Recently, my viewpoint of human behavior has been radically expanded by seeing the ubiquitous influence of status. This line of thinking finally lifted the vale of mystery from a question I've had for so long. Namely, how can someone be so smart, but believe something that is so ridiculous.
Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate in economics, and NY Times columnist is the patron saint of the left wing economics. If the Obama started selling our babies to pay off debt to China, Krugman would be complaining that it wasn't toddlers too. He's so dedicated to giving power to the state that nothing seems beyond reproach.
How did he get that way?
The problem is that we learn and believe what we are motivated to learn and believe. The primary factor, I believe, is status. I break down how this happens into 3 types.
First, we like to believe things about ourselves make us better than others. You have book smarts, but I have the all important common sense. It's standard ego defense. If someone tells a child with red hair that red hair is the best, he's likely to believe it because it makes him feel better. Politically this would be someone who is highly educated who thinks that only highly educated people should be allowed to vote. Their ideas would give them more power and status.
Secondly, is indirect status. If I come up with an argument that brown eyes are the best, and you have brown eyes you will reward me with agreement. If people around me tell me that they agree with me, then I'm more likely to believe that I'm right. It's not that my ideas are self-serving, they serve the status of others. This reinforces my line of thinking. The better my line of thinking the more my own status will be raised by those who these ideas serve. I can whole heartedly believe that brown eyes are better, even though my own eyes are blue. This apparent lack of self-interest gives more creedance to my ideas and all the more fuels my own status indirectly.
Politically, we see this all the time. Paul Krugman is surely heavily influenced byt his. He gives cover to power grabs by politicians. His ideas are reinforced by indirect self-interest.
Thirdly, is groupthink. If you put ten Paul Krugmans in a room they will aid and assist each other. When one academic makes a good argument that supports the main argument he will be rewarded by his peers. They reward him because he has assisted the cause that indirectly gives them status.
When thinking this way, this adds to my own beliefs that "scientific" inquiries into the social sciences is fraught with inevitable problems.