Hey folks–sorry, but please change your bookmarks again. “The Intersection” is now at this link.
Please note that we are working on the comments function so that you do not have to use Facebook to log in. See you over there!
New blog URL is here.
I’ve written an introductory post, telling readers what to expect, here.
And I’ve done a first real post over there, entitled “Could Personality Differences Help Explain the Reality Gap on Climate Change?” I have never seen anyone take a crack at it from this angle before, so response should be interesting.
Those of you who have bookmarked will want to redirect to http://www.scienceprogress.org/intersection
Commenting over there is by Facebook, btw, so that will also be something to get used to.
What can I say: I’m a liberal. I have an unfortunate and ill-advised tendency to data dump.
So…for the past year, I’ve been working on a book that I’ve remained mum about, though you have definitely seen me blogging and doing articles on related themes (and publishing guest posts on them)–because one can hardly help oneself. And those of you that enjoyed my first book, The Republican War on Science, will be pretty interested, I think, in the new one. Especially as the campaign heats up.
Now, the deadline is approaching, even as my travel threatens to pick up again–and I find that I could use some research assistance.
In particular, I’m looking for someone willing to help me collect a set of easily available data together into a “study” format where these data can be analyzed—nothing very painful or intensive, but still a little laborious. (But oh, what we shall find! Uh, I think.)
Preferably, this will be someone with statistics training or a social science background. But it doesn’t have to be. Just someone organized would do.
Second, and also kind of important: The blog known as “The Intersection” has been through many changes and iterations over its nearly 10 year existence. And now it is time for another.
We’ve been showing sustained traffic highs here over the past several months, with the help of some great guest bloggers (Jon, Jamie, and occasional others). But Discover & I are nonetheless parting ways.
“The Intersection” is instead relocating to become the central blog of Science Progress, the science policy website of the Center for American Progress.
My intention is certainly to continue to have lots of guest bloggers over there, in addition to myself. So contact me if you want to get involved (links above).
The move will take effect, if all goes swimmingly, on September 12/13. Old posts will remain here, and a permanent redirect update post will be put up. There is no URL yet for the new blog, so stand by on that.
Okay, that’s a lot….but I hope you will all continue to tune in for the new book and new blog!
Dear Readers: We’ve been at a record high level of sustained traffic here over the past five months, thanks to the contributions of Jon and Jamie and, I think, our increasing political topicality. I’m now going to take the long weekend off to work on the new book project, but when I return, I’ll have an announcement about another new development for the Intersection.
I hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend….
I’ve been on the road so I’m a day late in notifying folks about my latest hosted episode of the show:
In less than two weeks, the ten year anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil—9/11—will be upon us.
In the past decade, there has been much debate and discussion about the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism. There has also been considerable scientific study of the matter.
Fortunately, Point of Inquiry recently caught up with the anthropologist Scott Atran, a world leader in this research. Atran has met with terrorists face to face. He has interviewed mujahedin, met with Hamas, talked to the plotters of the Bali bombing-and sometimes found his life at risk by doing so.
There’s probably nobody better if you want to talk about terrorism, what motivates it, and how these extremes fit within the broad tapestry of human nature.
Scott Atran is a research director in anthropology at the French National Center for Scientific Research, and holds a variety of appointments at other academic institutions. He’s also the author of several books including In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion and Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists. He has published frequent op-eds in the New York Times and his research has been published in Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and other leading publications.
You can listen to the show here. Note: Some listeners over there are already wrongly calling Atran a “postmodernist,” and he has responded himself in the comments.
We’re just wrapping up another installment of “Science: Becoming the Messenger,” this time in the beautiful Colvard Student Union at Mississippi State. The University ran this picture of one of my live improv interviews with a scientist–who did a very good job in response to some very crazy questions. Image caption below:
COMMUNICATING SCIENCE — MSU is hosting the National Science Foundation, which presented the workshop “Science: Becoming the Messenger” in the Colvard Student Union Monday. Facilitators Dan Agan, left, and Chris Mooney teach participants how to communicate complicated topics like research projects in a way that engages their audience. MSU postdoctoral associate Carrlet Stokes, right, had the chance to share her message about the importance of sweet potato research during a communication exercise on stage. The workshop continues today with a more intensive training session for invited researchers.
OOPS: I am recording today for a show over the weekend. My bad. Check local listings here.
I’ll be on the air today around 1 ET–check local listings–with Mike Papantonio. I’ll be discussing this recent DeSmog piece, which got a lot of pickup, about right wing attacks on climate science teaching at the local level.
I hope you’ll tune in.
Earlier this year, Hugo Mercier and his colleague Dan Sperber (of the Jean Nicod Institute in France) came out with one of the more intriguing evolutionary psychology ideas in quite some time. They argued, in a paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, that the human capacity for reasoning evolved not so much to get at truth, as to facilitate argumentation:
Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given the exceptional dependence of humans on communication and their vulnerability to misinformation. A wide range of evidence in the psychology of reasoning and decision making can be reinterpreted and better
explained in the light of this hypothesis. Poor performance in standard reasoning tasks is explained by the lack of argumentative context. When the same problems are placed in a proper argumentative setting, people turn out to be skilled arguers. Skilled arguers, however, are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views. This explains the notorious conﬁrmation bias. This bias is apparent not only when people are actually arguing, but also when they are reasoning proactively from the perspective of having to defend their opinions. Reasoning so motivated can distort evaluations and attitudes and allow erroneous beliefs to persist. Proactively used reasoning also favors decisions that are easy to justify but not necessarily better. In all these instances traditionally described as failures or ﬂaws, reasoning does exactly what can be expected of an argumentative device: Look for arguments that support a given conclusion, and, ceteris paribus, favor conclusions for which arguments can be found.
Mercier blogs for Psychology Today and is a postdoc at U. Penn. I’ll be interviewing him at 11 for a show that airs Monday. If you have any thoughts, or anything you’d like to hear asked, post them here.
The latest show is now up and you can listen here. Here is the write-up:
When it comes to the U.S. political right, it often appears that the opposition to science-and reason in general-is everywhere. From climate change denial to anti-evolutionism; from debt ceiling denial to, that’s right, incandescent light bulb availability denial; conservatives today have plenty to answer for.
Fortunately, some conservatives know it. And given how much he has blasted the “Republican War on Science” in the past, on this show Chris Mooney wanted to hear their take.
So he invited on David Frum. Frum is the editor of the group blog Frum Forum, a former speechwriter for the George W. Bush White House, and a widely published author, most recently of Comeback: Conservatism that Can Win Again. In recent years, Frum has become a leading critic of today’s GOP and its allegiance with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
Joining Frum is Kenneth Silber, a frequent contributor to Frum Forum. Silber is a science writer based in New Jersey who contributes to Research Magazine, Scientific American, and other outlets. He calls himself a “center-right dissenter, a deviationist apostle of the Frumian Heresy” and these days, a RINO (Republican in Name Only).
Once again, you can listen here.