Category Archives: Chris Mooney

Hot Air

Them’s The Rules

Pay close attention, Pencillistas. I will not tolerate ad hominem attacks, name-calling, gratuitous slurs, the ramping up of emotionalism, and other violations of my personal code of civility in the comments section of this communications colossus.

Yesterday some pejoratives were thrown around. Stop it. Period.

Peace Cop

The Seekers

In one of P.G. Wodehouse’s stories, Bertie Wooster’s young cousins, Claude and Eustace, hope to join a ridiculously frivolous college fraternity called The Seekers. In order to gain entrance to the group the two must bring in souvenirs from a day trip to London. They begin by trying to steal a truck but the truck driver puts up a good fight and so they look elsewhere for their tickets to the club. As the day goes on, they shoplift a huge fish from a market, they round up a gang of stray cats, and they cop a top hat off the head of a prominent psychiatrist whose car their taxi is stuck next to in a traffic jam.

Wodehouse

Wodehouse

Claude and Eustace then park their swag in Bertie’s apartment while he is out. Lo and behold, Bertie that afternoon will be entertaining that very psychiatrist for lunch. It turns out the psychiatrist also has twin neurotic distastes for fish and cats. Naturally, he concludes that Bertie is insane.

It’s all a lot of goofiness, which was the hallmark of Wodehouse’s work. None of Wodehouse’s fictional conceits, though, was as goofy as the true story of another group, also known as The Seekers, in 1954.

The Seekers were an apocalyptic cult that was certain the Earth was going to end on the winter solstice that year. They’d been so informed, they claimed, by messages from extraterrestrials who communicated telepathically with a woman named Dorothy Martin. Dorothy would then record said communications through a process called “automatic writing,” which can best be described as speaking in tongues with the aid of pen and paper.

Scads of folks believed Dorothy’s dire warnings about the endtimes. Many sold all their possessions, quit their jobs, and prepared for the big finale. Eventually, Martin informed The Seekers that a flying saucer would rescue those who believed in her warnings, whisking them away from the globe as it broke apart.

The Seekers

The Smart Ones

Alert Pencillistas will note that the end never came on December 21, 1954. When The Seekers were asked about the failure of Martin’s prediction, they “reasoned” that their own belief in the apocalypse, as well as their trumpeting of its coming to the rest of the benighted world, had warded it off. Their courage and sensitivity, they believed, had saved the world.

Chris Mooney recounts this story in a piece in Mother Jones on the fact that many of us don’t believe, well, facts. Entitled, “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science,” Mooney’s piece tries to explain why climate change deniers, 9/11 truthers, Birthers, and all the rest seem so plentiful in our holy land these days.

Honest to gosh, there are real reasons for people being unreasonable. Even when confronted with the incontrovertible fact that their belief was nonsense, The Seekers continued to believe in it. How can that be? Scientists call this particular puzzle “motivated reasoning.” It’s in all of us, this urge to cherry-pick facts to support something we desperately want to believe even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Take me, for instance. When Paula Jones back in 1994 accused Bill Clinton of sending for her to come up to his hotel room and then he proceeded to pull out Little Bill several years before, I was certain it was a lie of monumental proportions. Clinton was my guy; I’d voted for him. I wanted to believe he’d never in a million years do such a thing. I wanted to believe the Republicans had made up the story out of whole cloth because, well, they’re bad guys. That became my motivated reasoning.

I was wrong. Clinton, it turned out, was a cock monkey. Paula Jones surely was one of many who’d had Wee Willie waggled in front of her.

Jones

I like to pride myself on my capabilities of reason and analytic thought. But I’m merely human. Mooney posits that motivated reasoning is all too human. Read the piece and perhaps you’ll gain an understanding of folks who can’t seem to see the story for the facts.

Wither The Dems

Book maven and political observer RE Paris reacted to my post about Evan Bayh possibly running for governor — and more — yesterday. Bayh, in her view, is as bitter a spoonful of cough syrup as Bill Clinton was. She writes:

It’s pitiful when the party you have voted with all your life gives you no reason to vote for them [anymore] — and your vote is always… They’re better than the other creeps.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Not Your Granny’s Party

 

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“[Paul] Ryan should stop being so lovable. People who intend to hurt other people should wipe the smiles off their faces.” — Maureen Dowd

FELINE FIGURES

I came across this while wasting time on I Love Charts:

Sad, no?

Scroll down to Big Mike’s Playtime for more links to things you can do while you’re supposed to be doing something else.

TRYING TO GET A FOOT IN THE DOOR

How weird are the interwebs?

Very.

Someone submitted a comment for my approval today. It read: “The clarity in your post is simply nice and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject.” (All sic.)

So far so good, right? The commenter seems to be a fine, perceptive, and noble soul. I like being called an expert on any subject.

The Acknowledged Expert

The comment continues: “Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the gratifying work.”

Clearly the commenter is a tad iffy about certain niceties of the English language but that’s alright, he or she possesses admirable taste.

So I tried to find out who this person is. Turns out he or she is from Italy, which explains the Chico Marx patois.

Oh, Those Italians

Then I noticed the commenter’s name. Feet Lovers.

Feet Lovers?

Yup, Feet Lovers runs a website called Foot Worship Fun. Its introduction reads, “There is nothing more beautiful, in a taboo sort of way, than a womans beautiful feet. [Again, all sic.] Her painted toes, the curves, her soft soles and firm heels.”

Firm heels?

The home page has tabs for pages entitled, among others, Footsie Babes, Feet in Nylons, and Beautiful Soles.

Banned In Several Countries

I’m not going to link to the site because it’s hardcore porn. You’re on your own, curiosity seekers.

So great, a foot fetishist thinks I’m a terrific blogger. Or, more likely, the whole thing is just a scam to smuggle malware onto The Electron Pencil World Headquarters mainframe.

This blogging is a fascinating business.

A PhD IN IGNORANCE

Author Chris Mooney in Skeptical Inquirer magazine looks at the American turn away from science in recent years.

More specifically, the Republican turn away from science.

Republicans, after all, are leading the march.

To wit: Tennessee this year passed a law allowing public school teachers to prattle in class about “alternative” theories to human evolution and climate change. The law was introduced by a conservative Republican state senator and passed by a veto-proof Republican statehouse majority.

Jesus Rides A Dinosaur

Mooney says a recent study of Americans found that the more highly educated conservatives are, the more they’re likely to declare themselves mistrustful of science and its practitioners. How’s that for a stumper?

When liberals paint their broad brush stroke picture of conservative Republicans who hew to the Bible rather than the textbook, they like to conjure the image of a backwoods yokel with several teeth in his head.

The Tennessee law, after all, was introduced by a legislator whose name is Bo.

So, now liberals (including me, natch) have to rethink their stereotype. Okay, our stereotype. In fact, Tennessee State Senator Bo Watson graduated magna cum laude in biology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Bo Watson, Man Of Letters

Mooney calls it “the smart idiot effect.” Educated conservatives who eschew science, Mooney posits, have a commensurate “higher level of political knowledge and engagement.”

So?

Mooney cites another study that indicates the Right over the last 40 or so years has become top-heavy with “‘authoritarians’ — a generally conservative personality type characterized by cognitive rigidity, viewing the world in black-and-white terms, and holding fixed beliefs, often fundamentalist Christian ones….”

And because the scientific method in its purest form is anti-authoritarian, it only made sense that the New Right would see science as the enemy.

“[N]aturally, this led to decreased trust in scientists and their institutions, especially among the most politically attuned conservatives…,” Mooney writes.

The Culture Warriors on the Right, Mooney explains, began creating alternative expert institutions to wage battle against the liberalism of colleges, universities and other scientific institutions. They set up think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute to churn out a new anti-academic, anti-liberal body of information (and misinformation).

People began to become expert, in other words, in being non-expert.

Sometimes this game we call democracy gets all too confusing.

THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKIN’

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

I Love Charts

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present & CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Mental Floss: 10 Photos Of Celebrities Jumping

The UniverseA Facebook community of astrophysics and astronomy geeks.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012

Monroe County Public LibraryIt’s Your Money series: Talk to an Expert, confidential half-hour sessions; 4:30-6:30pm

◗ IU AuditoriumCulturefest, learn about IU history and campus cultural diversity, music, dance, food, art, etc.; 4:30-7:30pm

Nick’s English HutFundraiser, 10% of food sales plus waitperson’s tips go to Stepping Stones; 5-8pm

Bear’s PlaceB-Town Bearcats; 5:30pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Shelf Life; 6-8:30pm

◗ IU CinemaFilm: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; 7pm

◗ IU Art MuseumCulturefest after-party; 6pm

◗ IU Wells-Metz TheatreDrama, “Solana”; 7:30pm

Serendipity Martini BarTeam trivia; 8:30pm

The BluebirdUncle Kracker; 9pm

Max’s PlaceWake the Dead; 9pm

The BishopKink Ador, The Vorticists, Brown Bear Coalition; 9:30pm

ONGOING:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th

  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th

  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th

  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th

  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st

  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012

  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st

  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Coming — Media Life; August 24th through September 15th

  • Coming — Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture; August 24th through September 15th

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

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