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The Science of Truth: Why Conservatives Deny Global Warming

Posted by on Mar. 2, 2014 at 8:29 PM
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1 mom liked this

ote: These are notes for remarks that I gave recently at the Tucson Festival of Books, where I was asked to talk about my new book The Republican Brain on a panel entitled "Will the Planet Survive the Age of Humans?"

So the question before us on this panel is, "Will the Planet Survive the Age of Humans?" And I want to focus on one particular aspect of humans that makes them very problematic in a planetary sense -- namely, their brains.

What I've spent the last year or more trying to understand is what it is about our brains thatmakes facts such odd and threatening things; why we sometimes double down on false beliefs when they're refuted; and maybe, even, why some of us do it more than others.

And of course, the new book homes in on the brains -- really, the psychologies -- of politically conservative homo sapiens in particular. You know, Stephen Colbert once said that "reality has a well-known liberal bias." And essentially what I'm arguing is that, not only is that a funny statement, it's factually true, and perhaps even part of the nature of things.

Colbert also talked about the phenomenon of "truthiness," and as it turns out, we can actually give a scientific explanation of truthiness -- which is what I'm going to sketch in the next ten minutes, with respect to global warming in particular.

I almost called the book The Science of Truthiness -- but The Republican Brain turns out to be a better title.

The Facts About Global Warming

So first off, let's start with the facts about climate change -- facts that you'd think (or you'd hope) any human being ought to accept.

It turns out that the case for human-caused global warming is based on simple and fundamental physics. We've known about the greenhouse effect for over one hundred years. And we've known that carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas, a greenhouse gas. Some of the key experiments on this, by the Irishman John Tyndall, actually occurred in the year 1859, which is the same year that Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

We also know that if we do nothing, seriously bad stuff starts happening. If we melt Greenland and West Antarctica, we're looking at 40 feet of sea level rise. This is, like, bye bye to key parts of Florida.

Enter the Denial

So then, the question is, why do people deny this? And why, might I add, do Republicans in particular deny this so strongly?

And if your answer to that question is, "oh, because they're stupid" -- well, you're wrong. That's what liberals want to think, but it doesn't seem be correct. In fact, it seems to be precisely the opposite -- smarter (or more educated) Republicans turn out to be worse science deniers on this topic.

This is a phenomenon that I like to call the "smart idiot" effect, and I just wrote about it for AlterNet and Salon.com.

Let me tell you how I stumbled upon this effect -- which is really what set the book in motion. I think the key moment came in the year 2008 when I came upon Pew datashowing:

  • That if you're a Republican, then the higher your level of education, the less likely you are to accept scientific reality -- which is, that global warming is human caused.

  • If you're a Democrat or Independent, precisely the opposite is the case.


This is actually a consistent finding now across the social science literature on the resistance to climate change. So, for that matter, is the finding that the denial is the worst among conservative white males -- so it has a gender aspect to it -- and among the Tea Party.

So seriously: What's going on here? More education leading to worse denial, but only among Republicans? How can you explain that?

A Three-Level Explanation

Well, I think we need to understand three points in order to understand why conservatives act this way. And I will list them here, before going into them in more detail:

  1. Conservatism is a Defensive Ideology, and Appeals to People Who Want Certainty and Resist Change.

  2. Conservative "Morality" Impels Climate Denial -- and in particular, conservative Individualism.


  3. Fox News is the Key "Feedback Mechanism" -- whereby people already inclined to believe false things get all the license and affirmation they need.


So let's go into more detail:

1: Conservatism is a Defensive Ideology, and Appeals to People Who Want Certainty and Resist Change.

There's now a staggering amount of research on the psychological and even thephysiological traits of people who opt for conservative ideologies. And on average, you see people who are more wedded to certainty, and to having fixed beliefs. You also see people who are more sensitive to fear and threat -- in a way that can be measured in their bodily responses to certain types of stimuli.

At the extreme of these traits, you see a group called authoritarians -- those who are characterized by cognitive rigidity, seeing things in black and white ways -- "in group/out group," my way or the highway.

So in this case, if someone high on such traits latches on to a particular belief -- in this case, "global warming is a hoax" -- then more knowledge about it is not necessarily going to open their minds. More knowledge is just going to be used to argue what they already think.

And we see this in the Tea Party, where we have both the highest levels of global warming denial, but also this incredibly strong confidence that they know all they need to know about the issue, and they don't want any more information, thank you very much.

2. Conservative "Morality" Impels Climate Denial -- in particular, Conservative Individualism.

But, you might say, "well, Tea Party conservatives don't deny every aspect of reality." And it's true. Presumably, they still will accept a factual correction if they have, say, the date of Mother's Day wrong. Presumably they're still open minded about that... we hope.

So why deny this particular thing? Why deny that global warming is caused by humans? And here, I think you've got to look at deep seated moral intuitions that differs from left to right. And it's important to note at the outset that whatever your moral intuitions are, they push you emotionally to reason in a particular direction long before you are actually consciously thinking about it.

So, conservatives tend to be "individualists"-- meaning, essentially, that they prize a system in which government leaves you alone -- and "hierarchs," meaning, they are supportive of various types of inequality.

The individualist is threatened by global warming, deeply threatened, because it means that markets have failed and governments -- including global governments -- have to step in to fix the problem. And some individualists are so threatened by this reality that they even spin out conspiracy theories, arguing that all the world's scientists are in a cabal with, like, the UN, to make up phony science so they can crash economies.

So now let's look at what these individualist assumptions do to the denial of science. In one study by Yale's Dan Kahan and colleagues:

  • "Individualist-hierarchs" and "egalitarian-communitarians" are asked: Who's an expert on global warming?

  • Only 23 percent of H-I's agree that a scientist who thinks GW is human-caused is a "trustworthy and knowledgeable expert," vs. 88 percent of E-Cs.


In another study, meanwhile, Kahan showed that if you frame the science of global warming as supporting nuclear power, then conservatives are more open to accepting it, presumably because it does not insult their values any longer.

3. Fox News is the Key "Feedback Mechanism" -- whereby people who want to believe false things get all the license they need.

So clearly, there are some deeply rooted attributes that predispose conservatives towards the denial of global warming.

But there are also "environmental" factors -- things that have come to exist in our world that did not exist before, that interact with these things about conservatives, and make all this much worse.

And here, Fox News is undeniably at the top of the list. There are now a host of studies(video here) showing that Fox News viewers are more misinformed about various aspects of reality, including two such studies about global warming.

So if you've got Fox News, you've got a place to go to reaffirm your beliefs. And that serves this psychological need for certainty and security. So conservatives opt in, they get the misinformation, their beliefs are reaffirmed, and they're set to argue, argue, argue about why they're right and all the scientists of the world are wrong.

Conclusion

So in sum, we need a nature-nurture, or a combined psychological and environmental account of the conservative denial of global warming. And only then do we see why they are so doggedly espousing a set of beliefs that are so wildly dangerous to the planet.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-mooney/the-science-of-truthiness_b_1379472.html

by on Mar. 2, 2014 at 8:29 PM
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SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Mar. 2, 2014 at 9:27 PM
4 moms liked this

The Truth of Science - Why the Left believes in Dogma and not Science:

- Science is constantly growing and developing - but liberals say that it is settled.

- Science updates its models to reflect actual data - but liberals keep the same ones, so their predictions are increasingly out of date.

- Science includes all possible causes - liberals discard the ones they don't like.

- Liberals call carbon dioxide a pollutant - but without it there there would be no life.

- There were high concentrations of carbon dioxide before there were people.

- Carbon dioxide cannot be with confidence said to be a precursor to global warming, because many times it appears later, and increased amounts of it are not always linked to global warming. It has also been linked to cooling.

- Liberals act like global warming/climate change caused by humans is their religion, because they doggedly believe in ideas that cannot be proven despite the lack of causal evidence. One might call them the Young Earth Creationists of liberalism/progressivism.

- Liberals demonize people who disagree with them, rather than simply dialog. 

- Global warming caused by humans leading to catastrophic ends that can only be changed by destroying every economy on earth = Progressive Religion, where Gaia is the Goddess worshipped. 

Good thing we have libs/progs to tell us what to think and to serve as dictators over our lives.

mcdun
by Humboldt California on Mar. 2, 2014 at 9:36 PM
1 mom liked this

Your misunderstanding of science makes my head hurt. 


Quoting SallyMJ:

The truth of science - why the left believes in dogma and not science:

- Science is constantly growing and developing - but liberals say that it is settled.

- Science updates its models to reflect actual data - but liberals keep the same ones, so their predictions are increasingly out of date.

- Science includes all possible causes - liberals discard the ones they don't like.

- Liberals call carbon dioxide a pollutant - but without it there there would be no life.

- There were high concentrations of carbon dioxide before there were people.

- Carbon dioxide cannot be with confidence said to be a precursor to global warming, because many times it appears later, and increased amounts of it are not always linked to global warming. It has also been linked to cooling.

- Liberals act like global warming/climate change caused by humans is their religion, because they doggedly believe in ideas that cannot be proven despite the lack of causal evidence. One might call them the Young Earth Creationists of liberalism/progressivism.

- Liberals demonize people who disagree with them, rather than simply dialog. 

- Global warming caused by humans leading to catastrophic ends that can only be changed by destroying every economy on earth = Progressive Religion, where Gaia is the Goddess worshipped. 

Good thing we have libs/progs to tell us what to think and to serve as dictators over our lives.


I  bet  you  make  your  daddy  proud

grandmab125
by Platinum Member on Mar. 2, 2014 at 9:45 PM
6 moms liked this

 Global warming is a hoax.  Why do you think they changed the name to 'climate change'? Well, hell yea, the climate changes all of the time.  It's the normal cycle of the planet.  Where oh where would these false scientists and their universities be without all of the grants they get  from their govts to perpetuate this lie?  Right, those scientists would probably be without a job.

Global warming fear mongering is pushed by the UN and our failed president as a form of redistribution of wealth.

From The New York Times....

Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder for Climate Dispute

By ANDREW C. REVKIN

 Published: November 20, 2009

Hundreds of private e-mail messages and documents hacked from a computer server at a British university are causing a stir among global warming skeptics, who say they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.

The e-mail messages, attributed to prominent American and British climate researchers, include discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments - in some cases derisive - about specific people known for their skeptical views. Drafts of scientific papers and a photo collage that portrays climate skeptics on an ice floe were also among the hacked data, some of which dates back 13 years.

In one e-mail exchange, a scientist writes of using a statistical "trick" in a chart illustrating a recent sharp warming trend. In another, a scientist refers to climate skeptics as "idiots."

Some skeptics asserted Friday that the correspondence revealed an effort to withhold scientific information. "This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud," said Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist who has long faulted evidence pointing to human-driven warming and is criticized in the documents.

Some of the correspondence portrays the scientists as feeling under siege by the skeptics' camp and worried that any stray comment or data glitch could be turned against them.

The evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so widely accepted that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument. However, the documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists.

In several e-mail exchanges, Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and other scientists discuss gaps in understanding of recent variations in temperature. Skeptic Web sites pointed out one line in particular: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't," Dr. Trenberth wrote.

The cache of e-mail messages also includes references to journalists, including this reporter, and queries from journalists related to articles they were reporting.

Officials at the University of East Anglia confirmed in a statement on Friday that files had been stolen from a university server and that the police had been brought in to investigate the breach. They added, however, that they could not confirm that all the material circulating on the Internet was authentic.

But several scientists and others contacted by The New York Times confirmed that they were the authors or recipients of specific e-mail messages included in the file. The revelations are bound to inflame the public debate as hundreds of negotiators prepare to negotiate an international climate accord at meetings in Copenhagen next month, and at least one scientist speculated that the timing was not coincidental.

Dr. Trenberth said Friday that he was appalled at the release of the e-mail messages.

But he added that he thought the revelations might backfire against climate skeptics. He said that he thought that the messages showed "the integrity of scientists." Still, some of the comments might lend themselves to being interpreted as sinister.

In a 1999 e-mail exchange about charts showing climate patterns over the last two millenniums, Phil Jones, a longtime climate researcher at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, said he had used a "trick" employed by another scientist, Michael Mann, to "hide the decline" in temperatures.

Dr. Mann, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, confirmed in an interview that the e-mail message was real. He said the choice of words by his colleague was poor but noted that scientists often used the word "trick" to refer to a good way to solve a problem, "and not something secret."

At issue were sets of data, both employed in two studies. One data set showed long-term temperature effects on tree rings; the other, thermometer readings for the past 100 years.

Through the last century, tree rings and thermometers show a consistent rise in temperature until 1960, when some tree rings, for unknown reasons, no longer show that rise, while the thermometers continue to do so until the present.

Dr. Mann explained that the reliability of the tree-ring data was called into question, so they were no longer used to track temperature fluctuations. But he said dropping the use of the tree rings was never something that was hidden, and had been in the scientific literature for more than a decade. "It sounds incriminating, but when you look at what you're talking about, there's nothing there," Dr. Mann said.

In addition, other independent but indirect measurements of temperature fluctuations in the studies broadly agreed with the thermometer data showing rising temperatures.

Dr. Jones, writing in an e-mail message, declined to be interviewed.

Stephen McIntyre, a blogger who on his Web site, climateaudit.org, has for years been challenging data used to chart climate patterns, and who came in for heated criticism in some e-mail messages, called the revelations "quite breathtaking."

But several scientists whose names appear in the e-mail messages said they merely revealed that scientists were human, and did nothing to undercut the body of research on global warming. "Science doesn't work because we're all nice," said Gavin A. Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA whose e-mail exchanges with colleagues over a variety of climate studies were in the cache. "Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works."

He said the breach at the University of East Anglia was discovered after hackers who had gained access to the correspondence sought Tuesday to hack into a different server supporting realclimate.org, a blog unrelated to NASA that he runs with several other scientists pressing the case that global warming is true.

The intruders sought to create a mock blog post there and to upload the full batch of files from Britain. That effort was thwarted, Dr. Schmidt said, and scientists immediately notified colleagues at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. The first posts that revealed details from the files appeared Thursday at The Air Vent, a Web site devoted to skeptics' arguments.

At first, said Dr. Michaels, the climatologist who has faulted some of the science of the global warming consensus, his instinct was to ignore the correspondence as "just the way scientists talk."

But on Friday, he said that after reading more deeply, he felt that some exchanges reflected an effort to block the release of data for independent review.

He said some messages mused about discrediting him by challenging the veracity of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin by claiming he knew his research was wrong. "This shows these are people willing to bend rules and go after other people's reputations in very serious ways," he said.

Spencer R. Weart, a physicist and historian who is charting the course of research on global warming, said the hacked material would serve as "great material for historians."

Farmlady09
by Silver Member on Mar. 2, 2014 at 10:44 PM
6 moms liked this

The climate on Earth has changed since Earth was a boiling mass of lava. The fact that some scientists finally seemed to notice that and want to make money from it is the part I have a problem with.

Nothing about 'climate change' is about 'saving' the planet. It's about money and control. Since I have no wish to further fluff out some jerk's pocket any more than I wish to be 'controlled' (and since my global footprint is almost nada compared to the biggest mouths spouting climate change), you'll have to toss me in with those who argue against it. Shrugs.

I will note that the individuals who stand to profit the most from both a financial AND a control standpoint are the same ones who also tout global overpopulation. I find it odd that people who scream at other people who aren't buying into that haven't caught on yet. To me, it really does fit the whole liberal joke cartoon (plural actually, I've seen quite a few) of basically buying the noose to hang themselves with.

timeforprogress
by Bronze Member on Mar. 2, 2014 at 11:06 PM
1 mom liked this
Certainly the fossil fuel industry and their shareholders have nothing to gain by creating doubt. No it is definitely the scientist driving their late model suburus, and their research assistants working part time for ten bucks an hour.

Quoting Farmlady09:

The climate on Earth has changed since Earth was a boiling mass of lava. The fact that some scientists finally seemed to notice that and want to make money from it is the part I have a problem with.


Nothing about 'climate change' is about 'saving' the planet. It's about money and control. Since I have no wish to further fluff out some jerk's pocket any more than I wish to be 'controlled' (and since my global footprint is almost nada compared to the biggest mouths spouting climate change), you'll have to toss me in with those who argue against it. Shrugs.


I will note that the individuals who stand to profit the most from both a financial AND a control standpoint are the same ones who also tout global overpopulation. I find it odd that people who scream at other people who aren't buying into that haven't caught on yet. To me, it really does fit the whole liberal joke cartoon (plural actually, I've seen quite a few) of basically buying the noose to hang themselves with.

autodidact
by Silver Member on Mar. 2, 2014 at 11:08 PM

who? source? 

Quoting SallyMJ:

The truth of science - why the left believes in dogma and not science:

- Science is constantly growing and developing - but liberals say that it is settled.

- Science updates its models to reflect actual data - but liberals keep the same ones, so their predictions are increasingly out of date.

- Science includes all possible causes - liberals discard the ones they don't like.

- Liberals call carbon dioxide a pollutant - but without it there there would be no life.

- There were high concentrations of carbon dioxide before there were people.

- Carbon dioxide cannot be with confidence said to be a precursor to global warming, because many times it appears later, and increased amounts of it are not always linked to global warming. It has also been linked to cooling.

- Liberals act like global warming/climate change caused by humans is their religion, because they doggedly believe in ideas that cannot be proven despite the lack of causal evidence. One might call them the Young Earth Creationists of liberalism/progressivism.

- Liberals demonize people who disagree with them, rather than simply dialog. 

- Global warming caused by humans leading to catastrophic ends that can only be changed by destroying every economy on earth = Progressive Religion, where Gaia is the Goddess worshipped. 

Good thing we have libs/progs to tell us what to think and to serve as dictators over our lives.


Farmlady09
by Silver Member on Mar. 2, 2014 at 11:17 PM

Who is paying the scientists?

Quoting timeforprogress: Certainly the fossil fuel industry and their shareholders have nothing to gain by creating doubt. No it is definitely the scientist driving their late model suburus, and their research assistants working part time for ten bucks an hour.
Quoting Farmlady09:

The climate on Earth has changed since Earth was a boiling mass of lava. The fact that some scientists finally seemed to notice that and want to make money from it is the part I have a problem with.

Nothing about 'climate change' is about 'saving' the planet. It's about money and control. Since I have no wish to further fluff out some jerk's pocket any more than I wish to be 'controlled' (and since my global footprint is almost nada compared to the biggest mouths spouting climate change), you'll have to toss me in with those who argue against it. Shrugs.

I will note that the individuals who stand to profit the most from both a financial AND a control standpoint are the same ones who also tout global overpopulation. I find it odd that people who scream at other people who aren't buying into that haven't caught on yet. To me, it really does fit the whole liberal joke cartoon (plural actually, I've seen quite a few) of basically buying the noose to hang themselves with.

 

timeforprogress
by Bronze Member on Mar. 2, 2014 at 11:33 PM
The ones working at universities teach for a living. Some work for government agencies. I don't think you know too many scientist if you think they are motivated by money. Research scientist do it, because they are in search of answers.

Quoting Farmlady09:

Who is paying the scientists?


Quoting timeforprogress: Certainly the fossil fuel industry and their shareholders have nothing to gain by creating doubt. No it is definitely the scientist driving their late model suburus, and their research assistants working part time for ten bucks an hour.
Quoting Farmlady09:

The climate on Earth has changed since Earth was a boiling mass of lava. The fact that some scientists finally seemed to notice that and want to make money from it is the part I have a problem with.


Nothing about 'climate change' is about 'saving' the planet. It's about money and control. Since I have no wish to further fluff out some jerk's pocket any more than I wish to be 'controlled' (and since my global footprint is almost nada compared to the biggest mouths spouting climate change), you'll have to toss me in with those who argue against it. Shrugs.


I will note that the individuals who stand to profit the most from both a financial AND a control standpoint are the same ones who also tout global overpopulation. I find it odd that people who scream at other people who aren't buying into that haven't caught on yet. To me, it really does fit the whole liberal joke cartoon (plural actually, I've seen quite a few) of basically buying the noose to hang themselves with.


 

Farmlady09
by Silver Member on Mar. 2, 2014 at 11:57 PM
4 moms liked this

Peter Sutherland ring a bell? How about General Lord Guthrie?

You do know that scientists are human, right? They get bought and paid for just like any other human.

There are far TOO many statements refuting every single climate change 'fact' ~ starting with the FACT that humans account for 3% of carbon emissions today. I've yet to see either a climate change camp scientist OR a climate change supporter explain how or why the levels were higher during the Jurassic period. Can you?

Quoting timeforprogress: The ones working at universities teach for a living. Some work for government agencies. I don't think you know too many scientist if you think they are motivated by money. Research scientist do it, because they are in search of answers.
Quoting Farmlady09:

Who is paying the scientists?

Quoting timeforprogress: Certainly the fossil fuel industry and their shareholders have nothing to gain by creating doubt. No it is definitely the scientist driving their late model suburus, and their research assistants working part time for ten bucks an hour.
Quoting Farmlady09:

The climate on Earth has changed since Earth was a boiling mass of lava. The fact that some scientists finally seemed to notice that and want to make money from it is the part I have a problem with.

Nothing about 'climate change' is about 'saving' the planet. It's about money and control. Since I have no wish to further fluff out some jerk's pocket any more than I wish to be 'controlled' (and since my global footprint is almost nada compared to the biggest mouths spouting climate change), you'll have to toss me in with those who argue against it. Shrugs.

I will note that the individuals who stand to profit the most from both a financial AND a control standpoint are the same ones who also tout global overpopulation. I find it odd that people who scream at other people who aren't buying into that haven't caught on yet. To me, it really does fit the whole liberal joke cartoon (plural actually, I've seen quite a few) of basically buying the noose to hang themselves with.

 

 

grandmab125
by Platinum Member on Mar. 3, 2014 at 2:13 AM
2 moms liked this

 LMAO.  Why Obama, the wanna-be-king stated this in his  2014 State of the Union speech, so it must be so.  And we all know that the sheeple drink from the same kool-aid vessel.  Missed it, huh?

"Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did," Obama told a joint session of Congress."

 

Quoting autodidact:

who? source? 

Quoting SallyMJ:

The truth of science - why the left believes in dogma and not science:

- Science is constantly growing and developing - but liberals say that it is settled.

- Science updates its models to reflect actual data - but liberals keep the same ones, so their predictions are increasingly out of date.

- Science includes all possible causes - liberals discard the ones they don't like.

- Liberals call carbon dioxide a pollutant - but without it there there would be no life.

- There were high concentrations of carbon dioxide before there were people.

- Carbon dioxide cannot be with confidence said to be a precursor to global warming, because many times it appears later, and increased amounts of it are not always linked to global warming. It has also been linked to cooling.

- Liberals act like global warming/climate change caused by humans is their religion, because they doggedly believe in ideas that cannot be proven despite the lack of causal evidence. One might call them the Young Earth Creationists of liberalism/progressivism.

- Liberals demonize people who disagree with them, rather than simply dialog. 

- Global warming caused by humans leading to catastrophic ends that can only be changed by destroying every economy on earth = Progressive Religion, where Gaia is the Goddess worshipped. 

Good thing we have libs/progs to tell us what to think and to serve as dictators over our lives.

 

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