Alas! Introducing a Bloggingheads chat with Chris Mooney, Robert Wright says this:
WRIGHT (5/12/12): In his book The Republican Brain, Chris Mooney argues that (on average) liberals are more open to evidence and reason than conservatives. But conservatives have their own strengths, he says, so maybe there should be a division of labor between them.We note the fact that Wright inserts a qualifier into his statement. Are liberals "more open to evidence and reason" than conservatives? On average, yes, they are, he says, attributing the claim to Mooney.
That's better than simply saying that liberals reason better than conservatives—but it isn't better by much. Wright's presentations begs a gigantic question: How much more open to reason are liberals?
This makes a massive difference, as the dullest of children could see:
On average, are liberals "more open to reason" than conservatives by two percent? Or are they more open to reason by perhaps as much as fifty percent?
To most people, this would make a huge difference, but Wright completely ignores this question. How much more open to reason are libs? He makes no attempt to say.
(Does Mooney attempt to quantify the liberal advantage? You'll have to watch the tape!)
Alas! Journalists routinely make such presentations when they discuss research studies. In these presentations, they say that Group A surpasses Group B in some way, without making any attempt to tell us how large the difference is. With great regularity, we gnash our teeth when journalists cite the findings of studies this way.
Wright is pimped as being quite smart—but he makes a remarkably fuzzy claim about a very important and touchy subject. Sorry, crackers! Even at this very late date, this is pretty much the best the "rational animal" does.
How much more open to reason are liberals? Few liberals bother to ask!