Mooney believes the vast differences in thought processes can be understood as instances of "motivated reasoning."
Our brains seem to have evolved in a way that attempted to ensure survival in a dangerous environment. In that context, they abhor uncertainty and indecisiveness. If the most important decisions are flight or fight, then machinery useful for quiet contemplation of alternatives does not have the highest priority. Our brains then develop responses to given inputs of data—and only reluctantly wish to change them.
The belief that presenting a dissenter with facts will alter his reasoning is quite naïve.
All people are guilty of motivated reasoning, but to different degrees.
"The evidence here is quite strong: overall, liberals tend to be more open, flexible, curious and nuanced—and conservatives tend to be more closed, fixed and certain in their views."
Mooney makes it quite clear that the ability to reject demonstrable facts in favor of preconceptions is not related to intelligence or learning. In fact, Mooney describes something he calls the "smart idiots" effect.
Smart idiots have more tools at their disposal when it comes to rationalizing a belief that runs counter to facts.
If liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, are to possess differing worldviews, then they would need to have separate pools of "knowledge." Mooney tells us that that is, in fact, true. Conservatives apparently view Wikipedia as a repository of "liberal" knowledge, consequently it was necessary to create something to counter it called Conservapedia.
Mooney provides this assessment of Schlafly’s creation.
"Its 37,000 plus pages of content include items attacking evolution and global warming, wrongly claiming (contrary to psychological consensus) that homosexuality is a choice and tied to mental disorders, and incorrectly asserting (contrary to medical consensus) that abortion causes breast cancer."
The website has something to offend everyone. Mooney was struck by the vehemence with which Einstein’s theories of relativity were attacked—presumably because they were inconsistent with Biblical miracles.
The section on the age of the earth was particularly noxious.
"Old Earth advocates rely on one flawed assumption to the exclusion of other evidence, similar to how an investigator may mistakenly rely on one faulty eyewitness's opinion to the exclusion of all else. In fact, eyewitness testimony is proven to be less reliable to than other indicators, just as the assumption by Old Earth proponents that the rate of radioactive decay has always been constant is flawed. In fact, The rate of radioactive decay would slow down greatly as the universe cools. Moreover, a large number of physical processes, such as neutron capture and fluctuations in solar radiation, affect the rate of radioactive decay of elements in the Earth's crust and render radioactive dating measurements unreliable…."
Why bother arguing with someone who has the option of changing fundamental physical laws in order to support their idea.
Lesson learned: We are in deep trouble!