Category Archives: Science

Strange Paths Part Deux

In my last entry,  I discussed my observational hypothesis about how the human mind can reject objective reality in favor of a false view of the universe when the truth threatens the investment an individual has placed in an incorrect worldview.  And how the rejection of each new objective fact actually reinforces the false worldview because the investment becomes greater.   I didn’t realize that researchers at the University of Michigan had been working on the exact same hypothesis.  They just released a report with their findings.  Take a look at this quote from a Boston Globe article:

The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information.

Here’s a link to the full report from Brenden Nyhan and his research team.  It may load slowly, because it’s a PDF.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Fun Stuff, Idiocracy, Science

2010 Census Guide

Today I received a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau reminding me that the 2010 Census would be mailed to me next week and requesting that I return it as soon as possible.  The Census is a civic duty and is required by our Constitution.  Every American citizen should willingly fill out and return the form.  The letter stresses that “Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share” of government funds.

Accuracy is very important, but is often quite difficult.  Knowing this, I humbly offer this guide on the tricky questions #8 and #9 on the form.  The other questions on this short 10 question form are very straight-forward and should not cause any confusion.

Let’s examine question #8 :

Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?

The confusion about question #8 stems from the perception that the Census is concerned about your ancestry.  This is not the case.  The Census wants to know if you are unable to speak English.

As the description suggests, this question applies to first generation immigrants.  If you were born in a foreign country that’s primary language is Spanish (or another Hispanic language), you answer should be “Yes” and the name of the country.  If you were born in the United States, then your answer should be “No.

On to question #9:

What is Person 1’s race?

Question #9 is a mess.  The Census offers a mishmash of colors, nationalities, and even a U.S. State as possible answers.  Choosing an accurate answer is problematic to say the least.  Given the suggestions, it seems obvious that the Census Bureau doesn’t have a clear definition of “Race.”  Luckily, I remember my biology classes, so I can assist.  A race is a species that is potentially capable of interbreeding.  For example, a Poodle and a St. Bernard are capable of interbreeding and producing offspring.  Even though both animals look very different physically, they both belong to the race of “Dog.”

Now that we’ve established that, the most accurate answer becomes clear.  Choose the option “Other” and write in “Human.”

I hope my guide proves useful to you.  Thank you for reading it.

If you have any questions, please add a comment and I’ll do my best to find the answer.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Individual Liberty, Politics, Science

We Need More Fracking Power!

And we’ve found a way to get it!  Shale gas, once too difficult and expensive to extract, is now accessible through a process called hydro-fracturing or “Fracking.” According to Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, the natural gas reserves have risen to the equivalent of 1.2 trillion barrels of crude oil, or 60 years of the world’s energy requirements… and there’s a lot more to come.  Best of all, the majority of the gas shale is in North America.  We may have just dodged the next energy crisis bullet.

Artists rendition of the gas shale fracking process.

Artist's rendition of the gas shale fracking process.

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Filed under Energy, Science