Why does that really bright friend of yours deny climate change science?

Check out this Op Ed piece in today’s NY Times by two cognitive researchers: “Why Do
People Fall for Fake News?”

The authors’ conclusion is not surprising: We need to devote resources not only to
propagating accurate information but to encouraging critical thinking as well.

But it was a common-sense observation in the piece that caught my attention: Those who
blame political gullibility on rationalization (as opposed to intellectual laziness) have an explanation
for why that really bright friend of mine questions climate change science. Regarding politically
charged issues, the argument goes, folks with superior intellectual abilities use them not to analyze the issue but to persuade themselves of what they want to be true. Or as the authors (ironically) dumbed it down for us: “The smarter you are, the better you are at rationalizing.” Hmmm.

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