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SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE SYSTEM November 11, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment.
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Robert Reich addressing Occupy LA’s teach-in observed that when many people around the country are without work or looking for full time work blame themselves, but what they do not realize is that is that there is something wrong with the system.

The “hippies” of the Occupy Movement will probably accept this proposition, or at least not feel obliged to deny it. Cognitive Science might explain why people are predisposed to reject scientifically tested conclusions, including climate changes and proposes a bifurcation of fundamental I/You world view. Apparently some refused to accept the paradigm shift implicit in Einstein’s theory of relativity, as distinct from not understanding it. Stephan Lewandowsky explains:

Threat is the key word here. Threats to financial interests. Threats to one’s career or to one’s ability to keep pace with rapidly-evolving revolutionary knowledge.

The notion of threat is key to understanding the rejection of evidence; whether it’s by vested interests, by mediocre scientists fearful of becoming outdated, or by the public at large when confronted by inconvenient science.

The public can feel threatened by scientific issues at many levels and for many reasons.

Perhaps most relevant to present public debate are threats to people’s “worldviews” – the very fundamental beliefs people hold about how the world should be organised.

Worldviews come in many shades and forms, but one prominent distinction — popularised by Professor Dan Kahan at Yale University — is between people whose worldview is “hierarchical-individualistic” and those whose worldview is “egalitarian-communitarian”.

Hierarchical-individualistic people (HI from here on) believe rights, duties, goods, and offices should be distributed differentially and on the basis of people’s own decisions without collective interference or assistance.

Egalitarian-communitarian (EC) people, by contrast, believe rights and goods should be distributed more equally and society should bear partial responsibility for securing the conditions of individual flourishing.

Like all binary classifications, the distinction between HI and EC worldviews lacks nuance and oversimplifies the complexity of human worldviews. Nonetheless, the distinction is extremely powerful and permits prediction of people’s attitudes towards numerous scientific issues.

Now I suppose that we need to give the journalists, commentators and “propagandists” the questionnaire as to whether they fall more in one group or the other.The same questions might be given to a sample of the readers. Propaganda is more effective if it is unintentional and implicit. However the problem is to understand the world on a provisional basis so that action can be constructive and beneficial. So it is necessary to determine the facts, as Robert Reich said, because they represent truth, and equally importantly not be caught up with description of the play but understand the causal connections. That can be frustrating. Who knows about derivative trading and the long chain of events that link to current happenings? The world can be seen in disconnected ways in which events are not part of process and perception can be “an optical illusion of consciousness”.

To illustrate the point perhaps, while I was aware that Einstein has used the phrase, I was not aware of the actual quotation:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us “the universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

The rhetoric works if you are talking to choir. So what happens when the facts fall outside our worldview and they cannot be rationally reconciled? I am sure that if Robert Reich’s address is listened from an egalitarian-communitarian perspective will be accepted as self evident and the motivation of “a moral vision of fair and just society and a democracy that works for everyone”. We might be able to explain the Occupy Movement.

So that said, how are we to make sense of what is happening in Europe. The tendency is to see, much like unemployment, the troubles of the Greek and now Italian economies as isolated events. They are often reported in that way. Robert Scheer, also addressing Occupy LA, presents the context (via Truthdig):

ELSEWHERE:

Nancy Huyhn attempts to explain the theory of cultural cognition and scientific consensus in the Yale Scientific Magazine.

 

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