This is an op-ed in the Denver Post by Dr.Patty Limerick of the Center of the American West. Note: you can order T-shirts with Gifford Pinchot’s quote here. I am posting because some of the research she cites may be just as true of positions and debates over land management. (I feel the same as she about being “civilian casualties” in a “battleground” state.)
Here’s the link, and below are some excerpts.
CU psychology professor Leaf Van Boven has been doing extraordinary research challenging the popular perception that polarization is the operating mode preferred by the American citizenry, and revealing, instead, the existence of a majority of moderates.
Van Boven’s work makes a close match to the findings of CU business professor Philip M. Fernbach. People asked to “justify” their political position become more entrenched and less moderate, Fernbach reports in a New York Times essay co-authored with Steven Sloman, a professor at Brown University. But ask people to “explain how [their] policy ideas work,” and “they become more moderate in their political views.” When people “explain, not just assert” they come to recognize the limits of their knowledge and become correspondingly more flexible and tolerant.
Thus, Sloman and Fernbach argue, if we are tired of extremism, “we can start to fix it by acknowledging that we know a lot less than we think.”
In a campaign season in which advertisements, speeches, and debate performances consisted almost entirely of assertion, the idea of “explaining” comes forward as a wonderfully appealing and restorative alternative.
Fellow citizens, public officials, and aspiring candidates, join me in starting this Wednesday in this manner: contemplate what Adams wrote to Jefferson on July 15, 1813, and then imagine a world in which we took to heart the example that these two old men bequeathed to us:
“You and I ought not to die, before We have explained ourselves to each other.”
We do a great deal of this on this blog, and hope that we continue to do so.