Friday, December 31, 2010

My exchange on a climate change blog

This blog, called The Intersection,written by Chris Mooney, deals with science, primarily climate change. His recent post is why people reject climate change despite overwhelming evidence. This is the entire post. I posted and then got a reply from someone who missed the point. I point out that climate denial is simply the confirmation bias at work; if you think it's real you'll find evidence for it, if you don't you'll find evidence against it. I got criticized by a poster who pointed out that expert opinion was in favor of climate change and that the evidence for it was of much better quality than that of the evidence against it. True, but irrelevant to my argument. My response:

Jon, your reply to me was well-reasoned but missed my point. By the way,if I left the impression I’m a climate denier, that was a miscommunication on my part. My argument was more about psychology than the truth of climate change. I agree it would be wonderful if people approached the subject the way you want them to do, with thoughtful analysis of the evidence, but they simply don’t. You’re appealing to rationality, but my argument is that reason/logic has little to do with how people approach this issue (and most other issues for that matter).

Arguments that climate scientists overwhelmingly accept g.w., while true, don’t matter to deniers. Psychologists know that people only value expert opinion if they agree with the expert’s point of view.( I heard a podcast from Psychology Today saying this, this isn’t a wild theory I just made up.) My family, for the most part, rejects climate change, and they don’t care about the opinion of climate scientists. They say those people are frauds out to get government grants (one family member actually said this to me a week ago, this isn’t a strawman argument).

My challenge to you is: send your links to all the climate deniers you know and tell me how many change their views. My prediction: you will get zero converts. As my favorite scientist, Scott Atran, said once: it doesn’t do much good when dealing with the basic fact of human irrationality to say that things ought to be rational and evidence-based.

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