Misinformed about Trump


Here are Steel City Skeptics, we try our best to focus on science and facts. Unfortunately, this seemingly obvious way to approach life is not universally held. This was made very clear by a recent article on FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s data-rich blog that consistently shines light by using elegant data mining techniques along with information-rich graphics to make accurate predictions about politics, sports, and life.

In a recent FiveThiryEight post, Anne Pluta argues that Donald Trump supporters are misinformed, not uniformed, and the difference is a very scary one.

Donald Trump has a consistently loose relationship with the truth. So much so, in fact, that the fact-checking website PolitiFact rolled his numerous misstatements into one big “lie of the year.” But all the fact-checking in the world hasn’t pushed Trump toward a more evidence-based campaign, and his support has held steady or even increased in some polls. What explains Trump’s ability to seemingly overcome conventional political wisdom?

One way to understand Trump’s longevity is to look more closely at his supporters. Trump’s backers tend to be whiter, slightly older and less educated than the average Republican voter. But perhaps more importantly, his supporters have shown signs of being misinformed. Political science research has shown that the behavior of misinformed citizens is different from those who are uninformed, and this difference may explain Trump’s unusual staying power.

She then goes on to give the most depressing news that

.. the most misinformed citizens tend to be the most confident in their views and are also the strongest partisans. These folks fill the gaps in their knowledge base by using their existing belief systems. Once these inferences are stored into memory, they become “indistinguishable from hard data,” Kuklinski and his colleagues found.

Furthermore, in 2010, political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler found that when misinformed citizens are told that their facts are wrong, they often cling to their opinions even more strongly with what is known as defensive processing, or the “backfire effect.

Nate Silver said that FiveThirtyEight will launching their primary predictions soon.  This year, in particular, we are in need of facts and data, which have been sorely lacking the discussion so far.

 

Posted in Current Events, politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

CFI and PSF Discussion Group: 1/14/2016 at Tan Lac Vien


Where: Tan Lac Vien (2114 Murray Ave (Squirrel Hill), Pittsburgh, PA 15217)

When: 1/14/2016

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/227632144/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Hi Everyone,

This is our monthly discussion group.  I post the discussion topic a few weeks in advance; stay tuned for more information. Please feel free to submit discussion topics to: pittsburghsecularfreethinkers@gmail.com

See you there!

To learn about all the secular groups in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website…and you can follow Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and CFI on Facebook!

*CFI-Pittsburgh strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pgh@centerforinquiry.net to request accommodations.

 

Thursday, January 14 at 7:00 PM

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Conversation with Lucien


Lou and I have had an ongoing discussion for the past eight or nine months about the topic of religious belief. He posed the question: “what is the harm if someone has a religious belief that makes him feel good and isn’t hurting anybody?” His position is that such a scenario is a net positive because it harms no one and is beneficial to the believer.

There was a time in the not too distant past that I held the same opinion and would have agreed with him. But that is no longer the case.

Of course, the easy knee jerk response is that the beliefs have no evidentiary support and are therefore unlikely to be true; and that means that those beliefs are intellectually dishonest. But that’s a pretty pathetic argument for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the arrogance of assuming that one’s intellectual approach is unassailable and always correct.

But the most important reason is this: nobody lives in a vacuum.We all interact with the world and the people around us. And as such, we impact in some way, to a greater or lesser extent, all of our surroundings. So the basic assumption that the believer harms no one or will harm no one is not necessarily a valid assumption.

If our hypothetical believer has children (a likely scenario since active procreation is a major tenet of most religions), he/she will raise them to have the same delusions that he/she does, and to bow to authoritarian dogma – rather than develop independent critical thinking skills and accept an evidence-based reality. When he/she votes, they will be much more likely to vote for candidates who profess to harbor the same delusions that they do. Consider the popularity of Ted Cruz among the fundagelicals in Iowa, even though he has shown himself to be totally inept at actually governing and is despised by nearly everyone who has ever worked with or for him.

Then, of course, there is the matter of the delusions themselves. The very fact that our delusional believer has chosen to believe nonsense over evidence, to believe fairy tales over an evidence-based reality, means that he/she prefers to believe what he/she wants to believe rather than what the evidence shows to be the likely truth. And this propensity ultimately translates into support for false beliefs about all sorts of things that DO affect the entire world, things like anthropomorphic climate change, like human rights for those with alternate sexualities, like human rights for those who are “not like us”. Or even basic things like birth control, which has been proven to be beneficial to societies.

So yes, in the hypothetical scenario that Lou has posed, the humanist position would be to accept that the believer’s delusions are not harmful to me or anyone else. But the reality is that such a hypothetical scenario does not, even can not, exist.

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Obama and Science


In an emotional speech today about the need for greater gun control by President Obama, there was one argument that stood out from the rest:

With more research we could further improve gun safety just as with more research we’ve reduced traffic fatalities enormously over the last 30 years. We do research when cars, food, medicine, even toys harm people so that we make them safer. And you know what, research, science, those are good things. They work.

They do. But think about this. When it comes to an inherently deadly weapon, nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly. Weapons that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, Congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into gun violence, Made it harder to collect data and facts and develop strategies to reduce gun violence. Even after San Bernardino, they refused to make it harder for terror suspects, who can’t get on a plane, to buy semiautomatic weapons. That’s not right.

That can’t be right. So the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now but they can’t hold America hostage.

Yes.  Research, science, data.  We need more.  We need to foster scientific thinking.  As Adam Savage said at the 2012 Reason Rally, facts and beliefs are not be confused.

SavageRR2014

 

Posted in politics, Science, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Monroeville on a Wing but No Prayer


The City Council in Monroeville, PA, needs a civic lesson. We wrote last month on the ACLU complaint about council members starting every meeting with the Lord’s Prayer.

So what did they spend time on at this month’s meeting? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that discussion of prayer dominated the Monroeville Council meeting. Nice to see the various the hundreds of other issues facing the community took a back burner to the issue of whether to obey laws or not. As the P-G reported

The issue of prayer at Monroeville Council meetings took up the majority of its Monday citizens-night meeting.

The discussion stemmed from a complaint filed by resident Josh Allenberg last fall with the American Civil Liberties Union, asking elected officials to refrain from leading any specific prayer. Monroeville council has, for nearly five decades, opened its meetings with the Lord’s Prayer.

Several people spoke, both for and against prayer at meetings. Bruce Shafer, pastor at Grace Life Church in Monroeville, said the goal of prayer at meetings is “to pray for our community and the leaders of our community.” He added that residents should be free to pray openly at meetings.

It makes me wonder if Pastor Bruce also thinks non-religious people should feel free to openly talk during the church services at Grace Life. No doubt, the separation of church and state only works in direction in his mind.

The mayor then chimed in with an incorrect understanding of the current law:

Mayor Greg Erosenko said council has three options on what to do regarding prayer at its council meetings: adopt an ordinance that would allow for a rotation of religious leaders of various faiths to provide an invocation; adopt an ordinance that would allow for a moment of silence prior to meetings; or to not have any prayer or moment of silence.

No. In regard to the Supreme Court ruling Greece v. Galloway, the Wall Street Journal noted that

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the 5-4 ruling, emphasized the importance of inclusion, holding the town to a policy that permits “a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist,” to give the invocation.

The idea of rotating “religious leaders of various faiths to provide an invocation” does not solve the prayer problem. They need to drop the restriction and allow atheists to give invocations, as well. If they do allow all, to speak they must be prepared to hear from citizens competing for FFRF’s ‘Nothing Fails Like Prayer Award’ contest that has produced a number of wonderful, godless invocations.

And, if enough time has not been wasted on this issue, the P-G concludes with:

Council is expected to discuss the ordinance further at its Jan. 12 meeting.

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CFI Social Night: 7PM TODAY at Sharp Edge Bistro


Where: Sharp Edge Bistro (922 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)

When: 7PM TODAY

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/227044632/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to the Center For Inquiry’s monthly social night, held every first Tuesday of the month at the Sharp Edge in the Cultural District downtown.  Come and socialize with like-minded friends.

See you there!

To learn about all the secular groups in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website…and you can follow Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and CFI on Facebook!

*CFI-Pittsburgh strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pgh@centerforinquiry.net to request accomodations.

Pittsburgh, PA 15222 – USA

Tuesday, January 5 at 7:00 PM

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http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/227044632/

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PSF Ladies Meetup: 1/10/2016 at Cafe Phipps


Where: Cafe Phipps (1 Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

When: 1/10/2016

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/227205093/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to the PSF Ladies Meetup at the Phipps Cafe.

See you there!

For more fun, follow us on Facebook!  To learn about more secular groups in Pittsburgh, check out the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website.

*PSF strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pittsburghsecularfreethinkers@gmail.com to request accommodation.

Pittsburgh – USA

Sunday, January 10 at 2:00 PM

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http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/227205093/

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CFI Social Night: 1/5/2016 at Sharp Edge Bistro


Where: Sharp Edge Bistro (922 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)

When: 1/5/2016

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/227044632/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to the Center For Inquiry’s monthly social night, held every first Tuesday of the month at the Sharp Edge in the Cultural District downtown.  Come and socialize with like-minded friends.

See you there!

To learn about all the secular groups in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website…and you can follow Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and CFI on Facebook!

*CFI-Pittsburgh strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pgh@centerforinquiry.net to request accomodations.

Pittsburgh, PA 15222 – USA

Tuesday, January 5 at 7:00 PM

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http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/227044632/

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Brunching Skeptically: 1/3/2016 at The Porch at Schenley


Where: The Porch at Schenley (221 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15260)

When: 1/3/2016

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/226609796/

Come meet some like-minded folks of all ages and have a great brunch at the same time. This month, we are headed back indoors to The Porch at Schenley Plaza in the heart of Oakland.  All ages welcomed. 

Brunching Skeptically is brought to you the 1st Sunday of most months by the Steel City Skeptics, which is part of the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason. For more information on these groups or our other events, go to: http://unitedcor.org/…

Sunday, January 3 at 11:00 AM

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http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/226609796/

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Book Club: The Drunkard’s Walk … How Randomness Rules our Lives. L. Mlodinow: 2PM TODAY at Biddle’s Escape


Where: Biddle’s Escape (401 Biddle Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15221)

When: 2PM TODAY

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/226955189/

Note: we meet on Dec 20th, the 3rd Sunday, not 4th this month (December). 

This book shows us the true nature of chance and reveals psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us. People err in two ways: assuming a situation is more random and unconstrained that it really is; more often we overestimate the amount of control we have over life. Mlodinow gives us fresh insight as to what is really meaningful, and how we can make decisions based on deeper truths.

The Carnegie Library system has 18 copies, and you can obtain an electronic copy for your computer or smart phone. You can buy the book from Amazon for as low at 47¢ plus shipping.

Sunday, December 20 at 2:00 PM

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http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/226955189/

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