The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mein Furor

Late last week, I ran across Bob Altemeyer's online book Authoritarians, and if you haven't run across it before you should definitely have a look. I'm never big on theories of everything, and I just as much want to believe that Altemeyer is wrong about some of his observations. But it's a fascinating read, especially for the many of us ready to start beating our heads against the wall after a decade of dealing with people who went from excoriating Bill Clinton as the devil made flesh, deriding Al Gore as some sort of con man, and portraying Kerry as a man so cowardly he'd injure himself for a medal. All that is bad enough, but compounding it by adopting a see-no-evil attitude when confronted with the actual draft-dodging, history-fabricating thieves and liars who've been running the GOP and therefore the executive and legislative branches for the past (almost) seven years... well, I don't have to tell you how maddening that is.

At any rate, I find Altemeyer's arguments more convincing than those presented in the spate of books that purported to get to the bottom of the red-blue divide a few years ago. The part on cognitive dissonance as a way of life ('compartmentalized thinking,' I believe he calls it) is pretty fascinating, but also the discussion of violence and the application of justice. As he notes, it supports anything but the old "liberals are weak on crime" cliche.

Last week, I was going to link the book to stories about what slimeballs the GOP presidential hopefuls are, along with the obvious disconnect that they're supported by people who thought Bill Clinton was amoral and unscrupulous. But now I'll just link it to a fairly apropos piece on media preferences. Which has that unsettling funny-yet-sad quality we've all become so familiar with this decade.

  • Out of 15 TV and film genres, “arts” emerged as the one with the highest positive correlation to liberal viewers and the highest negative correlation to conservative viewers. In other words, while 48% of liberals prefer arts programming, only 17% of conservatives do. At the other end of the scale, less than 5% of liberals say they do not like the genre at all, compared to almost 25% of conservatives.
  • Cerebral material like documentaries and arts and educational programming all appeal more to liberals, who are 57% female.
  • And what shows do liberals skip? If it’s a game show or reality programming, they probably don’t watch it.
Go ahead and feel a little smug. It feels kinda good sometimes, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Nova should be interesting tonight, speaking of documentaries. The title is Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. It's all about the trial in Pennsylvania two years ago, when a judge astonished the anti-science crowd in ruling in accordance with the facts-- namely declaring that intelligent design is religion, not science, and an effort to force children to be taught the goofy beliefs of a fringe religious group. (I'm paraphrasing.)

How are creationists responding? Predictably.

I.D. will also be striking back in "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," a pro-I.D. documentary, to be released in February. Featuring conservative writer and political commentator Ben Stein, it portrays I.D. proponents as a group of iconoclastic firebrand scientists with the guts to go after the dogmatic Darwinists who have, the I.D.ers say, grown lazy and corrupt sitting atop a monopolistic theory with zero tolerance for dissent, within or outside of their ranks.

As someone whose name I can't recall once wrote, although folks like this always liken themselves to Galileo, they're forgetting one important thing-- to be like Galileo, you can't just be criticized for your view, you also have to be correct.