Dan Kahan – The Great Ideological Asymmetry Debate

February 13, 2012

So who’s right, factually, about politics and science? Who speaks truth, and who’s just spinning?

It’s kind of the million dollar question. If we could actually answer it, we’d have turned political debate itself into a… well, a science.

And is such an answer possible? What does the scientific evidence suggest?

In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Chris Mooney brought back a popular guest from last year, Yale’s Dan Kahan, to discuss this very question-one that they’ve been emailing about pretty much continually ever since Kahan appeared on the show.

In the episode, Kahan and Mooney not only review but debate the evidence on whether “motivated” ideological biases are the same on both sides of the political aisle—or alternatively, whether they’re actually “asymmetrical.”

Dan Kahan is the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at the Yale Law School. He’s also the Eli Goldston Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. His research focuses on “cultural cognition”—how our social and political group affiliations affect our views of what’s true in contested areas like global warming and nuclear power—and motivated reasoning. Before then, he served as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall, of the U.S. Supreme Court (1990-91) and to Judge Harry Edwards of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (1989-90).