Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jumping To Conclusions

Reserving judgement, and being open to the counterintuitive or even disagreeable idea has been a recurring theme here, and I have a few examples from the last week. Daniel Klein had an earlier study about liberals knowing less about economics than conservatives and libertarians. I remember reading it - I don't think I posted on it. My recollection is that it was slanted toward certain questions which might favor libertarians, but was otherwise plausible-sounding. I thought if the study were improved it would show a similar result, though likely less strongly. Yet when other researchers challenged Klein to run the same race over a different course, with basic economic questions which conservatives might be more likely to get wrong and liberals right, that is in fact what happened. Both sides did well on their home course, poorly on the other's, as his Atlantic article I Was Wrong And So Are You records. Of greatest concern, perhaps, was that education did not seem to help much in any group. It did not increase objectivity more than a tiny amount. What then, should we do to remedy this?

Orin Kerr over at Volokh comments on a report that the American Bar Association has given more "Not Qualified" ratings to Obama's prospective appointees than it had to either Clinton's or Bush's in their whole eight years each. The immediate thought would be that Obama is nominating more unqualified people. Yet Kerr, in his last paragraph, raises an excellent question wondering whether something has changed in the Democratic Party's method or infighting instead. The comments discuss. Interesting.

NFL culture has been able to tolerate one white premier wide receiver at a time, so Wes Welker was only mildly unnerving. But now comes Jordy Nelson of Green Bay, and it is apparently difficult for everyone - not just black WR's and DB's, but coaches and analysts of all colors - to absorb. Because we all know that blacks are just faster, and whites can only succeed by "knowing the defenses" and "running precise routes." Steve Sailer has fun with the topic - just because blacks are faster on average does not mean there are no fast white WR's (Jordy ran a 4.37) - and ESPN analysts have a refreshingly open discussion (video) about it.

My uncle (of course) sent the recent news story about the study which shows that Fox News viewers know less about current events than people who watch no news at all. I turned it back on him to do the work of looking behind the story himself, but I'll give you a hint: read the longer versions of the news stories to the bottom, and search around for the actual data behind the study, not the media reports. There may indeed be something of concern about Fox viewers here. But there are immediate qualifiers and ambiguous conclusions as well.

Note: No TV. I have never seen Fox News, except embedded videos on websites, where a person was trying to demonstrate Fox Yay! or Fox Nay! Nor have I discussed with my friends what they watch, so I have no idea which of them, if any, get their news from Fox. I know that the station drives liberals crazy for being so conservative, unfair, and inaccurate. That sputtering would be a recommendation* in my book, but only a mild one.  The only dog I have in this fight is that it irks me when people so quickly trumpet "studies" that agree with their existing prejudices, and I readily concede that I am harder on liberals than conservatives on that score.  I'm not 99th percentile on objectivity (at least, I hope my level of such isn't as good as it gets), but I think I'm 80th percentile, maybe 90th.

*50% clue to the truth, 50% personal entertainment value.


james said...

Twain: "The man who does not read the newspaper is uninformed. The man who does read them is misinformed."

No TV here either. When our eldest was a toddler the sound of the flyback in the TV woke him up and brought him downstairs, so we gave up on TV--and have been too busy since then to try to integrate it into our schedules.

Texan99 said...

We like to watch the 5:00 CST news show on Fox, the one with Charles Krauthammer on the panel at the end. Most of the rest of the time I haven't much use for Fox, which consists of too many frilly shows about sensational nonsense, or opinion shows with people yelling at each other. On the other hand, we practically never watch any segment of any other channel's news, except maybe the occasional business segment on CNBC. The fact is it's hard to get good-quality news on any TV channel, or from most newspapers. We read a lot of news on the net instead.