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The Science of Why We Don’t Believe in Science (Lecture and Course)

Motivated-Reasoning-PicI’m teaching an online course in May entitled “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe in Science.”

The course will be based on my many writings on this subject.

Here’s the synopsis:

Ever wonder why we can never seem to stop fighting about settled scientific issues like climate change, evolution, and the safety of vaccines? Or simply why you can never seem to change a science denier’s mind? Renowned science journalist Chris Mooney has been reporting and writing on this subject for the past three years, and in this course, he walks you through a growing body of research on the psychology and emotions behind science denial. Topics covered include motivated reasoning, conspiratorial beliefs, and the psychology of political ideology and of religion. At the end of this month long course, not only will you understand what you’re actually up against when dealing with science deniers — you’ll know how to make headway against them.

For more info, see here.

Meanwhile, I also just gave a lecture on the same subject at UC Berkeley, which has just gone up on YouTube. If you have questions after watching this lecture, or want to dig deeper into the material discussed or want to talk about it, the course is probably for you:

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Ed Casillas April 14, 2014, 11:52 pm

    Any comment on the contention by Dan Kahan that Paul Krugman Asymmetric Beliefs amongst republicans and democrats blog post last week is all wrong. Kahan argues his evidence supports symmetric motivated reasoning exists across the political spectrum. I recall you attempted to document asymmetric strength of belief systems in your latest book but were unable to develop an empirical basis in support of your anecdotal observations. Do you support Kahan’s conclusions?; he gives some indication that you do. I read through his journal article once, a fairly dense read and not easy to comprehend but one concern is that although the analysis and findings do not support asymmetric motivated reasoning across the political spectrum, it does not alternatively support symmetry either, that is a different question. Kahan though argues in his blog as I understand it (his blog post is also difficult to follow) that his research supports symmetry of motivated reasoning across the political spectrum. Do you agree?

  • Chris Mooney April 15, 2014, 5:20 am

    Hi Ed,
    My feeling is that the jury is still out on asymmetry. We have to wait and see. It is being very actively researched right now.

  • dirk April 19, 2014, 12:44 pm

    hey Chris was just enjoying your Hans Jenny lecture but wondering about your conclusion that having been given this information there will be a constructive change in the audience’s behaviors as my experience is that by and large the cog-biases of liberals are such that they cannot give up on trying to reason with conservatives/libertarians, and often really enjoying going around and around with them (especially in places like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog where they get peer/in-group reinforcement). Does this make some sense given your research/experience? thanks

  • Chris Mooney April 19, 2014, 12:57 pm

    Totally possible. There will be a range in the audience on this. I do think that some libs are frustrated or introspective enough that they are ready to change their ways of doing things.

  • dirk April 19, 2014, 10:55 pm

    can’t hurt to try I suppose, would be interesting to see if research could narrow down the field to more receptive/response-able candidates for education/change, we desperately need knew ways to ‘hack’ peoples’ responses.

  • Ed Casillas April 24, 2014, 9:23 am

    Ezra Klein has a post as a follow up about the potential asymmetry of beliefs along the political spectrum over at Vox (‘What’s the liberal equivalent of climate denial’). He articulates a possible answer that resonates and advances an interpretation that can relieve some of the potential discrepancies and conflicts argued by Kahan and Lewandowsky; i.e, that group dynamics in the real world can affect beliefs not evident when group interpretations are assembled by individual responses in a controlled environment. Klein’s assessment is anecdotal but one that hits on key element that I grappled with after reading Kahneman’s book; Thinking, Fast and Slow; does the findings he summarizes assembled largely from observations of individuals about whether we are rationalists or not work in group settings. I was curious as to the notion of whether group interactions (such as would be encountered in governing) can overcome our irrational tendencies that Kahneman and Haidt, for example, have uncovered. I think the jury is out still on how group dynamics overlays on individual belief statements, but Klein’s piece I think is nudging in that direction. Any thoughts?

  • Chris Mooney April 24, 2014, 3:58 pm

    My main thought of relevance is that conservatives are more group-oriented, e.g., see Jonathan Haidt’s work.

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