Monday, October 2, 2017

Professor baffled by rational voters

Jerry Coyne is a popular leftist-atheist-evolutionist blogger. His views are fairly typical for a retired professor in that category, and maybe even more sensible that most with criticisms of the Regressive Left and with evolution arguments that are firmly grounded in science. But he is completely baffled about votes for Donald Trump:
I doubt there’s anyone on this website who voted for Trump last November—or, if they did, they’re keeping it quiet.  And most of us, including me, think that those who did vote for The Donald were irrational. My take was that these people, blinded by their bigotry and nativism, simply voted against their own interests, thereby shooting themselves in the foot. In other words, their actions were irrational.

But Keith Stanovich, a professor emeritus of applied psychology and human development at the University of Toronto, disagrees. He says that there’s no obvious reason why Trump voters were irrational, and he’s an expert on rationality and cognitive science. (His last book, The Rationality Quotient, written with Richard West and Maggie Toplkak is an analysis of cognitive thinking and of how to construe “rationality”).  In a new article in Quillette, “Were Trump voters irrational?“, Stanovich, using several ways to conceive of “rationality”, says “no.”
He goes on to explain some arguments for Trump voters being rational.

This is bewildering. Coyne is obviously a smart guy. Trump's campaign took off over 2 years ago. His speeches make it very clear where he stands. Since he had no endorsements, he won by persuading 60 million voters of his message.

I may have to revise some of my opinions about the rationality of scientists. I have always thought that if a man is smart enuf to understand some advance scientific specialty, they he is also smart enuf to understand more trivial matters. But how can I explain academic misunderstandings of Pres. Trump?

Coyne does not believe in free will. I have criticized him for that, such as in Aug 2016, Sept 2016, and July 2017. Given that, I am not sure why he thinks any voters are rational. To him, the election outcome is predetermined, and he has no ability to influence it, or even to decide his own vote. He rejects the notion that humans have moral responsibility for their actions. He complains about funding for Christian free will beliefs.

And somehow Coyne is the rational one, and 60 million Trump voters are not.

Meanwhile, Scott Aaronson tries to show off his rationality about IQ tests:
I know all the studies that show that IQ is highly heritable, that it’s predictive of all sorts of life outcomes, etc. etc. I’m also aware of the practical benefits of IQ research, many of which put anti-IQ leftists into an uncomfortable position: for example, the world might never have understood the risks of lead poisoning without studies showing how they depressed IQ. And as for the thousands of writers who dismiss the concept of IQ in favor of grit, multiple intelligences, emotional intelligence, or whatever else is the flavor of the week … well, I can fully agree about the importance of the latter qualities, but cannot go along with many of those writers’ barely-concealed impulse to lower the social status of STEM nerds even further, or to enforce a world where the things nerds are good at don’t matter. ...

On the other hand … I was given one official IQ test, when I was four years old, and my score was about 106. The tester earnestly explained to my parents that, while I scored off the chart on some subtests, I completely bombed others, and averaging yielded 106.
As an example of what he got wrong, he said that he might not call for help if his neighbor's house was burning down!

Sometimes, I am not sure if he is joking or not. A smart 4yo kid would understand that a house fire is dangerous. It seems plausible to me that Aaronson showed high mental skills in some areas at age 4, but not in other areas.

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