Study: Politics Make Brain Not Work Good

September 17, 2013 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 561

Yeah, okay, so this is a low blow...

His conclusion, in Mooney’s words: partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [People] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”

– From Marty Kaplan’s article at Salon.

A new study out of Yale Law shows not only that people cling to political beliefs even harder when confronted with evidence to the contrary, as prior studies have indicated, but also that such clinging harms the brain’s ability to perform basic reasoning, like simple math problems.

This is not a “nyea-nyea, everyone who disagrees with me has brain damage” post. It’s me sharing real concern for my own brain, and reinforcing my belief [oh no!] that we all must keep open minds and go where the evidence leads us–not an easy task for humans in general, but especially Americans.

Continue Reading

Do you have a minute to talk about idiocy? (The ACLU, WBC, and gay rights)

March 14, 2013 ACLU, In The News, Philly / Pennsylvania Comments (1) 349

ACLU LGBT Rights

Call me partial, but articles like this get my blood boiling. You can read the whole thing at that link, but here’s a summary: John Featherman, writing for Philly.com, doesn’t believe the ACLU should promote themselves as defenders of gay rights, because the ACLU defended the free speech rights of Westboro Baptist Church in court.

Here’s a sample:

“[ACLU-PA Legal Director Witold] Walczak started out by telling me, “The ACLU defends everyone’s rights and strongly believes that no one is free unless everyone is free. If government has the power to squelch Phelps it has the power to censor other unpopular groups, with the LGBT community being an unfortunate and frequent target.” Walczak later added, “ Just as the ACLU’s defense of abortion protesters doesn’t undermine our commitment to a woman’s reproductive freedom and representing the KKK doesn’t compromise our dedication to racial justice, defending Phelps’ free-speech rights is consistent with our LGBT-rights work.”

I don’t know. I just don’t see it. Maybe I’m just not sophisticated or hip enough to see how you can represent the interests of opposing parties at the same time. To me, a former candidate for political office, that’s like taking money from a donor and then turning around and giving it to their worst enemy. In my world, you just don’t do that.”

So, first of all… WBC is the LGBT community’s worst enemy? Really? Not the politicians who want to prevent us from marrying the people we love, and put us in jail for having sex? Not the religious leaders who incite violence against us, and push foreign nations to legalize the execution of gays? Not the fake psychologists who claim electroshock treatments and solitary confinement can turn gay children straight?

No, those aren’t our worst enemies. People who say nasty things about us. They’re our worst enemies. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Mondegreens and Eggcorns

February 14, 2008 Pop Culture, Writing Comments (0) 446

Today I came across the Wikipedia entry for “eggcorn,” a recently-coined linguistic term that describes one of my ultimate pet peaves. I know I should be forgiving, but to my mind few things make a person seem stupid than the use of a term they have mis-heard or misunderstood, an “eggcorn.”

A few examples:
“For all intensive purposes”
“Once and a while”
“The spurt of the moment”
…and, of course, the eponymous “eggcorn.”

My own pet peaves aside, what was really interesting to me was the list of descriptive names for other linguistic misuses. An eggcorn, you see, is defined as a personal (as opposed to culturally shared) misuse that results when the person misunderstands the term in question through similarity. “Acorn” in many dialects sounds identical to “eggcorn,” and hence the error – which usually only shows up in written form. Continue Reading

Continue Reading