In my last post, I promised a separate discussion on the tu quoque response; that is, the claim that confirmation bias, closed-mindedness and deliberate promotion of ignorance are universal phenomena, just as bad on the left as on the right.
More over the fold on this, but here are some links that have come up since I posted
*The rumors were apparently started by distributors for Amway, but went viral (compare AGW delusions and Exxon).
- (Many of) those propagating the rumors, even excluding those with a monetary axe to grind, were not innocent dupes, but were well aware that they were peddling lies.
David Frum reduces Jonah Goldberg to a stammering wreck on the question “Is Obama really a Marxist/Socialist”.
A second example of a rightwing critique of agnotology. Note: In the original version of this post, I incorrectly linked to an example of agnotology instead of a refutation, then corrected it (as I thought) but failed. I think it’s right this time. Even inadvertent error can be hard to correct! -JQ
Scott McLemee reviews the book of the concept.
A striking example of the asymmetry of agnotology. The right has made big play of alleged weaknesses in the “hockey stick” paper of Mann et al. But the critique they primarily rely on, by Wegman et al, is a pile of plagiarised nonsense.
Anyway, back to the main point. Let’s grant that confirmation bias is a characteristic trait, not confined to any time or social group. That doesn’t mean that it is uniformly distributed. Cultures that reward it, such as that of the US right, will tend to attract those who are prone to it, reward its further development, and expel those who don’t display it.
So, to test this, we need to ask whether there is anything on the left comparable to the near-universal promotion of the Oregon petition on the right. Some ground rules, derived from experience at my blog. I’ll start with an example of what doesn’t work, the proposition “GM foods are evil”. This fails in at least three ways.
(1) It’s a value judgement ,not a claim of fact
(2) While it’s more prevalent on the left than on the right, it’s not a claim that is generally accepted by nearly everyone left of centre (in the US context, this means Democrats and mainstream liberals as well as environmentalists and leftists in the narrower senses of this term)
(3) Even restated as a factual claim (say, GM foods are bad for health) it’s too broad to be refuted by simple factual observations as can be done with the Oregon petition
Spelling (3) out more broadly, there’s no point in posting references to broad claims that you may think are held by the left but refuted by evidence (say, that nuclear power is a bad choice for energy or that the EU outperforms the US economically). What’s needed are specific factual claims, unchallenged on the left, but easily shown to be false, in a way comparable to “31000 scientists reject global warming”.
Finally, I’m willing to concede that, if you go back several decades, the asymmetry I’m talking about was, at a minimum, much less apparent. The left was more tolerant of delusions of various kinds, and the right more in touch with reality. So, examples should be from this millennium, not the last one.
Go to it!