Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Willful Know-Nothings

We don’t need no stinkin’ facts

“It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. ‘Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,’ Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. This notion, carried down through the years, underlies everything from humble political pamphlets to presidential debates to the very notion of a free press. Mankind may be crooked timber, as Kant put it, uniquely susceptible to ignorance and misinformation, but it’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.

“In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

“Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.”

—Joe Keohane, writer, “How Facts Backfire:
Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy—our brains,” Boston.com, 2010
(Thanks to alert WORDster Brenda Cooper)

• Editorial Comment: Bull. I don’t believe that.

• Free Humiliation: Take this quiz from BusinessWriting.com of the 25 most misspelled (or mispelled?) words.

News from our award-winning student news site, The Hard News Café
The Green Beam—Nighttime landmark is the world’s largest laser, by Lindsay Nemelka, Aggie BluePrint
Weekly News Roundup, Feb. 6-12, 2012
Journalism students go to ‘war’ with Army ROTC in Green Canyon
, by Rhett Wilkinson
KSL social media director offers PR students view of new marketplace, by Allie Jeppson
RCDE’s steel, concrete HQ to expand USU’s virtual and online presence
, by Kristi Ottley
In the dark: 20% of USU-Eastern streetlights, pathway lights are out, by Seth Richards
Review: ASCAP music café serves up a smörgasborg for the ears
, by Max Parker Dahl
The Aggie TV News Team reports on the Powell children’s murder; students represent the “66%” at Utah Capitol protest; same-sex discrimination bill dies in committee . . . and more! (Feb. 8 edition). Bookmark ATV News

PeezPIX by Ted Pease

PeezPix cards & prints
. . . Catalog here.

The Wellsvilles float above Cache Valley haze.


1 comment:

  1. I have spent years trying to understand this phenomenon: how people (some truly intelligent) can believe absurd things in the face of facts.