The elephant in the room with Lewandowsky

I haven’t been posting much lately as I’ve been busy with other things. I have, however, recently come across this article about the work of Stephan Lewandowsky. He is a cognitive scientist in the School of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol. He has published a couple of papers about why some people seem to reject (deny?) many of the findings of climate science. The post that I’m reblogging is reporting on a couple of his papers and suggesting that there is a link between having a libertarian (free-market) ideology and rejecting climate science. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know I have real issues with the basic tenets of free-market thinking and with those who reject climate science, so this post certainly gels with my thinking and it is interesting that it is based on published work in cognitive science. Doesn’t make it right, I guess, but I would recommend giving it a read.


10 thoughts on “The elephant in the room with Lewandowsky

  1. Thanks for re-blogging this. I feel compelled to point out that all I have done is sought to put the record straight: Lewandowsky et al have become embroiled in a totally spurious debate about whether people who believe one conspiracy theory are more likely to believe others. This is very unfortunate because I think it has enabled many people to overlook the far more basic finding of their research: Antecedent adherence to libertarian ideology prejudices people against accepting that climate change is something we simply must now tackle irrespective of the cost. After all, this is why Sir Nicholas Stern once described climate change as “the greatest market failure in modern history”… This is such a fundamental challenge to the status quo/business as usual paradigm that many people therefore find it far more comforting to simply deny the nature of reality – and the fossil fuel industry is more than willing to help them do so.

    • Thanks, that’s a useful clarification. I certainly agree with your latter interpretation and I do find this a very interesting topic, especially as this interpretation is backed up by scientific investigation. Doesn’t make it correct, but does give it some credence.

      • Cheers. In seeking to discredit climate science and scientists, the fossil fuel industry has – just as did the tobacco industry before it – turned residual uncertainty into unreasonable doubt and perpetuated spurious debate; thus delaying by decades the inevitability of its business becoming socially unacceptable as a result.

      • Indeed and what I find interesting is that the current theme amongst skeptics is that it is climate scientists who benefit from proposing AGW. Not only are the amounts laughable compared to that involved in the fossil fuel industry, but the first climate scientist to show that the fundamentals of climate science are wrong and that there is no need to be alarmed about AGW would benefit hugely.

  2. Interesting, but I believe it has nothing to do with psychological tendencies and more with partisan opinions and going with whatever the leaders in your group say.

    I remember in Spain the right wing party proposed to deviate the Ebro river to supply with water cities in Valencia, then the left wing party said that this was horrible to environment and that it was better to build desalination plants. Of course, the right wing party said that desalination plants were also a source of pollution and more costly.

    Not a genius needed to figure out what happened next; all left winger were convinced that deviate the Ebro was an ecological crime and everyone in the right were convinced that building desalination plants was an ecological crime… None of them had a clue, they just parroted whatever their leaders told them to.

    Up to this day I still don’t know what was truly the best scientific solution… And actually I think “nobody” cares.

    • Certainly possible, but isn’t it also possible that someone’s partisan opinions might be guided by their psychological tendencies. For example, maybe some people are willing/able to change their views when confronted with evidence that they’re wrong, while others are not. That seems to be something that would be a psychological tendency and it could be that such tendencies also influence our political and economic views.

      • Maybe to some extend, but the story continues… later on a region controlled by the left wing party needed water and, all in a sudden, deviation of the river was not that bad idea after all… because when money talks bullshit walks.

        So yeah, you might be very well right and personality trends might make you prone to harvest some political ideas over others, but eventually the flock is driven by the nose wherever the shepherd wants.

        In fact, if this study holds true maybe green peace activists should start a conspiracy theory where “all the commies are trying to burn our oil as quick as possible to turn humanity into socialists slaves… fight for freedom!! preserve your oil!!” I don’t know, societies behave like children, maybe treating them like one works better than science.

      • You’ve lost a little me I’m afraid. Not quite sure what you’re getting at here. Money certainly talks, but as far as I can tell – in many cases – the problems happen when those who were once more left-wing start to behave like free-market ideologues. Admittedly, there are problems with radical left-wing ideas too, so it’s maybe not so much about left versus right as moderate versus radical.

  3. To the left of centre: May 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm,

    Oh no, the left wingers and right wingers I am talking about are the moderates, fortunately in Europe radicals are just a bunch… for now.

    My whole point is that peoples’ opinions are not theirs but their shepherds, and their shepherds have personal/party/corporate interests and their opinions might be one and the opposite based upon what current interests they have.

    The same way countries follow the lemma: “There Are No Permanent Allies, No Permanent Enemies Only Permanent Interests”. Our shepherds follow the lemma
    There Are No Permanent Ideas, No Permanent Opinions Only Permanent Interests.

    • Certainly, and that was one of the suggestions made in the post I reblogged. However, this was interpreted as the “shepherds” also taking advantage of certain psychological tendencies.

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