Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sports Reasoning

If you want to understand why people's political reasoning is so bad, listen to sports reasoning. I have made no study of whether liberals, conservatives, libertarians, or socialists are more stupid.  I can cite individuals examples of each.

I don't mind that people have bullheaded opinions and varying levels of expertise - I'm talking about both sports and politics here - I only mind absolute stupidity, that you can see what it is based on and pound your head.  I know enough sports to recognise professionals making weak comments and believe I could do better, but I also know people who are just much more competent.  My second son; B S King's husband, and her father (especially on baseball and sports history since 1960); a guy I knew from St Paul's ASP.

But the table next to me at beer night last Thursday.  They don't like Joe Kelly, reliever for the Red Sox, because they don't "trust him. He'll have a good game, then a bad one." I know where they get this.  Joe Kelly gave away a victory on Opening Day. They remember that to the exclusion of everything else. Yet since then he has had 19 good games and one he escaped by the skin of his teeth.  ERA of 0.38. (For you non-fans, that is a very good number.)

I will not bore you with further examples, but the principle should be clear.  Scott Alexander made a very good argument why Basic Income is a better idea than a Guaranteed Job (and linked to a good criticism of his own work), which I can admire, even though I like neither. It's not crazy.  It has things worth attending to. Even if wrong, it might capture some important secondary points. I speculated tonight that perhaps only 10% of the population can actually do this.


Aggie said...

You're right. It's hard to focus and try your best to comprehend an idea that you don't like. Confirmation bias is a very seductive siren. I catch myself daily, and not just in political / social thinking, but also in my professional life when making work choices. Appreciate your blog.

Galen said...

I'm not sure that sports reasoning is quite so bad, or its implications for political understanding so dire, for at least two reasons.

First, "analytics" are now commonplace. It's easier to measure components of success or failure. Bill James really did introduce a quantum leap in understanding, and his influence has spread to most major sports. Think about the level and rate of innovation in baseball (shifts, splits, etc.), football (RIP Woody Hayes re passing), and basketball (bombs away). Decades of conventional wisdom overturned. People are more willing to experiment, and youtube is a huge factor in that. Anybody can break down tape now.

Second, compare the average citizen's levels of knowledge and commitment of sports vs. politics. If voters cared half as much about politics or could link cause and effect as they do in sports, politicians could and would be fired as often as NFL coaches, for the better.

Texan99 said...

I spend a lot of my time on the Project Gutenberg website, which normally is quite strictly apolitical. They do have a "Political" forum, though, so I posted there my news about being elected a County Commissioner. Someone who had become a little aware of the drift of my politics through private messages posted a good-natured rib congratulating me but regretting that I belonged to the wrong party. I responded in kind, ribbing her that I wasn't just a garden-variety Republican but the fanged version who actually supported the 2d Amendment and school vouchers. Yesterday I got a really disappointing post from another person, essentially a snippy little message that he couldn't even imagine any possible support in the entire universe for crazy right-wing political views like the 2d Amendment or vouchers. I decided to ignore the subtext ("I demand that you justify your stupid views") and concentrated on the ostensible problem, a lack of awareness of the basis for some views he disagreed with, and suggested how he might get up to speed on the traditional support for some fairly ordinary conservative positions. This started an amusing, if confused, discussion of whether you can really get anywhere trying to read up on things. (???) Finally, someone came right out and asked me politely to explain where I was coming from, so I did. It's really disappointing to see such an intelligent group of people working so hard to remain ignorant and smug. I had to edit my post about a dozen times to make it as neutral as possible. I keep remembering that formula, "Can you let me have your evidence so I can re-evaluate my position?" I'm also working on showing people I can state the basics of what I understand their position to be, neutrally and fairly, before I explain where I part company.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Pretend you are a teacher of bright highschoolers and you won't be far wrong.