The reason we won’t listen to reason

April 19, 2011

Always wondered why climate change skeptics seem so bent on ignoring scientific facts.

The cynic in me said it was strictly a matter of payola — people whose pockets are lined by oil, gas and coal tycoons like the Koch brothers have a vested interest in saying there’s no harm, no foul with fossil fuels, despite seemingly overwhelming evidence.

But the folks at Mother Jones have come up with a different reason. Turns out it’s human nature. In an article called “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science,” author Chris Mooney explains that there are lots of scientific studies showing that when we’re confronted with facts that fly in the face of our long-held believes, our brains tend to rationalize our way around it until we actually reinforce our mistaken beliefs. Mooney calls it “motivated reasoning,” and says it is a product of some of our most primal human instincts.

There are even studies that show how groups with certain social traits — “individualistic” conservatives and “egalitarian” liberals for instance — react differently when confronted with evidence that conflicts with their beliefs.

The article doesn’t just focus on climate change. Controversies over WMD, the vaccine-autism claim, and other issues are all manifestations.

Interesting food for thought. But it still doesn’t explain why people watch American Idol.

— John D’Anna

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