Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

FYI-FTR: Part 12, More from Kuran and Sunstein; on “sheeple” mass pseudo-consensus by way of manipulating opinion (and policy . . . ) through cascade effects


It is worth pausing to pull up more from the rich motherlode of the Kuran-Sunstein Stanford law review article on opinion and reputation cascades, to help us understand what has been going on:

>> the probability assessments we make as individuals are frequently based
on the ease with which we can think of relevant examples.‘ Our principal
claim here is that this heuristic interacts with identifiable social mechanisms
to generate availability cascades—social cascades, or simply cascades,
through which expressed perceptions trigger chains of individual responses
that make these perceptions appear increasingly plausible through their rising
availability in public discourse. Availability cascades may be accompanied
by counter-mechanisms that keep perceptions consistent with the relevant
facts. Under certain circumstances, however, they generate persistent social
availability errors—widespread mistaken beliefs grounded in interactions
between the availability heuristic and the social mechanisms we describe?
The resulting mass delusions may last indefinitely, and they may produce
wasteful or even detrimental laws and policies . . . .

suppose that the words and deeds of certain individuals give the impression that they accept a particular belief.  In response to their com- munications, other individuals, who  lack reliable  information, may  accept that belief simply by virtue of its acceptance by others.  As long as members of the relevant group are heterogeneous along one or more dimensions (e.g., initial personal information, willingness to rely  on  others  for  information, timing of social  contacts), the  transformation of the  distribution of beliefs can take the form of a cascade, known also as a bandwagon or snowballing process. Not every member of a society experiencing an informational cas- cade need be  influenced; those with  considerable private information may remain unswayed.  Under the right conditions, however, many or most of the society’s members, potentially even all [–> or at least the majority of particular sub cultures], will end up with essentially identical beliefs, which may well be fanciful . . . .

Like an informational cascade, a reputational cascade is driven by inter-
dependencies among individual choices. It differs, however, in the underly-
ing personal motivations. In the case of a reputational cascade, individuals
do not subject themselves to social influences because others may be more
knowledgeable. Rather, the motivation is simply to earn social approval and
avoid disapproval. In seeking to achieve their reputational objectives, people
take to speaking and acting as if they share, or at least do not reject, what
they view as the dominant belief. Everyone has had the experience of modi-
fying public statements or actions in order to win praise or avoid censure. If
a particular perception of an event somehow appears to have become the so-
cial norm, people seeking to build or protect their reputations will begin en-
dorsing it through their words and deeds, regardless of their actual thoughts.
As in the informational case, the outcome may be the cleansing of deviant
perceptions, arguments, and actions from public discourse. And just as in-
formational cascades may be limited in their reach, there may exist local re-
putational cascades-self-reinforcing processes that reshape the public pro-
nouncements of particular subgroups without affecting those of the broader

Reputational and informational cascades are not mutually exclusive. Or-
dinarily, they exhibit interactions and even feed on one another. The re-
sulting composite process, which is generally triggered by a salient event, is
what we are calling an availability cascade.>>

Of course, if one acts in conformity with induced pressure or intimidation, cognitive dissonance merges, and one’s internal beliefs are strongly pulled to conform to the emergent or apparent norm. And if reputation, livelihood or social acceptance are on the line, a great many people are going to go along with the apparent consensus.

But, it is far too often riddled with falsity, an artifact of deliberate, calculated or hysterical contrivance driven by deceitful or irresponsible conduct and carried forward by those who do or should know better:

>>Social agents who understand the dynamics of availability cascades and
seek to exploit their insights may be characterized as availability entrepre-
neurs. Located anywhere in the social system, including the government, the
media, nonprofit organizations, the business sector, and even households,
these entrepreneurs attempt to trigger availability cascades likely to advance
their own agendas.’ They do so by fixing people’s attention on specific
problems, interpreting phenomena in particular ways, and attempting to raise
the salience of certain information.>>

In short, there is such a thing as the destructive power of the tongue, and there is such a thing as a duty of care to the truth and the right, also the fair. Duties we disregard at peril.

(And, I can already hear the deflective, projective, turnabout talking points that imagine that by pointing to real or perceived motes in the eyes of “Those IDiots” they are rendered immune to the problem. The folly in such was long ago pointed out in The Sermon on the Mount: behold, there just may be a plank in your own eye. In this case, the pattern of insistent misrepresentations of, and ad hominem attacks against design thinkers, Creationists and theists should give a reasonable person pause. Just think, would you find it reasonable and civil to sit in my living room and demand of me that I accept being routinely called an IDiot — with obvious connotations and denotations — as the price of trying to have a discussion? Or, put up with worse abuses, personal outing, outing of uninvolved children and other relatives, cyberstalking more generally and now clear evidence of on the ground stalking — crimes? Such tactics speak loud volumes, especially when we compare say the UD Weak Argument Correctives and the IDEA Center FAQs, or just what has already been noted in this FTR series. and, DV, I will soon get on to the current resurrection of the long since past sell-by date “Wedge Document” canard.)

While I am at it, let me pause and clip a response to an objector in the Logicide thread:

Sev: >>kairosfocus @ 15

Seversky, there is such a thing as entrenched, ugly political correctness backed by destructive administrative, media, agit-prop and lawfare action that sound all too familiar. It is not merely a sense of entitlement not to be offended — and on that, slander, cyberstalking, on the ground stalking and the like are not to be brushed aside as merely being offended at criticism . . . — but there is a major obvious push to demand approval and legal entrenchment of patent folly and evil, consistently coming from the left all over our civilisation.

I see pressure from both ends of the political spectrum to further their respective agendas and using similar tactics. Since neither has been able to gain the upper hand so far our freedoms are relatively safe – for the present,

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would be alarmed by the apparent spread of the so-called “doomsday preppers”. They look like they are almost salivating at the prospect of the complete collapse of Western civilization. And they are but the most visible manifestation of a much wider worldview that holds that current civilization is irredeemably corrupt and needs to be swept away so that we can start afresh. They always assume that they are the “we” that will survive the purge to remake civilization in their own image, of course. It’s not too hard to imagine some of them going to the next level of actually trying to bring about the catastrophe they’re preparing for. But you’d only believe that sort of thing if you were a conspiracy theorist.>>

KF: >>there is not an immoral equivalency here, so kindly drop the tu quoque fallacy.

There is an ugly and very closely relevant climate of intimidation and abuse, slander, stalking and worse that you have yet to acknowledge, and for which there has been some serious enabling that is equally unacknowledged on your side.

I doubt it has registered with you that in answer to on the ground stalking [the evidence now is decisive] I have had to communicate with the police here again regarding such, up to just the past few days, rooted in the unhinged hostility and bully-boy tactics tolerated or even celebrated in the circle of objector sites.

That is part of the back-story to my current FTR series, and I insist that I will not tolerate abusive conduct under false colours of freedom of expression.

Beyond, there is a clear, longstanding agenda of ruthless secularisation (now, core rights such as freedom of conscience, association and expression are in the stakes, as already pointed out above . . . ) and faction dynamics driven by evolutionary materialist undermining of mind and morality, much as Plato warned against 2350 years ago:

Ath. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

[Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.-

[ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, leading to an effectively arbitrary foundation only for morality, ethics and law: accident of personal preference, the ebbs and flows of power politics, accidents of history and and the shifting sands of manipulated community opinion driven by “winds and waves of doctrine and the cunning craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . . . ” cf a video on Plato’s parable of the cave; from the perspective of pondering who set up the manipulative shadow-shows, why.]

These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might,

[ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”) . . . ]

and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry nihilistic agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral and/or nihilistic factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse and arbitrariness . . . ], and not in legal subjection to them.

This, of course is yet another studiously ignored inconvenient truth.

And, I repeat, the Frankfurt School and its extension through Alinsky, to directly identifiable kulturkampf agit prop pushes and street and media theatre and spin games with destructive march of blind rage fuelled folly impacts — not to mention, abuse of state power — need to be seriously addressed:



Sorry, you’re another is not an adequate answer here at UD, given what has been going on with very direct relevance.

Something that makes this from the OP very, very familiar:

Why would anyone want to build such a culture of coercion? In a word, power. “Equality” is not the reason for what is happening with such mobs. It is the pretext for what they are doing. Like all such deceptions, its sole purpose is as a vehicle to transfer power from individuals to an increasingly centralized state. The fuel, as usual, is the emotional blackmail of people of goodwill, the uses of mass mobilization to exploit that goodwill, then, finally, to render all such goodwill meaningless.


The transformation of the free human mind to an automatically responding machine” is essentially the story of the transformation of the United States of America we are watching in real time today. Delusion is an important element, because tyrannies do not stand up to logic. It seems very sudden, but it’s not. We’re only at this tipping point because we let our defenses down. In fact, if the First Amendment collapses, it would simply indicate a return to humanity’s tribal default position, in which a sort of Nietzschean “Will to Power” rules the day.

Do you think that this, from Will Provine at the U Tenn Darwin Day event of 1998, is empty words without consequences?

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

Or, Crick’s even more chilling (and inadvertently self-refuting) remarks in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis?

. . . that “You” [–> Sir Francis, what about YOU, too?], your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

Do you think, we are too dumb to understand what words like this really imply?

Or, that we are blind to how these sorts of ideas are plainly increasingly having ruinous consequences on the ground?

Do you think — given what is there in Luke’s classic expose on manipulation of Democracy to ruin in Ac 27 (yes, in that Book your ilk so desperately wants to discredit and drive out of the public’s mind), we have forgotten the problem of the march of folly?

Evolutionary materialism provides a basis, a lab coat clad rationale — ironically — for undermining confidence in mind and morality, and for then cynically manipulating through divide, confuse, program and manipulate tactics. Tactics that are now at watershed with cynical destruction of marriage and family as well as other socio-cultural centres as the bulwarks against the atomised, confused, brainwashed, crowd that is just waiting for the nihilistic manipulator of the power of irresponsible crowds.

WJM has done an excellent service, putting his finger on a serious and destructive trend, and we need to pay it serious attention.>>


It is time for a more sober, reasonable and sensible approach to the controversy over intelligent design.

One last point, here is Wikipedia, inadvertently speaking against interest on sheeple:

>>Dictionary.com defines sheeple as informal: “people who tend to follow the majority in matters of opinion, taste, etc”; a combination of “sheep” and “people”.[1] Word Spy defines it as “people who are meek, easily persuaded, and tend to follow the crowd (sheep + people).”[2]

Example citation: The label originated in the United States, and designates people who tend to accept and take statements at face value, especially if it is cited in mainstream media or religion. [–> they had to take a lick at their favourite whipping boy]  The Wall Street Journal first reported the label in print in 1984; the reporter heard the word used by the proprietor of the American Opinion bookstore.[3] . . . .  The term can also be used for those who seem inordinately tolerant, or welcoming, of what can be perceived by the speaker as government overreach. In a column entitled “A Nation of Sheeple”, columnist Walter E. Williams writes, “Americans sheepishly accepted all sorts of Transportation Security Administration nonsense. In the name of security, we’ve allowed fingernail clippers, eyeglass screwdrivers, and toy soldiers to be taken from us prior to boarding a plane.”[4]>>

The time for putting up with cynical divide and rule polarisation, manipulation, bully-boy intimidation online or on the ground and bad cop worse cop enabling tactics is over. END

PS: Series so far:

>>Let’s discuss: >> Elizabeth Liddle: I do not think the ID case holds up. I think it is undermined by [want of . . . ???] any evidence for the putative designer . . . >>

FYI-FTR*: Part 2, Is it so that >>If current models are inadequate (and actually all models are), and indeed we do not yet have good OoL models, that does not in itself make a case for design>>

FYI-FTR*: Part 3, Is it so, that >> . . . What undermines the “case for design” chiefly, is that there isn’t a case for a designer>>

FYI-FTR: Part 4, What about Paley’s self-replicating watch thought exercise?

FYI-FTR: Part 5, on evolutionary materialism, can a designer even exist?

FYI-FTR: Part 6, What about “howtwerdun” and “whodunit” . . . >>[the ID case has] no hypothesis about what the designer was trying to do, how she was doing it, what her capacities were, etc.>>

FYI-FTR: Part 7, But >>if you want to infer a designer as the cause of an apparent design, then you need to make some hypotheses about how, how, where and with what, otherwise you can’t subject your inference to any kind of test>>

FYI-FTR: Part 8, an objection — >>nobody has solved the OOL challenge from an ID perspective either. And they never will until ID proposes the nature of the Designer (AKA God) and the mechanisms used (AKA “poof). >>

FYI-FTR: Part 9, only fools dispute facts (and, Evolution is a fact, fact, FACT!)>>

FYI-FTR: Part 10, In reply to RTH — >>your FYI / FTR posts are a bad idea >>

FYI-FTR: Part 11, a paper on inducing mass pseudo-consensus>>