Thursday, March 06, 2008

Overcoming Ideology

Anthony Watts has this post on the final day of the New York climate conference. He concludes:

  • Some valid and interesting ideas have been presented here, and despite all the scoffing by the critics, there wasn’t any group prayer, tobacco booths, or free cans of 10W-40 motor oil. It has been all about science, and science policy.
  • But those who close their minds and choose to only deal in stereotypes of course won’t ever see that, but instead will just pile on the stereotypical criticism as part of their regular closed mind comfort zone.

His last sentence appears to be particularly prophetic, especially in light of the reactions to the posts by John Tierney where he has the audacity to question why financing and/or sponsorship is a relevant topic.

Just as I have discussed in previous posts, a more limiting variable in dialogue is the absence of an open mind.

So a reporter such as Tierney posts a comment and despite his appeals that respondents focus on the substance of the issues, he gets inundated with reactive comments, most of which allude to a couple of ideological environmental sites for their "proof".

What is on those sites is not an objective proof but a set of ideologically derived statements that resonate well with the readers' own ideological perspective and thus, they define as their truth. No problem. Problems start to arise when people seek to impose their "truth" on others as being the only "truth": to disagree is to be in denial, to be a denier of the "truth". And to bolster their claims, advocates will use appeals to authority (read this, or this is what so and so says, therefore it must be true...), the idea of a consensus (to be outside of the groupthink being an anathema to them) and/or they resort to impugning the motives of those not validating their ideological perspective.

The root problem often is that advocates don't see their perspective as being ideologically dependent nor derived. After all, isn't their perspective simply one of scientific fact? What they fail to realize or recognize, is that often the science is:

  • disputed
  • unclear
  • contested
  • partial
  • not empirically based but a function of models and/or simulations with presumptive variables and constants
Most of all, many people fail to acknowledge that science can only measure phenomena, it does not provide us with meaning. Even where all the facts are beyond dispute, what those scientific facts mean is still subject to interpretation. And interpretation is entirely influenced by ideology.

You can't change people's ideology with facts. You also can not change the way someone thinks: only they can.

A closed mind is a mind that no longer wishes to learn: it already knows everything.