Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another Great HoE Post

by Smitty

House of Eratosthenes delivers again. Freeberg links a New Scientist article about surveys, and then links it back to the current political climate. From TFA*
For example, in an early study we showed our volunteers pairs of pictures of faces and asked them to choose the most attractive. In some trials, immediately after they made their choice, we asked people to explain the reasons behind their choices.
Unknown to them, we sometimes used a double-card magic trick to covertly exchange one face for the other so they ended up with the face they did not choose. Common sense dictates that all of us would notice such a big change in the outcome of a choice. But the result showed that in 75 per cent of the trials our participants were blind to the mismatch, even offering "reasons" for their "choice".
As anyone who has ever been in a verbal disagreement can attest, people tend to give elaborate justifications for their decisions, which we have every reason to believe are nothing more than rationalisations after the event. To prove such people wrong, though, or even provide enough evidence to change their mind, is an entirely different matter: who are you to say what my reasons are?
The upshot is that people--surprise!--are full of crap. No, not just Stacy and me. Freeberg concludes:
With some of these issues in which President 44’s policies are identical to, or insufficiently distinguished from, the policies of President 43…they’ve been thrown into exactly that kind of tailspin.
  • “Oh, uh, well we need to scale down from Iraq in a responsible, intelligent way…”
  • “We need to get past the issue with aggressive interrogations, and prosecution of the Bush administration officials would be a distraction…”
As we’ve mentioned in these pages before: They live in a universe in which the worthiness of an idea is determined not by its content, but by who authored it. And so they get taken in by this double-sided card trick, over and over again.

I'd take it a bit further in the direction of Evan Sayet, though. The legerdemain of Hope and Change is centered around the precept that every idea espoused previously has failed, so that something else must be tried. The determined nitwit will shoot the flawed messengers of common sense, eschew common sense itself, and embrace nihilism, the demonic amphibian face on the other, ultimate card. If all other gods have failed, gotta go Cthulhu, you know?
*The Fine Article. Slashdot-ism.

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