December 21, 2009

Correlative statistics

About 58 percent of Republicans now put little or no faith in scientists on the subject [of the environment], double the number saying so in April 2007.
Washington Post.
Only 30% of Republicans believe* in "evolution;" 68% do not.
2007: Gallup poll.

* A silly word to use in context of the scientific enterprise, but offset by the WaPo's discussion of "faith." Moreover, the Post doesn't appear to have adjusted its own data for the fact of the press's sensationally superficial coverage of "Climategate," in which deniers picking away at a handful of spruce trees in Alaska are conferred the same degree of legitimacy as the scientific community at large.

And it was the Washington Post, after all, which saw fit to publish top Republican Sarah Palin's painfully idiotic op-ed of December 9.

The press's largely uncritical presentation of "both sides" is surely a contributing factor to the public's response, not to mention the sort of especially buffoonish coverage that Republicans tend to prefer.

Confirmation bias, as the psychologists say.

I remember many years ago reading in the Columbia Journalism Review an assessment of the political biases among the (at the time) three network evening news programs that ABC was the "most conservative." From that point on I undertook to watch it rather than the other two, so as to deliberately avoid confirmation bias.

More recently when presented a selection between two general histories of the United States, one by Howard Zinn and the other by Paul Johnson, I with similar deliberation chose the latter, with the same purpose of confirmation bias avoidance.

(Not only was that purpose served, but I also learned from Mr. Johnson that present day America is the grand product of a combination of unregulated capitalism and continuous divine intervention, although I must say that my own reading of the New Testament doesn't support that particular statistical correlation, which is yet another conservative Republican fabrication).

Confirmation bias is real but there are means that one may consciously employ in order to sidestep its pernicious influence.


Grant said...

I don't think confirmation bias is the correct diagnosis - at least for the middlebrow paranoids that populate the blogosphere. Exposure to different perspectives seems only to envenom.

illusory tenant said...

Well I think folkbum's "Dan" can safely be discarded as an outlier.

illusory tenant said...

That's a great word, "envenom," by the way.