Friday, September 21, 2012

The Derangement of American Conservatism: Selective Evidence: Recent Polls Edition

As C.S. Peirce liked to note, it's harder to be dogmatic by brute force, and easier to do it with the assistance of carefully-selected evidence.

Here's Electionate with all the recent and relevant poll results at a glance.

As you can see, there is overwhelming consensus that Obama is ahead.

And here's Dan Spencer at RedState, picking out the poll that makes him feel good, the recent Gallup, the one Nate Cohn describes as "so far out of line with the rest" that he doesn't even know what to say about it.

Here's the thing, conservatives: you have to look at the preponderance of good evidence. We can predict with great certainty that, with respect to any complicated question, there will be at least some evidence that points toward the wrong conclusion. Rational inquirers are prepared for that, and, hence, know not to make too much of it. It would be permissible to say something like "the recent Gallup results give Republicans hope," or whatever. But if you think it proves that Obama is not ahead, you're just being ridiculous. Heck, who knows, the consensus of polls could shift tomorrow, and the race is likely to tighten. But right now, you can't pretend Obama isn't the favorite.

And, of course, this is the way conservatives have been treating evidence about global warming, evolution, the stimulus, Obamacare, etc.

Look, American conservatives. Do humanity a favor. Just fess up and admit that you aren't using the evidence. Admit you are allowing your desires to determine your beliefs. That does way less harm than fanning the flames of irrationality by helping establish a culture of evidence-distortion. Straight up arationality is better than an insidious irrationality that encourages people to use reason in the service of unreason.


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