Ignore this post – it is based on facts and reason.

Like Don Quixote, we have spend almost seven years tilting at myths.  Unlike Don, we arm our posts with facts and reason. According to a new report, that is a losing strategy.

Note: That report itself is based on facts, reason, and that most untrusted Science, known as statistics. Therefore, it is unlikely that the report will make a significant difference. Yet, we remain committed to our best efforts to base our recommendations on facts and reason.

New York Times: When Beliefs and Facts Collide <read>

Do Americans understand the scientific consensus about issues like climate change and evolution?

At least for a substantial portion of the public, it seems like the answer is no. The Pew Research Center, for instance, found that 33 percent of the public believes “Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” and 26 percent think there is not “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.” Unsurprisingly, beliefs on both topics are divided along religious and partisan lines. For instance, 46 percent of Republicans said there is not solid evidence of global warming, compared with 11 percent of Democrats.

As a result of surveys like these, scientists and advocates have concluded that many people are not aware of the evidence on these issues and need to be provided with correct information. That’s the impulse behind efforts like the campaign to publicize the fact that 97 percent of climate scientists believe human activities are causing global warming.

In a new study, a Yale Law School professor, Dan Kahan, finds that the divide over belief in evolution between more and less religious people is wider among people who otherwise show familiarity with math and science, which suggests that the problem isn’t a lack of information. When he instead tested whether respondents knew the theory of evolution, omitting mention of belief, there was virtually no difference between more and less religious people with high scientific familiarity. In other words, religious people knew the science; they just weren’t willing to say that they believed in it.

Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views…

The deeper problem is that citizens participate in public life precisely because they believe the issues at stake relate to their values and ideals, especially when political parties and other identity-based groups get involved– an outcome that is inevitable on high – profile issues. Those groups can help to mobilize the public and represent their interests, but they also help to produce the factual divisions that are one of the most toxic byproducts of our polarized era.Unfortunately, knowing what scientists think is ultimately no substitute for actually believing it.

We see such from partisans of all stripes, when we work to disrupt the “common wisdom” on election issues, tilting with facts and reason:

  • Internet Voting. No matter the theoretical risks of the Internet attested to by Scientists, the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and our CT utilities regulatory authority, and actual breeches by the NSA, foreign governments, bank fraudsters, and hackers, objections are met with claims of complete confidence in election officials to provide secure voting systems.
  • Voter Fraud. There is very little actual fraud by individual voters – the challenge is to get  people to vote – very few illegal aliens would risk their deportation to vote.  In any case, most cases of fraud or voting in error would not be prevented by voter ID.
  • Mail-in Voting (Absentee Voting). Here sides change. It is more convenient to vote by mail for many. Yet at what price. There is proven absentee voting fraud after almost every national election. Opening up to more mail-in voting, simply opens up more opportunity and benefit for fraud.  Like climate change denial, we have many that deny the fact and opportunity.
  • Electronic Voting without audits and recounts.  Officials and many in the public subscribe to the belief that “If it seems to work and I have noticed no problems, then it must be safe”.  Just like nuclear power, DDT, and many other risks, our intuition can be wrong.

Until a year ago many thought that the NSA spying on everyone was a myth. Today, many still believe that “I have nothing to hide, so they can look at all my emails, bank accounts, and health records”. For those with those beliefs, please send me all your passwords (and be sure not to encrypt the email).

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