Looking Left and Right: Threat Or Opportunity?

The prospect that one’s empirical arguments will be shown to be false creates the identity-threatening risk for her that she or others will come to form the belief that her group is deluded and, in fact, committed to propositions inimical to the public welfare. In addition, the certitude that empirical arguments convey — ‘it’s simply a fact that . . . ‘; ‘how can they deny the scientific evidence on . . . ?’ — arouses suspicions of bad faith or blind partisanship on the part of the groups advancing them. Yet when members of opposing groups attempt to rebut such arguments, they are likely to respond with the same certitude, and with the same lack of awareness that they are being impelled to credit empirical arguments to protect their identities. This form of exchange — the signature of naïve realism — predictably generates cycles of recrimination and resentment