GOP Debaters Get Shit Wrong, Don't Care - Rolling Stone
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GOP Debaters Get Shit Wrong, Don’t Care

Candidates are increasingly unconcerned about being factually wrong on live television.

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The candidates at the GOP Presidential Debate in Orlando, Florida.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Enjoyed this news story this morning about a new study by Amitai Shenhav of Harvard University, seeking to determine what characteristics are likely to predetermine belief in a Supreme Being. Shenhav concluded that people who are more “intuitive” are more likely to believe in God. An example:

Shenhav and his colleagues investigated that question in a series of studies. In the first, 882 American adults answered online surveys about their belief in God. Next, the participants took a three-question math test with questions such as, “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”

The intuitive answer to that question is 10 cents, since most people’s first impulse is to knock $1 off the total. But people who use “reflective” reasoning to question their first impulse are more likely to get the correct answer: 5 cents.

I noted with amusement that they took great care to pitch these results a certain way. After all, they could have headlined the news reports like this:


Or maybe:


I keep waiting for some scientist to take that plunge there with a study like this, but still nobody will. Instead, the Harvard team went right to the edge and pulled back:

“It’s not that one way is better than the other,” study researcher David Rand of Harvard said in a statement. “Intuitions are important and reflection is important, and you want some balance of the two. Where you are on that spectrum affects how you come out in terms of belief in God.”

Right, of course. Anyway, I’m procrastinating … writing a Perry feature and clicked on to this God story while reviewing the results of last night’s highly entertaining getting-shit-wrongfest in the Republican debate. It’s hard not to notice a new trend in the Republican race this year, which is that candidates are increasingly unconcerned about being factually wrong on live television.

I’m not so sure the two stories aren’t connected. There’s an awful lot of “intuitive” politics on the Republican side this year, where insistence upon objective consistency is somehow made to feel atheist and unreasonable. It’s not so much what Rick Perry actually said about Social Security in the past that matters: what’s more important is what you think it is, at first glance …


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