Social Epistemology

Featured image of post Victims, Villains, Heroes: Righteous Outrage and Social Status

Victims, Villains, Heroes: Righteous Outrage and Social Status

Politics and Social Status People’s politics are partly driven by a desire for status. People tend to express political views that will win the approval of their peers. They tend to remain silent if they hold opinions that would be criticized by their peers. These belief systems become self-reinforcing in each subgroup of society. Churchgoers tend to adopt the beliefs of their congregation. Hollywood actors tend to adopt the beliefs of Hollywood.
Featured image of post Pro vs. Anti

Pro vs. Anti

Many political issues end up being framed as “pro vs “anti”. Pro/anti immigration. Pro/anti drugs. Pro/anti choice. Pro/anti life. But a pro/anti framing is almost always subtly dishonest. When you say you are pro-life, do you really believe people who disagree with you are against life!? When you say you are pro-choice, do you really believe people against you are against choice!? Obviously not. You are pro/anti legalized abortion. But by calling yourself pro-life or pro-choice, you imply that the other side is anti-life or anti-choice, which sounds bad.
Featured image of post Fighting Bias with Bias

Fighting Bias with Bias

The other day a friend of mine watched an online documentary about the wet markets in Wuhan, and decided not to share it with others. She thought it might contribute to racism against Chinese people, because it suggested that their cultural practices were to blame for COVID-19. Although the documentary seemed objective, she said, why share something that can do no good but might cause harm? Her attitude does not seem unreasonable to me.
Featured image of post Truth in the Time of Coronavirus

Truth in the Time of Coronavirus

Many of us struggle to separate the information from the misinformation on social media, especially in the past weeks and months as we seek facts regarding COVID-19. The platforms themselves do not help much. It seems increasingly clear that the algorithms used to determine which posts and tweets show up at the top of your feed, having been optimized for engagement, are inadvertently optimized for misinformation. But social media is still useful, because accurate information does spread too.
Featured image of post Nuance in Political Debate

Nuance in Political Debate

In public political debate today, there seems to be little capacity for nuance. For example, many conservatives seem unable, or unwilling, to differentiate between marijuana and “drugs”. Or for example, many liberals seem unable, or unwilling, to differentiate between legal and illegal immigration. I believe politicians and pundits often understand the nuance, but just pretend not to. If you act like your opponent made a statement about B when they actually made a statement about A, many people in your audience will believe it.
Featured image of post The Hive Mind

The Hive Mind

Components of Belief None of us are omniscient. We can't observe the world and arrive independently at the truth of all things. Instead we depend on other minds. We trust others to delve deeply into questions of science, politics, and religion, about which we may know little, and then we add our own reason and experience to form our own opinions. Thus our belief is influenced by: Our own experience Our own reason Our perception of the beliefs of others Belief Networks Our beliefs constantly evolve, as we process the beliefs of others, gleaned from conversation, social networks, and major media.