follow CCP

Recent blog entries
popular papers

Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing

What Is the "Science of Science Communication"?

Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem

Ideology, Motivated Cognition, and Cognitive Reflection: An Experimental Study

'Ideology' or 'Situation Sense'? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment

A Risky Science Communication Environment for Vaccines

Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government

Making Climate Science Communication Evidence-based—All the Way Down 

Neutral Principles, Motivated Cognition, and Some Problems for Constitutional Law 

Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus
 

The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Science Literacy and Climate Change

"They Saw a Protest": Cognitive Illiberalism and the Speech-Conduct Distinction 

Geoengineering and the Science Communication Environment: a Cross-Cultural Experiment

Fixing the Communications Failure

Why We Are Poles Apart on Climate Change

The Cognitively Illiberal State 

Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn't, and Why? An Experimental Study

Cultural Cognition of the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology

Whose Eyes Are You Going to Believe? An Empirical Examination of Scott v. Harris

Cultural Cognition and Public Policy

Culture, Cognition, and Consent: Who Perceives What, and Why, in "Acquaintance Rape" Cases

Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition: Explaining the White Male Effect

Fear of Democracy: A Cultural Evaluation of Sunstein on Risk

Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk

« So what is "the best available scientific evidence" anyway? | Main | Partisan Media Are Not Destroying America »
Sunday
Aug112013

What "climate skeptics" have in common with "believers": a stubborn attraction to evidence-free, just-so stories about the formation of public risk perceptions

My aim in studying the science of science communication is to advance practical understanding of how to promote constructive public engagement with the best available evidence—not to promote public acceptance of particular conclusions about what that evidence signifies or public support for any particular set of public policies.

When I address the sources of persistent public conflict over climate change, though, it seems pretty clear to me that those with a practical interest in using the best evidence on science communication are themselves predominantly focused on dispelling what they see as a failure on the part of the public to credit valid evidence on the extent, sources, and deleterious consequences of anthropogenic global warming.

I certainly have no problem with that! On the contrary, I'm eager to help them, both because I believe their efforts will promote more enlightened policymaking on climate change and because I believe their self-conscious use of evidence-based methods of science communication will itself enlarge knowledge on how to promote constructive public engagement with decision-relevant science generally. 

Indeed, I am generally willing and eager to counsel policy advocates no matter what their aim so long as they are seeking to achieve it by enhancing reasoned public engagement with valid scientific evidence (and am decidedly uninterested, and adamantly unwilling, to help anyone who wants to achieve a policy outcome, no matter how much I support the same, by means that involve misrepresenting evidence, manipulating the public, or otherwise bypassing ordinary citizens' use of their own reasoning powers to make up their own minds).

One thing that puzzles me, though, is why those who are skeptical about climate change don’t seem nearly as interested in practical science communication of this sort.

Actually, it’s clear enough that climate skeptics are interested in the sort of work that I and other researchers engaged in the empirical study of science communication do. I often observe them reflecting thoughtfully about that work, and I even engage them from time to time in interesting, informative discussion of these studies.

But I don’t see skeptics grappling in the earnest—even obsessive, anxious—way that climate-change policy advocates are with the task of how to promote better public understanding.

That seems weird to me. 

After all, there is a symmetry in the position of “believers” and “skeptics” in this regard. 

They disagree about what conclusion the best scientific evidence on climate change supports, obviously. But they both have to confront that approximately 50% of the U.S. public disagrees with their position on that.

The U.S. public has been and remains deeply divided on whether climate change is occurring, why, and what the impact of this will be (over this entire period, there’s also been a recurring, cyclical interest in proclaiming, on the basis of utterly inconclusive tib bits of information, that public conflict is dissipating and being superseded by an emerging popular demand for “decisive action” in response to the climate crisis; I’m not sure what explains this strange dynamic).

The obvious consequence of such confusion is divisive, disheartening conflict, and a disturbingly high likelihood that popularly accountable policymaking institutions will as a result fail to adopt policies consistent with the best available scientific evidence.

Don’t skeptics want to do something about this?

A great many of them honestly believe that the best available evidence supports their views (I really don’t doubt this is so). So why aren’t they holding conferences dedicated to making sense of the best available evidence on public science communication and how to use that evidence to guide the public toward a state of shared understanding more consistent with it?

I often ask skeptics who comment on blog posts here this question, and feel like I am yet to get a satisfying answer.

But maybe my mystification reflects biased sampling on my part.

Maybe, despite my desire to engage constructively with anyone whose own practical aims involve promoting constructive public engagement with scientific evidence, I am still being exposed to an unrepresentative segment of the population who fit that description, one over-representing climate-change believers.

I happened across something that made me think that might be so.

It consists of a blog post from a skeptic who is trying to explain to others who share the same orientation why it is that such a large fraction of the U.S. population believes that climate change resulting from fossil fuel consumption poses serious risks to human wellbeing.

As earnest and reflective as the account was, this climate skeptic’s account deployed exactly the same facile set of just-so tropes—constructed from the same evidence-free style of selective synthesizing of decision-science mechanisms—that continue to dominate, and distort, the thinking of climate change believers when they are addressing the “science communication problem.”

Consider:

Why do people believe that global warming has already created bigger storms? Because when "experts" repeatedly tell us that global warming will wreck the Earth, we start to fit each bad storm into the disaster narrative that's already in our heads.

Also, attention-seeking media wail about increased property damage from hurricanes. . . .

Also, thanks to modern media and camera phones, we hear more about storms, and see the damage. People think Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,800 people, was the deadliest storm ever. But the 1900 Galveston hurricane killed 10,000 people. We just didn't have so much media then.

Here they are, all the usual “culprits”: a “boundedly rational” public, whose reliance on heuristic forms of information-processing are being exploited by strategic misinformers, systematically biased by “unbalanced” media coverage and amplified by social media.

Every single element of this account—while plausible on its own—is in fact contrary to the best available evidence on public risk perception and the dynamics of science communication. 

  • Blaming the media is also pretty weak. The claim that "unbalanced" media coverage causes public controversy on climate change science is incompatible with cross-cultural evidence, which shows that US coverage is no different from coverage in other nations in which the public isn't polarized (e.g., Sweden). Indeed, the "media misinformation" claim has causation upside down, as  Kevin Arceneaux’s recent post helps to show. The media covers competing claims about the evidence because climate change is entangled in culturally antagonistic meanings, which in turn create persistent public demand for information on the nature of the conflict and for evidence that the readers who hold the relevant cultural identities can use to satisfy their interest in persisting in beliefs consistent with their identities. 
  • The “internet echo chamber” hypothesis is similarly devoid of evidence. There are plenty of evidence-based sources that address and dispel the general claim that the internet reinforces partisan exposure to and processing of evidence (sources that apparently can’t penetrate the internet echo chamber, which continues to propagate the echo-chamber claim despite the absence of evidence).

But here's one really simple way to tell that the blog writer's explanation of why people are overestimating the risks of climate change is patent B.S.: it is constructed out of exactly the same mechanisms that so many theorists on the other side of the debate imaginatively combine to explain why people are underestimating exactly the same risks. 

This is the tell-tale signature of a just-so story: it can explain anything one sees and its opposite equally well!

So what to say?

Well, it turns out that despite their disagreement about what the best scientific evidence on climate change signifies--about what the facts are, and about what policy responses are appropriately responsive to them—advocates in the “believer” and “skeptic” camps have some important common science communication interests.

They both have an interest in understanding it and using it, as I indicated at the outset.

But beyond that, they both have a stake in freeing themselves from the temptation to be regaled by story tellers, who, despite the abundance of evidence that now exists, remain committed to perpetually recycling empirically discredited just-so stories rather than making use of and extending the best available evidence on what the science communication problem consists in and how to fix it.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (117)

Dan, you said:

"Also, one might infer from the comments, they have a personality type or view of politics that disposes them not to want to promote understanding by others who are confused, and just not to care if democratic societies adopt enlghented polcies."

That is not accurate at all. If you put a bunch of engineers or scientists at a convention, they would largely talk to each other in jargon. That is simply what I described. Would it be correct to infer then they don't "care if democratic societies adopt enlightened policies"? Obviously, they do. Many skeptics believe wrong and bad policy can come to be adopted simply because some activist felt like "taking action" on the trendy 'cause of the day' and leave the rest holding the bill. In fact, I think this is common among almost all 'skeptics'.

"What to do about it in order to increaswe the likelihood of sensible, welfare enhancnig, freedom-respecting policies? "

My personal opinion: Climate science and policy do not need to be communicated to the public at large. Existing policy changes ought to be rolled back, and the public should know about them to that extent, to enable this to happen. But let's set my thoughts aside for now.

You must be aware there have been several theories proposed as to why climate communication has failed. I am inclined to believe you don't fully buy any of them either. There've been the
1] information deficit and high entry cost theory
2] the Giddens paradox theory
3] Lack of conversational presence theory ("hey, I heard the apocalypse is coming", "Ok")
4] Apocalyptic Emotional numbing model
5] "Drop in the ocean" model
6] The "Bugger it and open another bottle" response
7] The "Merchants of Doubt" revelation model
...

All these would apply to any organized mode of communication skeptics would adopt too.

Many skeptics see "climate communication" as a form of marketing, or hucksterism. In several instances, it sets off their alarm bells ringing in the first place. It implies the communicator knows something, knows that it's not going to come across easily, but is still trying. There is a ceiling on the yield of such efforts. Those who arrive at skepticism in this manner, or associate their climate scepticism with this, will not adopt the same mode of behaviour, come what may.

Those who see communication as hucksterism would naturally avoid the phenotype and believe that's simply enough, and in many instances, it really is. If you don't believe your speaker to be dishonest, there is a chance you'll believe him. The general public float in a sea of marketing messages; that's what they'll bin you as, if they think you are trying to sell them something.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShub Niggurath

@Willis:

I have views -- certainly incompete ones; indeed, ones that I hope will be improved in part by others showing how they are wrong, in the process that is characeteristic of how empirical study advances understanding -- about why 50% of the US public doesn't believe in AGW & related claims about the risk it poses.

I asked *you* to tell me why 50% doesn't accept what *you* do? You are telling me why *you* don't believe certain claims about climate change. Why do you figure so many aren't reaching the conclusion you do? @Shub says he cares about the asnwer to this question -- so what is your theory? What is your evidence?

Do you buy the silly answers that were presented in the blog that I critiqued?

Or like @Shub, do you just not care?

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

@Shub:

You say it is "not accurate at all" to read a good many of the answers by skpetics to my question (do skpetics have a theory about why their position is rejected by 50% of the US public?) as amounting to the claim that skeptics have " a personality type or view of politics that disposes them not to want to promote understanding by others who are confused, and just not to care if democratic societies adopt enlghented polcies."

Then you say, "[m]y personal opinion: Climate science and policy do not need to be communicated to the public at large..."

!

But as I said in the comment you (partially) quoted from, this is such "an unappealing picture" of skpetics that "I'm discinlined to believe it describes anyone" (yourself included) much less all skeptics.

I think some of them *do* want to try to create public understanding. I suspect they have no idea what the evidence is about how one might do that; that they believe things as devoid of evidentiry grounding as the author of the blog post whose essay I featured in my own.

Still others who *care* about public opinkion obviously *don't* care about promoting public undertanding of science, even as the skeptics see it. They just want to create rancor & recriminatoin.

That is Heartland's strategy. I see nothing in Bast's comment that even disputes this.

His claiming credit for continuing plarizatioin reflects something in between pathaological egomania & simple ignorance about how one would go about measuring the effect of how one thing in the world influences another (that's a form of unscientific thinking too, one that definitely constrains effective communciation of science). But I'm sure the strategy of associating those one disagrees with terrorists, socialists, Nazis etc is a pretty sensible way to confuse people, the real goal of those who prefer just to block things & tie them down. *That* -- not genuine enlightenment of democratic citizens who are trying to figure out the truth so they can make intelligent decisions about what policies will best fit their own values -- is his only goal!

This is an outlook utterly devoid of republican virtue.

I'm sure it isn't the view of *all* skeptics. Indeed, I'm sure it is one that a good many of them would view as shameful.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

@Richard:

1. Well, my goal wasn't to correct ignorance of my work! It was to present information & eviddnece & arguments for you to consider. It's predictable, though, that the information & evidence & argumetns I'd want to present to you would be ones that reflect things I've come to believe through my own reflections, which are in turn informed by research that I have done. But by the work of others too. The point, though, is that if I think I know something that I think you should know, I want to tell you what it is & see what you make of it; I don't want to tell you, "I know--b/c I've studied this!" If someone catches me talking that way, I hope they will do the equivalent of producing Marshall McLuhan (although I hope next time he won't turn out to be J. Bast).

2. I agree w/ you that many organized interest groups that are promoting skeptical positions are content just to block things, a strategy for which, as I just indicated, simply breeding cultural & political antagonism is an effective strategy. But I still believe there are others who likely believe that too many citizens have formed a mistaken view of the best available evidence, and who would like to promote better understanding (I believe that about them even though I am sure I disagree with them on a good many of the particulars on what the best evidence signifiies). I'm just curious-- what does the world look like to them? What is *their* theory of why things are like this? Do some of them accept claims as silly, & as innocent of evidence on how people form their views on what is known to science, as the ones that I found in the blog post I featured? Are their others who find this frustrating?

I'm curious about how things look to other people.

Also unsurprised that it obviously seems strange -- even incomprehensible -- to so many for me to be curious about that. I haven't done a study of this sort, but I think the pathology that characterizes public delbierations over climate change & a variety of other issues that polarize ordinary people (none of whom actually is likely ever to read, much less post a comment on, a blog like this one) stems from aggressive incomprehension of how things could possibly appear differently to other ordinary, reasonable people...

August 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"Many skeptics believe wrong and bad policy can come to be adopted simply because some activist felt like "taking action" on the trendy 'cause of the day' and leave the rest holding the bill. In fact, I think this is common among almost all 'skeptics'."

How does that distinguish "skeptics" from anyone else? Many people, whether they are "skeptics" or not, feel that "some activist" can inspire bad policy that leaves us holding the bill. And on the other hand, I would say that many "skeptics" believe that activists can inspire the implementation of good policies - say if Rand Paul were successful in his attempts to defund climate change research. And "skeptics" are not alone in believing that "some activist" can inspire entirely appropriate policies - say Rosa Parks.

What you described, Shub, is better than what you wrote before in the sense that at least you're acknowledging uncertainty and qualifying your determinations about what "skeptics" think to acknowledge that indeed, they are not "monolithic." But unfortunately what you said is still, basically, meaningless. You described only part of what many "skeptics" believe and left off another part, conspicuously. You also described them in a way that was intended to distinguish them from non-"skeptics," except in reality it doesn't do so.

The problem is that your descriptions are evidence-free. They are based on nothing other than observational evidence, which obviously is subject to observer bias.

Where are the data and evidence you use to support your taxonomy of the belief of "skeptics." If you have none, then why do you call yourself a "skeptic?

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan,
There is no contradiction in the way you frame. The first part merely refers to the fact that many skeptical blogs carry technical or obscure discussions that make sense only to those following the story for a while. Part of the reason for this is the audience is technically minded, or selective. Owing to this, they don't 'communicate' to a larger audience. Is this in any way controversial? Or, to answer your question, is there anything indicative of a certain personality type involved here? It is just a description of the circumstances.

The second part refers to my opinion. Is there anything to suggest my opinions are the direct product of my personality, or a certain kind of a personality? No. It is a position arrived at, following reflection.

Your comments on Heartland and Bast, on the balance, are somewhat reactionary. The general public is bathed and bombarded daily in a stream of messages from the climate orthodox position. If Bast and his group are able to trigger a thought, that there may be a different way to think about this problem, it is to their credit. The magnitude of the effect may be open to question, but they are doing what you say skeptical communicators should do - communicate.

The climate debate has become rancorous. I'm not sure where exactly it started, but it has. Bashing Heartland for not acting with republican virtue, while forgiving the lies of climate propaganda...I don't know it'll help.

Look at The Great Global Warming Swindle. It contained no images of terrorists, no extreme language, etc. Would you say we need more of such documentaries? I certainly think so.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShub Niggurath

"Many skeptics see "climate communication" as a form of marketing, or hucksterism. In several instances, it sets off their alarm bells ringing in the first place. "

Again, I applaud the qualification. Unfortunately, it also doesn't address underlying problems.

Many "skeptics" see "climate communication" as an important way to prevent the adoption of what they see as damaging policies. In fact, they dedicate a great deal of time, energy, and resources to climate communication.

Which "many" is bigger, yours or mine? Do you have any evidence? If so, what is it?

Do you think that someone like Anthony Watts thinks that "climate communication" is a form of hucksterism? If so, they why did he live stream the Heartland Conference - as just one example that obviously shows he doesn't agree with the belief that you think is held by "many" skeptics.

How many commenters at his site, in the dozens? of posts that he's written about the Heartland conferences, have told him that they felt that the Heartland Conferences were "hucksterism?" Do you doubt that the HI conferences were marketing and "climate communication?"

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"There is no contradiction in the way you frame. The first part merely refers to the fact that many skeptical blogs carry technical or obscure discussions that make sense only to those following the story for a while. Part of the reason for this is the audience is technically minded, or selective. Owing to this, they don't 'communicate' to a larger audience. Is this in any way controversial? "

How "many" skeptical blogs do you think that there are that carry technical or obscure discussions?

Do you think that number is significantly larger than the number of "realist" blogs that carry technical or obscure discussions?

Does that mean that many "realists" are unconcerned with "climate communication?

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Willis:

I have views -- certainly incompete ones; indeed, ones that I hope will be improved in part by others showing how they are wrong, in the process that is characeteristic of how empirical study advances understanding -- about why 50% of the US public doesn't believe in AGW & related claims about the risk it poses.

I asked *you* to tell me why 50% doesn't accept what *you* do? You are telling me why *you* don't believe certain claims about climate change. Why do you figure so many aren't reaching the conclusion you do? @Shub says he cares about the asnwer to this question -- so what is your theory? What is your evidence?

Do you buy the silly answers that were presented in the blog that I critiqued?

Or like @Shub, do you just not care?

August 13, 2013 | dmk38

"dmk38", I'm sorry, but I have no idea who you are, which blog you critiqued, where you asked me something, what you asked me, or why you think I don't care.

A bit of background here would be most helpful ...

In any case, you say you me asked why "why 50% doesn't accept what *you* do?" ... what am I doing that 50% of the US public doesn't accept?

If you're asking in a most convoluted and unclear fashion why the American public doesn't buy the consensus, I covered that in detail in my previous comment—we were lied to by the leading lights of the climate alarmism movement.

When you do that, well, dmk38, people tend to disbelieve you when you come around again, especially when you come around with another pocketful of the same lies. As a certain "A. Lincoln" once said

If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.

That is the situation that the climate alarmists find themselves in. They have forfeited the confidence of the American public.

Now, I think they could get the trust back. I'm not as pessimistic as A. Lincoln, these days Americans are suckers for a sob story. I've watched a long parade of fallen American preachers and lying politicians get back into the limelight after being exposed as charlatans and liars, a few crocodile tears is usually enough. If not, they go "into rehab" at the "Betty Ford Center for Lying Politicians" or somewhere, stay a week, and start the climb again.

But you have to repent and ask for forgiveness for that to have a chance of happening. Not one climate scientist that I know of has done that. As I said above, see the sad story of Peter Gleick for the most recent of many examples.

And in particular, the mainstream climate science establishment will never get that trust and confidence back by claiming (as the author of this post does) that the problem is bad or inadequate scientific communication. That's a pathetic joke, a red herring of immense proportions.

The problem, as the alamists own emails proved beyond doubt, is that they lied to the American public and sold us crappy "science", and so they lost our trust.

... and the best, most professional scientific communication in the world can't fix that particular Humpty Dumpty.

w.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWillis Eschenbach

"dmk38", I'm sorry, but I have no idea who you are, which blog you critiqued, where you asked me something, what you asked me, or why you think I don't care.

In other words, Willis is responding to a post he didn't read (which makes it entirely obvious which blog he critiqued), and hasn't even bothered to do any research into the background of Dan's findings before dismissing them.

"Skepticism" at its finest.

If you're asking in a most convoluted and unclear fashion why the American public doesn't buy the consensus, I covered that in detail in my previous comment—we were lied to by the leading lights of the climate alarmism movement.

Evidence-free conclusion of cause-and-effect. "Skepticism" at its finest.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua, in your response to my questions to dmk38 you say:

In other words, Willis is responding to a post he didn't read (which makes it entirely obvious which blog he critiqued), and hasn't even bothered to do any research into the background of Dan's findings before dismissing them.

Oh, please, I read the post beginning to end, and I commented on Dan's citation and his foolish claim that the problem is bad communications.

Nowhere in Dan's post do I see any dmk38. Is he your sock-puppet or something, is that why you're defending him?

w.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWillis Eschenbach

@Willis:

Sorry for failing to introduce myself properly. I am dmk38. I operate the site and sometimes hop into the discussions. As you can see, I'm not so good at expressing myself. I am hoping another discussant who does -- or thinks he or she does -- understand what I was trying to say will reformulate my queries.

Thanks, & carry on!

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

Willis,

"If you're asking in a most convoluted and unclear fashion why the American public doesn't buy the consensus,..."

No. Dan was asking why 50% of the American public do buy the consensus. Why is it that despite a clear presentation of the flaws in climate science and climate policy, there are lots of people who still believe in catastrophic climate change.

And the explanation has to fit Dan's observations on the differences - it's not correlated with scientific literacy or the tendency to check ones first impressions with more systematic thinking (as measured by a quantity called 'cognitive reflection'), but it is correlated with cultural differences which are in turn correlated with political orientation. So to put it another way, why do Democrats predominantly believe the consensus and disbelieve the sceptics?

Why is it that you can put the ClimateGate evidence right under their noses, even other scientists like Dan here, and they can somehow fail to see in it what is so blindingly obvious to you?

Haven't you ever wondered what goes through their heads?

That's the question this post is trying to ask. Why don't sceptics wonder why their efforts to persuade everyone that climate science is dodgy don't work? Why don't they try to figure it out scientifically, and come up with a better method of communicating it?

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Now I'm totally confused:

@Willis:

Sorry for failing to introduce myself properly. I am dmk38. I operate the site and sometimes hop into the discussions. As you can see, I'm not so good at expressing myself. I am hoping another discussant who does -- or thinks he or she does -- understand what I was trying to say will reformulate my queries.

Thanks, & carry on!

August 13, 2013 | dmk38

You are a dog dressed in a very bizarre set of futuristic armor who "as we can see" finds it hard to express himself, and who further claims that he "operates the site"?

Have I fallen into an alternate universe here?

w.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWillis Eschenbach

@Hilary:

So .. that is such a darn good question it forced me to compose another blog post.

Take a look and let me know what you think of it.

I hope you do at least see that something must have gone terribly wrong in how I was communicating (happens all the time! I'm no expert communicator) believe that what my view of the "best available scientific evidence is" on climate change is relevant to any question I was posing to you or anyone else who might be able to help me learn more about how to communicate the "best available science" on climate or anything else.

h/t to site administrator dmk38 for bringing your question to my attention.

August 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Have I fallen into an alternate universe here?

Well, Willis - in your universe, you can tell that an accomplished scientists is mistaken in her scientific interpretation because people have lied to her because she is attractive.

In your universe, you think it is a plausible claim that you intentionally wrote a post (presumably because of your excellent "wordsmith" skills) in such a way that people who agree with you on the science described the post as "creepy."

So yes, I guess it is true at least in some sense, that you and I inhabit different universes. Of course, for 99.9% of our perception of reality, our universes mostly align (lights turn on when we flip the switch, it gets dark at night, etc.) - but there are certainly times when our universes seem to not be congruent, and interestingly those incongruencies seem to be floating around in the climate change solar system.

Not sure whose universe is the alternate, though. Perhaps it is mine.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan -

I can see from your photos that you are very attractive. I just wanted to let you know that if you disagree with Willis about the interpretation of scientific evidence, there is a very simple explanation that proves it is you who are in error: it is because people have been lying to you.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Willis:

This has certainly become a very strange, Alice-in-Wonderland comment thread. I propose that we all climb out of the rabbit hole & reconvene in the comments section for the next post. Things will all make sense there, I'm sure.

August 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"What I read NiV as essentially arguing above that skeptics aren't "groupish" like those egalitarian-communitarians and aren't trying to persuade anyone of anything: that is a time-waster "they" engage in, not "us.""

Not precisely. I've suggested that on previous occasions, but this time round I was arguing for something a bit less causal. Nor, as Dan seemed to think, was I saying that sceptics don't care what others think about climate science. We do, passionately. But I think that what I was trying to get at can be best summed up by quoting its opposite:

"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."

We (most of us) don't see this as a PR campaign the primary aim of which is to persuade the public. Our primary aim is to get the science/policy right, to do which we try to present our arguments as to why we're right and they're wrong, and have them taken into account in the decisions society has to make. The emphasis is on the evidence and the science, not on public opinions. That doesn't mean public opinion doesn't matter, but it's far more important to sort the science out than it is to persuade the masses.

As I acknowledged above, there are some sceptics who don't think that way, and are very much political operators. Their aim is to lobby for the policies that sceptics think are right, and public opinion carries a lot of weight in that world. And tactics like the unabomber campaign are not directed at communicating the science, nor are they deliberately aiming to polarise the debate - their aim is to grab people's attention, to raise publicity and the issue's profile. Even if you're discussing it for the wrong reasons, you are at least discussing it, and that allows people to turn the conversation to the evidence. The perception is that it's normally nearly impossible for sceptic views to get any airtime in the mass media - when they act serious they're ignored and excluded. Shock tactics are like blowing a trumpet and get you on the stage. Once everyone is looking at you, you can tell them your real message.

I don't particularly like it as a technique, but it's a standard political marketing tactic and those who are experts in how politics works presumably know what they're doing. Heartland apparently did consider the effect it would have, using the tools that marketing people use in place of the more academic methods. Jo Bast says: "Opinion polls, focus groups, media reports, and feedback from allies and foes all indicate this effort changed public opinion and public policy." So he's saying that yes they did measure it, and he gets different numbers. I'd follow up that line of enquiry, if I was Dan.

We have had a couple of other opinions expressed. I'm not sure if Dan was after simply asking sceptics do what they do in order to understand, or asking rhetorically why sceptics don't do what Dan thinks they should as a sort of criticism of their reasoning/methods. If it's the former, it makes no sense to argue with the views expressed. It might be the wrong way to persuade people, but it's the right answer in that it was the actual reason the sceptics thought they did what they did.

Lucia says: "I agree they aren't dealing with this evidence in an organized way. But as far as I can see, most of what gets collectively called 'skepticism' (in climate) is disorganized. So I don't find it weird that this particular things is disorganized." I think it's true that the differing types of social organisation - a funded professional/academic establishment versus a loose coalition of unfunded like-minded individuals - can potentially explain a lot of the asymmetry.

Shub says: "My personal opinion: Climate science and policy do not need to be communicated to the public at large." which I interpreted to mean that the general public don't need to be educated on climate science any more than they need to be educated on electromagnetism, because climate change isn't actually a risk and therefore has no public policy implications. It's only become a public policy issue because of its misuse. And "The general public float in a sea of marketing messages; that's what they'll bin you as, if they think you are trying to sell them something." That reinforces what I said above.

I think it's important to listen to what people are saying first, and make sure you understand it, before starting to argue with it. The point is not to prove them wrong and win the argument, it's to understand the point of view of your opponent. You can win the argument later.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Dmk38

Can I ask what makes you think ‘50% of the American public do buy the consensus’? I see lots of evidence of ticking the box marked ‘consensus’ but very little evidence of actual commitment.

Who’s trying to go on a CO2 diet? At parties who swaps tips on saving energy? When was the last time you bragged to your mates about your carbon footprint? How many true believers have even calculated theirs? When did anyone turn down a holiday because they were pushing their emissions limit? Where are the forum posts where people lament that they were energy weak and others offer advice about avoiding temptation next time? Where are the CO2 self help forums full stop? I’ve seen people angrily discuss government failure to sign up to some climate policy and then explain how they couldn’t possibly swap their light bulbs because their dimmer switches wouldn’t work. I’ve been told it’s disingenuous to expect people like Al Gore to even make a stab at having a reasonable CO2 footprint. I know of a president who thinks nothing of mocking deniers and then having his dog flown out to him in a helicopter. I smile cynically whenever the next sun drenched eco talk fest is announced, haven’t these people heard about teleconferencing? Anthony Watts managed it on a shoestring. What are they waiting for, the other 50% to join them?

Those people aren’t just having a problem sticking to an eco diet they know they need, they look in the CO2 mirror and think ‘I look GGGGREAT!’ Energy dysmorphism? Or have they been given a flawed education? Do they really understand CAGW? Do they understand it but not believe it? All of them? All those jet setting scientists and policy makers? Have they all sold themselves the idea that the CO2 is being emitted by somebody else? Oil businesses, SUV drivers, sceptics?

How do you communicate something as complicated as climate scepticism to people like that?

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

August 13, 2013 | NiV

Willis,

"If you're asking in a most convoluted and unclear fashion why the American public doesn't buy the consensus,..."

No. Dan was asking why 50% of the American public do buy the consensus.

Thanks, NiV. He asked both, near as I can tell, but I'll let Dan answer my questions for himself, if you don't mind.

That's the question this post is trying to ask. Why don't sceptics wonder why their efforts to persuade everyone that climate science is dodgy don't work?

Our "efforts to persuade everyone" seem to be doing just fine, thank you very much. From the beginning or shortly thereafter, the alarmists have had on their side:

• the mainstream media
• the big environmental NGOs
• governments around the world
• a host of rent-seekers making money off the alarmism
• a host of scientists making money off the alarmism
• a host of university departments dedicated to fostering alarmism
• a bunch of scientific journals dedicated to spreading alarmism
• the United Nations, root and branch
• money up the wazoo. Al Gore alone put $300 million into his garbage propaganda.
• many of the organized religions

So the organized advocates of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming represent the massed forces of civilization, root and branch ... dang.

Meanwhile, on our side, the skeptics have:

• some honest, inquisitive, transparent scientists
• a few blog sites, I could list the influential ones on two hands
• about $6.53 in funding at last count ...
• a habit of telling the truth, encouraging transparency, asking for data and code, responding to criticism, admitting our errors, and eschewing the kind of censorship and banning featured by far too many of the climate alarmist blogs.

If I ever were to wonder about my total failure to convince Joshua of anything, a quick look at the above list shows why the task seems overwhelming ... and yet ... and yet ...

And yet despite that huge advantage in manpower, effort, and money, 60% of the American public thinks climate science is dodgy. And the latest poll shows only 38% of geoscientists and engineers think that human actions are to blame. Not only that, but it's dropped to the bottom of every poll about the concerns of the American public.

It's not fifty-fifty, that's yesterdays news. People are over it, my friend. Dead man walking.

And before yesterday's news at 50-50, it was 75-25 in favor of alarmism, and before that 80-20 alarmism. And when this nonsense started, it was about 95-5. When Big Jim Hansen turned off the air conditioning and laughed silently to himself watching men and women sweat as he preached fire and brimstone about the coming Thermageddon, the proponents of catastrophic global warming had it all their way.

So I'd say we're winning hands down, and the opposition is on the run, although it will undoubtedly be a long run. People whose scientific funding and very careers depend on the public being alarmed about the climate may never be willing to depart from the failed orthodoxy. And people hate like poison to admit they were conned, yet conned they assuredly were.

So it will be a while ... but we're over the hump.

And as a result, NiV, I don't spend one minute wondering why my efforts "don't work", as you put it ... because they have worked, and are continuing to work, beyond my greatest expectations.

My best to you,

w.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWillis Eschenbach

Dan -

As for the looking glass - in case you're interested, (I think it is a noteworthy case study in motivated reasoning - where someone who is smart and knowledgeable about climate change presents one of the most fallacious arguments imaginable):

Willis addressed an open letter to Dr. Marcia McNutt, new Editor-In-Chief, Science Magazine

After some preamble, he explained to Dr. McNutt...


The problem is that you are extremely well educated, strong, strikingly good looking, and a wickedly-smart woman by all accounts … and while those are all good things, that’s a scary combination. One downside of that particular melange is that as a result, it’s very possible that people, particularly men, haven’t told you the unvarnished truth in years...

[...]

...Sadly, it seems that like many other good honest folk, you are simply parroting claims of danger that you have swallowed without ever thinking critically about them.

And so Willis after identifying the "problem" with McNutt's perspective, kindly proceeded to solve the problem:

So some of what I have to say may be a surprise to you


When it was suggested by someone that agrees with Willis on the science, but felt Willis' letter was "creepy," and questioned why he wrote it, Willis explained why he wrote the letter - to help Dr. McNutt realize that she was mistaken (and merely parrots what she's been told) because she's been lied to....

Johanna, why would you ever receive such a letter? Do you make ludicrous statements about the climate because that’s what some guy said, and you believed it? I greatly doubt it.

But suppose you did believe and parrot absolute nonsense, and you got such a letter … would it be wise for you to dismiss it?

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/08/04/an-open-letter-to-dr-marcia-mcnutt-new-editor-in-chief-science-magazine/#more-90964

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

If I ever were to wonder about my total failure to convince Joshua of anything, ...

Not true, Willis - there are many things that you have convinced me of.

Think of what "realist" climate scientists have convinced you of, and you will have an understanding of what you've convinced me of.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua:

It has been a very strange ride indeed.

And a fitting end that @Willis ended up endorsing all the facile explanations that I identified at the outset in critiquing the post that purported to "explain" why so many people are "falling" for climate change evidence.

Looking glasses, as you say.

August 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan -

If you bothered reading any of my long posts upstairs, I think you'd have to admit that I nailed it down to a T in my explanation of why "skeptics" don't think they need to consider more effective modes of communication.


Where does "down to a T" come from, anyway?

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I'm not the communication expert here, but I'm fairly sure that consistently sneering at those engaging with you doesn't feature in the top ten best techniques for communication. You claim you want to understand why sceptics don't want to use the best science of communication. Well if this is an example of the best, it's also a good example of why we don't adopt it.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

"And a fitting end that @Willis ended up endorsing all the facile explanations that I identified at the outset"

Did he? All of them?

"Where does "down to a T" come from, anyway?"

"To a tittle", probably, but nobody really knows.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

"To a tittle", probably, but nobody really knows.

Thanks,

We (most of us) don't see this as a PR campaign the primary aim of which is to persuade the public.

Who are "us" and how do you know?

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

tiny -

I agree as to sneering not being an effective from of communication, however...

sneering at those engaging with you

Define engaging.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071019045206AAluVOx

Does this help?

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

Some above ask why there is little trust in the Heartland.

Of course denial of human driven climate change does not exist in a vacuum, but the organizations and many of the people leading the charge have a long history of trying to cause confusion about science based issues such as the original sin, tobacco, DDT, CFC ozone destruction, HIV, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, they have also had significant success in delaying action on all of these issues, issues, where as today about climate, scientists, the 97% urged urgent action well before it was taken, and, as Dan Kahan does not recognize, in the end, the urgent action was only taken because of science driven advocacy of the scientists. That, and the body count.

August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

It has always puzzled me why Dan sometimes signs his comments 'Dan Kahan' and sometimes 'dmk38'.
Is he deliberately trying to spread confusion? It certainly confused willis, who turned up here in good faith to explain his viewpoint. It's very odd behaviour for someone working in the field of communication, as is the constant switching between serious comments and silly jokes such as the continued pretence that there are two different people. It's interesting to see him admit here that he is such a poor communicator - or is this just another of his silly jokes?

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

August 14, 2013 | Paul Matthews

It has always puzzled me why Dan sometimes signs his comments 'Dan Kahan' and sometimes 'dmk38'.

Is he deliberately trying to spread confusion? It certainly confused willis, who turned up here in good faith to explain his viewpoint. It's very odd behaviour for someone working in the field of communication, as is the constant switching between serious comments and silly jokes such as the continued pretence that there are two different people. It's interesting to see him admit here that he is such a poor communicator - or is this just another of his silly jokes?

Seriously? You're telling me that "dmk38" is nothing but a sock puppet for Dan Kahan? He's appearing as a sock puppet on his own website? That's astonishing.

Well, Mr. Kahan, I hate to admit it, but you're good. It sure worked on me. I was fooled. I fell for the con. My only glimmer of the truth was I thought it might be Joshua's sock puppet, but nooo ... color me embarrassed.

You may recall upstream that I said that the trust between the climate scientists and the public had been broken because their leading lights had lied to the public and deceived them.

...

...

And I said that folks hate to be conned. I know I do. And that once we've been conned, the trust is gone.

So, you've successfully destroyed my trust.

Mr. Kahan, I found out a couple days ago that you are sharing the stage at a Plenary Session of the ScienceOnline Climate Conference. The topic of the session is “Credibility, Trust, Goodwill, And Persuasion”.

There are two other panelists, one of whom is that noted advocate of credibility, trust, and goodwill, Dr. Michael Mann.

When I read that, I was surprised. Dr. Mann is noted far and wide for a number of things. One is lying to Congress. Another is destroying evidence being sought under a Freedom of Information Act request, and advising his friends to do likewise. Another is stowing away inconvenient data in a folder called "CENSORED TO 1400", data which contradicted his famous "hockeystick".

He is also noted for wildly abusive public statements about "deniers". He's involved in a couple of lawsuits. For years he had been protected by the Administration of Penn State University, shielded from anything but a whitewash "investigation" by the exact same individuals who subsequently were stripped of their positions in public scandal and shame.

And of particular interest to this discussion is the fact that Mann absolutely refuses to take questions from any potentially hostile audience. Credibility? Trust? Goodwill?

So at the time, I wondered why you, a self-proclaimed expert on credibility, trust, goodwill, and persuasion, would be willing to share a stage with a man who stands convicted by his own emails of various offenses against credibility and trust.

...

Gotta say, your appearance onstage at the Plenary Session makes much more sense now. Do ask Mike about destroying the FOI evidence, that would help the credibility of both of you if he'd answer questions about that ... I'd pay anything to be a fly on the wall when you asked him that. But of course, he never leaves an opening for anyone to ask him anything ... and then, even if it's Congress, he just makes it up.


Next, I note that you never discussed the issues that I raised above. Your only reply was a single line in your response to Joshua, viz:

And a fitting end that @Willis ended up endorsing all the facile explanations that I identified at the outset in critiquing the post that purported to "explain" why so many people are "falling" for climate change evidence.

I read that, and I cracked up laughing. Talk about taking evasive action, that's lawyerly to the max.

First, you don't get to declare the "end" to a scientific debate, whether it is fitting or not, particularly when you haven't responded to the issues raised.

Next, without quoting anything I actually said, you fatuously claimed that I "ended up endorsing all the facile explanations that [you] identified at the outset" ...

Really? Without giving a single quotation of something I said, and without offering a single specification of something you said, you just flatly assert that I "ended up endorsing" all the things you had identified. Every one of them? No evidence? No logic? Flat assertion? That's your idea of communication?

Mr. Kahan, you first put up a sock puppet to reply to me, and then you avoided replying to the issues that I raised. Instead, you resorted to tossing off unsupported claims about me as a one-line aside in a reply to someone you knew would agree with you ... and you style yourself as an expert on communication, credibility, trust and goodwill?

...

Anyhow, I'm going to leave it there, and leave the field to you. I doubt that I'll contribute further to your site, ever. I'm not fond of puppets, and I don't have much truck with puppeteers. Fool me once, your fault, with legal costs and punitive damages assessed. Like most reasonable humanoids, I do my best avoid the whole fool me twice thing, so it will be sub-zero in the place of eternal perdition before I believe you again.

Megan McCardle said it best—"After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you've lost the power to convince them of anything else."

However, I wish you well. I must say, however, that I find your claims of expertise in the areas of trust, credibility, and communication to be totally baffling, and completely contradicted by your actions. You may be an excellent lawyer.

But an expert on trust and credibility? Well ... not so much.

Regards,

w.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWillis Eschenbach

@Wilis:

"dmk38" is my site administrator username. I speak in the 1st person w/ that username all the time.

In sum, it's as clear to anyone w/ a brain it is me. But as you say, it "fooled" you.

August 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Is he deliberately trying to spread confusion? It certainly confused willis, who turned up here in good faith to explain his viewpoint.

I've found it confusing in the past. I have to admit I wasn't quite sure.

As for deliberately-- I doubt it. I suspect either his browser does 'autofill' from a cookie or it automatically enters the "blog nickname" when he is logged in as administrator but he uses his own name when he is not logged in. This happens. (I make sure I am always logged in when I comment on my own blog to avoid this weird behavior that can be inflicted by the vagaries of cookies and wordpress defaults.)

But yes.. Dan could have just said, dmk38 is dan_middlename_kahan and the '38' is because I was born in 1938. :)

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

This is very simple, and not hard to understand at all. The claims of Warmists have been various catastrophes that haven't come to pass (climate refugees, massive sea level rises, plague, pestilence, etc.). A potential catastrophe makes news, but the absence of one does not. And when a catastrophe occurs, confirmation bias kicks in, especially when you have people of low scruples promoting it as related to their prophesies.

So it is a war of attrition on the press front. And press has a Gaia like agenda. Now, fortunately, there is some science left in the IPCC reports, and as such the "hiatus" is causing warmist promoters to do a dance. 100 billion Hiroshima bombs going off every day (or whatever it was NASA's Hansen said). The heat is in the oceans. It's aerosols. But that's not science. Science is "Well, we had a model, it was disproved, we need to rethink it." So some element of this is the lack of integrity from scientists, but the press isn't going to call them on it, not to mention if they did it would reduce their trustworthiness. Because they are advocates.

I could go on, but its painful. The Scientists have vested interests, not only to themselves, but to their clan. If AGW isn't an issue, the mega bugs will disappear, and the field will retreat to any other scientific endeavor. The resonance of "doing the right thing even if it hurts," vs. "there is nothing wrong," which permeates modern day Western (though not Asian) civilization, is difficult to overcome. Other societies, like China, and India, are doing what's right for them.

The deck is stacked. You present this as an equal opportunity, but it is not. Imagine, for instance, if "Deniers" had promoted temperature gauges that had passed beyond the 95% confidence level. What then?

Well, the opposite is not happening, for the reasons I mention above.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDante Castagnoli

I don't not see why anyone should use the acronym CAGW without propagandist intent.

The dangerous level of climate change has a clear quantitative definition - it is 2C over pre-industrial levels, of which about 0.8C have been already "consumed". The argument is that with continuing CO2 emissions we are on course to consume the remaining 1.2C (and more) by mid century, which (as the 2C is a global average) will be dangerous, and possibly catastrophic, for large regions of the globe.

People who are against this need to

- Show that the coming 1.2C by mid-century (and more beyond) will have few malign effects. That may be difficult as it was the one thing every one agree at Copenhagen 2008.
- Or, that the 1.2C rise will not happen with a high probability, and is therefore a low risk.

Lareg swathes of the science are agreed - it is the risk analysis and risk mitigation that seems to cause the problems.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterToby

I would think that any attempt to promote better public understanding of the science would be a bit of an 'own goal' for 'skeptics'.

My experience is that they are not generally interested in promoting our understanding of the universe, but rather in showing that it can't possibly be understood. They believe that if they can manufacture doubt beyond what is inherent in the science then it will become impossible for us to make rational policy decisions.

This is why there is a focus on 'auditing' the science rather than contributing to it.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLayzej

Well, Mr. Kahan, I hate to admit it, but you're good. It sure worked on me. I was fooled.

Dan, you're so devious. No one but the most conniving and dastardly could come up with a "sock puppet" so foolproof. How did you even think of something so tricky as using a "sock puppet" with the same first and last initials as your name?

No wonder Willis doesn't trust climate scientists. If word of this gets out, I think that no one will ever trust an academic again - or for 100 years or so at least.

And even worse than that, Willis might not be back. Oh, the humanity!

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Lucia -

As for deliberately-- I doubt it.

Seriously? You "doubt it?" You think that there is even a possibility that Dan has signed his posts "dmk" (for months and months, where respondents have addressed responses to "dmk" with "Dan.....?") with the intent of "fooling" someone to think that it wasn't he that was posting?

Really?

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,
I don't know about you, but in my idiom, "I doubt it" in response to someone suggesting someone did X means one does not think that person did "X". I realize that a computer program or non-native speaker might think it means "I think it's possible he did", but no, I don't think Dan is sometimes typing one thing and other times other things.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

August 14, 2013 | Dan Kahan said:

@Wilis:

"dmk38" is my site administrator username. I speak in the 1st person w/ that username all the time.

In sum, it's as clear to anyone w/ a brain it is me. But as you say, it "fooled" you.

Dan, thanks for the response, but this is my first time ever on the site. As a result, it was not clear at all. How was I supposed to know the administrator regularly pops up on his own site as a sock puppet on a site I've never visited before?

In fact, it's freakin' bizarre that you have a sockpuppet on your own site. Who would ever expect that? Do you know of any other site where the owner speaks through a puppet like that? RealClimate? WUWT? Climate Audit? Open Mind?

Joshua thinks I should have known it was you because you've done it for "months and months", but it seems he's too oblivious to realize I don't follow the site and never have. He also thinks it should be obvious because dmk38 contains a "d" and a "k", and so does your name. Obvious? Guess I'm just not as suspicious as Joshua, it wasn't obvious at all.

Now, you're both trying to convince me that somehow it's my fault that I was fooled? Nice try. For both of you, fool me once, your fault. Not mine. You'll never fool me twice.

Finally, Dan, when you fool someone as you did me, even unintentionally, an apology is the polite man's response ... not what you just tried, the combination justification plus the accusation that it's my fault. My fault? It's your sock puppet, Dan ...

You obviously prefer to accuse me of being at fault. You claim it's my fault because I don't "have a brain" ... yeah, that's the ticket.

Your choice, but your claim to be a communications expert is looking weaker and weaker ... folks have accused me of many things, but me not having a brain doesn't even pass the laugh test.

w.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWillis Eschenbach

Glad to read it, Lucia.

I can understand not realizing that "dmk" was Dan, but to then run off the rails as Willis has done - fully convinced ironically with no allowance for uncertainty in his own reasoning process - that Dan was being dishonest in some fashion, is unfortunately not atypical. Such non-skeptical jumping to conclusions (by smart and knowledgeable people) is what makes the climate wars such a mess, and IMO, is offers convincing testimony for the power of "motivated reasoning."

Willis' reaction, as someone considered by many "skeptics" as a thought leader among their cohort, is should be used as a case lesson by any "skeptics" who might be tempted to believe that "realists" have cornered the market on poor analysis, failure to appreciate and/or acknowledge uncertainty, allowing irrational emotion to bias reasoning, being closed-minded about reevaluating conclusions in the face of new information, etc.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua thinks I should have known it was you because you've done it for "months and months", but it seems he's too oblivious to realize I don't follow the site and never have.

Willis - your initial error was perfectly understandable. It was your reactions to your error that were the problem:

After being enough information that due skeptical diligence would have prevented you from burying yourself further, you went pell-mell straight ahead into your entirely unskeptical accusations, with complete and total confidence, with a total dismissal of the caveats that would come with acknowledging uncertainty.

Seriously? You're telling me that "dmk38" is nothing but a sock puppet for Dan Kahan? He's appearing as a sock puppet on his own website? That's astonishing.

No. He didn't tell you that "dmk" is a sockpuppet, But that's what you wanted to hear, so that's what you heard.

Well, Mr. Kahan, I hate to admit it, but you're good. It sure worked on me. I was fooled. I fell for the con. My only glimmer of the truth was I thought it might be Joshua's sock puppet, but nooo ... color me embarrassed.

And even that is understandable, Willis. We all do it sometimes. But the key, then, is to face up to the behavior that you seem to think only exists in others, and which you think exists predominantly in those who disagree with you on the science - ignoring abundant evidence that the kind of error you made is a product of attributes that affect how we all reason.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan,
If this blog is powered by wordpress, there may be separate login and nicknames. If there are, changing your nickname to Dan Kahan might avoid confusion especially for newer visitors.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

Now, you're both trying to convince me that somehow it's my fault that I was fooled?

Willis - I can't speak for Dan, but I'm not trying to convince anyone that it's anyone's fault that you were wrong in your assumptions. I am saying that you were wrong for assuming that someone was trying to "fool" you, and for allowing your over-confidence in the face of uncertainty to bias you so as to not incorporate evidence to correct for your mistaken impression.

When I was first participating at this site, at first I was confused about the "dmk" attached to some of the posts. But then I gave it a little thought, and it became pretty obvious that the "d" and the "k" would likely refer to Dan and Kahan, and then I applied that thinking to the content of the comments and realized who was writing the post. But even not doing that is certainly understandable. What isn't understandable is that you believed, with complete confidence, the relatively implausible: that Dan was writing comments on his own site with a "sock puppet," and even more implausibly, was trying to fool people using a "sock puppet" with the same freakin' initials as his first and last name.

You're a smart guy, Willis. Much smarter than I. But being smart doesn't keep you from making stupid mistakes. What is interesting is to look at when smart people make stupid mistakes. Sometimes it is just carelessness. And often it is a "tell" for motivated reasoning. But even more important is how people react to their mistakes. This is a valid tenet of your criticism of climate scientists. But the problem is that you are so bent on a polarized view of the climate change debate that you fail to see similar behavior in yourself.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Oh, and Willis.

My best to you.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

August 16, 2013 | Joshua

Willis - I can't speak for Dan, but I'm not trying to convince anyone that it's anyone's fault that you were wrong in your assumptions. I am saying that you were wrong for assuming that someone was trying to "fool" you, and for allowing your over-confidence in the face of uncertainty to bias you so as to not incorporate evidence to correct for your mistaken impression.

When I was first participating at this site, at first I was confused about the "dmk" attached to some of the posts. But then I gave it a little thought, and it became pretty obvious that the "d" and the "k" would likely refer to Dan and Kahan, and then I applied that thinking to the content of the comments and realized who was writing the post. But even not doing that is certainly understandable. What isn't understandable is that you believed, with complete confidence, the relatively implausible: that Dan was writing comments on his own site with a "sock puppet," and even more implausibly, was trying to fool people using a "sock puppet" with the same freakin' initials as his first and last name.

Joshua, thanks for the explanation and clarification, and also for the good wishes.

As to whether Mr. Kahan was "was trying to fool people", first, he was successful at fooling me. Never crossed my mind that someone might do that.

Second, posting under a false name on your own site is certain to fool some percentage of the people. As I said, I know of no one else who does it, especially with weird pictures of dogs ... so it's not something anyone would ever expect. Not one person, upon first reading the "dmk38" post above, would go "oh, it's just the actual post author but he's posting under an alias". Heck, the nearest I got to it, to my shame, was when I thought it might be you posting under an alias, Joshua. My apologies for the unworthy thought.

Now it's true that after being fooled for a while, most people would eventually twig to the deception. Sounds like you caught on fairly quickly. My congratulations to you ... but you, too, were initially fooled (or as you put it gently, "confused").

That's bad enough, but then after I said "Whaaaat is going on with the dmk38 comment???" Mr. Kahan said:

August 13, 2013 | Dan Kahan

@Willis:

This has certainly become a very strange, Alice-in-Wonderland comment thread. I propose that we all climb out of the rabbit hole & reconvene in the comments section for the next post. Things will all make sense there, I'm sure.

I'm very skeptical about science, Joshua. I suppose I should be more skeptical about people, but I can't live that way, suspecting everyone, my heart won't take it. Here's Mr. Kahan assuring me he couldn't understand the dmk38 stuff either. I believed him. Call me foolish, accuse me (as he did) of not having a brain, I'm not proud of it, but I believed him.

So yes, Mr. Kahan knew that he would fool some people. In fact, he went well out of his way to keep the lie going with me. How could a subterfuge like that not fool at least some people?

As a result, I fear I can't accept your idea that he was not "trying to fool people". He was obviously trying to fool me, and he succeeded. He fooled me under his sock-puppet identity of dmk38.

He followed that by fooling me in his Dan Kahan persona, claiming he thought the thread was strange and "alice-in-wonderland" ... a blatant lie designed to keep me fooled.

Dang, that's an unpleasant thought ... does that count as though Mr. Kahan "fooled me twice", as I swore he wouldn't?

Well, I'm gonna say no, Mr. Kahan didn't fool me twice. I'm gonna say I got fooled once by dmk38, and once by Mr. Kahan, and neither one will ever fool me twice.

My best regards to you,

w.

PS—If nothing else, Joshua, you've got to admit that for a man like Mr. Kahan who claims to be an expert in communications, to be fooling the newcomers to your site by posting strange claims under an alias and then falsely claiming to be mystified by those strange claims?

Not the best business plan ...

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWillis Eschenbach

A remarkably interesting discussion, for which I thank all who have taken part. My reaction is similar to that of Willis Eschenbach. I don't know what the "science communication" problem is, but I do know that your phrase "the failure of valid, compelling, widely available science to quiet public controversy" made my eyes open wide.

What evidence do you (Dan) have in mind? There is an abundance of evidence to support almost any view you like to put forward on global warming. What do you happen to regard as 'the best available evidence", another phrase you use a lot? Why is it the best?

I write a lot about AGW on my website, and I read anything that comes in that is referred to by either the orthodox or the dissenters. As time goes on my agnosticism about the issue increases, which means that as far as I can see the best available evidence doesn't in fact support the orthodoxy.

While I have a background in science policy, research policy and research funding, I am not part of any sceptic group other than a dozen or so convivial people who meet for lunch, and another that exists only in the Internet. No one has ever offered me money to push a particular view, or paid my fares. Like others who have commented, my views are my own, and I can quickly find areas where I disagree with other 'sceptics'.

I think you are investigating the wrong question.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDon Aitkin

Willis -

There was no deception. None. You saw it that way because you wanted to see it that way, because it was easier for you to see it that way than just laugh it off.

No matter how many times you repeat the charge, it won't change reality - but only reconfirm for observers of your actions that you don't want to face reality.

From my perspective, this is similar to when, the other day you insisted that you intentionally wrote a post that led to a reaction where people who agree with you on the science called the post "creepy."

This is precisely the problem with the approach to the climate debate that you sometimes take. You are over-confident of conclusions that you have drawn based on insufficient information - and rather than deal with your flawed thinking, you're impugning someone's integrity. This is precisely the behavior in others that you, rightly, say roils the climate debate. The problems are "wicked" enough without adding to the mess like that.

I suggest that you read through the thread again with an open mind and consider why it might suggest for you a reason to modify your approach.

All the best.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>