The Epistemology of Ideology

How do we arrive at conclusions?
How do we form opinions?
Why do we take particular positions?

I am new to Facebook, and I have connected with many people from my past. We have taken very different paths. I list myself as a Christian and as a Rabid Republican; I assume that this is a surprise to many, as I was raised as a left-wing Jewish progressive.

What I find so striking as I read the many posts of both my left and right wing Facebook-Friends, is that I know most (if not all) of you to be intelligent, well educated people of integrity. How is it then that we have come to such different conclusions? I do not mean this to be a rhetorical question; I am seriously puzzled. The right and left both have access to the same information sources.

I suspect that there may be some basic assumptions/premises that color our respective ways of thinking. If this were not the case, why would our positions on various issues line up so consistently? For example if you take ten typical people (if there is such a thing) and ask them about their positions on abortion, gay marriage, global warming, immigration and tax cuts, those who are pro-choice will tend to be in favor of Gay marriage, believe in global warming, etc. and those who are pro-life will, likewise, tend to line up on the other side of these issues. Of course there will always be the exceptions like the Libertarian/Progressive intersection on abortion.

This is curious. Why are there not more pro-life voters who are also pro-Gay marriage? Why are there not more global warming skeptics who are also pro-choice? Of course I am not describing an absolute pattern, just a tendency. There are always exceptions. Nonetheless, I think it would be interesting to explore, and seek to understand if there are some underlying assumptions, or perhaps experiences, that color and direct our way of thinking and approaching issues.

I offer my own experience as an example of a shift in my way of thinking. In 2000 I was still a registered Democrat, and was disappointed that Al Gore did not become President. When the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed on 9/11/2001 and the regional office of my employer the Commodity Futures Trading Commission was a pile of rubble (all of my colleagues survived), I found myself grateful that George Bush was President instead of Al Gore. Although this was not the beginning of my shift from progressive to conservative, it was a milestone.

In any event, I would invite any interested persons on the left and right to opine, blather, write, etc. your thoughts on, what I find to be, this rather interesting question of why we think what we think.

Caveat: I do not intend this to be a discussion of the underlying issues (abortion, gay rights, taxes, etc.) there are plenty of forums for that sort of exchange. Rather, I would hope to limit this discussion to how persons of similar intelligence, education and integrity can take the same data and reach such radically different conclusions.