Monday, September 1, 2008


Thank you, Ezra Klein.

I just want to note, if only for the record, that in a saner country, the fact that Sarah Palin wants us to teach our children lies rather than biology, and doesn't believe in man-made global warming, should be enough to cost the Republicans the election. The other way of stating those two position is that part of her platform is telling schools to misinform kids and telling the government to ignore a preventable ecological catastrophe that could cost countless lives. But for whatever reason, those positions are considered totally acceptable in American political debate, but god forbid someone comes out for single payer health care or a gun ban. Now that would be crazy.

At first I didn't mind her too much, but the more I learn about her the more astonished I become. Evidently it turns out I can't credit her for her state's fairly respectable record on providing contraceptive access, since Palin herself only supports abstinence-only sex ed. Evidently her scorn for research (AKA reality?) also extends to evolution in addition to sex ed, and the human impact on the Earth's climate.

Does she trust experts on anything? Or is this philosophy over fact all over again?

Do we really want another administration that thinks evolutionary biologists don't understand biology? That thinks that the CDC and everyone else studying teen pregnancy and STD rates don't understand teen pregnancy or STD rates? That thinks ecologists don't understand ecology?

We've already seen McCain's willingness to ignore economists with his little gas tax holiday (and his offshore drilling plan), since evidently economists don't understand the economy either.

I'm sick of this. Really, I am. Is it just the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon wherein people who have little knowledge (or skill) tend to think they know more (or have more skill) than they do, while others who have much more knowledge tend to think that they know less. Dunning and Kruger were awarded a 2000 Ig Nobel prize for their work.

The phenomenon was demonstrated in a series of experiments performed by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, both of Cornell University. Their results were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in December 1999.[2]

Kruger and Dunning noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" (as Charles Darwin put it). They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,
1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

I hope so. Disgusting as it is, at least it's an explanation. It also explains why so many people in America truly believe that the Judicial Branch should have no power. The legislative branch is elected by the people. That makes them qualified to have legislative power and the power of the judicial branch. Why do people believe this? Because they mistrust expertise. Experts are scary, holding dark and arcane knowledge that makes them dangerous. The fewer experts we have involved in government the better! Apparently.

Even if you don't believe it, those of you who plan to vote McCain had better get really comfortable with this really fast. Because this is the trend you're playing into. There are people out there who believe that truth is a matter of consensus, not of... well, truth. These are the people who want local governments to vote on whether to teach their children science or religion in science classes, as if by voting they could determine the truth. These are the people who want local governments to vote on whether to teach children sex ed that works, or sex ed that sounds good to parents who're afraid their kids may one day grow up. These are the people who want the majority to determine the rights of the minority, as if justice were also merely a matter of majority rule.

These are the people who mistrust experts because experts erode the notion that one person's vote of confidence in a complicated matter is as good as any others. They claim to know more than you do. Those assholes. Who do they think they are, anyway? Elitist bastards. We don't need them. We don't need science at all. We'll just put everything to a vote and decide on whatever sounds best... not necessarily what those nasty elitist experts and their "research" indicates.

There are fewer of them anyway, how much can they possibly know? We're the people. Vox populi, vox dei. If we vote that something is so, damn the facts. We voted.

A vote for McCain-Palin is a vote for the disrespect of education and the disrespect of truth. And do you know why?

"Mediocrity know nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius."
-Sherlock Holmes

McCain and Palin are mediocre representatives of a mediocre party that elevates mediocrity itself above expertise. Do they represent you?

No comments: