Are Conservatives Inherently More Biased than Liberals? The Scientific Debate Rages On

Thu, 2012-08-02 05:36Chris Mooney
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Are Conservatives Inherently More Biased than Liberals? The Scientific Debate Rages On

In the first round of critical reactions to my book The Republican Brain, there wasn’t much to impress. As I related at AlterNet, the general conservative response to the book was to misrepresent its arguments, rather than to engage them seriously. (The book predicted this, incidentally.)

But now that some researchers have been able to read and process the book, some highly intellectually serious criticism arrives courtesy of Yale’s Dan Kahan, of whose work I’ve written a great deal in the past. You can see Kahan’s first two responses to the book here and here—the latter includes new experimental data. You can see my roadmap for how I plan to respond to Kahan here.

This is the first post of my response, and it is solely dedicated to clarifying my position in this debate. You see, while many people will read this exchange as though I am claiming that conservatives are inherently more biased than liberals—or in other words, claiming that they engage in more or stronger motivated reasoning—it isn’t actually that simple.

The closing words of The Republican Brain are these:

I believe that I am right, but I know that I could be wrong. Truth is something that I am driven to search for. Nuance is something I can handle. And uncertainty is something I know I’ll never fully dispel.

These are not the words of someone who is certain in his beliefs—much less certain of the conclusion that Dan Kahan calls the “asymmetry thesis.”

As Kahan uses the phrase, it is the view that conservatives, more than liberals, or more intensely than liberals, engage in the process motivated reasoning—e.g., letting their emotions and beliefs shape their sense of factual reality in a goal-directed manner, one aimed at preserving their identity, their group’s identity, and so on.

Does The Republican Brain strongly assert and defend the asymmetry thesis as Kahan describes it? Well, not exactly. I discuss motivated reasoning in great detail, to be sure. And I take the position that conservatives often engage in motivated reasoning very strongly—for instance, in denying the science of climate change (to preserve their belief in “individualism”), in believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (to preserve their belief in George W. Bush), in believing that President Obama was not born in the United States (for reasons that you can guess about) and so on.

However, I also observe at many points in the book that liberals, too, engage in motivated reasoning. In fact, they may even do so more strongly than conservatives on certain issues where liberals are themselves highly emotional and (literally) identity-protective. These tend to be matters pertaining to equality, such as race.

In other words, I fully acknowledge that liberals, too, let their emotions skew their reasoning. As human beings, it would be stunning if they didn’t. And yet nevertheless, in modern American politics, conservatives overwhelmingly seem to hold more politically convenient but factually wrong beliefs—so what is up with that?

At the close of the book, I report a new experiment designed by political scientist Everett Young, conducted at Louisiana State University, trying to solve this riddle. We set up an experimental design to test whether conservatives engage in more motivated reasoning than liberals—and the data did not confirm the hypothesis. To be sure, the findings were suggestive at points–especially in showing conservatives to be more biased than liberals about the issue of nuclear power, of all things. But you could hardly call the findings definitive.

Accordingly, The Republican Brain is ultimately pretty agnostic about the issue of “asymmetry” in motivated reasoning. That’s because I was well aware of the scientific uncertainty that lingers around this question, and the difficulty of conducting experimental tests to dispel it. Kahan discusses many of these difficulties, but let me just elaborate a bit myself.

Suppose that a study (one by Kahan, as it happens) shows that conservatives who know more about science are more wrong in their beliefs about global warming, whereas liberals who know more about science are more right in their beliefs about nuclear power. This sounds a lot like an asymmetry in motivated reasoning—especially since we know that more knowledge or political sophistication generally worsens this biased reasoning behavior—but is it definitive proof? Not necessarily. After all, it could simply be that conservatives have stronger emotions about global warming than liberals have about nuclear power—which would make it unfair to compare the two issues.

See the difficulty here? You can’t measure an ideological difference in motivated reasoning unless liberals and conservatives have the same motivations, or at least the same motivational intensity, to begin with. If the motivations are different, or different in intensity, then those might be the true cause of any difference that you observe in the experiment.

Such is the scientific quandary, but do I personally believe in the asymmetry thesis? Let me put it this way. I believe there is something inherent about conservatives, versus liberals, that leads them to process information differently and that, in the current era in American politics, leads them to hold more politically convenient but factually incorrect beliefs. However, there are many candidates for what that something is; and importantly, many of them are much better documented in the scientific literature than is any fundamental left-right gap in motivated reasoning.

I review the candidates for that special something in The Republican Brain—and note that these also might be termed “asymmetries,” although they are not the one Kahan is focused on. They include:

1. Conservatives have different personalities than liberals on average—less openness to new experiences, for instance, and more conscientiousness.

2. Conservatives have different psychological needs than liberals on average—including, importantly, the psychological need for closure, or to have a definitive belief about something…to have certainty. This is not a comment on the quality of conservative reasoning, by the way (something Kahan is mistaken on); rather, it is a comment on conservative motivations in processing information.

3. Conservatives tend more strongly towards authoritarianism, a personality type or disposition associated with an intolerance of ambiguity and seeing the world in sharply defined, black and white terms. Authoritarianism is not a “quality of reasoning” measure either, but this is a trait that has been associated with reasoning errors, such as committing the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), and also with more selective exposure to friendly sources of information.

4. On a moral level, conservatives are more group oriented—more likely to affirm loyalty to the unit, the tribe, the team—and more respectful of authority. This is based on Jonathan Haidt’s work, but it also echoes the research on authoritarianism.

And so on. Really, that just scratches the surface of the research on left and right.

Now, all of these differences could be having downstream effects on how conservatives process information and apportion beliefs in public policy debates. In fact, let me put it more strongly—I’m quite convinced these differences are having all sorts of downstream effects, although I’m considerably less certain about precisely what they are (because the research on this is, as we’ve seen, more scant and more difficult to conduct).

What are some possible downstream effects? Well, one is certainly motivated reasoning—and when it comes to conservatives’ moral convictions and group loyalty, I’m quite sure these are fueling motivated reasoning, asymmetrically or otherwise.

But there are other possible effects. For instance, perhaps conservatives consume or process less information than liberals, a behavior we would expect to see based on their greater need for cognitive closure. And indeed, as I mentioned, some evidence discussed in the book suggests conservatives engage in more selective exposure to friendly information sources, like Fox News. Is that motivated reasoning? Well, not exactly. Is it an important asymmetry? Well, yes: I believe it is.

Let me also note that in the study at LSU, while we did not find clear evidence of worse conservative motivated reasoning, we did find something that smacks of the need for closure: conservatives across the board were spending less time reading the essays provided in the experiment.

And then there is still another factor, one that I ultimately decide, in the book, is probably most important. And it is that liberals and scientists (and social scientists) share a deep psychological affinity—they are explorers, tolerant of uncertainty, always seeking out the different, and the new. They have similar personalities. This leads liberals to want to be scientists, and leads the ranks of scientists to be full of liberals—and thus builds a natural allegiance and affinity between the two groups.

So when it then comes to determining what’s true about reality, liberals are lucky enough to have the “right friends,” as the psychologist Peter Ditto put it to me. And conservatives have the “wrong enemies.” This—not an inherent asymmetry in motivated reasoning–is the most important underlying explanation here, in my mind.

This is a complex explanation, to be sure—but then, I’m a liberal. I can’t help it. The point is that throughout this process, and throughout writing the book, I have strived to apportion my beliefs and my claims to the available evidence. That’s precisely what The Republican Brain does. It is careful because the issues are complex. Indeed, as I painstakingly explain in the book, any inherent left-right differences also play out in a changing cultural, technological, and media context—adding yet another layer of complexity to the issue.

Nonetheless, evidence is very strong that 1) conservatives and liberals are psychologically and morally different; and 2) U.S. conservatives today hold a wealth of demonstrably false, but politically convenient beliefs.

What’s the precise nature of the bridge, the linkage, between 1 & 2? Based on the current state of the science, I do not think we definitively know. However, I think we will find out and that we’ve got a lot of good leads—which is why this discussion is so helpful to have.

So let’s have it. 

Comments

As Kahan uses the phrase, it is the view that conservatives, more than liberals, or more intensely than liberals, engage in the process motivated reasoning—e.g., letting their emotions and beliefs shape their sense of factual reality in a goal-directed manner, one aimed at preserving their identity, their group’s identity, and so on.

______________________________________________________

In other words, I fully acknowledge that liberals, too, let their emotions skew their reasoning. As human beings, it would be stunning if they didn’t. And yet nevertheless, in modern American politics, conservatives overwhelmingly seem to hold more politically convenient but factually wrong beliefs—so what is up with that?

It’s been rather clear that liberals have never been in a postion where they can “cast the first stone” so to speak.  The difference as I’ve long argued it, stems from both the frequency of getting things right factually and as policy matters historically, and the human costs (weighed in lives and misery terms) political remedies sought result in, for the two camps.  http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=conservatives%20on%20the%20wrong%20side%20of%20history&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.addictinginfo.org%2F2012%2F05%2F11%2Fconservatives-always-on-the-wrong-side-of-history%2F&ei=YI0aUKrVPMie2wWK44D4BA&usg=AFQjCNHdXR6fFk7jUJKhtckgIavRy3c_bA

It seems to me that what we’re currently seeing is a realization by the rightwing puppetmasters/masterminds, that given that rather dismal and sordid record, the truth these days represents an existential threat to their ideology, and therefore the white privilege, the political power they’ve long held, and most importantly, the size of the bank accounts of the monied, wouldbe aristocrats their ideology was born and formed to defend.

They collectively and individually must live in denial of this record of failure and the human toll it has extracted, like say recently, the war in Iraq.  Their huge numbers that still believe that Iraq had wmds stems from imo, their need for justification for the price innocent people paid.  And if their leaders were interested confronting and acknowledging their mistakes in that and more instances than I need cite here, such beliefs in such numbers would not exist.  This is why I’ve long argued that morality is the most common denominator, and all the self/group-identity preservation stuff leads inexorably to the denials and aversion to demonstratable facts so as to escape the ugly picture it paints of them. 

“Fear of self is the greatest of all terrors, the deepest of all dread, the commonest of all mistakes. From it grows failure. Because of it, life is a mockery. Out of it comes despair.” Psychologist David Seabury (1885-1960)

This is why I say, all the scapegoating, projection, deflection, etc and the disgust they have for and the shame they attempt to heap upon their opposition for things they are mostly, and in some cases, exclusively guilty of, is nothing more than procrastination over putting all that where it belongs, on their own weak backs.  Many/most of them have to be at least subliminally aware that their endless lying, denials, etc, stems from preservation needs.  This is evidenced by the only conclusion that can be logically derived from such conduct – they know they can’t win hearts and minds, and therefore retain political power without it.  We can leave how they reconcile supplantation of the 9th Commandment with a license to lie without fear of reprisal with their world view as paragons of morality and champions of “The Word”, as just another of the inconsistenies and incongrueties that define the modern con. I can only imagine the magnitude of despair that would come from being adrift in the Sea of Shame, where most of their historical and current conduct should place them.

And that’s where most of them are gonna at least need to visit before things substantially change for the better for all of us, or at least to insure it doesn’t happen again.  This is why in my first post on this matter, I compared them to the German people in the wake of the Holocaust.  Individual and collective acknowledgement of the wrongs are the first step in the healing process, and without which healing can never truly occur, much less a consensus on what the “facts” actually are. They could have collectively denied it happened, as so many repubs still do the lack of wmds in Iraq. 

They are lost.  The modern authoritarian-loving, holy warrior con can’t reconcile their political pursuits and their so-called “rugged individualism” with either the authoritarianism they really lean towards, or the “Good Book” they claim to be champions of, much as they can’t reconcile their claims to the biggest and wisest brains while in pursuit of or supporting the current efforts to give us “trickle down” economics again.  And they become increasingly mired in the Bizarro World-like thinking and actions they pursue almost solely to delay the extinction event (or adaptations they’ll need to survive politically) the historical and current events and societal needs have put them on the path of.  Health care, AGW, the problems income/wealth inequality produce, etc, are all gonna require the dreaded and evil “socialistic” solutions they’ve spent decades demonizing as evil, so how can the moral paragons reconcile their implementation with the house of cards moral framework they’ve built? They have no choice at this point but to “double down” on the dumbasshood. 

Nonetheless, evidence is very strong that 1) conservatives and liberals are psychologically and morally different; and 2) U.S. conservatives today hold a wealth of demonstrably false, but politically convenient beliefs.

Imho, the historical political record is the product of the mastery of the environment societal needs thrust upon us, and that has dictated the evolution of the two both psychologically and morally. If you look at all the rightwing things http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/06/22/24-policies-that-republicans-supported-before-they-were-against-them/ BHO has been guilty of, you can see their moral framework is a malleable as putty, much like facts are in their pov. The unreality modern cons find themselves mired in is their reaction to the clear existential threat those aforementioned required socialistic solutions pose to them, which has only been heightened by the looming brown demographic tsunami “the others” that they associate most strongly if not exclusively with that “evil” socialism.  The socialist hordes are on their way.

There is no one explanation or blanket with which you can cover all the individuals in the modern con movement, but it is rather clear looking at that movement and the members in toto, that the truth is an existential threat to the substance of their policy proposals, the moral framework that supplies their cohesiveness, and therefore them in their current form as an ideology and political movement.

Ray Stevens said it best – “There are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see.”, and everything you’re exploring imho, is a product of that on their part – a choice made to preserve a moral and psychological house of cards the winds of reality easily blows over, revealing the ugly con inside.

What I think your work is lacking, is the role that so-called “liberal” media has in all of this. It’s not enough to identify just the problem children as http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/sighting-mann-and-ornstein-on-your-tv-on-a-sunday/2012/06/04/gJQAplWaDV_blog.html has been done.  For the lay person to fully understand how the modern republican/con monster was created and given the life it has and maintains despite all of their sins, etc, the role of that myth in this needs to be woven into the story.  It’s like trying to give a detailed account of the rise of the Nazi’s without including the role of the “Big Lie”, etc propaganda techniques used to bring the German people on board against their self-interests.

The modern con as we know them, wouldn’t exist without the most damaging myth they wield, the “liberal” media one.  As I’ve noted previously I’m sure, this is what destroyed the concept of “agreed upon facts” to the extent it was observed prior to the rise of rightwingnut radio and media acquisitions by rightwing interests, and that made their lying the “new normal” that is immune from the shame that use to have some behavior modification value it no longer seemingly has.

That’s why all those who pushed The Iraq war like John McCain, and who’ve been wrong on a host of other issues as well, get all the mike time they do, as well as all the respect as “wise” pols or pundits, while those who got/get it right are, are shunned. http://www.fair.org/blog/2012/07/30/pundit-accountability-what-an-idea/

I don’t think that these politicians who call themselves conservative are really conservative. They have appropriated that term, but what people like Cuccinelli are doing is really quite radical.

These fake “conservatives” are always claiming to be acting for “the people,” but they remind me of communists who really want to steal everything from the people. 

Cuccinelli even tries to use unnecessary health and safely regulations to close abortion clinics. That is exactly the tactic the communists used to close churches. They abused a licensing proceedure called “registration.”

Even if you disagree with abortion, it sets a dangerous precendent to abuse health and safety regulations to shut down something you don’t like.

Cuccinelli claims he is against over-regulation and big government, but come to Virginia and see what a lie that is!


 

I haven’t read Chris’s book yet, but I have read a lot of stuff about it by Chris and others. The impression I get, is that there is a lot of confirmation bias going on.

Chris has been arguing that liberals and conservatives are arguing with different personalities and reasoning. I’ve  always been more impressed by how similar they seem, when they are sticking to their positions. Saying liberals are more open and nuanced, while conservatives are more rigid and authoritarian, seems like an exercise in self flattery. On the issue of climate change, liberals want everyone to rely on the authority of an insular group of climate “experts” and submit to ever more autoritarian control of the economy. They have staked out a rigid position that CO2 emissions must be drastically cut, and in what rigidly proscribed manner it must be done. It is conservatives who are bringing up nuances like feasability and cost effectiveness.

I think almost anyone is going to sound rigid and authoritarian when they are staking out a position. Also, anyone will likely sound open and nuanced when they are attacking it. The thing that really bothers me about Chris’s arguments, is that it seems like they can be used as an excuse to avoid debating on issues which need to be debated.

you mean the very same ones who’ve done little but deny the climate science they’ve been wholly incapable of undermining/refuting, consider arguments like feasibility and cost effectiveness as “nuanced” arguments opposing action on something they’ve long denied the existence of?

No, they’ve argued that crap largely in the context of “we don’t think it’s happening at all, therefore the dem proposals are putting the cart ahead of the proverbial horse as part of a hoax to inject gov and regulatory/legislative control into and over the “free markets” we demand!”.

Of course things are gonna head in the direction of arguments from authority and  the facts that provide it, which the climate scientists have and the sceptics lack, except in their deluded, Bizarro World “brains”.  That’s why the science has withstood the tests and all of the efforts of the sceptics have been shown to be wrong as far as the causes and the reality of the warming are concerned.

And obviously Chris is open to, and indeed, has opened up the debate on a specific topic, that seeks an explanation for why “real” debate isn’t possible with rightwingers in many cases across a spectrum of issues, because “debate” requires an acknowledgement, acceptance, and the good faith exercising of the concept of “agreed upon facts” that the baseless denials of the sceptic crowd make impossible from the getgo. Obviously for example, one can’t “debate” the merits of a case if one side is totally unwilling to accept the facts the climate scientists base their conclusions on, and given that the sceptic camps objections are premised on denials as opposed to testable facts, then they really have nothing upon which to pursue conclusions.  If the premise is faulty, then the conclusion almost certainly will be as well.  The ice continually melting and the seas continually rising,  both lead back to what – you guessed it – the thermometers continually showing a steady incline upwards in terms of measurement. Gee, who has a valid argument her and who doesn’t, the deniers of the incontrovertible facts, or those who have such on their side?  ANd since co2/ghg have been shown to be earth’s thermostate since they entered the atmosphere, and all of the alternative explanations from the sceptics for the observed warming have been totally debunked, so who again has the facts on their side, the “it’s not the ghg” sceptics, or those who KNOW otherwise?

Your republican/con brain and its work product is a fine example of what Chris has been exploring and attempting to analyse and explain, and which is almost wholly removed from the actual policy disputes that have arisen over the AGW disagreements, in much the same way say, exploring the motives and causes for a Holmes mass murdering is unrelated to the facts that establish his guilt of the crime. Trying to figure out WHY the modern rightwingers are so willfully ignorant or stupid in such large numbers, is a different matter entirely from a recitation of the facts that establishes and sustains their guilt of criminal stupidity.  “why he did it?” and “did he do it?” are two entirely different questions with different answers, and the only one remaining unanswered (since yes, the sceptic did and continue to “do it”) is why rightwingers have such an aversion to facts they can’t dispute, and therefore choose blind denial as opposed to silence. In your case, you can neither (or at least haven’t) dispute the fact that the sceptics are all wet and in denial, nor a damn thing Chris has written on the topic in terms of his opinions formed by and stemming from, the facts derived from studies, etc he uses.  You having “impressions”, isn’t an argument, nor is you observation that their argumentation seems “similar” on the surface.  Of course as a victim of ‘confirmation bias”, you’d not look below the surface and discover and acknowledge, that the sceptics really have no arguments that undermine the reality of AGW at all.  That’s the way the rightwinger false equivalence ALWAYS works – “they are both apples, and just because the one is full of worms, and the other not, doesn’t change the fact it’s reasonable to conclude that they are identical, or are negligibly different for all practical purposes.” 

You’ve been eating the rotten apples for too long, and the causes for/explanation of the now obvious rotting of the common rightwing brain, is what chris is after, not the merits of any policies that might occur after a cure is found for the rightwingers afflicted, assuming it isn’t a terminal one. 

Stick around and keep up the good work.  That was a quite the laughable effort and example of “confirmation bias” on your part, made all the more amusing by it being intended to show the same on the part of your opposition.  But then this is one of the defining characteristics of the modern rightwinger – when all else fails, change the subject to charges against the opponent that you have the most if not exclusive guilt of.

Like all sceptic efforts, it too failed oh so miserably.

well done

 

Excellent points all.

But don’t expect to get any sympathy here, it won’t help sell Chris’s book!

I disagree with the idea that liberals want more authoritarian rule by a small group.

I think that the fossil-fuel billionaires are a small, authoritarian group. Look what Attorney General Cuccinelli tried to do to Michael Mann with his big bucks from the fossil fuel industry.

They don’t want any regulations, but we have to pay to clean up their mess. It is like the communists–they have all the power in the NAME of the PEOPLE. Really, it’s just for themselves.

the frackers have all sort of concessions from government that let them do whatever they want even though other people’s property will be affected. I am sure the politicians get money for helping the frackers.

The father of the Koch brothers made his fortune building Stalin’s oil refineries. Those Kochs didn’t have any big problems with communists when they were the privileged industrialists.

The big military and industrial companies in Socialist Russia had/have tremendous power because they had corrupt relations with politicians.

One reason the Russians didn’t know much about nuclear winter was that military research into the climatic consequences of a nuclear war were repressed for economic reasons. The research had such a high security classification that almost nobody could read it.

I know a few things about communism, and it’s not what American lberals believe in. These big industrial barons and their bought politicians–that’s like communism and the Russian mafia.

The thing that is annoying about Chris is his idea that religion is antiscientific. It depends on the person. Also, he accepts that these corrupt radicals are really conservative. The radicals have just appropriated the word “conservative” because many people think of themselves as conservatives. Just call them liars and totalitarians, not conservatives.

Some of these “religious” groups are really astroturf fronts like the fake science institutes. Chris should not blame religion any more than he should blame science for astroturf fronts.

Since many Americans are religious, he should be pointing out what many churches are saying about climate change. If he criticizes religion, all that does is make religious people decide to be against learning about climate change.



 

My point is that liberals and conservatives have their own pet issues and can both be authoritarian about them. The really hardcore on both sides loves to impose petty rules and will gleefully break the other sides rules, if they think they can get away with it.

If you do a little research on Chris Mooney and religion, you will find that he is a fellow of the Templeton Foundation, which studys the relation of religious and science ideas. Chris is often accused of being an accomidationist, most notably, by PZ Meyers of the very popular blog Pharyngula. Chris and PZ have a debate on one of the Point of Inquiry programs.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/pz_myers_jennifer_michael_hecht_chris_mooney_new_atheism_or_accommodation/

While I’m undecided over who is right, I tend to be simpathetic to Chris’s position and I think it is great that the Templeton Foundation is helping to fund him.

 

I will look into Chris’s affiliation with the Templeton Foundation. I am surprised at this since he seems to equate religion with being anti-science. A long time ago I knew a man who won the Templeton Prize for progress in religion.

Climate change is a scientific issue. The Bible does not discuss it, although many religious organizations are concerned about climate change and use the passage in the Bible about being good stewards of God’s creation as a justification for speaking out on this issue. 

I also don’t think it’s helpful to let these politicians claim to be conservatives. What are they conserving? These people are corrupt, rapacious radicals who call themselves conservatives because many people identify with the traditional values of this country. These radicals don’t really agree with those values; they are just using them as a disguise for taking total power.

Many people are conservative. They stick to the traditional tried and true values; however, they are willing to change if they see a problem. I think it is good to respect traditions but to be open to new ideas and better ways of doing things. Of course, not every new idea is a good one.

I just don’t think that when you are trying to build a consensus about global warming that it is good to antagonize people with labels like “conservative” or “religious.”

I voted for Cuccinelli because I didn’t understand what he was doing. He tricked me with his phony-baloney appeal to traditional values. Now that I understand what he really is, I won’t be voting for him again. It’s better just to keep giving people the information so they can make better judgements.

It’s also good to be really honest and not trick people. After Climategate, I tried to understand the issues. Because I am kind of conservative, I didn’t like it that anonymous hackers broke the law and then arrogantly declared themselves “honest men.” The hackers didn’t break the law openly and take the consequences like the climate scientists who demonstrate and get arrested for their civil disobedience. I compared what the scientists and their critics were saying, and I was able to see the dishonest way that the denialists manipulated what the scientists were saying. 

I used to believe that climate change was a genuine scientific dispute because the newspapers treated both views the same. I thought that I would not be able to know the truth. When I looked into the issue, it was immediately clear that real scientists and real scientific organizations say there is climate change. Not being a scientist, I think I will have to trust the experts who have their work peer-reviewed.

Peer-review is not perfect, but it’s better than saying all theories are equal. Peer-reivew is sort of like our legal system. It is a set of proceedures developed over hundreds of years for getting at the truth. Being a conservative, I respect those long traditions people have worked out to seek the truth. 

This seems to me to be a conservative position–to trust traditional authorities. Of course they have to be real authorities–not charlatans. I think its very radical to trust someone like Joe Bast, who doesn’t even seem it indicate if he has an undergraduate degree in any field, much less a Ph.D. in a scientific field. These people are just propagandists.

Cuccinelli is not a conservative at all. He’s not a real authority. He’s a charlatan. He attacks our great scientists who are constantly vetted by their peers. He loses in court because he flouts our legal traditions and his victim’s human rights. He is supposed to be protecting our people, but he is really only using his position and our tax dollars to persecute scientists on behalf of private industry—the fossil fuel interests.

Cuccinelli has turned the high office of Attorney General into a KGB—-a “sword and shield” of the oil and gas interests. This is the business of the Cuccinelli family. The father is a career lobbyist for the gas industry. Cuccinelli is in government to protect the family business, not the people of Virginia.

 Let’s not forget that the father of the Koch brothers built Stalin’s oil refineries. The Koch family did not have any problem with big government then! They love big government, as long as they own the politicians. 

Cuccinelli also uses very totalitarian tactics to undermine laws. For example, Cuccinelli uses unneccessary building and safety codes to shut down abortion clinics. Even people who disagree with abortion should not like that sort of tactic. The communists used health and safety codes to close churches. It’s a classic Bolshevik tactic that can be used to destroy any organization a politician doesn’t like. The “purges” of churches–they often just closed them on the pretext that they were enforcing health, safety, and fire codes.

Cuccinelli uses fake health and safety REGULATIONS against abortion clinics, but he doesn’t care about regulating health and safety when it comes to pollution.

Chris helps politicians like Cuccinelli when he calls them conservatives. It makes people who have a conservative outlook vote for politicians who are really quite radical and who do not want to conserve our educational, scientific, and legal institutions. 

In my opinion, Dr. Michael Mann is the real conservative. He is the one who is standing up and protecting our people’s traditional scientific, eductional, and legal institutions. He understands what our country is all about, and I think he is a real patriot. Cuccinelli is a vandal, a barbarian who is atttempting to undermine our traditional scientific, educational, and legal institutions. So far, he has not prevailed, and traditions developed over centuries have been conserved.

Reality has a liberal bias.

While I don’t think all social phsycological research is bad (I kinda like Jonathan Haidt’s), I think the fact that most of it is done by liberals skews the results. I have a few ideas about left wing, progressive liberal thought from a libertarian perspective. Of course, I don’t have any studies backing them up that have been peer reviewed by liberal peers.

Liberals have a self image of themselves as smart, thoughtful and fairminded. This makes them intelectually conceited and dismissive of many conservative and libertarian points of view. I would say that their egos are tied up in this smart, thoughtful self image and that it makes them hold on to some very superficial and overly simplified positions. My favorite example is passenger rail service. Liberals see all these cool highspeed trains in Japan, Europe and now China, and they learn that trains are very efficient at moving stuff across land, and they’re sure they have reality figured out. Well trains are the most efficient means of land transportation when it comes to, say, hauling coal to the coast, where it can be dumped onto a freighter bound for China. But when is comes to hauling people, Robert Poole and Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation, just demolish it:

http://reason.com/reasontv/2010/06/28/reason-weekend-2010-robert-poo

A lot of other writers at Reason have joined in on this mauling of rail transit. Here, Tim Cavanaugh brings the liberal rail booster’s sense of fairness into question:

http://reason.com/archives/2012/07/11/how-rail-screws-the-poor

I haven’t been able to find many good arguments for passenger rail service, and I’ve been looking.

I often hear liberals criticise libertarians as adolescent and sometimes claim to have gone through a libertarian phase themselves. There is some truth in this with libertarians joking about wearing monicles and “putting top people in charge”. But if you think about it, adolescents are good at finding hypocracy in adult behavior. Mabe the liberals have become their parents. Actually, I think liberals are kind of childish. “Can I have a high speed rail?” “No, it’s too expensive.” “Aw, come on. China and Japan have one.” No! I told you it’s too expensive.” “I’ll pay for it.” “You haven’t paid for AMTRACK yet.”