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Posted by: anybody ( )
Date: September 17, 2021 12:09AM

Excellent analysis. Worth the read.

I really don't care anymore about the lives of deniers.

They want to die to preserve their cult "cred" and are unwilling to do what they should do save their own lives.

I do care about the innocent people who face higher risk of infection from the deniers.

To save their lives, we also have to save the lives of the deniers — no matter if they want to be saved or not.

Another recent study of anti-science attitudes identifies several tendencies particularly associated with conservative ideology. People who hold anti-science beliefs tend to be sympathetic toward right-wing authoritarianism – that is to say, they are conformists who defer to selected authority figures and who are willing to act aggressively in the name of those figures.

They also tend to support group-based hierarchy, with “superior” groups dominating “inferior” groups. Political psychologists call this “social dominance orientation” and see it in, for example, attitudes about racial or gender equality.

Indeed, social scientists looking at the causes of science denial have increasingly narrowed in on two contributing causes. Certain personality traits, including comfort with existing social and cultural hierarchies and a predilection for authoritarianism, go along with a skepticism for science. So do closely related aspects of identity, such as identification with a dominant social group like white evangelical Christians.

Conservative traditionalists from the historically dominant white Christian demographic in the U.S. have had the most reason to feel threatened by science. Evolution by natural selection is threatening to many doctrinal religious traditionalists. Climate science threatens the economic status quo that conservatives seek to conserve. The whole concept of a public health mandate runs counter to the “small government” individualism of political conservatives.

Further, because COVID-19 has been starkly politicized since the beginning of the pandemic, public health measures have become directly associated with the political left. Rejection of such measures has consequently become a signal of political and cultural identity.

Other recent studies on science denial have shown that people who don’t have a lot of confidence in the honesty and reliability of others, as well as in social institutions like government, academia and media, tend to deny the dangers of COVID-19. Low social trust tends to track with conservative political orientation – in particular, with support for Trump. His supporters are much more likely to say that scientific inquiry is driven by political considerations.

Grasping for a sense of control

Increasing economic inequality and racial and ethnic diversification are also part of the science denialism mix.

One school of thought in psychology, called compensatory control theory, holds that many social phenomena – including ideological science denial – stem from the basic human need for a sense of control over one’s environment and life outcomes. According to this theory, perceived threats to one’s sense of personal control can motivate denial of scientific consensus. The idea is that due to a combination of economic insecurity, demographic changes and the perceived erosion of cultural norms favoring whites, some people feel an existential threat to the white supremacy they’ve long benefited from – which in turn spurs them to deny government warnings about the dangers of COVID-19.

I believe this compulsive defensiveness plays a big part in the phenomenon of science denial, once trusted elites like politicians or news media hosts trigger the inclination to oppose some particular science-based public policy. You can’t control the coronavirus – or inequality, or a changing culture – but you can control whether you take the vaccine or wear a mask. This sense of control is implicitly but powerfully attractive on a deep, emotional level.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/17/2021 12:13AM by anybody.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 17, 2021 01:20AM

I believe it was Dave who used to say that reality has a strong liberal bias. That is of course not generally true; it depends on where the center of the political spectrum lies in a particular society.

Considered in that light, though, the high correlation between anti-scientific views and right-wing politics means that yes, liberalism in its present manifestation is closer to reality than is the populist movement that pretends to be conservative.

I think the compensatory control hypothesis makes a lot of sense. Western societies have undergone considerable chronic economic stress, punctuated by crises that disproportionately harm the poor and middle class, over the last four decades and that instability has left a lot of people on the right and the left looking for a guardrail to which to cling. That one side of the continuum has opted for leaders that want to exacerbate the economic troubles that confound them is as ironic as it is tragic.

Anyone can jump into the air; some can jump really high, but ultimately everybody succumbs to gravity and reality wins.

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