The trouble with trusting complex science
This column by Monbiot on the problems with public perception of science is excellent and worth reading in its entirety, but I found this particularly interesting as it confirms something I’ve suspected about ideology and belief:
In 2008 the Washington Post summarised recent psychological research on misinformation. This shows that in some cases debunking a false story can increase the number of people who believe it. In one study, 34% of conservatives who were told about the Bush government’s claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction were inclined to believe them. But among those who were shown that the government’s claims were later comprehensively refuted by the Duelfer report, 64% ended up believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
There’s a possible explanation in an article published by Nature in January. It shows that people tend to “take their cue about what they should feel, and hence believe, from the cheers and boos of the home crowd”. Those who see themselves as individualists and those who respect authority, for instance, “tend to dismiss evidence of environmental risks, because the widespread acceptance of such evidence would lead to restrictions on commerce and industry, activities they admire”. Those with more egalitarian values are “more inclined to believe that such activities pose unacceptable risks and should be restricted”.
These divisions, researchers have found, are better at explaining different responses to information than any other factor. Our ideological filters encourage us to interpret new evidence in ways that reinforce our beliefs. “As a result, groups with opposing values often become more polarised, not less, when exposed to scientifically sound information.” The conservatives in the Iraq experiment might have reacted against something they associated with the Duelfer report, rather than the information it contained.
Guardian: The trouble with trusting complex science
Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: the Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies
How are we to characterise the core myth of generic fascism which results from the fusion of a revolutionary project with anti-liberal but populist nationalism? It can be expressed in a single binomial term, albeit an initially cryptic one: `palingenetic ultra-nationalism’. `Palingenetic’ refers to the myth of `rebirth’ or
`regeneration’ (the literal meaning of `palingenesis’ in Greek). Clearly, the triumph of a new life over decadence and decay, the imminent rebirth from literal or figurative death, is a theme so universal within manifestations of the human religious, artistic, emotional and social imagination throughout history that it is in itself inadequate to define a political ideology. For example, the faith in the possibility of regeneration
from a present condition perceived as played out or no longer tolerable, is arguably the affective driving force behind all revolutionary ideologies, be they communist, anarchist, or `dark green’ (or even liberal, as a study of the speeches of the leading French Revolutionaries such as Saint-Juste or Robespierre shows2). The adjective `palingenetic’ first acquires a definitional function when it is combined with the historically quite recent and culture-specific phenomenon of `nationalism’, and only when this takes a radically anti-liberal stance to become ultra-nationalism.
Fascism thus emerges when populist ultra-nationalism combines with the myth of a radical crusade against decadence and for renewal in every sphere of national life. The result is an ideology which operates as a mythic force celebrating the unity and sovereignty of the whole people in a specifically anti-liberal, and anti-Marxist sense. It is also anti-conservative, for, even when the mythic values of the nation’s history or prehistory are celebrated, as in German völkisch thought, the stress is on living out `eternal’ values in a new society. The hall-mark of the fascist mentality is the sense of living at the watershed between two ages and of being engaged in the front-line of the battle to overcome degeneration through the creation of a rejuvenated national community, an event presaged by the appearance of a new `man’ embodying the qualities of the redeemed nation.
Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: the Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies (PDF)