First of all I must set up some premises in this rant. I refer to Robert Pirsig for the primary definition of the split that exists throughout all major differences in human thought and, thereby, reality. His Metaphysics of Quality sees the spilt between establishment and heresy, security and growth, closed and open minds, traditional and anarchic. These are names of the two sides of the coin that determines human behavior as naturally as sunlight and moisture determine the direction of the roots and branches of a plant. If you put a potted plant on top of your TV, the roots will begin to grow back out of the soil to avoid the radiation below being stronger than the absent sun, which they are avoiding in addition to seeking food and drink in the soil.
Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler provided two groups of volunteers with the Bush administration's prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. One group was given a refutation -- the comprehensive 2004 Duelfer report that concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003. Thirty-four percent of conservatives told only about the Bush administration's claims thought Iraq had hidden or destroyed its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but 64 percent of conservatives who heard both claim and refutation thought that Iraq really did have the weapons. The refutation, in other words, made the misinformation worse.
A similar "backfire effect" also influenced conservatives told about Bush administration assertions that tax cuts increase federal revenue. One group was offered a refutation by prominent economists that included current and former Bush administration officials. About 35 percent of conservatives told about the Bush claim believed it; 67 percent of those provided with both assertion and refutation believed that tax cuts increase revenue.
I mention this unnatural aberration on the plant as a metaphor for how we artificially thwart our instinctive risk management’s ability to maintain a healthy, expanding stability of the wise balance between understanding and its encouragement of curiosity, by exploiting fear of the unknown with lies to impassion the desire for security through reliance on the liar. Once being uniformly taught shouts naturally curious personal learning into silence, authority becomes believed to be the fount of truth making the security found under the wing of god, the president and the boss appear to have a niche for any and everyone.
To continue with my premise, I am going assume that conservatives represent the establishment side of the coin and liberals represent the heresy element, to steer my point towards the noted backfire that’s puzzling the pros above. Creationism and the Bush regime require unquestioning belief in their stories which the authority dependent defend like a dog his master. The still curious progressives keep their theories open for any possibility, looking for the exception that expands wisdom.
The conservative enters any encounter with an indisputable picture of the world and the intention of either converting naysayers to such certainty or disqualifying them from consideration by censorship or destruction. The liberal enters encounters to see what he can see and perhaps learn more about the world through familiarity with the strange and no fear of the unknown. Okay, okay, I realize these are the most extreme cases, and everyone is their own blend of the two, but this is for clarity in discussing the mentalities behind the two approaches to experience. The conservative will bullshit, ban or bomb all opposition where the liberal will negotiate for harmony or at least mutual respect.
When faced with a refutation of his beliefs, the conservative will dig in to defend them more fervently than in a discussion with those who tend to agree. The examples given in the article are all refutations of Bush policies, attacks on the family that lies to everyone, even each other, draws them closer together for defense. The liberal may have favorite theories, which he is most eager to discuss as a test of their validity, the stronger the opposition, the more valid the test and surviving ideas.
Of course the backfire of pouring truth on flaming lies results in a bonfire of mendacious vanity. The refutation of Bush policy didn’t change the reaction of liberals because they saw the bullshit before it was exposed by others. An old saw about politics is, “Don’t believe anything you hear about politicians until they officially deny it.”
I must add this beautiful summation of the way to solve the impasse between liberals and conservatives which I recommend to anyone on the political/moral spectrum. It doesn't address how to talk to religeous zealots, and if somehow the conservatives could finagle a way to believe the Republican party was a creation of god, even this approach presented in the TED talk would do no good