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New Scientist: Restore the power of pop science “facts”! – US election special

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Yes, they are still grousing about that. And, from a distance, they sound surreal.

From Dan Jones at New Scientist:

In November, Donald Trump defied the pollsters to be elected the 45th US president. A few months earlier, UK voters decided to end their country’s 43-year membership of the European Union. Throughout Europe populist movements are prospering. In every case, opponents have cried foul: these campaigns, they argue, win support by distorting or flagrantly disregarding the truth.

But wait. Doesn’t the losing side always say that, in every case?

Vote for Doofus instead of Duffus and you’ll soon be hearing from the Duffites that Doofus won by “distorting or flagrantly disregarding the truth.”

Much of the electorate is older now than it was, proportionately, in the 1970s. So lots of people have long memories for that kind of unshaven-month analysis, aimed (one would guess) at 2020. No doubt there’ll be plenty of similar observations about Brexit and now Italy, after last night.

What’s more interesting is the nature of the pop science writers’ bummers. They are not at all concerned why the pundits they respect called it so wrong. Mind you, ID sympathizers like John Gilmore (who was writing mainly for Canadians) and Ann Coulter (whom everyone is expected to hate, whether or not they even watch her) called it right.

But their bummers are not the main thing I, O’Leary for News, want to talk about. (After all, if people can afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants who get it all wrong, it’s their money, not mine.)

No, this attitude is what concerns me:

Politicians spin and politicians lie. That has always been the case, and to an extent it is a natural product of a free democratic culture. Even so, we do appear to have entered a new era of “post-truth politics”, where the strongest currency is what satirist Stephen Colbert has dubbed “truthiness”: claims that feel right, even if they have no basis in fact, and which people want to believe because they fit their pre-existing attitudes. More.

Unpacked, this is an invitation to researchers to stop listening to why people say they do things and invent a theory that protects one’s own beliefs instead. And to try to enforce it as a dogma, which is where the trouble begins.

Listening would make way more sense but is unlikely to be tried.

Unfortunately, in pop science culture today, the theory is likely to revolve around concepts like, we evolved to need coercion, not to understand reality.

See also: In search of a road to reality

and

Seven myths of social psychology

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One Reply to “New Scientist: Restore the power of pop science “facts”! – US election special

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    It’s a problem when either side resorts to lies, exaggerations, unjust attack – in other words, Saul Alinski’s tactics.

    I find Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s essay: “Live Not By Lies” to be a huge challenge, on a personal level.

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