloud greenhouse effect more powerful. This will, in turn, cause global warming to get worse. We’re less confident in this, but we have reasons to believe that the future may be sunnier: clouds will block less solar energy. And this also makes global warming worse. There’s still a lot to learn, but I wouldn’t place any bets on clouds saving us from ourselves.

Let’s look at your first book choice, Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006). What do you like about this book, and how does it help us think about uncertainty?

I have a shocking confession to make: I don’t enjoy reading popular books about climate science. Given what I actually do all day, it all feels a bit too much like hard work. I’d rather read something that entertains me or teaches me something I don’t know already. But I think this book is an important one: it largely gets the science right, and it helps give a sense of the scale of the problem. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2017 at 12:23 pm

Small-town SWAT teams proliferate in Western Massachusetts

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Radley Balko notes an ominous trend:

Some terrific journalism here by the Valley Advocate, an independent paper in Western Massachusetts.

An analysis of hundreds of pages of police records and incident reports, obtained through public records requests, shows that small-town police departments like Ludlow are amassing enormous arsenals (often with the help of federal grant programs), use SWAT in ways that go beyond their original mission, and are sometimes unable to properly select and train officers. Some experts feel that this phenomenon highlights a much larger problem: too many SWAT teams in the state, eating up too many municipal budgets, without enough to do.

Then the paper names some names.

If things get out of hand in “America’s Premier Cultural Resort,” aka Berkshire County, authorities are able to call on Berkshire County Special Response Team, composed of officers from Pittsfield, Lee, North Adams, and surrounding towns. Thanks to homeland security grants, since 2012 the team has nabbed night vision goggles, SWAT headsets and helmets, tactical body armor, and the ever-popular BearCat armored vehicle. The total cost to the US taxpayer for all this equipment: $468,364.82.

The police department in Westfield (pop., 41,552) goes a step further to cultivate a military mindset in its SWAT officers. In April 2015, at a time when post-Ferguson America was engaging in a debate over the militarization of police, the city shelled out $4,400 to send its Special Response Team to a conference 200 miles away to attend the “Bulletproof Mind” seminar by controversial “killology” police trainer, Lt. Col. David Grossman.

Based in Greenfield, the newest SWAT team in Massachusetts serves the state’s most rural county. In June 2016, Franklin County Regional Special Response Team was deemed ready to deploy after taking in more than $115,000 in homeland security grants for officers’ training and tactical gear. Since then, it has been used just once — to serve a firearm-related search warrant.

But others in the area have been used more often, mostly to serve warrants for low-level drug crimes. The article also touches on one of the less obvious problems with this sort of proliferation of SWAT — a lack of suitable candidates.

Stephen M. Clark — chief of police in Newington, Connecticut, and a 24-year veteran of SWAT operations — concurs. For a 2015 research paper, Clark surveyed SWAT officers in the Nutmeg State to get a sense of how frequently their teams deployed and how much training they received. He found a tremendous amount of overlap — there are over two-dozen SWAT teams in what is geographically the nation’s third-smallest state — along with a number of small agencies that were not properly training their officers. Clark concluded that when police departments lack the resources to meet “minimum standards for selection, training, and team composition,” then they should consider “either disbanding the team or merging with a regional tactical team.”

Cost savings, as well as gaining an increased edge in the competition for federal grants to law enforcement, may be an inducement for some Commonwealth departments to combine their resources. In much of the state, SWAT teams manned by the numerous “law enforcement councils” are examples of regional, multijurisdictional teams. Given redundancy, tight municipal budgets, and largely inactive units with little to do in low-crime small towns and cities, retired Boston cop Tom Nolan thinks it may be time for some to be disbanded or merged with other teams: “I think it’s fair to question why we have so many SWAT teams in Massachusetts.”

Several years ago, I interviewed a retired police chief from Connecticut whose city council told him he needed to start a SWAT team. He wasn’t wild about the idea, but the elected officials insisted. (It helped that they had received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security and some gear from the Pentagon.) So he called a department-wide meeting, explained to his officers the situation and asked for volunteers. He then wrote down the names of those who raised their hands and told them they’d never be on the SWAT team. His point was an important one: The officers selected for these teams not only need to be screened for their prowess with a gun or other physical attributes. They also should be screened to be sure you’re picking officers who bring the right mind-set to the job. The more excited they are about kicking down doors and adrenaline rushes, the less you’ll want them on SWAT.

Smaller police agencies just don’t have the personnel for thorough screening. Much of the time, SWAT isn’t a full-time position. This in itself is a good indication that your town doesn’t need a SWAT team: if your police agency doesn’t have the manpower and the resources to fund one populated with full-time employees. Part-time SWAT teams do their training on off-hours, on the side. And because most small towns don’t see enough serious incidents that merit the legitimate use of SWAT, they start sending their teams out for more routine police work. Drug warrants are ideal. Even the tiniest of towns have some illicit drug activity. And drug arrests bring funding, in the form of both federal grants and possible asset forfeiture. It’s also an inappropriate use of this kind of force. SWAT teams are necessary when they’re using force and violence to defuse an already violent situation — a mass shooting, or a terrorist incident. Using SWAT teams to serve drug warrants creates violence, risk and volatility where there was none before.

Of course, as we saw earlier this month, mass shootings happen in small towns, too. The right approach, I think, is to have regional SWAT teams, preferably under the auspices of the state police. State police agencies have the resources and the personnel to fill out well-staffed, well-trained teams. (An even better approach — and one that more police departments are adopting — is to train and equip patrol officers to respond to these incidents. So long as the heavy gear comes out only when responding to a possible shooting.)

But regional teams should report to an official who is accountable to the local public. They also need  . . .

Continue reading.

See also Tim Craig’s article “Tough-talking sheriffs raise their voices in the Trump era.” As sheriffs become “tougher” with SWAT teams at their beck and call, things could go bad quickly. Craig’s article begins:

Sheriff Wayne Ivey was so anxious on election night last year that he secluded himself in his house and hooked up his iPad to a projection screen showing the electoral map.

When a state was called for Donald Trump, Ivey shouted with relief. And by the end of the night, it had all sunk in: Voters not only elected Trump, they also had endorsed Ivey’s own brash, politically incorrect brand of conservative politics.

“He doesn’t back down,” said Ivey, the sheriff for Brevard County, home to Cape Canaveral and middle-class beach destinations along Florida’s east coast. “He is not afraid to take a stance, and that is what we need right now.”

With his red “Make America Great” hat prominently displayed in his office here in Titusville, Ivey is part of a wave of county sheriffs who feel emboldened by President Trump and his agenda, becoming vocal foot soldiers in the nation’s testy political and culture wars.

From deep-blue states such as Massachusetts and New York to traditionally conservative strongholds in the South and the Midwest, locally elected sheriffs have emerged as some of the president’s biggest defenders. They echo Trump’s narrative on everything from serious policy debates such as immigration to fleeting political dust-ups with NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.

With Trump dominating the national conversation through tweets, sheriffs are mimicking his antagonistic political style, alarming progressives and some legal observers who fear an increasingly undisciplined justice system. Some have even gone to battle with Democratic officials, bucking their “politically correct” policies and using rhetoric that puts some residents on edge.

“Members of law enforcement and sheriffs seem to be more comfortable articulating controversial, pro-incarceration views than in recent years,” said Daniel Medwed, a law and criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston. “When you have a president who feels comfortable saying things that people would not have said in previous regimes, it emboldens other people to say those things.”

Over the past nine months, various elected sheriffs have been filmed saying that they would call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on undocumented residents, have threatened to bar sex offenders from hurricane shelters, and have proposed sending inmates to help build Trump’s planned Mexican border wall.

Last month, a sheriff in Louisiana even suggested “good” inmates need to be kept in jail so they can cook, clean and wash vehicles.

In Titusville, Ivey is calling on all of his constituents to arm themselvesas a countywide militia. He and many other sheriffs are producing controversial, at times jarring, videos designed to show toughness, including images of deputies beating in doors.

In an interview, Ivey said he sees it as his duty to be supportive of the president. His personal Facebook page even features a photograph of Trump along with the phrase “Leave Our President Alone.”

“The voice of the sheriffs is to help the president and help our attorney general be aware of what is taking place, the crisis and trends taking place, and be able to put laws in place,” said Ivey, who represents a county Trump won by nearly 20 points.

‘True, true friend’

Trump has cultivated a strong alliance with the nation’s law enforcement officials. One week after his inauguration, he signed an executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to deputize local officers to enforce federal immigration laws, reviving a policy that President Barack Obama had curtailed. In early February, Trump invited a dozen sheriffs to a White House meeting, during which he vowed to crack down on gang violence in Chicago and build his proposed border wall.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2017 at 11:59 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Why philosophy is important in science education

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Subrena Smith, assistant professor in philosophy at the University of New Hampshire, writes in Æon:

Each semester, I teach courses on the philosophy of science to undergraduates at the University of New Hampshire. Most of the students take my courses to satisfy general education requirements, and most of them have never taken a philosophy class before.

On the first day of the semester, I try to give them an impression of what the philosophy of science is about. I begin by explaining to them that philosophy addresses issues that can’t be settled by facts alone, and that the philosophy of science is the application of this approach to the domain of science. After this, I explain some concepts that will be central to the course: induction, evidence, and method in scientific enquiry. I tell them that science proceeds by induction, the practices of drawing on past observations to make general claims about what has not yet been observed, but that philosophers see induction as inadequately justified, and therefore problematic for science. I then touch on the difficulty of deciding which evidence fits which hypothesis uniquely, and why getting this right is vital for any scientific research. I let them know that ‘the scientific method’ is not singular and straightforward, and that there are basic disputes about what scientific methodology should look like. Lastly, I stress that although these issues are ‘philosophical’, they nevertheless have real consequences for how science is done.

At this point, I’m often asked questions such as: ‘What are your qualifications?’ ‘Which school did you attend?’ and ‘Are you a scientist?

Perhaps they ask these questions because, as a female philosopher of Jamaican extraction, I embody an unfamiliar cluster of identities, and they are curious about me. I’m sure that’s partly right, but I think that there’s more to it, because I’ve observed a similar pattern in a philosophy of science course taught by a more stereotypical professor. As a graduate student at Cornell University in New York, I served as a teaching assistant for a course on human nature and evolution. The professor who taught it made a very different physical impression than I do. He was white, male, bearded and in his 60s – the very image of academic authority. But students were skeptical of his views about science, because, as some said, disapprovingly: ‘He isn’t a scientist.’

I think that these responses have to do with concerns about the value of philosophy compared with that of science. It is no wonder that some of my students are doubtful that philosophers have anything useful to say about science. They are aware that prominent scientists have stated publicly that philosophy is irrelevant to science, if not utterly worthless and anachronistic. They know that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is accorded vastly greater importance than anything that the humanities have to offer.

Many of the young people who attend my classes think that philosophy is a fuzzy discipline that’s concerned only with matters of opinion, whereas science is in the business of discovering facts, delivering proofs, and disseminating objective truths. Furthermore, many of them believe that scientists can answer philosophical questions, but philosophers have no business weighing in on scientific ones.

Why do college students so often treat philosophy as wholly distinct from and subordinate to science? In my experience, four reasons stand out.

One has to do with a lack of historical awareness. College students tend to think that departmental divisions mirror sharp divisions in the world, and so they cannot appreciate that philosophy and science, as well as the purported divide between them, are dynamic human creations. Some of the subjects that are now labelled ‘science’ once fell under different headings. Physics, the most secure of the sciences, was once the purview of ‘natural philosophy’. And music was once at home in the faculty of mathematics. The scope of science has both narrowed and broadened, depending on the time and place and cultural contexts where it was practised.

Another reason has to do with concrete results. Science solves real-world problems. It gives us technology: things that we can touch, see and use. It gives us vaccines, GMO crops, and painkillers. Philosophy doesn’t seem, to the students, to have any tangibles to show. But, to the contrary, philosophical tangibles are many: Albert Einstein’s philosophical thought experiments made Cassini possible. Aristotle’s logic is the basis for computer science, which gave us laptops and smartphones. And philosophers’ work on the mind-body problem set the stage for the emergence of neuropsychology and therefore brain-imagining technology. Philosophy has always been quietly at work in the background of science.

A third reason has to do with concerns about truth, objectivity and bias. Science, students insist, is purely objective, and anyone who challenges that view must be misguided. A person is not deemed to be objective if she approaches her research with a set of background assumptions. Instead, she’s ‘ideological’. But all of us are ‘biased’ and our biases fuel the creative work of science. This issue can be difficult to address, because a naive conception of objectivity is so ingrained in the popular image of what science is. To approach it, I invite students to look at something nearby without any presuppositions. I then ask them to tell me what they see. They pause… and then recognise that they can’t interpret their experiences without drawing on prior ideas. Once they notice this, the idea that it can be appropriate to ask questions about objectivity in science ceases to be so strange.

The fourth source of students’ discomfort comes from what they take science education to be. One gets the impression that they think of science as mainly itemising the things that exist – ‘the facts’ – and of science education as teaching them what these facts are. I don’t conform to these expectations. But as a philosopher, I am mainly concerned with how these facts get selected and interpreted, why some are regarded as more significant than others, the ways in which facts are infused with presuppositions, and so on.

Students often respond to these concerns by stating impatiently that facts are facts. But to say that a thing is identical to itself is not to say anything interesting about it. What students mean to say by ‘facts are facts’ is that once we have ‘the facts’ there is no room for interpretation or disagreement.

Why do they think this way? It’s  not because this is the way that science is practised but rather, because this is how science is normally taught. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2017 at 10:27 am

Posted in Education, Science

Why Are Conservatives More Susceptible to Believing Lies?

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John Ehrenreich, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York–Old Westbury, writes in Slate:

Many conservatives have a loose relationship with facts. The right-wing denial of what most people think of as accepted reality starts with political issues: As recently as 2016, 45 percent of Republicans still believed that the Affordable Care Act included “death panels” (it doesn’t). A 2015 poll found that 54 percent of GOP primary voters believed then-President Obama to be a Muslim (…he isn’t).

Then there are the false beliefs about generally accepted science. Only 25 percent of self-proclaimed Trump voters agree that climate change is caused by human activities. Only 43 percent of Republicans overall believe that humans have evolved over time.

And then it gets really crazy. Almost 1 in 6 Trump voters, while simultaneously viewing photographs of the crowds at the 2016 inauguration of Donald Trump and at the 2012 inauguration of Barack Obama , insisted that the former were larger. Sixty-six percent of self-described “very conservative” Americans seriously believe that “Muslims are covertly implementing Sharia law in American courts.” Forty-six percent of Trump voters polled just after the 2016 election either thought that Hillary Clinton was connected to a child sex trafficking ring run out of the basement of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., or weren’t sure if it was true.

If “truth” is judged on the basis of Enlightenment ideas of reason and more or less objective “evidence,” many of the substantive positions common on the right seem to border on delusional. The left is certainly not immune to credulity (most commonly about the safety of vaccines, GMO foods, and fracking), but the right seems to specialize in it. “Misinformation is currently predominantly a pathology of the right,” concluded a team of scholars from the Harvard Kennedy School and Northeastern University at a February 2017 conference. ABuzzFeed analysis found that three main hyperconservative Facebook pages were roughly twice as likely as three leading ultraliberal Facebook pages to publish fake or misleading information.

Why are conservatives so susceptible to misinformation? The right wing’s disregard for facts and reasoning is not a matter of stupidity or lack of education. College-educated Republicans are actually more likely than less-educated Republicans to have believed that Barack Obama was a Muslim and that “death panels” were part of the ACA. And for political conservatives, but not for liberals, greater knowledge of science and math is associated with a greater likelihood of dismissing what almost all scientists believe about the human causation of global warming.

It’s also not just misinformation gained from too many hours listening to Fox News, either, because correcting the falsehoods doesn’t change their opinions. For example, nine months following the release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, the percentage of Republicans who believed that he was not American-born was actually higher than before the release. Similarly, during the 2012 presidential campaign, Democrats corrected their previous overestimates of the unemployment rate after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the actual data. Republicans’ overestimated even more than before.

Part of the problem is widespread suspicion of facts—any facts. Both mistrust of scientists and other “experts” and mistrust of the mass media that reports what scientists and experts believe have increased among conservatives (but not among liberals) since the early ’80s. The mistrust has in part, at least, been deliberately inculcated. The fossil fuel industry publicizes studies to confuse the climate change debate; Big Pharma hides unfavorable information on drug safety and efficacy; and many schools in conservative areas teach students that evolution is “just a theory.” The public is understandably confused about both the findings and methods of science. “Fake news” deliberately created for political or economic gain and Donald Trump’s claims that media sites that disagree with him are “fake news” add to the mistrust.

But, the gullibility of many on the right seems to have deeper roots even than this. That may be because at the most basic level, conservatives and liberals seem to hold different beliefs about what constitutes “truth.” Finding facts and pursuing evidence and trusting science is part of liberal ideology itself. For many conservatives, faith and intuition and trust in revealed truth appear as equally valid sources of truth.

To understand how these differences manifest and what we might do about them, it helps to understand how all humans reason and rationalize: In other words, let’s take a detour into psychology. Freud distinguished between“errors” on the one hand, “illusions” and “delusions” on the other. Errors, he argued, simply reflect lack of knowledge or poor logic; Aristotle’s belief that vermin form out of dung was an error. But illusions and delusions are based on conscious or unconscious wishes; Columbus’s belief that he had found a new route to the Indies was a delusion based on his wish that he had done so.

Although Freud is out of favor with many contemporary psychologists, modern cognitive psychology suggests that he was on the right track. The tenacity of many of the right’s beliefs in the face of evidence, rational arguments, and common sense suggest that these beliefs are not merely alternate interpretations of facts but are instead illusions rooted in unconscious wishes.

This is a very human thing to do. As popular writers such as Daniel KahnemanCass Sunstein, and Richard Thaler have pointed out, we often use shortcuts when we reason, shortcuts that enable us to make decisions quickly and with little expenditure of mental energy. But they also often lead us astray—we underestimate the risks of events that unfold slowly and whose consequences are felt only over the long term (think global warming) and overestimate the likelihood of events that unfold rapidly and have immediate consequences (think terrorist attacks).

Our reasoning is also influenced(motivated, psychologists would say) by . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2017 at 10:03 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Science

Wee Scot, Martin de Candre, Baby Smooth, and Krampert’s Finest

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My pre-Vulfix-acquisition Simpson Wee Scot made a very fine lather from Martin de Candre shaving soap. This is another shaving soap for which a merely damp brush works best: the lather is quick to form.

Three passes with the RazoRock Baby Smooth, and I gave the bottle of Krampert’s Finest Acadian Bay Rum a good shake and applied a splash. Great start to a new week.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2017 at 9:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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