inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #51 of 82: Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 27 Jun 08 17:10
    
I have that science faith, too.  I think that enables me (and others who are
science-based) to keep an open mind to new research and changing "truths".
People who are religious-based have centuries old ideas that are meant to be
adhered to with little change to "truths".

I find watching FoxNews is enlightening.  I have to remind myself that the
majority of the viewership really believes all that is reported on FoxNews,
and I try very hard to get into that mindset to see if there is anything I
can learn.  All I have learned so far is that I really don't see it that
way.  But knowing that there are those who do believe it keeps me open to
trying to find out how or why.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #52 of 82: Spero, Ergo Dubito (robertflink) Sat 28 Jun 08 06:52
    
Isn't "open-minded faith" a bit of an oxymoron?  

The term "faith" has a long association with not questioning and not
inquiring.  

Is this a sort of metaphorical use of religious terms when discussing
science?
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #53 of 82: "The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sat 28 Jun 08 08:46
    
At the risk of speaking for Farhad, I'd say that we're not discussing the
content of science so much as the relationship of the general public with
science.   Science is generally taught so poorly in this country that for
most people, it's a collection of facts that a priesthood made up of
scientists have found to be true, rather than a method for examining
hypotheses.    Most Americans have no idea how it's done, and they're left
with the results.   What's worse, they don't get that these results are
provisional, and they feel betrayed every time new results invalidate
previous results.  And so they percieve science as a somewhat flaky
enterprise in which people are proven wrong a lot.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #54 of 82: Maria Rosales (rosmar) Sat 28 Jun 08 09:03
    
Nietzsche talked about the priesthood of scientists back in the 19th
century.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #55 of 82: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Sat 28 Jun 08 12:16
    
I thought this op-ed piece from yesterday's times was germane to this topic,
Your Brain Lies to You by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt:
<http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/opinion/27aamodt.html>

My question to Farhad is to what extent do you think people are using neuro-
and cognitive science  deliberately in efforts to promote agendas and turn
people's beliefs into reality.  Is it possible that the swift boat campaign,
for example, was crafted based on scientific research about perception and
cognition?  Or that folks with anti-science agendas, anti-evolutionaists or
climate nay-sayers, for example, are using science to promote their own
anti-science agendas?

(fwiw, i have not read the book so do not know if you cover this in the
book)
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #56 of 82: Straight Outta Concord (angus) Sat 28 Jun 08 16:22
    

Pdl, thanks for the link to that NY Times piece. Dynamite.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #57 of 82: Andrew Alden (alden) Sat 28 Jun 08 17:42
    
I would say that I have trust in science, not faith in science. I have faith
in ingenuity, not trust.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #58 of 82: Cupido, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Sat 28 Jun 08 20:51
    
Heck, I'm even skeptical about skepticism.

BTW, I see no problem committing to a course of action while remaining
uncertain about the information on which it it based.  OTOH, I can
understand why those trying to appeal to voters are less than candid
about their uncertainty. (I hope they are actually uncertain, though.)
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #59 of 82: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 30 Jun 08 03:37
    
>>>People who are religious-based have centuries old ideas that are
meant to be adhered to with little change to "truths".<<<

This observation might be true except for history. Just within
Christianity, reinterpretation, new understandings and even doubts of
"centuries old ideas" are the cause of the Reformation and the full
array of denominations and sects. Even within the single Biblical book
of Genesis (which was written and edited by a handful of different
authors) there are different versions of God's presence and authority.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #60 of 82: Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 30 Jun 08 06:43
    
This is true, but change in religion is not the norm, and major shifts (as
in new sects or denominations) occur when big changes happen.  ANd those
changes may take decades or even centuries to take hold.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #61 of 82: "The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Mon 30 Jun 08 07:15
    
The whole fundie thing isn't much more than a hundred years old.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #62 of 82: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 30 Jun 08 07:18
    
Indeed. 

And big changes are going on now. See: the Anglicans. 
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #63 of 82: Bob Rossney (rbr) Tue 1 Jul 08 08:19
    
> I have that science faith, too.  I think that enables me (and others who
> are science-based) to keep an open mind to new research and changing 
> "truths".  People who are religious-based have centuries old ideas that 
> are meant to be adhered to with little change to "truths".

As Winston Wolf put it, let's not start sucking each other's dicks just
yet.  Thomas Kuhn demonstrated 40 years ago (in _The Structure of
Scientific Revolutions_) that the open-mindedness of the scientific
community is not all it's cracked up to be.  Scientists fall prey, all the 
time, to the very sorts of selection bias that Farhad describes in his 
book.  They've got a good ideology, but in practice they're canalized by 
their careers and their culture just like anyone else.  (As <dyche> once 
said, two scientists would rather use each others' toothbrushes than their
terminology.)  There's a reason that medical anthropology is a booming 
field.

If you're making a distinction between "scientific-minded" and
"religious-minded," what you're probably doing is dividing the world into
cliques and claiming that the one you're in is cool.  The
"religious-minded" brush is broad indeed, and the ease with which we slip
into tarring others with it ought to tell us something.  I'm personally a 
little leery of any theory that tells us that Richard Dawkins is smarter 
than Thomas Aquinas, much as I like scientism.

I think, for instance, that many of the groups that Farhad writes about 
would characterize themselves as "scientific-minded."  The 9/11 deniers 
sure do, and you can bet that Peter Duesberg calls himself that.  This 
should give pause to anyone who wants to claim that mantle for themselves.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #64 of 82: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Tue 1 Jul 08 08:34
    
That's a good point.  However, I still think a distinction can be
made.  When speaking of people who follow science rather than the
scientists themselves, how about distinguishing between people who
follow the scientific news with a serious intent of understanding what
scientists have learned, versus those who are suspicious of scientists
in general and place little weight on what they publish?
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #65 of 82: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 1 Jul 08 08:54
    
...and our postmodern mainstream is not controlled by either religion
or the science, but by whichever approach best serves the geo-political
marketing (P&L/R.O.I.) interests of the plutocrats hiding behind the
curtain of media and governance.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #66 of 82: Bob Rossney (rbr) Tue 1 Jul 08 23:31
    
> how about distinguishing between people who follow the scientific news 
> with a serious intent of understanding what scientists have learned, 
> versus those who are suspicious of scientists in general and place 
> little weight on what they publish?

You mean, between people who aren't skeptical and people who are?  No, of 
course you don't, but it's not so easy to tell the difference except in 
cartoon-character cases.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #67 of 82: Phil (philg25) Wed 2 Jul 08 00:01
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #68 of 82: phil (philg25) Wed 2 Jul 08 00:03
    
"whirled peas"

That always struck me as frighteningly accurate in that off-hand,
unintended way that many things are.  So many folks are spun and spun
and come out with an approximation of what they think might be real. 
So often anymore, that has become good enough to call Life.

Keeping one's nose to the ground and filtering out as much peripheral
input as possible might keep us on the trail, but how long can we keep
it up and how much of that can we do before we are not living in any
meaningful way at all?

The more labels we apply to ourselves, the "others" and processes, the
more we are clouding our nasal metaphor with the scent of other's
droppings and leaving off our focus on the hunt.  While trying to
convince myself and others I am "scientific-minded" or
"religious-minded" or whatever, I am deeply into the game and not the
search.  The whole concept of "open-minded" anything
("scientific-minded", etc.) does mean something to me.  To me, it means
I am not limiting my thought process by unnecessarily labeling and
therefore limiting and possibly mis-labeling, whatever I am examining.

The NYT article was excellent (perhaps because it so personally
meaningful - Question. Does the fact that it is personally meaningful
make it any less "true"?)  Our brain is stacked against us.  Our past
and the sum total of our experiences lead us by the nose.  The
Politicians, Wall Street and any number of Corporate Greed Monsters,
Religions, NonProfit Organizations  and True Believers of every ilk are
out there with the precise intention of convincing us what they have
to say is the Truth.

That we can filter as much as we do and glean what little we can is
quite nearly a miracle.  Now it is becoming something akin to a
religious experience.  I always felt that the "seeing the Truth" or
"seeing God" aspect of the more effective hallucinogens had to with the
chemical stripping of our mental filtration system.  We are "allowed"
to see things as they "really are".  But, of course, there is all that
other fun stuff that often got in the way.

So filtering to keep it real or not filtering to keep it Real - what
are we to do when we are hampered by our brains from the very get?
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #69 of 82: Dodge (clotilde) Wed 2 Jul 08 08:26
    
I was grimly amused last night while flipping channels when the story
about the woman who died on the hospital emergency room floor after
sitting there for 24 hours without care. They showed the videotape of
her getting up out of her chair or trying to then sliding to end up
face down on the floor - where she stayed for several hours while
nurses, security guards and other patients either ignored her or poked
her. There was a female(Amy somebody) talking head on the right screen
and another female talking head on the left screen. The right screen
was the woman carefully stating the news from the locality and she was
not obviously, at first, shellacking the matter a bit. And the left
screen woman was stopping her and underlining some of her, um,
Understatements. Left Woman was carefully not insulting her
intelligence and her VOICE said she was just being inquisitive and her
Facial expression said she was just being curious but the wording of
the questions were downright incredulous and a bit sarcastic about what
Right Woman was saying. Which began pointing out to the audience the
downright baldface SPIN being put on the news story by the people Right
Woman worked for. 

I was thinking of your book the whole time. MUST buy a copy of mine
own now. 
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #70 of 82: Farhad Manjoo (fmanjoo) Wed 2 Jul 08 08:30
    
Sorry I've been absent for a few days; I've been writing about the
Smart car (another topic altogether). But let me get to the discussion
post-by-post.

I'm going to side with Bob in this business of whether the problems
I'm talking about don't affect "scientific-minded" people. As Bob
nicely puts it -- though Winston Wolfe says it better! -- scientists
sometimes fail in much the same way the rest of us do (after all,
they're human). The 9/11 example is a good one: Many scientists,
working beyond their expertise or looking at partial bits of evidence
or falling for confirmation bias, believe that the government cooked up
that attack. The HIV-denialists are an even better example of the same
dynamic.

Scott, you're arguing that there's a "postmodern mainstream," and I'm
saying that the breaking up of media sources has eliminated the
mainstream altogether: And yet I don't think we're so far apart. I
think the primary difference is that you're allowing for some (or
many?) commonly held views, ideas that can still cross the many niches.
More generally I think you're saying that there remain mechanisms or
forms of media that can disseminate these shared notions. If that's a
fair summary of your views, then I don't disagree with you; after all,
a large majority of Americans once believed Saddam had weapons of mass
destruction and that he'd been involved in 9/11. I think you'll agree,
though, that as a national culture we share many fewer such beliefs
than we did in the past, no? That things are more nichey? So we can
meet somewhere in the middle?

PDL, citing that fine NYT op-ed, asks, "My question to Farhad is to
what extent do you think people are using neuro- and cognitive science
deliberately in efforts to promote agendas and turn people's beliefs
into reality." 

I don't think the practice is widespread, not consciously. That is,
for instance, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth certainly never thought
that their ideas had some scientific basis. That's not to say that
knowledge from these fields hasn't filtered through to propaganda
machines. Marketers are fond of psychology and brain science;
commercial persuasion relies on the fruits of these sciences. What's
interesting is that the most overt call for the use of brain-science
findings in persuasion has come from the left -- namely, George Lakoff.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #71 of 82: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 2 Jul 08 09:16
    
"the most overt call for the use of brain-science findings in
persuasion has come from the left -- namely, George Lakoff."


Yes, but Lakoff's argues for this as a reaction to the very effective
way that the Right initiated such intentional "framing" of information.
In other words, more than ever, whether from the clowns on the left of
us, jokers to the right, or the plutocrats behind the industrial/info
curtain, we need to recognize that we are consumers of perspective as
much as we are consumers of goods and services.  The question, then, is
one of who is doing the selling, what do they want me to buy, and why.
 Most of the time, as philg25 points out, we become wired to not even
ask such questions.  

The French philosopher, Jaque Ellul, called this
Propagadas"--plural--where such things as plugging into a 9 to 5 work
system is largely taken for granted.  Ellul wrote this in the 1970's,
but with global capitalism and information age control systems, it's
more true than ever.  However, a distinction needs to be made between
the political realm where "framing" is intentional as a way to sway
opinion, or ingrained institutional propagandas which form much of the
way we plug into the system in a day-to-day fashion.  As long as the
populous is acquiescent to such participation we are all part of the
machine. One of the key differences between the era of the
counterculture and now is in how the marketing of individuality and
alternatives is, ironically, part of creating pocket conformity within
the larger system, instead of the idea of fashioning a whole new
system. Globalized consumer capitalism is the new postmodern
mainstream, yet I agree that, this system is malleable to niches,
including such enormous niches as the centralized state capitalist
governments as the People's Republic of China.  (Don't hear much
anymore of the old American mainstream adage that the only good commie
is a dead commie). 
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #72 of 82: Get Shorty (esau) Wed 2 Jul 08 09:52
    
This reminds me of the provocative BBC documentaries by Adam Curtis,
"The Century of the Self" and "The Trap." They both deal with the world
after Freud, and how various psychological theories of human behavior
have fed political and consumer ideologies. Freud's nephew, Edward
Bernays, created modern public relations (a term he coined because of
the negative connotations of "propaganda"). "The Trap" shows how
consumerism, modern politics, and even organization design in business
have evolved from the self-interest of game theory to subtle promises
of "freedom" -- a kind of personal empowerment to live life the way we
want (even if, as Curtis shows, this can lead to less real freedom).
conservatives like Thatcher and Reagan successfully played these
promises one way, Clinton and Blair another.

The link is a bit tenuous, I suppose, but I see it in Rove's "we make
our own reality" quote above and in the rejection of authority -- of
government, certainly, but also of science, and facts themselves.
Perception is reality, and maybe what Rove meant, consciously or not,
is that all of us make our own reality, and those who are especially
adept at controlling their audience's perceptions thus control the
reality they get to live in. Current communications techology has sped
up the process but not really altered the techniques: repeat your
message often and with various forms of force, while carefully
discrediting your enemy's.
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #73 of 82: Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Wed 2 Jul 08 21:23
    
Farhad, I'm not sure it's specifically covered in your book (which I
still look forward to reading), but I wonder if you could talk about
some of the experiences you had with Salon readers over stories which
didn't fit their own ideological skew, and thus generated tremendous
outrage-- for example, your series of articles saying there was no
evidence that the Bush campaign didn't steal the 2004 election.  What
lessons did you draw from that which informed your book?
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #74 of 82: Cogito? (robertflink) Fri 4 Jul 08 06:37
    
I second the question.  
  
inkwell.vue.330 : Farhad Manjoo, "True Enough"
permalink #75 of 82: Dodge (clotilde) Fri 4 Jul 08 07:52
    
Um. To clarify...

Bush DID steal the election
Or
Bush Did Not steal the election
Or
There just isn't any evidence one way or the other leaving us with an
unverified contrary belief - I'd trade you for a bit of lunch.
  

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