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[The fourth installment in a series on confirmation bias. Back to druthers 3]

She does know about international relations because she is right up there in Alaska right next door to Russia.
Fox and Friends host STEVE DOOCY

She’s the first journalist ever to be nominated, I think, for the president or vice president, and she was a sportscaster on local television. So she has a lot of interesting background. And she has a lot of experience. Remember that, when people worry about how inexperienced she is, for two years she’s been in charge of the Alaska National Guard.
— Former Speaker of the House NEWT GINGRICH (Republican)

sp433092I tried. Oh lawdy, how I tried. I’ve been pacing a hole in my office carpet all weekend, trying to figure out how to not blog about Sarah Palin. Her selection as John McCain’s running mate has everything to do with politics and little to do with the supposed reasons this blog exists, I told myself. If you don’t maintain focus in a blog, the terrorists win.

But I can’t not blog about this. I just can’t.

Then I began to realize how many threads in her story intersect with my topics. Her daughter’s pregnancy symbolizes the poor record of (religiously-fueled) abstinence-only sex education. She favors equal time for creationism in schools. She thinks the Pledge of Allegiance should retain the phrase “under God” because — if you haven’t heard this one, please stop drinking your coffee — “it was good enough for the Founding Fathers.”

So yes, there’s a bit of traction here for me.

But I’ll start with the meta-issue of confirmation bias, my favorite human fallacy, which has been on shameless and painful display by GOP commentators since her candidacy was announced. The Republican Party is breathtakingly adept at manipulating this particular bias to win elections, while the Dems are generally too painfully self-aware to even try it — at least not on the operatic level of doublespeak we’re seeing this week.

Take the Palin relevations of just 96 hours in the spotlight (former pot smoker, experience near nil, not smarter than a fifth grader in world knowledge, pregnant teen daughter, subject of corruption probe). Put them on a Democrat and they’d be evidence of moral and political outrage. On a Republican, they are said (by Republicans) to denote heroism (“They didn’t abort the baby!”), sinlessness (“She hasn’t been corrupted by Washington!”) and the common touch (“I’d love to have a beer/shoot a deer with her!”). Haven’t yet seen the corruption probe spun into gold, but the week is young.

Just as the manufactured link between 9/11 and Iraq stands as a lasting example of the fallacy of the undistributed middle, so the Palin candidacy — or more precisely, its defense — can give us a lasting benchmark for confirmation bias. There has never in memory been a clearer, more public playing out of the fallacy. And as long as the Palin candidacy continues to dip so very many toes into my topical pool, I’ll blog away.

[On to druthers 5]
__________________
COMING UP


This week: Site-level redesign to prepare for launch of Raising Freethinkers
Sept 20: Parenting Beyond Belief seminar, Cincinnati
Sept 21: Presentation at CFI Indianapolis
Sept 27: PBB seminar, Iowa City
Sept 28: PBB seminar, Des Moines

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.