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Monday, September 6, 2010

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“Our Politicized Thinking Explained” (…or “Half-Wit Will Travel”)

Most non-aligned political analysts—a rare commodity to be sure—will agree that the American public has become politicized more in its collective thinking than it ever has in recent memory. Everything from our foreign policy to our favorite flavor of ice cream seems to be divided between red and blue states. Take for example a recent news item…
I like I was astounded at the news of the young New York City man who fell 39 stories and survived after a failed suicide attempt. The 22 year-old had the mathematically-improbable luck to have landed on the trunk and rear window of a car parked on the street below…a happenstance which saved his life and angered the owner of the severely damaged auto. As I read the various online news accounts of this story,

I began reading the reader commentary section of one particular daily online newspaper. On USAToday’s site there were public comments posted blaming this episode on, of all things, President Obama’s economic policies…thus turning a not-so-simple human interest story into a battle of political ideologies. Personally, I have always wondered about the upbringings, if not the overall mental health of individuals who cannot see reality outside purely dichotomous perspectives…as if Conservatives and Liberals were the only two known life forms in the known universe.
But I was harkened yesterday when I read a very interesting article from the August 16th edition of Newsweek. In “The Limits of Reason,” author Sharon Begley argues that the often irrational thinking we apply to our political (and social) beliefs and understanding of those beliefs have a basis in science. According to Begley

“…psychologists have been documenting since the 1960s, humans are really, really bad at reasoning. Its not just that we follow our emotions so often, in contexts from voting to ethics (page 14).”



The upshot is that, according to modern philosophers and cognitive scientists, there is a purpose for the kind of confirmation bias (seeing and recalling only evidence that supports your beliefs) and willful blindness to sound opposing views which leads us to stick to our beliefs. Failures of logic are simply “ploys to win arguments.” Simply put, arguing is more about overcoming opposing views and using our biased beliefs to persuade others more than it is about seeking truth or finding a common ground. It also explains the idea of motivated thinking, another faulty reasoning attribute that people employ. Motivated thinking forces individuals with certain political/social beliefs to look harder for flaws in studies when they don’t agree with their conclusions, which forces them to become more critical of “evidence” that undermines their initially-held beliefs.


This is why the notions of impending One-World Governments, health reform “death panels,” 9/11 government-backed conspiracies, and issues surrounding President Obama’s fake birth certificate remain so entrenched in the political discussions of many Americans, despite their proven invalidity.
This particular approach to our thinking on political and social issues is ridiculously easy to remedy…don’t believe everything you think! As I have alluded to so often in past postings, we Americans emote way too much and reason way too little. It is simply not practical to “feel” our way through life, especially when it comes to concepts and issues that beg that we use reason, which according to Begley “is supposed to be the highest achievement of the human mind and the route to knowledge and wise decisions.” When it comes to thinking which may affect social, economic, and political policies in America, we should think rather than feel.

5 comments:

  1. Ok...after reading this and your last posting, its obvious your not either a Repub or a Dem...so what are you exactly???

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  2. Well, as you may have gathered as you read the last few postings, I am neither a Republican nor Democrat. I like to think that I’m an adherent of the “politics of pragmatism”—promoting policy that the American people need, and not one based on some narrow-minded ideology. For example, there is a need for universal affordable health care. Not only have low-income but many middle income individuals have simply been priced out of the market. The result is that even those who can afford to pay pay higher premiums than they would have to cover the costs of providing care for the uninsured, so scare tactic arguments such as “your taxes will go up” simply do not hold water. Another example is the need to for the courts and other “interested parties” to stay out of business of how people raise their children (within reason of course). People have a right to administer corporal punishment on unruly children; we see the results of what happens when children are given the same rights as adults, despite the fact that they aren’t adults and need to be protected from themselves. As a final example, all life is sacred, and the state simply should not be in the business of promoting the taking of human life…whether it be through legally-sanctioned abortions or capital punishment. Simple put, Providence/God/Whoever brought us here, and Providence/God/Whoever should be the only force responsible for removing us. As you may imagine, pragmatic politics would no go over well with either Republicans or Democrats, who are more interested in winning than governing honestly.

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  3. As a conservative voter, I have to say that even I must applaud this piece!

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  4. I can tell by the examples you used that you are on the far-left of the political spectrum. You may effectively hide it from the uninformed, however, you cannot hide it from people such as me. In addition, your writing is overly filled with forced puffery that it becomes "camp."

    Two suggestions
    Learn how to write effectively.
    Define yourself as the Leftist you are, and stop lying about your political leanings. It just makes you look like a liar.

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  5. Where I come from, we have a word for you type of commentary: "Hater."
    Far Left? You've obviously have not been reading all of my postings (or you yourself are so Far Right that your home's foundation even has a right tilt to it?). Let me say it this way "all-knowing one"...there are more lifeforms in the known universe than "Liberal" and "Conservative." Your paranoia of Liberals has you imagining one behind every rose bush. BTW, if you're going to criticize, at least have the balls to have an identity for me to see what YOU'RE about...or do you place yourself so far above us mere mortals that you dare not come down from your perch atop Mount Olympus? Maybe if reactionary Conservatives like yourself didn't spend so much of your time with smear tactics and Conspiracy-laden propaganda, I woundn't have so many Left-leaning "examples" to chose from. Stay in a child's place.

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