Sunday, December 28, 2014

Help Request

Help me out, if you can.  While traveling, I ran across some research about social conservatives contrasted with everyone else on the issue of gay marriage.  I was sure it was in the David Dunning article in the Pacific Standard that I got for free in Reagan National Airport in CD, We Are all Confident Idiots. This is the Dunning of Dunning-Kruger fame who I have referenced often here, and it is excellent and worth your time, though it runs to 6,000 words. It touches on our familiar points: that the completely ignorant are as confident in their correctness as those who actually know what they are talking about, that we all do it to a certain extent, and that education makes this worse in some ways (better in others...just be alert).

But the research I am looking for is not in there.  It must have been in a flight magazine (Delta, USAir, or United). It tied in interestingly to my observation that political liberalism is largely driven by social cues. This particular study found that almost everyone was socially influenced in their beliefs, and fairly quickly.  Social conservatives were notable in being the only ones who weren't. They ran some assessment of support for gay marriage, did something-or-other to illustrate how popular the idea had become, and remeasured, finding increased support for the concept among mainstream denominations, moderates, liberals, I forget who else.  Everyone listed except social conservatives.

I haven't mentioned before that despite my disapproval of coming to one's opinions in such a manner - and it's pretty easy to be dismissive - I can also see advantages.  There is generally an evolutionary advantage in not being too far off the centerpoint of the society one lives in.  Being entirely uninfluenced by those around you suggests some social lack that foreshadows trouble for all.  We can make up scenarios in which standing firm for principles is necessary, but also scenarios where flogging dead horses wastes everyone's time.

There are a few possibilities as to what is happening - some interpretations I would love to see proved out, while others would leave me scrambling for excuses. But I can't do anything unless I read at least the summary, or preferably, find a link to the actual research.

Commenting on the linked article is encouraged.


Texan99 said...

There doesn't seem to be a comment function in the linked article. Interesting article, though.

Three things caught my eye. One was the observation that people tend to have an "I'm OK" attitude and will resist any new information that contradicts that belief. I wonder if social conservatives might be a bit armed against this knee-jerk reaction by their belief in original sin. I'm probably more likely to resist a liberal's formulation of a duty I supposedly have than their assertion that I'm driven by motives such as selfishness or a desire to escape the consequences of my sins.

Another was the prevalence of purpose-driven explanations, such as the idea that plants produce oxygen so we can breathe. The notions I associate with that approach are, among others, that employers hire people so they can have a comfortable wage, or that people earn income so that the government can tax it. Maybe a liberal would accuse a conservative of believing that people accept jobs so their bosses can turn a profit.

The third was the author's excellent suggestion that we imagine we were going to turn out wrong about a major decision in the future, and then try to identify which assumptions today were most likely to have led us to the mistake.

Vanishing American said...

I read the linked article but didn't find it particularly enlightening. The 'we are all confident idiots' title indicates that the issue is knowledge or information. Obviously nobody can know everything, and even people who are truly experts in some field don't have broad knowledge. I've seen this particularly with people who are technically trained, but also with people who have vague 'liberal arts' backgrounds. Few people are 'renaissance men' today, or widely knowledgeable. The idea that people are always mostly idiots is an exaggeration, though today people are 'victims' of a dumbed-down 'educational' system that is meant to indoctrinate and/ or misinform.

But as to ''social conservatives'' being least susceptible to going along with trends and social fashion, such as endorsing gay marriage, this has nothing to do with being a 'confident idiot' because it concerns unchanging standards of right and wrong. There is no new information about homosexuality that should lead one to change one's moral beliefs on the subject. Many liberals cite the supposed 'discovery' of a ''gay gene'' but this is not factual, though they insist it is. It is the social liberals and relativists who are the 'confident idiots' there. Likewise with the belief in evolution, which is, contrary to popular opinion, not settled science, and not definitively proven. But they firmly insist it is -- mainly, IMO, because it is popular to believe in Darwin's conjecture (as I recently heard it called). But the very few of us who maintain skepticism on the evolution theory are considered backward for asking for proof. Likewise with AGW.

Social conservatives, we dwindling few, won't change with the wind because on social issues, at least, we believe in unchanging standards as to what's true and moral. No 'situational ethics' or morality by fickle social consensus.