How to convince science skeptics

A psychology professor at Yale found that when looking at new scientific evidence, we tend to interpret facts through a lens based on our previously held beliefs. With the wrong framing, our brain subconsciously jumps into a defensive mode where we try to rationalize the new information in a way that either makes the information support our preconceptions or pick out the faults so as to not shift our beliefs.

So the key to convincing someone isn’t throwing facts at them, it’s presenting the facts in the context of certain values:

This theory is gaining traction in part because of Kahan’s work at Yale. In one study, he and his colleagues packaged the basic science of climate change into fake newspaper articles bearing two very different headlines—”Scientific Panel Recommends Anti-Pollution Solution to Global Warming” and “Scientific Panel Recommends Nuclear Solution to Global Warming”—and then tested how citizens with different values responded. Sure enough, the latter framing made hierarchical individualists much more open to accepting the fact that humans are causing global warming. Kahan infers that the effect occurred because the science had been written into an alternative narrative that appealed to their pro-industry worldview.

You can follow the logic to its conclusion: Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue. Doing so is, effectively, to signal a détente in what Kahan has called a “culture war of fact.” In other words, paradoxically, you don’t lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance.


The Republican Party needs more than rebranding: conservatism is the problem

Conservatism Is The Problem:

“Redistribution” is not a matter of first principles and anyone who tells you otherwise is mistaken. All fiscal policy is redistributive, in that it involves collecting taxes from someone and spending money on programs that benefit someone else. And the question of how progressive that redistribution ought to be depends on outside factors, such as the relative economic cost of various kinds of taxes and the level of pre-tax inequality.

Changes in economic conditions should change people’s preferences about the level of fiscal progressivity. For example, if returns to economic growth increasingly accrue to people at the top of the income distribution, we should become more favorable to progressive redistribution. If the economy becomes more fragile, with more risk of recessions that lead to years-long spells of high unemployment, that calls for a more robust and progressively-financed safety net. And if top income tax rates are well below the peak of the Laffer Curve, that creates more room for added progressivity.

As it happens, these are all conditions that have manifested over the last thirty years, and especially the last five — and they’re why I favor a more redistributive fiscal policy than I used to. Conservatives are wrong on this issue, and outside conditions have shifted over time in a way that has made them much more wrong than they used to be.

As Barro notes, the The Republican Party today is in a situation very similar to the British Labour Party back in the ’80s. Being too extreme made the socialists in the Labour Party ineffective both at winning elections and at enacting policies. If the GOP can become more moderate, it can again be an effective opposition party to the Democrats going forward.

Fox News: Obama is waging psychological warfare on Americans

Is Obama waging psychological warfare on Americans?:

I believe that the Obama administration is conducting psychological warfare on conservative Americans. Not only that but it is also waging this war on all Americans who previously viewed themselves, their country, their Constitution and their overwhelming belief in God as a force for good in the world.

The psychological warfare began with an apology tour in which President Obama publicly “confessed,” presuming to speak for all of us, for the shortcomings of America and our supposed contributions to tyranny and all manner of evils around the world.  

This confession planted in the American mind the notion that our values and beliefs might not be in line with freedom and truth.


Gun rights are inextricably entwined in the American psyche with freedom to defend oneself.  Attacking gun rights, I believe, is an element of the psychological warfare on the American belief that force is justifiable when confronting evil.

Right. Which is why Obama didn’t have Osama Bin Laden killed or intervene in Libya, am I right?

If liberal Americans stand by and do not seek swift and severe justice for those who perpetrated these acts, then they will have tacitly been victimized, too. Because they will have tacitly agreed that it is acceptable for their government to target certain political movements for persecution—and that will have fundamentally changed the psyche of America.

The people responsible have been fired. What else does this guy want? Oh yeah, nothing short of Obama’s resignation.

Seen through the lens of psychological warfare, the failure to defend our embassy in Benghazi need not be understood simply as a screw-up. It could reflect an actual strategy on the part of the administration to reinforce the notion that homicidal violence born of hatred toward America is understandable—even condonable—because we have generated it ourselves and are reaping the harvest of ill will we have sown. In other words, we should take our punishment.

Yes, the President deliberately let Americans be killed. Okay.

There will be those that say that many American leaders have sought to target groups hostile to their views. Some will point to President Nixon or Senator McCarthy or J. Edgar Hoover. And that debate can be had.

But I assert that this administration is engaged in a coordinated attempt to dispirit, disarm and disenfranchise large portions of the American population and to weaken our founding principles through what is best understood as psychological warfare.

Obama is engaging in psychological warfare against the American people, but “the debate can be had” as to whether Nixon, McCarthy, or Hoover targeted groups they didn’t like?

What universe does this guy live in?

Why you shouldn’t listen to Glenn Beck for investment advice: gold prices down 30% since 2011

After the Gold Rush – Nouriel Roubini:

Sixth, some extreme political conservatives, especially in the United States, hyped gold in ways that ended up being counterproductive. For this far-right fringe, gold is the only hedge against the risk posed by the government’s conspiracy to expropriate private wealth. These fanatics also believe that a return to the gold standard is inevitable as hyperinflation ensues from central banks’ “debasement” of paper money. But, given the absence of any conspiracy, falling inflation, and the inability to use gold as a currency, such arguments cannot be sustained.

A currency serves three functions, providing a means of payment, a unit of account, and a store of value. Gold may be a store of value for wealth, but it is not a means of payment; you cannot pay for your groceries with it. Nor is it a unit of account; prices of goods and services, and of financial assets, are not denominated in gold terms.

So gold remains John Maynard Keynes’s “barbarous relic,” with no intrinsic value and used mainly as a hedge against mostly irrational fear and panic. Yes, all investors should have a very modest share of gold in their portfolios as a hedge against extreme tail risks. But other real assets can provide a similar hedge, and those tail risks – while not eliminated – are certainly lower today than at the peak of the global financial crisis.

It’s simple: as the market gains confidence that we aren’t headed towards economic oblivion, the price of gold falls. Since the economy is actually doing alright this year, the drop over the last few months has been rather dramatic. It’s not a pretty sight: