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Thursday, April 27, 2006
Faith-Based Politics
The need for mythic frames within which to formulate one's political opinions seems to be a crucial demarcation between conservatism and liberalism. The narcissistic urge to define the world as you wish it to be, rather than to discover how it actually is, seems to be the underlying force driving much of the conservative agenda these days.

Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory has written about a minor incident, an argument over the number of books that some prominent bloggers have sold, but has done so in a manner that ties the positions taken on this issue to the deeper instincts that are at play amongst conservatives, especially the most rabid of Bush administration supporters.
As much as anything else, Bush defenders are characterized by an increasingly absolutist refusal to recognize any facts which conflict with their political desires, and conversely, by a borderline-religious embrace of any assertions which bolster those desires. It's a world-view which conflates desire with reality, disregards all facts and evidence that conflict with the decreed beliefs, and faithfully embraces any assertions and fantasies, no matter how baseless and flagrantly false, provided that they bolster the mythology.
With regard to how they picked up on an item in the Drudge Report, Greenwald writes:
Don't they have somewhere lurking in their brain any critical faculties at all? For the sake of one's own integrity and reputation if nothing else, who would read an undocumented assertion on Drudge -- no matter how much of an emotional need they feel for it to be true -- and then run around reflexively reciting it as truth, writing whole posts celebrating it and analyzing it, without bothering to spend a second of time or a molecule of mental energy trying to figure out if it's really true?
He ends his piece with this most appropriate summary:
Being able to pick and choose what facts you want to believe based upon which ones feel good or vindicate your desires can be emotionally satisfying, but there is no more destructive and dangerous mental approach than this for determining how the world's sole superpower will be governed.
Read the whole thing.

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2 Comments on "Faith-Based Politics"
This post touches on the psychological constraints and tradeoffs entailed in avoiding and resolving cognitive dissonance. It reminded me of some recent comments made here on Skeptipundit.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when the mind holds two mutually exclusive pieces of information (or cognitions) (see Leon Festinger, Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957)). Humans find it psychologically comfortable to obtain information that verifies, compliments, or is consonant with, what we hold to be true. Contrastingly, we find it psychologically uncomfortable when confronted with information that contradicts, conflicts, or is dissonant with, what we hold to be true. Because humans seek to maintain a high degree of psychological comfort, we are motivated to pursue psychological consonance by resolving any contradictions causing significant cognitive dissonance. But there are constraints and tradeoffs entailed in the process of eliminating contradictions.

Many of us consciously, or unconsciously, avoid information that contradicts what we hold to be true. In the blogosphere we can limit exposure to potentially conflicting information, for example, by reading only the blogs that deliver views largely consonant with our own. Clearly, the dedicated individuals that comprise the communities around sites such as DailyKos or PowerLine demonstrate that both liberal and conservative thinkers are prone to such behavior. If most of us behave as to maximize psychological comfort, then preferential blog seeking and avoidance behavior is predictable.

But such behavior can be detrimental too. Avoiding contradictory information relegates us to the world of verificationism - in which we may develop deep, and perhaps unfounded, biases that diminish our capacity to evaluate new, potentially conflicting information. In such a world it is easy to confer a 'high information-value' status on figures that have been popularized (such as Drudge), and to become reliant on such "authority" figures for information - which seems to have happened in the example given by Glenn Greenwald.

The blogosphere is a wonderful medium for discourse, but the information content suffers greatly when "authority" figures' views are mindlessly echoed throughout cyberspace. Blogosphere discourse would be elevated significantly if we all practiced more skepticism....

Anonymous Laja @ Fri Apr 28, 02:50:00 PM EDT  
Faith, wish compared to discovery? Dude It was all one, the BANG, it all everything? It did it own it's own? I don't have your amount of faith:

It's a theory

Anonymous Anonymous @ Wed Jun 21, 02:27:00 PM EDT  
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