False consensus and gay marriage

One of my favorite psychological biases is false consensus bias— the tendency to assume that others agree with you far more than they actually do.  Interesting post from Wonkblog that shows how this is currently playing out in gay marriage.  This chart pretty much sums it up (and to be clear, this same poll also showed a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage):

gay-marriage_v1

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Video of the day

My son Evan asked me how Advil works this evening.  I babbled on some about Cox-1 and Cox-2, but realized I didn’t really understand it that well.  Of course, that’s why God and Al Gore invented the internet.  Now I do understand it:

Photo of the day

I find photos of flooding so dramatic.  This is from a Big Picture gallery of flooding in England last month:

Worker’s continue to build flood defenses around Moorland resident Sam Notaro’s house in the flooded village of Moorland near Bridgwater on the Somerset Levels on Feb. 10, in Somerset, England. Thousands of acres of the Somerset Levels have been under water for weeks, yet flood levels are still rising and worryingly, more rain is forecast for later this week.(Matt Cardy/Getty Images) 

My apologies to Texas

Okay, I’ve been known to give Texas justice a hard time.  In truth, it has often seemed that Texas is particularly uninterested in insuring that defendants receive a fair trial, but I’ve got to admit I’m super-impressed with their new law on bad forensic science (which, sadly, is all too much forensic science).  It should, without a doubt, be something adopted in every state.  Via the Atlantic:

The article starts with the story of Robert Avila, who was convicted of jumping on the torso of a 19-month old boy, leading to his death.  Medical experts testified that only a full-grown man could cause these injuries, not the victim’s 4 year-old brother, Nicholas, who had been rough-housing with him.  Medical experts were wrong.

In May 2013, biomechanical engineer Chris Van Ee conducted an experiment envisioning what could have happened if Dylan had jumped on Nicholas from a height of 18 inches – the same height as the small bed next to which Nicholas was found lying unresponsive. Van Ee, summing up his conclusion in a report that accompanied Avila’s writ, found that a child of Dylan’s size jumping from that height could produce a force as great as 400 to 500 pounds.

In the past, Van Ee’s findings might not have been enough to delay Avila’s execution, or potentially reverse his verdict. But that same month, Texas passed a bill called SB 344, better known as the “junk science” statute. The first of its kind in the nation, it permits a defendant to bring a writ of habeas corpus on the basis of new or changed scientific evidence. In practical terms, this means that courts must grant relief in cases where new scientific evidence has come to light, or where scientific evidence used to convict has been shown to be false, misleading, or inaccurately applied. The statute keeps the court from denying relief even if the defendant had previously confessed or accepted a plea. It also, crucially for Avila, does not require anyone to recant his or her original testimony…

For Texas—the state that leads the nation in executions—the new law may be a major step toward more careful and precise verdicts. “It is a recognition by the legislature that science is constantly evolving and our legal system has to evolve with it,” said Crawford.

This is awesome.  You go, Texas!  Now, please, please let the other 49 states be smart enough to do the same thing.

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