Welcome to the Zoo
American public discourse has degenerated rapidly over the last half century. Rationality and logical thinking have been replaced with magical thinking and fallacious appeals to authority, encouraged by the cult of celebrity.
Democracy is not possible with such citizens. The destruction of our educational system has been orchestrated with this goal at the same time as our treadmill culture has sped up to minimize opportunities for reflection. We are treated like domesticated animals, and in many ways people have adapted to become such. Welcome to the zoo.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
BOSTON GLOBE COMMENTARY
How facts backfire
By JOE KEOHANE
It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. This notion, carried down through the years, underlies everything from humble political pamphlets to presidential debates to the very notion of a free press. Mankind may be crooked timber, as Kant put it, uniquely susceptible to ignorance and misinformation, but it’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.
In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?
Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger…..
then put your hands together and consider the obvious: