Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Political biases

Since the postmodern revolution it is difficult to not see that our epistemological biases shape what we believe. We no longer have a naive trust that there are objective facts that we merely discover and upon which everyone can agree. Granted there is a real world there as basis for our conceptual constructions but we no longer hold that we can see it as it is in itself via direct perception or transcendental reasoning. A relative newcomer to the philosophical scene, speculative realism, asserts we can realistically hypothesize such a real world as basis, even make accurate, useful and empirical predictions about it, but still allows for its withdrawal from human perception or reasoning in that we cannot fully know it in any kind of direct 1-to-1 relationship. Still, it seems we can get relatively better and worse views based on empirical evidence, which are grounded more in reality and less in bias, even if never perfect.

So how does this play out in politics? Are conservative and liberal viewpoints merely equal opposites that need some form of balance via compromise to arrive at workable solutions? We've seen time and again Obama work with this assumption, and after coming to what appeared to be a bi-partisan compromise he was repeatedly rebuffed with no conservative votes whatsoever. So let's take a look at yet another study of political biases, and which seem closer to the empirical evidence. In this article Chris Mooney of AlterNet examined this study. Here are some of the things it revealed through his eyes. You'll see some of the same empirical conclusions that Lakoff and Johnson come to from the "real and false reason" thread.

The subtitle of the article is "Better educated Republicans are more likely to doubt global warming and believe Obama is a Muslim." How can this be? Does not education and learning the facts erase such non fact-based delusions? How can cognitive dissonance be so blatant in face of empirical evidence to the contrary? And is this same phenomenon manifest in liberal or progressive views as well?

Mooney first lays out the incontrovertible scientific evidence for global warming. And better educated Republican were more likely to dismiss the evidence than their more ignorant brethren. However it was the opposite for Democrats and Independents; the more educated the more they accepted the evidence. The same applies to a host of other conservative myths, like Obama's Islamic heritage. So the liberal intellectual bias that more education and information (just the facts ma'am) will make conservatives see the light of their view prevents them from understanding what is behind this phenomenon.

Study results found that political views, despite education, had more to do with whether one identified as a "hierarchical-individualist" or as "egalitarian-communitarian." These labels are misleading, because it appears that again they are one side of an equal dichotomy, that one is either/or. Not so. Conservatives tend to be more authoritarian and willing to accept the prejudices of an authority figure over dissonant evidence, whereas liberals are prone to be more open-minded when faced with conflicting facts. And yet paradoxically the Enlightenment notion that there are unbiased empirical facts prevents liberals from understanding the bodily and emotional basis or reason itself, and hence ways to communicate effectively with conservatives.

Mooney recognizes the problem but it is Lakoff that sees the solution, forthcoming in the next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.