Sunday, October 20, 2013

You Can Tell a Yale Man, But You Can't Tell Him Much

Dan Kahan at Yale Law School discovers, much to his surprise:

It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub. 
Did this change Dan's views? Thankfully no.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the "Tea Party movement" to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

Phew, that's a relief. And where does Dan get his understanding of what the Tea Party movement is? Here's the one I really liked:

I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv -- & I don't watch Fox News very often -- and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico). 



  1. I'm surprised at the number of harsh, negative comments to the article. My impression, reading the article, was that Dan was pretty open about what his ideas were, and didn't show any interest in portraying his views as the only "obviously right" views that need no justification (an attitude I get far more from both Fox News and the Huffington Post). Don't we want more people who are willing to admit both what their positions are and that said positions are based in subjective, as opposed to pretended objective, bases?

    It doesn't surprise me that the results don't change his views. It seems unlikely that his views of the Tea Party were solely based on his opinion of how scientifically literate they are, and it's possible that it wasn't based on that at all. Perhaps his views of their scientific literacy were more useful to him to explain why they hold such objectionable (in his opinion) political views, as opposed to forming the foundation of his opposition.

    Personally, the government shutdown did a lot to substantially decrease my respect for the Tea Party. I don't know exactly why, and I certainly wouldn't try to claim that it's based on some objective standard that everyone agrees to. But something about the way they conducted themselves felt disingenuous and dishonest.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I probably also got most of my information about the shutdown from sites like the Huffington Post and Salon. That was largely because whenever I went to Fox News (which I did to try to get a fuller understanding of what was happening), they didn't seem to have anything interesting to say. The articles on their site seem to lack a certain kind of substance--which I don't say in a necessarily polemical way, but just as an observation which to some extent surprised me.

  2. Here's how I saw it. His view on what a group believes is driven by personal ignorance-he knows not a single individual who identifies with the Tea Party and suspect sources-publications with obvious animosity towards the Tea Party. Yet when he is confronted with evidence that counters his belief his response is to ignore that evidence. It's a curious response and one I found amusing.

    I think the reason you are seeing such a harsh negative response to his article is the constant drumbeat that Tea Partiers are "insane, stupid, treasonous, deniers." I think you are seeing the Internet equivalent of those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

    There are plenty of very well written and well argued sites. Try The Hoover Institute, Mark Perry's blog at AEI, Carpe Diem, Cafe Hayek, John Cochrane, Casey Mulligan, The Weekly Standard, John Goodman Cato Institute.