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Javier E

Opinion | Is There Such a Thing as an Authoritarian Voter? - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Jonathan Weiler, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has spent much of his career studying the appeal of authoritarian figures: politicians who preach xenophobia, beat up on the press and place themselves above the law while extolling “law and order” for everyone else.
  • He is one of many scholars who believe that deep-seated psychological traits help explain voters’ attraction to such leaders. “These days,” he told me, “audiences are more receptive to the idea” than they used to be.
  • “In 2018, the sense of fear and panic — the disorientation about how people who are not like us could see the world the way they do — it’s so elemental,” Mr. Weiler said. “People understand how deeply divided we are, and they are looking for explanations that match the depth of that division.”
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  • a glance at the Christian group Focus on the Family’s “biblical principles for spanking” reminds us that your approach to child rearing is not pre-political; it is shorthand for your stance in the culture wars.
  • what, exactly, is an “authoritarian” personality? How do you measure it?
  • for more than half a century — social scientists have tried to figure out why some seemingly mild-mannered people gravitate toward a strongman
  • the philosopher (and German refugee) Theodor Adorno collaborated with social scientists at the University of California at Berkeley to investigate why ordinary people supported fascist, anti-Semitic ideology during the war. They used a questionnaire called the F-scale (F is for fascism) and follow-up interviews to analyze the “total personality” of the “potentially antidemocratic individual.”
  • The resulting 1,000-page tome, “The Authoritarian Personality,” published in 1950, found that subjects who scored high on the F-scale disdained the weak and marginalized. They fixated on sexual deviance, embraced conspiracy theories and aligned themselves with domineering leaders “to serve powerful interests and so participate in their power,”
  • “Globalized free trade has shafted American workers and left us looking for a strong male leader, a ‘real man,’” he wrote. “Trump offers exactly what my maladapted unconscious most craves.”
  • one of the F-scale’s prompts: “Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.” Today’s researchers often diagnose latent authoritarians through a set of questions about preferred traits in children: Would you rather your child be independent or have respect for elders? Have curiosity or good manners? Be self-reliant or obedient? Be well behaved or considerate?
  • Moreover, using the child-rearing questionnaire, African-Americans score as far more authoritarian than whites
  • “All the social sciences are brought to bear to try to explain all the evil that persists in the world, even though the liberal Enlightenment worldview says that we should be able to perfect things,” said Mr. Strouse, the Trump voter
  • what should have been obvious:
  • Attitudes toward parenting vary across cultures, and for centuries African-Americans have seen the consequences of a social and political hierarchy arrayed against them, so they can hardly be expected to favor it — no matter what they think about child rearing
  • The child-trait test, then, is a tool to identify white people who are anxious about their decline in status and power.
  • new book, “Prius or Pickup?,” by ditching the charged term “authoritarian.” Instead, they divide people into three temperamental camps: fixed (people who are wary of change and “set in their ways”), fluid (those who are more open to new experiences and people) and mixed (those who are ambivalent).
  • “The term ‘authoritarian’ connotes a fringe perspective, and the perspective we’re describing is far from fringe,” Mr. Weiler said. “It’s central to American public opinion, especially on cultural issues like immigration and race.”
  • Other scholars apply a typology based on the “Big Five” personality traits identified by psychologists in the mid-20th century: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. (It seems that liberals are open but possibly neurotic, while conservatives are more conscientious.)
  • Historical context matters — it shapes who we are and how we debate politics. “Reason moves slowly,” William English, a political economist at Georgetown, told me. “It’s constituted sociologically, by deep community attachments, things that change over generations.”
  • “it is a deep-seated aspiration of many social scientists — sometimes conscious and sometimes unconscious — to get past wishy-washy culture and belief. Discourses that can’t be scientifically reduced are problematic” for researchers who want to provide “a universal account of behavior.”
  • in our current environment, where polarization is so unyielding, the apparent clarity of psychological and biological explanations becomes seductive
  • “Trump’s electoral strength — and his staying power — have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations,” wrote Matthew MacWilliams, a political consultant who surveyed voters during the 2016 election
  • — we know that’s not going to happen. People have wicked tendencies.”
  • as the social scientific portrait of humanity grows more psychological and irrational, it comes closer and closer to approximating the old Adam of traditional Christianity: a fallen, depraved creature, unable to see himself clearly except with the aid of a higher power
  • The conclusions of political scientists should inspire humility rather than hubris. In the end, they have confirmed what so many observers of our species have long suspected: None of us are particularly free or rational creatures.
  • Allen Strouse is not the archetypal Trump voter whom journalists discover in Rust Belt diners. He is a queer Catholic poet and scholar of medieval literature who teaches at the New School in New York City. He voted for Mr. Trump “as a protest against the Democrats’ failures on economic issues,” but the psychological dimensions of his vote intrigue him. “Having studied Freudian analysis, and being in therapy for 10 years, I couldn’t not reflexively ask myself, ‘How does this decision have to do with my psychology?’” he told me.
  • their preoccupation with childhood and “primitive and irrational wishes and fears” have influenced the study of authoritarianism ever since.
Javier E

Opinion | How to Be More Resilient - The New York Times - 0 views

  • As a psychiatrist, I’ve long wondered why some people get ill in the face of stress and adversity — either mentally or physically — while others rarely succumb.
  • not everyone gets PTSD after exposure to extreme trauma, while some people get disabling depression with minimal or no stress
  • What makes people resilient, and is it something they are born with or can it be acquired later in life?
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  • New research suggests that one possible answer can be found in the brain’s so-called central executive network, which helps regulate emotions, thinking and behavior
  • used M.R.I. to study the brains of a racially diverse group of 218 people, ages 12 to 14, living in violent neighborhoods in Chicago
  • the youths who had higher levels of functional connectivity in the central executive network had better cardiac and metabolic health than their peers with lower levels of connectivity
  • when neighborhood homicide rates went up, the young people’s cardiometabolic risk — as measured by obesity, blood-pressure and insulin levels, among other variables — also increased, but only in youths who showed lower activity in this brain network
  • “Active resilience happens when people who are vulnerable find resources to cope with stress and bounce back, and do so in a way that leaves them stronger, ready to handle additional stress, in more adaptive ways.”
  • the more medically hardy young people were no less anxious or depressed than their less fortunate peers, which suggests that while being more resilient makes you less vulnerable to adversity, it doesn’t guarantee happiness — or even an awareness of being resilient.
  • there is good reason to believe the link may be causal because other studies have found that we can change the activity in the self-control network, and increase healthy behaviors, with simple behavioral interventions
  • One plausible explanation is that greater activity in this network increases self-control, which most likely reduces some unhealthy behaviors people often use to cope with stress, like eating junk food or smoking
  • n one study, two weeks of mindfulness training produced a 60 percent reduction in smoking, compared with no reduction in a control group that focused on relaxation. An M.R.I. following mindfulness training showed increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and prefrontal cortex, key brain areas in the executive self-control network
  • Clearly self-control is one critical component of resilience that can be easily fostered. But there are others.
  • For example, mindfulness training, which involves attention control, emotion regulation and increased self-awareness, can increase connectivity within this network and help people to quit smoking.
  • she and colleagues studied the brains of depressed patients who died. They found that the most disrupted genes were those for growth factors, proteins that act like a kind of brain fertilizer.
  • “We came to realize that depressed people have lost their power to remodel their brains. And that is in fact devastating because brain remodeling is something we need to do all the time — we are constantly rewiring our brains based on past experience and the expectation of how we need to use them in the future,
  • one growth factor that is depleted in depressed brains, called fibroblast growth factor 2, also plays a role in resilience. When they gave it to stressed animals, they bounced back faster and acted less depressed. And when they gave it just once after birth to animals that had been bred for high levels of anxiety and inhibition, they were hardier for the rest of their lives.
  • The good news is that we have some control over our own brain BDNF levels: Getting more physical exercise and social support, for example, has been shown to increase BDNF.
  • Perhaps someday we might be able to protect young people exposed to violence and adversity by supplementing them with neuroprotective growth factors. We know enough now to help them by fortifying their brains through exercise, mindfulness training and support systems
  • Some people have won the genetic sweepstakes and are naturally tough. But there is plenty the rest of us can do to be more resilient and healthier.
Javier E

Opinion | An Antidote to Idiocy in 'Churchill' - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Churchill, notes Roberts, was able to rouse Britain “because the battles and struggles of the Elizabethan and Napoleonic wars were then taught in schools, so the stories of Drake and Nelson were well known to his listeners.”
  • In Britain, a 2008 survey found that 20 percent of teenagers thought Churchill was a fictional character but 58 percent thought Sherlock Holmes was real.
  • We reconcile ourselves to the decadence of the present only if we choose to remain ignorant of the achievements of the past.
Javier E

Scientists identify vast underground ecosystem containing billions of micro-organisms |... - 0 views

  • Despite extreme heat, no light, minuscule nutrition and intense pressure, scientists estimate this subterranean biosphere is teeming with between 15bn and 23bn tonnes of micro-organisms, hundreds of times the combined weight of every human on the planet.
  • Researchers at the Deep Carbon Observatory say the diversity of underworld species bears comparison to the Amazon or the Galápagos Islands, but unlike those places the environment is still largely pristine because people have yet to probe most of the subsurface.
  • “It’s like finding a whole new reservoir of life on Earth,” said Karen Lloyd, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “We are discovering new types of life all the time. So much of life is within the Earth rather than on top of it.
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  • The team combines 1,200 scientists from 52 countries in disciplines ranging from geology and microbiology to chemistry and physics.
  • The results suggest 70% of Earth’s bacteria and archaea exist in the subsurface
  • “The strangest thing for me is that some organisms can exist for millennia. They are metabolically active but in stasis, with less energy than we thought possible of supporting life.”
  • Some microorganisms have been alive for thousands of years, barely moving except with shifts in the tectonic plates, earthquakes or eruption
  • these organisms are part of slow, persistent cycles on geological timescales.”
  • Underworld biospheres vary depending on geology and geography. Their combined size is estimated to be more than 2bn cubic kilometres, but this could be expanded further in the future
  • The researchers said their discoveries were made possible by two technical advances: drills that can penetrate far deeper below the Earth’s crust, and improvements in microscopes that allow life to be detected at increasingly minute levels.
  • The scientists have been trying to find a lower limit beyond which life cannot exist, but the deeper they dig the more life they find. There is a temperature maximum – currently 122C – but the researchers believe this record will be broken if they keep exploring and developing more sophisticated instruments.
  • Robert Hazen, a mineralogist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, said: “We must ask ourselves: if life on Earth can be this different from what experience has led us to expect, then what strangeness might await as we probe for life on other worlds?”
Javier E

Opinion | Is Listening to a Book the Same Thing as Reading It? - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Writing is less than 6,000 years old, insufficient time for the evolution of specialized mental processes devoted to reading. We use the mental mechanism that evolved to understand oral language to support the comprehension of written language. Indeed, research shows that adults get nearly identical scores on a reading test if they listen to the passages instead of reading them.
  • Nevertheless, there are differences between print and audio, notably prosody. That’s the pitch, tempo and stress of spoken words. “What a great party” can be a sincere compliment or sarcastic put-down, but they look identical on the page.
  • It sounds as if comprehension should be easier when listening than reading, but that’s not always true. For example, one study compared how well students learned about a scientific subject from a 22-minute podcast versus a printed article. Although students spent equivalent time with each format, on a written quiz two days later the readers scored 81 percent and the listeners 59 percent.
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  • What happened? Note that the subject matter was difficult, and the goal wasn’t pleasure but learning. Both factors make us read differently. When we focus, we slow down. We reread the hard bits. We stop and think. Each is easier with print than with a podcast.
  • Print also supports readers through difficult content via signals to organization like paragraphs and headings, conventions missing from audio.
  • although one core process of comprehension serves both listening and reading, difficult texts demand additional mental strategies. Print makes those strategies easier to use
  • But even with those changes, audiobooks won’t replace print because we use them differently
  • Eighty-one percent of audiobook listeners say they like to drive, work out or otherwise multitask while they listen. The human mind is not designed for doing two things simultaneously, so if we multitask, we’ll get gist, not subtleties.
  • Print may be best for lingering over words or ideas, but audiobooks add literacy to moments where there would otherwise be none
Javier E

The Fallacy of the 'I Turned Out Fine' Argument - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Most of the messages centered on one single, repeated theme: “I was smacked as a child and I turned out just fine.”
  • It makes sense, doesn’t it? Many of us think, “If I had something happen to me and nothing went wrong, then surely it’s fine for everyone else.”
  • The “I turned out just fine” argument is popular. It means that based on our personal experience we know what works and what doesn’t.But the argument has fatal flaws.
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  • It’s what’s known as an anecdotal fallacy. This fallacy, in simple terms, states that “I’m not negatively affected (as far as I can tell), so it must be O.K. for everyone.
  • We are relying on a sample size of one. Ourselves, or someone we know. And we are applying that result to everyone
  • It relies on a decision-making shortcut known as the availability heuristic. Related to the anecdotal fallacy, it’s where we draw on information that is immediately available to us when we make a judgment call.
  • studies show that the availability heuristic is a cognitive bias that can cloud us from making accurate decisions utilizing all the information available. It blinds us to our own prejudices
  • It dismisses well-substantiated, scientific evidence. To say “I turned out fine” is an arrogant dismissal of an alternative evidence-based view
  • The statement closes off discourse and promotes a single perspective that is oblivious to alternatives that may be more enlightened. Anecdotal evidence often undermines scientific results, to our detriment.
  • It leads to entrenched attitudes.
  • Perhaps an inability to engage with views that run counter to our own suggests that we did not turn out quite so “fine.”
  • Where is the threshold for what constitutes having turned out fine? If it means we avoided prison, we may be setting the bar too low. Gainfully employed and have a family of our own? Still a pretty basic standard
  • It is as reasonable to say “I turned out fine because of this” as it is to say “I turned out fine in spite of this.”
  • To claim that on this basis spanking a child is fine means that we fall victim to anecdote, rely on our availability heuristic (thereby dismissing all broader data to the contrary), dismiss alternate views, fail to learn and progress by engaging with a challenging idea.
  • We expect our children to embrace learning and to progress in their thinking as they grow older. They deserve to expect the same from us.
Javier E

Opinion | Knowledge, Ignorance and Climate Change - The New York Times - 1 views

  • the value of being aware of our ignorance has been a recurring theme in Western thought: René Descartes said it’s necessary to doubt all things to build a solid foundation for science; and Ludwig Wittgenstein, reflecting on the limits of language, said that “the difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know.”
  • Sometimes, when it appears that someone is expressing doubt, what he is really doing is recommending a course of action. For example, if I tell you that I don’t know whether there is milk in the fridge, I’m not exhibiting philosophical wisdom — I’m simply recommending that you check the fridge before you go shopping.
  • According to NASA, at least 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists think that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely caused by human activities.”
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  • As a philosopher, I have nothing to add to the scientific evidence of global warming, but I can tell you how it’s possible to get ourselves to sincerely doubt things, despite abundant evidence to the contrary
  • scenarios suggest that it’s possible to feel as though you don’t know something even when possessing enormous evidence in its favor. Philosophers call scenarios like these “skeptical pressure” cases
  • In general, a skeptical pressure case is a thought experiment in which the protagonist has good evidence for something that he or she believes, but the reader is reminded that the protagonist could have made a mistake
  • If the story is set up in the right way, the reader will be tempted to think that the protagonist’s belief isn’t genuine knowledge
  • When presented with these thought experiments, some philosophy students conclude that what these examples show is that knowledge requires full-blown certainty. In these skeptical pressure cases, the evidence is overwhelming, but not 100 percent. It’s an attractive idea, but it doesn’t sit well with the fact that we ordinarily say we know lots of things with much lower probability.
  • Although there is no consensus about how it arises, a promising idea defended by the philosopher David Lewis is that skeptical pressure cases often involve focusing on the possibility of error. Once we start worrying and ruminating about this possibility, no matter how far-fetched, something in our brains causes us to doubt. The philosopher Jennifer Nagel aptly calls this type of effect “epistemic anxiety.”
  • In my own work, I have speculated that an extreme version of this phenomenon is operative in obsessive compulsive disorder
  • The standard response by climate skeptics is a lot like our reaction to skeptical pressure cases. Climate skeptics understand that 97 percent of scientists disagree with them, but they focus on the very tiny fraction of holdouts. As in the lottery case, this focus might be enough to sustain their skepticism.
  • Anti-vaccine proponents, for example, aware that medical professionals disagree with their position, focus on any bit of fringe research that might say otherwise.
  • Skeptical allure can be gripping. Piling on more evidence does not typically shake you out of it, just as making it even more probable that you will lose the lottery does not all of a sudden make you feel like you know your ticket is a loser.
  • One way to counter the effects of skepticism is to stop talking about “knowledge” and switch to talking about probabilities. Instead of saying that you don’t know some claim, try to estimate the probability that it is true. As hedge fund managers, economists, policy researchers, doctors and bookmakers have long been aware, the way to make decisions while managing risk is through probabilities.
  • Once we switch to this perspective, claims to “not know,” like those made by Trump, lose their force and we are pushed to think more carefully about the existing data and engage in cost-benefit analyses.
  • It’s easy to say you don’t know, but it’s harder to commit to an actual low probability estimate in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.
  • Socrates was correct that awareness of one’s ignorance is virtuous, but philosophers have subsequently uncovered many pitfalls associated with claims of ignorance. An appreciation of these issues can help elevate public discourse on important topics, including the future of our planet.
Javier E

Psychology's Replication Crisis Is Real, Many Labs 2 Says - The Atlantic - 1 views

  • n recent years, it has become painfully clear that psychology is facing a “reproducibility crisis,” in which even famous, long-established phenomena—the stuff of textbooks and TED Talks—might not be real
  • Ironically enough, it seems that one of the most reliable findings in psychology is that only half of psychological studies can be successfully repeated
  • That failure rate is especially galling, says Simine Vazire from the University of California at Davis, because the Many Labs 2 teams tried to replicate studies that had made a big splash and been highly cited
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  • With 15,305 participants in total, the new experiments had, on average, 60 times as many volunteers as the studies they were attempting to replicate. The researchers involved worked with the scientists behind the original studies to vet and check every detail of the experiments beforehand. And they repeated those experiments many times over, with volunteers from 36 different countries, to see if the studies would replicate in some cultures and contexts but not others.
  • Despite the large sample sizes and the blessings of the original teams, the team failed to replicate half of the studies it focused on. It couldn’t, for example, show that people subconsciously exposed to the concept of heat were more likely to believe in global warming, or that moral transgressions create a need for physical cleanliness in the style of Lady Macbeth, or that people who grow up with more siblings are more altruistic.
  • Many Labs 2 “was explicitly designed to examine how much effects varied from place to place, from culture to culture,” says Katie Corker, the chair of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science. “And here’s the surprising result: The results do not show much variability at all.” If one of the participating teams successfully replicated a study, others did, too. If a study failed to replicate, it tended to fail everywhere.
  • it’s a serious blow to one of the most frequently cited criticisms of the “reproducibility crisis” rhetoric. Surely, skeptics argue, it’s a fantasy to expect studies to replicate everywhere. “There’s a massive deference to the sample,” Nosek says. “Your replication attempt failed? It must be because you did it in Ohio and I did it in Virginia, and people are different. But these results suggest that we can’t just wave those failures away very easily.”
  • the lack of variation in Many Labs 2 is actually a positive thing. Sure, it suggests that the large number of failed replications really might be due to sloppy science. But it also hints that the fundamental business of psychology—creating careful lab experiments to study the tricky, slippery, complicated world of the human mind—works pretty well. “Outside the lab, real-world phenomena can and probably do vary by context,” he says. “But within our carefully designed studies and experiments, the results are not chaotic or unpredictable. That means we can do valid social-science research.”
Javier E

This is what happens when a stable genius leads a stupid country - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Trump knows “more about courts than any human being.” He knows “more about steelworkers than anybody.” He knows “more about ISIS than the generals do,” and “more about offense and defense than they will ever understand.” He knows “more about wedges than any human being that’s ever lived.” He even knows more about medicine than his doctor, dictating a doctor’s letter predicting he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Javier E

'Nothing on this page is real': How lies become truth in online America - The Washingto... - 0 views

  • “Share if you’re outraged!” his posts often read, and thousands of people on Facebook had clicked “like” and then “share,” most of whom did not recognize his posts as satire. Instead, Blair’s page had become one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55.
  • “Nothing on this page is real,” read one of the 14 disclaimers on Blair’s site, and yet in the America of 2018 his stories had become real, reinforcing people’s biases, spreading onto Macedonian and Russian fake news sites, amassing an audience of as many 6 million visitors each month who thought his posts were factual
  • “No matter how racist, how bigoted, how offensive, how obviously fake we get, people keep coming back,” Blair once wrote, on his own personal Facebook page. “Where is the edge? Is there ever a point where people realize they’re being fed garbage and decide to return to reality?”
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  • Chapian didn’t believe everything she read online, but she was also distrustful of mainstream fact-checkers and reported news. It sometimes felt to her like real facts had become indiscernible — that the truth was often somewhere in between. What she trusted most was her own ability to think critically and discern the truth, and increasingly her instincts aligned with the online community where she spent most of her time.
  • Her number of likes and shares on Facebook increased each year until she was sometimes awakening to check her news feed in the middle of the night, liking and commenting on dozens of posts each day. She felt as if she was being let in on a series of dark revelations about the United States, and it was her responsibility to see and to share them.
Javier E

The dramatic implosion of 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' is a lesson - and a warning - The W... - 0 views

  • Highlight
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  • In essence, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and its (inevitable, if you think about it) fall represent a mind-set prominent in evangelical culture, but also in American society more broadly.
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  • We insist that meritocracy works and combine it with a valorization of hard work (which itself stems from our country’s majority-Protestant roots). To maintain the story that success is accessible to all, we’ve developed a tendency to seek out and elevate simplistic formulas that we hope come with guarantees. Stay pure until marriage, and your marriage will flourish. Follow the “success sequence,” and you’ll never be poor. Go to the right school, and all career doors will open. Elect the right candidate, and America will be great once more.
Javier E

Dan Crenshaw: I made amends with Pete Davidson on SNL. But that's only the beginning. -... - 0 views

  • As a country, we still have a lot of work to do. We need to agree on some basic rules for civil discourse.
  • many of the ultimate goals — economic prosperity, better health care and education, etc. — are the same. We just don’t share the same vision of how to achieve them.
  • How, then, do we live together in this world of differing ideas? For starters, let’s agree that the ideas are fair game. If you think my idea is awful, you should say as much
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  • But there is a difference between attacking an idea and attacking the person behind that idea. Labeling someone as an “-ist” who believes in an “-ism” because of the person’s policy preference is just a shortcut to playground-style name-calling, cloaked in political terminology
  • Similarly, people too often attack not just an idea but also the supposed intent behind an idea. That raises the emotional level of the debate and might seem like it strengthens the attacker’s side, but it’s a terrible way to make a point.
  • Assuming the worst about your opponents’ intentions has the effect of demonizing their ideas, removing the need for sound counter-reasoning and fact-based argument. That’s not a good environment for the exchange of ideas.
  • When all else fails, try asking for forgiveness, or granting it.
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