It looks like a large segment of the American public thinks that a couple of out-of-context quotes from some leaked emails constitute knock-out-punch evidence that global warming is a lie. How can there be so much debate over things as cut-and-dried as facts and reality??? Fortunately Outer Blogness has risen to the task of exploring why!
The best short post I’ve seen on how to rationally analyze evidence (outside your area of specialization) comes from NeuroLogica (hat tip Kuri). I’d quote just one part, but it’s not long, and the whole thing is quite informative (regardless of your ideology). NeuroLogica discusses some of the ways bias affects critical thinking, and Aerin sent me an interesting NPR segment explaining some scientific studies illustrating this sort of bias in action. Sadly, some out groups are biased against their own.
Outside the US things are a little different. For a little more detail on the debate over global warming, see here, here, and here; and here for info on vaccine denialism; and for more reality knocking at your door, see this tsunami warning. And — despite the temptation of bias — prominent atheists loudly reject flawed studies showing that atheists are smarter-than-average.
Naturally, the whole “What is reality?” question leads us to religion! Many Mormons believe that secularism is a threat to freedom of religion. As you know, Dallin Oaks spoke out against secular education at Harvard, and Daniel provides some further analysis of his speech. And speaking of prominent Mormons, Greenish-blue illustrates in a video, Glenn Beck isn’t just a harmless buffoon.
Once you step into the realm of theology, pinning down reality and truth becomes that much more complex and confusing! Even a simple semantic question like “What is spirituality?” doesn’t have an easy answer. Andrew criticizes faith-based willingness to “suspend disbelief” for God the way you’d suspend disbelief for a play that you know is fiction, while Bruce Nielson spars with the NOMs over the dividing line between privacy and integrity. But as Bodhi describes, explaining yourself is not always a simple matter:
Its so easy to explain to never-mos and recent friends that I was once mormon, but have given that up. Its like saying you were once married, or used to have a drinking problem, or lived in some far off exotic land for a little while. Its a topic of passing interest, with some life-altering experiences, but largely no one judges you on it and life moves on.
However, explaining the detailed, intricate process you followed of unravelling your entire believe structure is a maddening task.
Sometimes it takes an analogy to explain. And Hypatia shows how it’s that much harder when dealing with incompatible versions of reality within your own family. Ah, are questions of integrity simpler for kids?
Let’s wrap up with a couple of announcements: The program for the Sunstone West symposium is now available, and two of our regular commenters (Chris Smith and Ms. Jack) have done a great interview with the award-winning podcast Mormon Expression!