During the tumultuous political debate that is drawing to a climax this Friday with the inauguration of Donald trump as the 45 president of the United States it has become apparent that rational thinking, supported by facts, are often dismissed when they become mired in political debate.
Climate Change is the most important, recent, example of this phenomenon. So why do so many normally rational people dismiss climate change when the evidence is supported by the overwhelming scientific community.
Why has the president-elect of the world’s most powerful country simplistically dismissed climate change as “I believe the weather goes up and down” and that “global warming was created by the Chinese” and who appointed Myron Ebell, a notorious climate change skeptic, to the Environmental Protection Agency transition team.
Breaking News: see our latest update on Trump’s attempts to slash environmental programs and the EPA, read: Trump Attacks EPA and Marine Protected Areas
“When it comes to politics, why can’t we all just get along?”
The Huffington Post just asked this question and offers some very interesting neurological research into why this comes about. “As we’ve repeatedly seen in this divisive post-election season, political beliefs are so deeply entrenched in the psyche that people will often defend them even in the face of overwhelming opposition and counter-evidence.”
A recent University of Southern California study (published in Scientific Reports) supports this theory and shows that “challenging someone’s political beliefs activates brain areas that are involved in personal identity” and can elicit an emotional response to a perceived threat. And this in turn causes the person to shut down and refuse to entertain any evidence, no matter how rational, that contradicts an opinion that they hold to be the truth. Indeed, presenting such evidence only reinforces the person’s beliefs.
“The inability to change another person’s mind through evidence and argument, or to have one’s own mind changed in turn, stands out as a problem of great societal importance,” the researchers wrote. “Both human knowledge and human cooperation depend upon such feats of cognitive and emotional flexibility.”
To read more about this fascinating research go to Carolyn Gregoire’s article in the Huffington Post: “Why people shut Down When Their Political Beliefs Are Challenged”