I have dinner with a group of men every Wednesday night - it's our own little white, middle-aged, middle-class, informal man club. There are four of us in the core - the never-miss-a-week group - but sometimes there are as many as seven or eight. Guys rotate in and rotate out.

We have a man meal (meat, taters), complain about our jobs, brag about our kids, gripe about our wives, obsess over the Arkansas Razorbacks, and talk about sports, religion and politics. It's a pleasant thing, something I look forward to each week.

I'm the only admitted liberal in the group. The rest of the group self-identifies as Republican and Conservative.

They are, for the most part, low-to-middle information voters. They don't ignore politics, but they don't pay that close attention either.

But they can be reasoned with. When presented with facts and honest information, they will at the very least, thoughtful consider it and show a willingness to change their position.

And honestly, when we get into it and they really open up, they reveal a liberal bent on most social issues, express doubt and dismay about the GOP economic policies (and results) of the Bush administration, and admit that the right wing foreign policy of the Bush administration was an unmitigated disaster.

They are basically Reagan Democrats - they have been conditioned to self-identify as Conservative Republicans, even though they hold views that are mainstream Liberal. I believe this is due to the GOPs many years of success in controlling the narrative, winning the talking-point battles and making 'liberal' a dirty word over the past thirty years or so - and perhaps most importantly - they wish their taxes were lower.

At any rate, this holds true for everyone in the group except for David. David is a true believer. Full, across-the-board, Movement Conservative. A true believer. A wingnut.

David, when confronted by facts that don't comport with what he believes, will dismiss them with a "Well, that's just your worldview".

It's a maddening response. I always have a strongly negative and visceral reaction to the word, without really knowing why, aside from the fact that it's such a dismissive way to end a discussion/debate.

So, like the good little reality-based moonbat that I am, I did some research.

David is also fond of forwarding me the wingnut email of the day. I seldom respond to them, but yesterday I responded with this.


I've been doing some reading about the 'worldview' concept you are so fond of. 

Specifically, I'm interested in why it bugs me so much because as you know, when something bugs me, by definition, I'm the one with the problem. So I started reading.

Starting broadly, a Worldview is:

1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or group.
Ok, nothing offensive or controversial about that.

Digging a little deeper, we find:

A worldview is a theory of the world, used for living in the world.

A world view is a mental model of reality — a framework of ideas & attitudes about the world, ourselves, and life, a comprehensive system of beliefs — with answers for a wide range of questions: What are humans, why we are here, and what is our purpose in life?  What are your goals for life? 

When you make decisions about using time what are your values and priorities? What can we know, and how and with how much certainty?

Again, that is an acceptable definition of the word.

Ahhh, here we go, this is getting into the meat of it now:  

People tend to adopt a worldview early in life, and often do not change it radically in adulthood. They often reject new understandings and discoveries in the fields of religion, culture, science, etc. out of hand because they are incompatible with their personal worldview.

As James Olthuis writes, A person's worldview is often "largely unquestioned."

To author James Sire, a worldview consists of: "...a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of our world."

If one lacks understanding of their own worldview and/or is not aware of the diversity of worldviews within the culture, one is often mystified by the beliefs of others. This can lead to demonization of others, as is often seen between pro-choice and pro-life supporters. It can also lead to people having difficulty in converting others to their point of view.

OK, that is starting to get into the issue about the how and why the word bugs me so much. A worldview can contain presuppositions that are objectively false, applied subconsciously and inconsistently.

And finally, we get to the money shot:

According to Michael Lind, "a worldview is a more or less coherent understanding of the nature of reality, which permits its holders to interpret new information in light of their preconceptions.

Clashes among worldviews cannot be ended by a simple appeal to facts.

Even if rival sides agree on the facts, people may disagree on conclusions because of their different premises."

This is why politicians often seem to talk past one another, or ascribe different meanings to the same events. Tribal or national wars are often the result of incompatible worldviews.

So here is my problem with ascribing everything to a 'worldview' and more specifically, when you use it to end a debate:

It is patronizing and dismissive.

It is often an open acknowledgement that facts don't matter. 

You are saying "My mind is closed to the objective world". 

You are saying "My thoughts and feelings override objective reality".

You and I both know how dangerous that is. It doesn't matter what I believe or what I feel, it matters what I do - my actions matter. Yes, thoughts and feelings and beliefs are important to how we make decisions, but it is how we act on those thoughts, feelings and beliefs that affects others.

So not only is it sloppy, lazy thinking, it is a dangerous concept to embrace as an explanation for others thoughts, feelings and beliefs, and it invites all manner of actions that are contrary to desired outcomes.

For example, like we discussed the other night, your belief that Planned Parenthood should be defunded because your 'worldview' states that abortion should be eliminated, will actually result in more abortions. That is an fact that your worldview cannot accept. So rather than modify your worldview, you persist in your beliefs even though the outcome will be the opposite of your desire.

That's fucked up.

When we allow our worldview to rule our thoughts, feelings and beliefs without a thorough, open-minded examination of the facts, the actions we take as a result can actually invite an adverse outcome than the one we desire and expect.

Bobby was 100% correct when he said "Once we start to lean one way or the other, we fall into the echo chamber that reinforces our beliefs".

It is called Confirmation Bias:

Confirmation bias is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. 

The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. 

For example, in reading about gun control, people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing attitudes. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).

Essentially, we tend to disregard the facts of objective reality in favor of an emotional appeal that confirms what we already feel to be true.

That's not saying that we only listen to information that we already agree with - although that is an element to it - but that we dismiss factual information that doesn't agree with what we believe.

Now, none of this is to say that the concept of a worldview is invalidated. It is perfectly true that ones worldview shapes how they react to reality. And God knows there are a lot of sheeple out there who don't think, don't care to think and some who are even hostile toward thinking. But when one's worldview is based on thoughts and feelings, rather than facts and objective reality, we are on dangerous ground because outcomes often won't match reality.

So in conclusion, the next time you dismiss what I'm saying with that patronizing "that's your worldview", I'm going to pull my tiny penis out and pee on you.

Originally posted to SmoovP on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:51 AM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging and Community Spotlight.

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