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.”