Quote of the day—Zachary Leeman

If there’s one thing gun owners in America don’t need, it’s the star of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” telling them whether or not they can own and operate firearms.

Zachary Leeman
Just What We Need: Kim K Calls for Gun Control
[I think what is happening is a perverted form of “argument by authority”. If someone has a high status/visibility they are viewed, by some, as being an authority regardless of the subject matter. I suspect it is “hardwired” into our brains and served a valuable evolutionary purpose. Just because someone is well known, that, obviously, does not make them a subject matter expert. But at some level it satisfies a need for an authority opinion on the subject.

When, in high school, I first noticed this sort of thing I thought it was one of the most bizarre things I had ever heard of. Decades later during the I-676 campaign our anti-gun opponents used the approach and I was confused. Who, I wondered, would care whether some well known, but ignorant and/or stupid, person supported a law. Our side ended up doing the same thing and I still thought it was weird and felt rather “soiled” to be associated with that. But now, decades later, I realize that advertising uses celebrity endorsements all the time and they wouldn’t do that if wasn’t effective. If it works, it’s not stupid.

I still think it’s weird but I now think of it as a quirk of our brain evolution. Most people do not have a process by which they can accurately determine if something is true or false. Having such a process is an, in evolutionary timescales, extremely recent development. A quick and dirty test to determine truth of falsity that improved the odds of a correct determination by 20% is a huge evolutionary advantage over a ecological niche competitor. And quick and dirty test can even beat out competitors which use a more rigorous test that takes much longer. Hence even when more rigorous tests are available something as stupid as getting your firearms law recommendations from Kim Kardashian will feel entirely appropriate to people who appear to function normally. This is because it works often enough that they don’t remove themselves from gene pool.—Joe]