Monday, May 7, 2012

A statistical fallacy?

One of the reasons I still read the NZ herald, even though I think it's mostly rubbish, is that I think it's a good idea to know what people who disagree with you think. It's possible to hold in your head, the reasoning behind two conflicting systems of thought. Especially if you acknowledge that one of them is wrong (it's possible to hold them both true, otherwise rational people who believe in god or homoeopathy or fairies do it all the time). Understanding is not the same as approval.
I've seen the appalling ad campaign that the Heartland Institute* put out late last week commented upon in a few places. Ken Perrott at Sciblogs passes comment as well. His surmise is that the Heartland institute has found itself in the echo chamber - that place where people only read the opinions of people that they agree with. Reading only what you agree with makes it quite difficult to see the flaws in your thinking. There might not be any, but it's good to have the ideas tested anyway. It also leaves you not being able to communicate your ideas to your target audience, which, if you are trying to advance a world view is all the people who disagree with you. It happens all over the place. Occupy for instance, attempts to draw attention to the inequality of the current system. If possible solutions only get talked about in the general assemblies, then the chances of possible solutions that they propose being accepted by the general population is limited. Those within the general assemblies and working groups of Occupy might all agree on a solution but they are not the target audience. For ideas to be advanced they must win over the agnostic and resist the antagonistic. I becomes an question of both the validity of the idea and how well it is communicated.
It's why it was a good idea to read Garth Georges columns in the herald back when he still did them. Even if it left you feeling unclean at the end.

*A climate change denial "think tank" in the states with pots of money and connections to the oil industry who pay people with otherwise laudable credentials from around the world to deny the science as well

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