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« Great stocking stuffers--Politically Motivated Reasoning Paradigm, parts 1 & 2! | Main | "Knowledge deficit theory^2": a definition »
Wednesday
Dec202017

Motivated System 2 Reasoning (MS2R) ... a fragment

from something I'm working on 

2. Background

2.1. MS2R in general. Where expert and lay judgments of risk diverge, cultural polarization, not mere confusion, is the most conspicuous feature of public opinion. Any satisfactory explanation of the public’s failure to assent to scientific consensus in these instances, then, must account for public dissensus among individuals of diverse cultural identities (Kahan, Braman, Cohen, Gastil & Slovic 2010).

One widespread account of this kind is rooted in dual process reasoning theory.  According to this view, accurate perception of risk and like facts demands the consistent and sustained use of conscious and effortful “System 2” reasoning, a form of information processing associated with expert judgment.  Members of the public are obviously not experts. Because they lack the time, knowledge, and mental discipline that System 2 reasoning demands, members of the public are forced to resort to a heuristic substitute that is rapid, intuitive, and emotion-laden (Kahneman & Frederick 2005). “What do people like me think?” (myside bias) is one of the unconscious heuristics associated with this type of “system 1” information processing (Baron 1995).  As a result, overreliance on System 1 reasoning not only generates error but also creates a correlation between error and membership in one or another identity-defining group (Sunstein 2003, 2007).

Basic observational data, however, is inconsistent with this account. If over-reliance on heuristic reasoning explained why the average member of the public was out of synch with scientific experts, then we’d expect conflict—between experts and the public, and also between different public factions—to lessen as individuals became more disposed to rely instead on conscious, effortful information processing. But that’s not what we see; indeed we observe the opposite: correlational data consistently show that political polarization, far from abating, increases in lockstep with cognitive reflection (Kahan 2013; Kahan & Stanovich 2016), actively open-minded thinking (Kahan & Corbin 2016), science comprehension (Kahan, Peters et al. 2012), and like capacities and aptitudes.

This pattern suggests an alternative theory of public risk-perception and cultural conflict. On this account, instead of using their cognitive proficiencies to discern the truth, individuals disposed to, and capable of, System 2 reasoning can be expected to use their cognitive proficiencies to conform their beliefs to the ones that have come to signify membership in a particular cultural group (Stanovich 2013; Kahan 2013).

This form of reasoning is perfectly rational at the individual level. Individuals have stakes in both being protected from societal risks and being judged socially competent and trustworthy by their peers. But it is only the latter that is affected by their own personal beliefs. Forced to choose between “getting it right” from a scientific perspective and being who they are from a cultural one (Kahan 2015), individuals can be expected by and large to pick the latter (not consciously, but unconsciously, as a result of habits of mind that conduce to their well-being).

Collectively, however, this distinctively expressive form of information processing is irrational. Where democratic citizens all form their perceptions in this way, they are less likely to converge on best evidence of the dangers they all face.  This prospect, however, does not change the advantages that any individual obtains by forming and persisting in group-affirming beliefs. 

This is the tragedy of the science communications commons, the dispelling of which is one of the primary aims of the science of science communication (Kahan, Peters et al. 2012).

2.2. Motivated numeracy in particular. * * *

References

Baron, J. (1995). Myside bias in thinking about abortion. Thinking & Reasoning, 1(3), 221-235. doi: 10.1080/13546789508256909

Kahan, D. M. (2015). Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem. Advances in Political Psychology, 36, 1-43. doi: 10.1111/pops.12244

Kahan, D. M. (2013). Ideology, Motivated Reasoning, and Cognitive Reflection. Judgment and Decision Making, 8, 407-424.

Kahan, D. M., & Corbin, J. C. (2016). A note on the perverse effects of actively open-minded thinking on climate-change polarization. Research & Politics, 3(4). doi: 10.1177/2053168016676705

Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L. L., Braman, D., & Mandel, G. (2012). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Clim. Change, 2(10), 732-735.

Kahan, D., Braman, D., Cohen, G., Gastil, J., & Slovic, P. (2010). Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn’t, and Why? An Experimental Study of the Mechanisms of Cultural Cognition. Law and Human Behavior, 34(6), 501-516. doi: 10.1007/s10979-009-9201-0

Kahan, Dan M. and Stanovich, Keith E., Rationality and Belief in Human Evolution (September 14, 2016). Annenberg Public Policy Center Working Paper No. 5. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2838668.

Kahneman, D., & Frederick, S. (2005). A model of heuristic judgment. In K. J. H. R. G. Morrison (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of thinking and reasoning (pp. 267-293): Cambridge University Press.

Stanovich, K. E. (2013). Why humans are (sometimes) less rational than other animals: Cognitive complexity and the axioms of rational choice. Thinking & Reasoning, 19(1), 1-26.

Sunstein, C. R. (2007). On the Divergent American Reactions to Terrorism and Climate Change. Columbia Law Review, 107, 503-557. 

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Reader Comments (123)

But that’s not what we see; indeed we observe the opposite: correlational data consistently show that political polarization, far from abating, increases in lockstep with cognitive reflection.

When you write that, do you mean that there is evidence that as a given individual becomes more cognitively reflective, their political polarization increases, or do you mean that people who score higher on tests of cognitive reflection (in specific contexts, and as identified by tests with limited external validity), when taken as a group tend to display higher levels of political polarization (on a subset of issues) than than people who score lower on such tests (when taken as a group). Or do you mean both?

If it is the former or the latter, could you link to some of your evidence that as people reflect on issues more they become more politically polarized? Are there particular experimental conditions that influence or mediate the strength of the association?

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Individuals have stakes in both being protected from societal risks and being judged socially competent and trustworthy by their peers. But it is only the latter that is affected by their own personal beliefs. Forced to choose between “getting it right” from a scientific perspective and being who they are from a cultural one (Kahan 2015), individuals can be expected by and large to pick the latter (not consciously, but unconsciously, as a result of habits of mind that conduce to their well-being)."

Has anyone measured this part of MS2R? For instance, by first separating people into those with high need for social approval from those with low, then testing the MS2R difference between the two groups?

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"Forced to choose between “getting it right” from a scientific perspective"

Since when has using Argument from Authority been "'getting it right' from a scientific perspective"?!!

It's not 'getting it right'. It's just using a *different* unscientific heuristic.

Now, you can argue which heuristic is better - is someone with scientific qualifications but 'wrong' in their politics more reliable than someone with no scientific qualifications but who gets their politics/culture 'right'? - but neither is any more scientific than the other. Argument from Authority is not scientific. Anyone claiming to speak as a scientist and using Argument from Authority or Argument from Consensus is ipso facto not to be trusted. (Unless of course you happen to agree with them politically/culturally, and you're using that heuristic.)

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

FYI, the link on Stanovich (2013) ilnks to Kahan & Stanovich (2016). Cheers.

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdreuben

Forced to choose between “getting it right” from a scientific perspective and being who they are from a cultural one (Kahan 2015), individuals can be expected by and large to pick the latter...

I wonder if there are any issues (in the US), where viewpoints aren't strongly associated with political orientation, and people who by and large lack the technical skills and abilities to evaluate the issue at hand, are equally inclined to reject the consensus view among experts as to accept them.

And yet, it's prolly not all that uncommon a pattern where viewpoints are associated with political orientation.

Prolly just a coincidence, though. 😁

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan - divergence of opinion with increased expertise is precisely what you would expect to see, so I question its correlation with political outlook.

If you define your tribe simply as all those with " the ability to read and basic quantification" as done by John Cochrane you will see that countless "climate scientists" fail to meet at least one of those criteria. Lomborg is one of the few who do:
https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/paris-climate-accord-too-expensive-by-bjorn-lomborg-2017-12/english

I doubt they've altogether lost the ability to read, or to make calculations - rather, they re-phrase automatically whatever new datum they come across to fit into a model they have already settled on as the correct one.

Neither Cochrane nor Lomborg - nor, here, NiV - belong to the alt-right, incidentally, so political affiliation (admittedly from a small sample of 4 named so far) is not a factor.

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

incidentally, so political affiliation (admittedly from a small sample of 4 named so far) is not a factor.

As far as I understand the arguments (which admittedly is quite limited).

It isn't political affiliation that's "the factor," but ideological orientation. There is nothing to support the ridiculous interpretation and all "skeptics" belong to the alt-right (although there is an abundance of evidence that the further right you go along the right-left continuum, the more likely you are to encounter "skeptics"). Also, the argument isn't that any particular individual's views is explained by ideological orientation, or even that of any particular (completely non-scientific, or reason to believe representative, convenience) sampling. The argument is that in general, there is an association between polarization and scientific sophistication, in line with ideological predisposition.

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

".. there is an association between polarization and scientific sophistication"

That. Is. What. I. Said.

"... in line with ideological predisposition..."

Exactly the correlation I question!

Joshua - do you, by any chance, follow the Daily Stormer's Style Guide? The first principle is to instil doubt in the readers on whether you're joking or not :)

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute -

You cherry-picked a group and said that you don't think they're alt-right.

Was that just completely random, or was it supposed to have something to do with Dan's post?

Was doing so supposed to have something to do with the general pattern of ideological association with views on climate change?

Were you just providing the profound insight that there might be some individual exceptions to the general rule?

December 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Drueben-- oooops. Thanks

December 21, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@NiV-- "getting it right" isn't necessarily deferring to authority. It is the use of reason to derive from all the conventional sources the best provisional account of what is true. That's still quite different from using reason to conform one's own perceptions of truth to position that prevails conveys one's identity in setting in which positions are tantamount to badges of membership & loyalty

December 21, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Joshua -

<<I wonder if there are any issues (in the US), where viewpoints aren't strongly associated with political orientation, and people who by and large lack the technical skills and abilities to evaluate the issue at hand, are equally inclined to reject the consensus view among experts as to accept them>>

Hmm. That's an interesting quesetion. Will think about it; others should too

December 21, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"NiV-- "getting it right" isn't necessarily deferring to authority. It is the use of reason to derive from all the conventional sources the best provisional account of what is true."

Quite so. But the only sources you mention, and the ones you measure their success against, are "experts" and "consensus". "Where expert and lay judgments of risk diverge, cultural polarization, not mere confusion, is the most conspicuous feature of public opinion. Any satisfactory explanation of the public’s failure to assent to scientific consensus in these instances, then, ..."

People who use the "listen to experts" heuristic (which is not a "scientific" method) do so in a more sophisticated manner than the above metric would account for. They take into account the credibility of the expert, to assess how reliable they really are. One way of doing so is to check the things the expert says where the member of the public already knows the answer. If an "expert" mathematician is heard saying that six times nine is forty two, you would be inclined to doubt his expertise more generally. That can include testing their judgement on political or moral questions.

You would also assess potential sources of bias. Is the expert being paid to hold this opinion? Does the expert favour the conclusion for political reasons? Would the expert be embarrassed or suffer career damage if the claim turned out to be wrong? Has fraud or incompetence been alleged? Have they been shown to have made major errors previously? Has the expert even looked in detail at the evidence themselves, or are they simply quoting what "everyone knows" from the same sources you've seen?

It's still unscientific, but it's better - more reliable and more rational - than blind credentialism. (Not that I think your credentialism is truly blind. If I found for you a highly qualified atmospheric scientist who was sceptical of AGW, for example, I think you'd be just as ready to find reasons to doubt their reliability. The effect is entirely symmetric.)

People may be equally aware of what the experts say, and equally respectful of scientific expertise, considering themselves to be rational people who are guided by it, but still differ on their judgements of which experts are credible and which are not. They will do so based on what else they know, what else they believe they know, and what they consider to be a dangerous bias - all of which differs according to cultural group. They also set the bar for quality of evidence higher or lower depending on whether the claim confirms or contradicts their prior beliefs. 'Can I believe this?' versus 'Must I believe this?'

Just because people polarise culturally doesn't mean that they're basing their decision explicitly and directly on what their cultural identity requires. It may simply be that their cultural identity includes a culturally-specific subset of prior knowledge and beliefs that influences their judgements of which experts are credible. Not only do they have different priors, they use different statistical models to assess likelihoods. But within their cognitive limitations and allowing for the fact these are all imperfect heuristics (and so contrary to scientific method) they're being perfectly rational.

Let me put it this way - when *you* make the decision to "trust the consensus of experts" on a topic like global warming, do *you* consciously do so because that's who you are culturally? Or do you think you made the decision rationally based on integrating all the evidence - knowing as you do that intelligent and educated people on the other side of the debate think they're doing the same? Because I've never come across anyone who thinks that *they* do this - only people who think *other* people do this, on the other side of the debate. Do you believe that you only believe in AGW because of who you are culturally?

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

"<<I wonder if there are any issues (in the US), where viewpoints aren't strongly associated with political orientation, and people who by and large lack the technical skills and abilities to evaluate the issue at hand, are equally inclined to reject the consensus view among experts as to accept them>>

Hmm. That's an interesting quesetion. Will think about it; others should too"

http://time.com/7809/1-in-4-americans-thinks-sun-orbits-earth/

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Better link here.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/03/who-thinks-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth/

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV - the geocentrics are not the danger to scientific communication, people like Joshua are. Consider he could not even understand that in neither link I posted here (Cochrane and Lomborg) is there ANY discussion of climate change, let alone AGW. Both authors discuss EXCLUSIVELY cost-benefit analyses of proposed climate change policies.

Now if you can't read well enough to grasp basics, you are ALSO likely to trust mathematical prediction models about as much as the driver in this 1-minute vido trusts his GPS autopilot - "The machine KNOWS!"
https://vimeo.com/15390422

Ignorance is curable, fanaticism is not. Give it up! And Merry Christmas to all.

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

If the operative phrase in Joshua's question is "equally inclined to reject the consensus view among experts as to accept them", then one issue that is close to such equality (a 55/45 split last year) is organic foods:

http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/01/the-new-food-fights/

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"NiV - the geocentrics are not the danger to scientific communication, people like Joshua are."

Joshua's just being unremittingly partisan, as are you. It goes on all across the internet, and is just part of the background noise of humanity. I'm only irritated by Joshua mixing his partisanship into Dan's science communication, by using it one-sidedly to attack conservatives.

You certainly shouldn't expect him (or anyone else) to be persuaded by any alt-right talking points - but I did think it might be possible for him to recognise that symmetry implies it applies to his own positions too, and that if he doesn't want to trigger identity protective cognition and get the science rejected, he ought to at least discuss the science neutrally. No such luck, unfortunately.

--

However, the bigger point of the sun-orbits-Earth example is that the lay public don't converge on the best available evidence *generally* on a vast number of scientific topics, but we only *notice* or *care* about it on a small number of political shibboleth issues.

Nobody cares that people don't understand electricity or the Earth's orbit or why the sky is blue, but they're *outraged* and *concerned* that people could be so stupid/ignorant/malicious as to disagree with the experts on the greenhouse effect, while at the same time having no idea themselves of how the greenhouse effect works, or what the evidence is. What are we going to do to fix it?

Well, what are we going to do to fix people not knowing that the Earth goes round the sun? Why is nobody asking that question?

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Another nearly equal split (49/51) is on usage of alternative medicine (at least in conjunction with traditional medicine):

http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/02/02/americans-health-care-behaviors-and-use-of-conventional-and-alternative-medicine/

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Speaking of cherry picking...

However, the bigger point of the sun-orbits-Earth example is that the lay public don't converge on the best available evidence *generally* on a vast number of scientific topics, but we only *notice* or *care* about it on a small number of political shibboleth issues.

Vast number? Really? Well, given all the questions that exist in the universe, perhaps it is a vast number. But the more important question, IMO, is what kinds of patterns emerge when we compare the situations where people do tend to converge on the best evidence (as reflected in the consensus of experts) compared to those areas where people do not.


Let's consider some questions of science probably not all that different than the one about whether the Earth orbits around the Sun or visa versa.

How about,

Is the Earth a planet?
Is the Earth smaller than the sun?
Is the Earth smaller than the moon?
Does our solar system have other planets?
Which is bigger, Mercury or Jupiter?
Is the Sun farther away from the Earth or is the moon farther away from the Earth?
Are scientists correct when they predict an eclipse, or the next return of Haley's comet?
Did humans walk on the moon?
Is the Earth flat?

We cold go on and on.

We could branch out into other areas, such as:

Does HIV cause aids?
Can you get aids from shaking hands with someone?
Do vaccines cause aids?
Do people spread disease through germs?

We could go on and on to find myriad other subject areas as well.

Most people don't have the knowledge or skills to evaluate any of those questions. But my guess is that most people would be quite confident about their answers to those questions, and they would be converging in their answers because of a basic trust in scientific consensus.

My guess is that answering the question about whether the Earth orbits around the Sun or the Sun orbits around the Earth involves people reflexively thinking of their own experiences (from the perspective of observing from the Earth) to answer the question - rather than relying on the expertise of experts because they lack the ability to answer based on their own observations (as would be the case with the other questions I listed).

Thus, it might be surprising how many don't align with expert opinion on that question (which, btw, doesn't seem to close to the kind of roughly equal opinions as we find with climate change, where opinions align with ideological orientation), but maybe that question is a bit of an outlier, with non-representative attributes that don't make it a very useful question for examining whether people tend to align with expert opinion almost uniformly.

Supposedly, 3 in 4 Americans believe that Angels literally exist. I would say that is not reflective of a convergence of scientific opinion. Is that a useful example to examine our question? Not all questions are useful here.

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Collectively, however, this distinctively expressive form of information processing is irrational. Where democratic citizens all form their perceptions in this way, they are less likely to converge on best evidence of the dangers they all face. This prospect, however, does not change the advantages that any individual obtains by forming and persisting in group-affirming beliefs."

Yes irrational, and yet there is no possible rational replacement system that citizens could utilize. The system they are subconsciously using, formed a very long time indeed before the enterprise of science became entangled with it, confers group advantages not just individual ones, such as the braking or bounding of overweening cultural consensuses that may otherwise come to dominate, to the great detriment of society generally. Even though in some cases (e.g. a heretical split eventually forming a strongly opposing culture), the mechanism is a trade-off with conflict. Trust in science generally is still high, but science has its own cultural baggage and in recent times this seems to be increasing, with accompanying abuse of its authority undermining said trust (although this is still domain related rather than general, I guess, and may be just a phase). This trust is itself a cultural characteristic to a large extent; most people don't really know or participate in how science works, so their trust is not primarily a function of reasoning. In practice, trusting blindly in all mainstream promoted scientific consensuses should statistically be an improvement over identity related choices, as the former are presumably much more often right than wrong. But this is technically irrational too; for a non-expert public it is more akin to faith rather than reason. Such consensuses will not always be correct, as history has repeatedly shown. And when they are wrong they can sometimes be spectactularly wrong, even in modern times. E.g. the recently collapsed 50 year consensus on saturated fats, which has likely harmed the health of hundreds of millions of people over this period. This also belies the true reaonableness of such a system. Not to mention demonstrating that science communicators themselves have no infallible register to refer to.

This does not mean science communication is a lost cause. But the deeply entrenched cultural system bequeathed by our evolutionary past is not going away any time soon, so neither will its subconscious behaviors. And strongly promoting blind trust in all mainstream scientific consensuses across the cultural landscape, *is* a lost cause, no matter that it would be a statistical improvement (albeit with rare serious failures). Where cultural sides are already aroused, this policy is too often perceived merely as just another cultural campaign on the battlefield, and given the blind aspect, such a perception is not wholly wrong. Where cultural conflict is not yet aroused, there is great danger of igniting such a conflict if any significant cultural component is employed in pushing a consensus. The HPV / HBV case featured on this blog shows exactly this. And the same example also demonstrates that *without* a strong cultural component, and distributed on a largely neutral network wrt the conflicted parties, science has no problem penetrating both sides of a tectonic cultural boundary. Unfortunately the recent fashion in SC appears to be an employment of more and more cultural framing, in attempts to appeal to apparently unreachable parties. This is exactly the wrong approach. Cultureless SC can reach everyone. Culturally framed SC just becomes another part of the war, reaching some at the expense of others, yet always amplifying the existing polarizations. And there is a side benefit to cultureless communication too; if rarely a consensus does turn out to be wrong, this will much more swiftly be discovered in a more objective atmosphere (avoids a circling of the wagons effect). Any culturally framed consensus also tends sooner or later to de-emphasize uncertainties and conflicting aspects of complex topics, hence part of cultureless communication should for newly arising topics (i.e. not yet long matured science) require an emphasis of these aspects, triggering thought and engagement instead of instinctive recruitment to or rejection of an absolute 'certainty' (such unquestionable infallibility is perceived as a cultural deceit by rejectors, cultures also generate [arbitrary] 'infallible' narratives, yet by the same token they can attract supporters who perceive 'inner truth').

In a domain already on fire, this culturerless mode is likely impossible to achieve. Emotive messages dominate the bandwidth. But going forward, theoretically achievable, albeit still massively difficult (I presume a retraining of the entire enterprise). And as NiV notes, most science never rises above the cultural radar to become conflicted. So maybe the principle of less is more would help here; a lot more topics seem to get pushed into the radar recently, exactly because of well-intended but much stronger efforts to widen understanding and attention, yet which efforts often end up leveraging emotive devices to that end. The attention that results can rapidly become the wrong sort, i.e. polarized. Quieter communication avoiding cultural channels would achieve much more penetration across all cultural boundaries, albeit messages would take much longer to spread.

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Even Cards Against Humanity is into politically motivated reasoning these days:

https://thepulseofthenation.com/#top (scroll through all for maximal amusement).

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

for a non-expert public it is more akin to faith rather than reason.

It seems quite reasonable, and rational. I don't have blind faith in a scientific consensus, I just reason that absent evidence that the consensus is obviously wrong probabilities suggest that the consensus is a good bet.

I think it is more akin reason than faith.

And in fact, certainly, it is faith that not so infrequently directs people to reject the scientific consensus.

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

😁

... in neither link I posted here (Cochrane and Lomborg) is there ANY discussion of climate change...

Not only do I fail to understand the relevance of that point, it's also just flat out amusing, given that it comes after....

countless "climate scientists" fail to meet at least one of those criteria. Lomborg is one of the few who do:

Is Lomborg a climate scientist?

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Most people don't have the knowledge or skills to evaluate any of those questions. But my guess is that most people would be quite confident about their answers to those questions, and they would be converging in their answers because of a basic trust in scientific consensus."

Well, that's a hypothesis. I'd like to see it tested.

For example: "Does HIV cause aids?"
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3015095/

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Joshua

"...certainly, it is faith that not so infrequently directs people to reject the scientific consensus."

For sure. And the way this occurs across all domains and cultures helps to inform us about the nature of the public relationship with science. So...

"I think it is more akin reason than faith"

We can make some qualititative proposal about this based upon measurements. Dan has found here that the kind of rejection noted above occurs (and in despite of expressed generic trust in science), when a particular scientific consensus challenges cultural values (and so identity). More generally, cultural groups tend to embrace the science they like, and resist the science they don't like.

The same effect can be seen in standard group cultural relationships (i.e. those not entangled with science). Alliance / reinforcement occurs where values largely align, and opposition / rejection occurs where values are mainly challenged. This suggests that science appears to the public subconscious similarly to any other player across the cultural topography. I.e. if it was more about reason than faith, one would expect high domain independence regarding the relationship to science. But instead for any measured cultural group, we get a domain dependent effect that is very similar to the relationship with any other (either challenging or aligned) cultural group. These relationships are not based on reason, but on cultural identity, including at the strong end, faith.

Of course none of this occurs for non-conflicted science, which is below the cultural radar so to speak. But it is the stuff above the radar that is the very problem engaged upon here.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

OMG! Individual neurons are partisan!:
http://neurosciencenews.com/neurons-brain-activity-8227

each neuron functions as a collection of excitable elements, where each excitable element is sensitive to the directionality of the origin of the input signal. Two weak inputs from different directions (e.g., “left” and “right”) will not sum up to generate a spike, while a strong input from “left” will generate a different spike waveform than that from the “right”.

Other than another crude attempt at injecting levity into this discussion, this is also an example of scientific consensus failing because nobody bothered to test it until now:

“We reached this conclusion using a new experimental setup, but in principle these results could have been discovered using technology that has existed since the 1980s. The belief that has been rooted in the scientific world for 100 years resulted in this delay of several decades”

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Andy -

My point is mostly w/r/t your broad-scale characterization of "blind faith." IMO, it is a mischaracterization, along the line of the "CAGW" meme that is so commonplace among activist "skeptics.".

I tend to doubt that we'll make any progress on that...but just wanted to note my disagreement with your logic there because, IMO, is relies on a faulty premise.

A generalized trust in scientists does not imply a blind faith in either scientists or in a consensus of view among scientists on a particular issue. People know that consensus views (svientific or otherwise) on some issues have proven wrong over time. A generalized view that a consensus is probably right (either in general or on a particular issue, scientific or otherwise) doesn't mean a blanket rejection of any possibility that a consensus might be wrong. Thus, your pointing to a change in the spectrum of scientific views on dietary fats is, essentially, a non-sequitur.

One can simultaneously believe that scientific consensus is probably right and that a scientific consensus might be wrong. One can believe that a consensus is probably right without having a "blind faith" in that consensus. In fact, I would say, I live my life on a daily basis, in a way that operationalizes that duality.

IMO, one of the problems here is that "skeptics" regularly game this issue as an argumentative/rhetorical gambit. (Sometimes "realists" do it too, if they imply, with plausible deniability, that the existence of a consensus is dispositive).

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Andy -

I.e. if it was more about reason than faith, one would expect high domain independence regarding the relationship to science.

I don't think that it is a situation of faith (or blind faith) versus reason. I think that there exists a kind of natural tension between identity-independent beliefs and identity-influenced beliefs.

There are advantages to either. Formulating beliefs completely independent of the identity (or social) context can have advantages. It can reach outside the already constructed boxes. It can foster objectivity. But it can also result in total absurdity.

The influence of identity or social context has a similar plus-minus effect on beliefs. They can lead to fallacious group think. They can lead to intolerance and aggression. And they can also lead to a check against total absurdity.

I think that more or less, people do a fairly good job of balancing those competing forces. At times, conditions (either personal or more general social context) can get people leaning more heavily in one direction or the other. Sometimes that is advantageous. Sometimes it isn't.

I think that we should avoid viewing those processes through a binary lens.

As to the role of "faith" in that whole dynamic...well I guess I need to think more about that. How does a faith vs. reason construct compare, overlap, interact with a identity-influenced versus a non-identity influenced construct? I don't know, exactly, but I do know that a starting premise of mine is that the often accepted notion that faith and reason are in opposition to each other is, IMO, also problematic. I don't see them really as being in opposition.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Confidential surveys and unannounced pill counts were collected from a predominantly middle aged and African American convenience sample of 266 men and 77 women living with HIV/AIDS. One in five participants stated that there is no proof that HIV causes Aids...

I don't get how that is particularly relevant. A convenience sampling, and one that is notably NOT demographically representative, and in fact, is likely a sampling that would have a disproportionately high level of trust of medical consensus when compared to a representative sampling (due to specific identity and ideology influences), and the prevalence of lack of convergence with the scientific consensus is only 1 in 5? Maybe the most relevant question for that study is why is the lack of convergence in that group so low?

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Sorry... that should be high level of DISTRUST of the scientific (medical) consensus.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

I didn't say 'blind faith'. I said, 'more akin to faith rather than reason'. Also that while 'trusting blindly in all mainstream promoted scientific consensuses should statistically be an improvement over identity related choices', 'strongly promoting blind trust in all mainstream scientific consensuses across the cultural landscape, is a lost cause.'

>'One can simultaneously believe that scientific consensus is probably right and that a scientific consensus might be wrong.'

Of course. I never said otherwise, in fact above I express agreement with this, because the 'improvement' comes from that fact that scientific consensuses will *mostly* be right. But this doesn't tell you anything about how cultural groups within the public react to science issues. The social data does.

>'...your pointing to a change in the spectrum of scientific views on dietary fats is, essentially, a non-sequitur.'

Only if I'd used it as a means to argue against the position, in your words, that 'A generalized view that a consensus is probably right doesn't mean a blanket rejection of any possibility that a consensus might be wrong'. But I'm not. I'm using it to show why any communicator who took the stance of promoting blind trust, would indeed be on a lost cause. Such would merely inflame cultural expression, plus technically the stance is irrational too. So this supports your quoted position; i.e. a thing science communicators must not slip into is implying blanket rejection via over strong generic consensus promotion (especially when incorporating emotive elements, which will lead to polarization and unsublte opposing choices).

Without the cultural choice algorithm (irrational) and the blind trust algorithm (also irrational, albeit an improvement, and with above danger), there is not actually a rational algorithm for a non-expert public to turn to.

>'I do know that a starting premise of mine is that the often accepted notion that faith and reason are in opposition to each other is, IMO, also problematic.'

I'm not sure quite what you mean by 'in opposition'. While per the rest of your text here I agree that there is subtlety and complexity, I also think public surveys and tests / data such as Dan showcases here, can nevertheless gives us enough insight to perceive underlying behaviors. Though there is likely still a very long road to go for understanding, those underlying behaviors are probably a lot simpler than the huge range of ways they can combine. As part of the context of cultural behavior, which is emotively rooted, faith may sometimes reinforce or inspire reason, and sometimes work against it. Despite the subtleties, I believe Dan's data is showing something real regarding the importance of cultural identity in socially conflicted science issues; so even at the best case for the role of reason, it is highly entangled with cultural behavior regarding the public's relationship to science. The degree of polarization says that sometimes at least, cultural behavior can dominate.

>'...a mischaracterization, along the line of the "CAGW" meme that is so commonplace among activist "skeptics." '

The narrative of *certainty* of imminent (decades) catastrophe, as promoted in the most urgent and emotive fashion for many years by virtually the entire western authority matrix, excepting the latest US administration, is far and away the most dominant narrative in the public space regarding climate change. This narrative is not supported by the mainstream science, let alone by anything Luke Warmer or skeptical. It represents what Dan terms 'pollution of the science communication environment', and on a massive scale. Why do you think those skeptics who refer to this narrative via the acronym CAGW, are presenting a mischaracterization?

Example snippets of this narrative, from some of the world’s most influential individuals at the time of the quote, follow in the next post.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Narrative examples:
[GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND] to 15th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development : “So what is it that is new today? What is new is that doubt has been eliminated. The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear. And so is the Stern report. It is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation. The time for diagnosis is over. Now it is time to act.” [OBAMA] Energy Independence and the Safety of Our Planet (2006) : “All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.” Speech in Berlin (2008) : “This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.” George town speech (2013) : “Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.” State of the Union (2015) : “The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.” [FRANCOIS HOLLANDE] Paris climate summit Nov 2015 : “To resolve the climate crisis, good will, statements of intent are not enough. We are at breaking point.” [GORDON BROWN] Copenhagen climate plan (2009) : “If we miss this opportunity, there will be no second chance sometime in the future, no later way to undo the catastrophic damage to the environment we will cause…As scientists spell out the mounting evidence both of the climate change already occurring and of the threat it poses in the future, we cannot allow the negotiations to run out of time simply for lack of attention. Failure would be unforgivable.” [ANGELA MERKEL] to UN summit on Climate Change (2009) : “After all, scientific findings leave us in no doubt that climate change is accelerating. It threatens our well being, our security, and our economic development. It will lead to uncontrollable risks and dramatic damage if we do not take resolute countermeasures.” Same speech : “we will need to reach an understanding on central issues in the weeks ahead before Copenhagen, ensuring, among other things, that global emissions reach their peak in the year 2020 at the latest.” And while president of the EU, on German TV in a wake-up call for climate action prior to 26 leader EU climate meeting (2007) : “It is not five minutes to midnight. It’s five minutes after midnight.” [POPE FRANCIS] Asked if the U.N. climate summit in Paris (2015) would mark a turning point in the fight against global warming, the pope said: “I am not sure, but I can say to you ‘now or never’. Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.” [MARK CARNEY] governor of the bank of England, speech ‘Resolving the Climate Paradox’, September 2016: “…climate change is a tragedy of the horizon which imposes a cost on future generations that the current one has no direct incentive to fix. The catastrophic impacts of climate change will be felt beyond the traditional horizons of most actors including businesses and central banks. Once climate change becomes a clear and present danger to financial stability it may already be too late to stabilise the atmosphere at two degrees.” [PRINCE CHARLES] speech to business leaders in Brazil (2009): “The best projections tell us that we have less than 100 months to alter our behaviour before we risk catastrophic climate change.” [AL GORE] speech to NY University School of Law (Sept 2006): “Each passing day brings yet more evidence that we are now facing a planetary emergency — a climate crisis that demands immediate action to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions worldwide in order to turn down the earth’s thermostat and avert catastrophe.” [JOHN KERRY] as US Secretary of State, responding to UN report (2014): “Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy… …There are those who say we can’t afford to act. But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.” [HILLARY CLINTON] time.com (Nov 2015): “I won’t let anyone to take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.” [BERNIE SANDERS] US presidential candidate (2016), feelthebern.com : Bernie Sanders strongly believes climate change is real, catastrophic, and largely caused by human activities. [M. LAURENT FABIUS] French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, in the National Assembly (May 2014): “We have 500 days – not a day more – to avoid a climate disaster. People often talk about climate change or global warming. I attach great importance to words, and as far as the French language is concerned I don’t think those words are very appropriate, because – without alluding to this or that political programme – change is seen as rather a positive thing, but in the case of climate, it isn’t at all. Some French people say: why not, since they might think Lille, for example, is going to join the Côte d’Azur? That’s absolutely not it. We must face up to climate disruption, climate chaos. The scientists, several of whom are present here, have said it: ‘you’d have to be blind not to see it’.” [FRANCOIS HOLLANDE] as French President, at 150 nation climate summit in Le Bourget, France (Nov 2015): “Never have the stakes of an international meeting been so high, because it concerns the future of the planet, the future of life.” [MERKEL] as German chancellor, at the Lowy Institute in Sydney (Nov 2014): “If we do not put a brake on climate change, it will have devastating consequences for all of us – there will be more storms, there will be more heat and catastrophes more droughts, there will be a rising sea levels an increasing floods.”

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Andy,

"Without the cultural choice algorithm (irrational) and the blind trust algorithm (also irrational, albeit an improvement, and with above danger), there is not actually a rational algorithm for a non-expert public to turn to."

I disagree. There is another rational algorithm. One based on something humans do quite well (albeit not perfectly), which is to assess social agendas, determine where competition and cooperation are at work and where they enhance a particular social process or not, where there are good vs. bad incentive structures, etc. Combined with an understanding of human tendencies. All pulled together in a rational coherentist framework. Hence we have the word "trustworthy", but not "faithworthy". This algorithm is the social assessment of "worthiness". Humans haven't been doing science (in the modern sense) for very long, but they have been doing this trust-worthiness assessment for a very long time.

That is not to say that this algorithm cannot be derailed by motivated reasoning. It certainly can.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan:

>'assess social agendas, determine where competition and cooperation are at work and where they enhance a particular social process or not, where there are good vs. bad incentive structures, etc. Combined with an understanding of human tendencies. All pulled together in a rational coherentist framework.'

I said there is not a rational algorithm for the non-expert public to turn to, not social psychologists trained in such endeavors 0: These are a vanishingly small percentage of the population, and despite the 14.5 billion readers of this very blog, they are not having a great impact upon that population. And as Dan shows, more knowledge and cognitive skills deployed by some of the public within the context of the contested domain, only makes the polarization worse. This includes any in-domain tracing of information sources and incentive structures, as domain biases also apply to this branch of domain knowledge too, which essentially is not about the science of the issue but about who is peddling the information, i.e. this is about identity. You can see this clearly on various blogs for contested issues, where such sources and structures are themselves contested in the same manner.

The advantage of a social psychological approach is that the data is out-of-domain. Confirming that a culture is at work does not require any dependency on what the narrative of the culture is about, or any other in-domain dependency. However, the layman's version of assessing trustworthiness, despite as you say being very old indeed, bequeathed by our evolutionary history in fact, is fundamentally cultural. For instance our highly tuned system for detecting cultural group deceits, 'cultural tales', is itself dependent on cultural values: https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/20/innate-skepticism/

>'That is not to say that this algorithm cannot be derailed by motivated reasoning. It certainly can.'

Well that's the point. Dan's data here says that, for socially contested science issues in the public domain, statistically speaking (i.e. one can't say what conclusion any individual will reach) reason is always derailed, which is why public polarization is a defining feature of such issues in the first place.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Andy -

I didn't say 'blind faith'.

Yes, well, I referring to when you were speaking of "trusting blindly,' and "blind trust." I'm not exactly sure what the practical difference is, but that is what I was referring to.

so even at the best case for the role of reason, it is highly entangled with cultural behavior ...

Of course, I wouldn't disagree. I think that disentanglement is probably unrealistic; although it probably can be approximated with more or less accuracy, I think it is important to recognize that probably neither can exist completely independently of the other.

The degree of polarization says that sometimes at least, cultural behavior can dominate.

I'm skeptical that either can be determined to "dominate." But even if one could, I question the practical value of trying to make such a determination.


Why do you think those skeptics who refer to this narrative via the acronym CAGW, are presenting a mischaracterization?

There are a couple of reasons. The primary one is that for years I have witnessed "skeptics" mischaracterize the level of certainty in how "mainstream" climate scientists characterize the science (recognizing that there is a range, of course). (That isn't to say that I don't think that there are some valid points to be made: (1) the question of certainty is arguable, (2) as a result, some climate scientists may not be accurately characterizing the uncertainty," and (3) in the public space, some "realists" mischaracterize the certainty as expressed by mainstream climate scientists.) As a result, I am not inclined to give "skeptics" the benefit of the doubt when they characterize how terms such as CAGW are manifest in the public space. There is a long list of similar phenomena, such as whether scientists say that "the science is settled" or what they mean by it when they do say that (or something similar), or how "skeptics" mischaracterize mainstream scientists when they very specifically speak to uncertainty (a good example would be Mojib Latif:

https://thinkprogress.org/exclusive-dr-mojib-latif-sets-the-record-straight-on-what-his-work-says-about-global-warming-and-1a8d061c91cb/

And no doubt, I have had many "skeptics" mischaracterize my certainty about catastrophic climate change. And I've seen them do that countless other times with non-scientists.

A third is when I see assemblages of statements such as the one that you provide below, along with characterizations such as: The narrative of *certainty* of imminent (decades) catastrophe, as promoted in the most urgent and emotive fashion for many years by virtually the entire western authority matrix...

Now that isn't to doubt that I think that we can find many public statements by powerful people, where they overstate the certainty of the science, but if such a list is provided without a scientific analysis that gives important context such as what is the prevalance of such stattements in the full context of public statements about climate change, and a fully certain characterization is made such as that which I quoted from you, my skepticism is only that much more enhanced.

It all looks to me much more like an incentivized, partisan presentation of the evidence. And of course, I could be wrong about that, but when the evidence is presented in an unscientific fashion, where characterizations are made without a careful attempt to contextualize the evidence presented so as to make the representativeness of the sample evidence-based, then it looks to me like a mischaracterization. Perhaps it isn't wrong, but it is a "mischaracterization" in the very least, because it is presented in certain terms when the certainty can't be justified. It would be no different if a public speaker spoke to the science of climate change by presented sampling without quantifying the represenativeness of the sampling.

Of course, there are other factors as well; for example, suppose in your view a powerful public speaker painted a picture of catastrophic climate change with total certainty, and then you asked them to address the simple fact that the iconic IPCC characterization of the certainty allows room for uncertainty (e.g., extremely likely that anthorpogenic forcing dominates)? Would they recognize that their words weren't consistent with the science? Would they deny the uncertainty of the science? All of that is important context, IMO.

For example, if a powerful public speaker says:

It is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation.

Does that mean that catastrophic climate change is a certainty? Or does it mean that the risk is extremely serious and must be addressed. Risk can be extremely serious but not certain, as in a high damage function but low probability outcome.

I expect serious people to address such obvious counteraguments, and when I see someone fail to address them, I don't always consider it to be mischaracterization. But when there are precedents set, such as the precedent of mischaracterizing how many scientists say that "the science is settled" or ignoring the subtleties of what a scientist might actually mean when s/he says something on the order of "the science is settled" (e.g., s/he could simply mean that there is no solid evidence that questions the existence of a GHE, or that there is a risk of extremely dangerous climate change in the somewhat distant future if we don't reduce ACO2 emissions, and not mean that "catastrophic" climate change is a certainty). I readily admit that I am "motivated" in this regard, and might be over-reactive. I may see mischaracterizations where actually, there has been a careful approach to scientifically quantify uncertainties and directly address counterarguments. I hope to be open to people when the present the evidence that shows me the error of my ways. Show me your scientifically quantified evidence that you use to categorize all public statements on climate change - including addressing all the uncertainties involved in interpreting someone's words. With such evidence, perhaps you have a hope of convincing me that I've mischaracterized your characterization. Now I realize that's a tall order - no doubt impossible to do perfectly. Any effort in that regard could probably be heavily criticized by people so inclined. But at least you could make something of an attempt. Where is your scientific survey of public statements about climate change, broken down in to a comprehensive taxonomy, with a clear glossary of terms to explain your definition of terms and the logic of how you have interpreted statements.

At the point where I begin to see "skeptics" address such obvious counteraguments head on, I might disagree with their conclusions but wouldn't be inclined to think that they have "mischaracterized" things.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

>'Yes, well, I referring to when you were speaking of "trusting blindly,' and "blind trust." '

Which I described as characteristics of communication policies that should *not* be pursued. The real danger is that this angle typically emerges from inadvertent action, by over-strongly and emotively stressing the nature of consensus, with the best not worst of intentions.

Re CAGW:

>The primary one is that for years I have witnessed "skeptics" mischaracterize the level of certainty in how "mainstream" climate scientists characterize the science (recognizing that there is a range, of course).

If this term is applied exclusively to mainstream scientists across that range, which for sure must include many who do not (in a personal way) support such a certainly of imminent calamity, then on the surface some basis for objection seems reasonable. But when skeptics are referring to what is easily the most dominant narrative in the public space (per examples above), and that has been for a very long time, which hence has fed back into the science too, the overall consideration for acceptability should be whether it reflects the overall domain or not. I.e. including the public and science spaces. For instance it is clear from the above examples expressed by leaders, also reflected in all the massive pyramids of orgs beneath them, that they invoke science to underwrite the narrative, frequently, and including the related sub-narratives you mention such as 'the science is settled'. So regarding mainstream science as a whole (which is why I separated the personal above), where has been the objection over decades that this overwhelmingly dominant narrative is simply not supported? In this sense, the label is still accurate even for science, because despite the range of personal opinions, the mainstream domain science as a whole has implicitly backed this narrative with their silence. Hence my benefit of the doubt defaults the other way to yours, albeit I agree that the context of *how* such terms are deployed and the level of personal identification, denigrating rhetoric etc etc makes a big difference to the acceptability of any such terms, and this applies to both sides.

>'Now that isn't to doubt that I think that we can find many public statements by powerful people, where they overstate the certainty of the science, but if such a list is provided without a scientific analysis that gives important context such as what is the prevalance of such stattements in the full context of public statements about climate change, and a fully certain characterization is made such as that which I quoted from you, my skepticism is only that much more enhanced.

But these are the most powerful people in the world, of whom more are saying the same, and they've been saying this for decades, and all their orgs and many other ngo and business orgs and even religions likewise saying the same beneath them. Do you think the public will simply ignore what all their leaders and all these orgs constantly say because it isn't right? The mainstream scientific context that would seriously challenge this over-stated narrative of certainty of calamity, almost never accompanies these expressions, whereas a frequent repetition that this narrative is fully supported by science, does. The prevalence of such statements is practically ubiquitous as no list such as you suggest typically bounds their spread - attempts to promote a counter-point of any kind (even from a mainstream perspective), are I think typically denigrated or even demonized, but at any rate don't generally make it out beyond a small fraction of the same spread.

So, no such leveling of terms at people should make assumptions about their personal views, but notwithstanding the caveats about deployment above, your view or mine is not what matters. This narrative *is* what overwhelmingly dominates the domain, suppressing any and all conflicting context, whether from skeptics or mainstream, yet the latter are represented by the great bulk of the scientists, who largely have not challenged this enormous 'SC pollution'.

There are many mischaracterizations on both sides, of course, so for instance...

>'such as the precedent of mischaracterizing how many scientists say that "the science is settled" '

...this among others on both sides can be so from some sources, when aimed at particular people or sub-groups, and notwithstanding generic narrative inclusion. In unraveling a polarized domain while trying to remain neutral one has to constantly pick ones way past vast arrays of such tanks traps laid everywhere on both sides. My saying a term largely reflects what it is meant to reflect overall, does not imply any such tank traps are sanctioned. Yet from a cultural analysis PoV, per the snippets above that are just an example of same from many authority sources, this narrative does include 'the science is settled', and the mainstream scientists have not seriously challenhged this in the public domain, hence it remains part of the co-evolving cultural narrative that dominates the space, and from all those leaders and other authority sources flows the infra-structure follow-up that keeps this narrative alive.

>'At the point where I begin to see "skeptics" address such obvious counteraguments head on, I might disagree with their conclusions but wouldn't be inclined to think that they have "mischaracterized" things.'

Indeed. And no doubt most skeptics think likewise (a few on each side are lost causes). But I think the difference here is the addressing of personal / particular arguments in debate, and the applying of terms (such as CAGW) to the full domain. Only in the latter sense is the term applicable.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

P.S.

Only in the latter sense is the term applicable....

or I suppose also to someone who does unambiguously support the view personally.

December 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Andy,

"ISk works independently of detailed domain knowledge, but not independently of pre-existing social values and aspirations."

So, you don't think there is a type of skepticism that works independently of domain knowledge as well as independently of social values and aspirations? Do you have evidence of this absence?

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Jonathan @Andd & @Joshua--

Shouldn't goal be public *recognition* of valid science rather than *trust* of scientis? Otherwise, why not "trust" "scientists" on both sides of any particular disputed empirical issue?

December 23, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Jonathan

>'So, you don't think there is a type of skepticism that works independently of domain knowledge as well as independently of social values and aspirations?'

I have not said I think this. ISk is dependent on cultural values, per your quote. Scientific skepticism (SSk) applied in-domain is obviously dependent on domain knowledge, hence on domain biases. However, SSk applied to out-of-domain data would theoretically be both independent of domain knowledge, and independent of cultural values too. So is there actually any useful out-of-domain data and theory that may help us determine who is who in conflicted domains about science issues? Well yes, areas such as cultural evolution and social psychology provide these tools. This site is a great example. However I say 'theoretically' above, because not all work in these domains may be sufficiently disconnected from particular conflicted domains of study. Plus cultures tend to work in long alliance strings that straddle society. So for instance some data / theory a social psychology researcher is working with may be independent of the (say) religious domain they are studying, yet the religion being studied may have a strong alliance with a political party the researcher happens to enthusiastically support. So paths for potential bias are never fully closed off regarding long-term conflicted domains. Yet theoretically SSk applied within these disciplines to social data only (i.e. nothing to do with the science of the topic itself, except in that who believes what statements), is a skeptical approach fitting your criteria. It is indeed theoretically possible to determine that a culture is definitely operating, without having used any dependency on the cultural narratives identified. Unfortunately there may be not be enough data in smaller domains to enable such a determination, or objective means of collecting it (objectivity gets harder if the population is small). Good for larger domains though.

@Dan

>Shouldn't goal be public *recognition* of valid science rather than *trust* of scientis?

For domains already on fire, I don't think this helps. They key word here is not 'recognition', but 'valid'. For highly conflicted issues in the public domain, each side claims the other side's science is *not* valid.

>Otherwise, why not "trust" "scientists" on both sides of any particular disputed empirical issue?

Well indeed this is the dilemma facing the public, which is probably why most go with cultural identity instead. There is currently no other algorithm for them to employ regarding socially conflicted science issues. Hence they're defaulting to the assumption that the valid science is that from the scientists who are more 'like them', i.e. the scientists they trust.

For domains not yet on fire, spreading well proven science (especially that with significant practical social benefits) via the most non-cultural, non-emotive, non-political, means and channels possible, would seem (per you HPV / HBV case) to be the best way of gaining recognition of valid science across all groups, without invoking the heavy trust / distrust factors that will always appear when significant emotive / cultural channeling is employed.

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Andy -


But when skeptics are referring to what is easily the most dominant narrative in the public space (per examples above),

IMO, listing examples doesn't establish dominance, and certainly "skeptics" asserting a dominance doesn't establish dominance.
A careful collection and categorization of all relevant data, with careful definitions attached along with a described rationale behind the definitions, is what establishes dominance, IMO.

And when a particular group of people have, IMO, a well-established track record for egging the pudding, then those requirements just become that much more crucial, IMO.

For instance it is clear from the above examples expressed by leaders,

Once again, I feel that your categorization is simplistic and lacking context and nuance. I think those criticisms could be addressed (within reason), and the need to address them should be obvious. When (IMO) someone doesn't see that obvious need, then I have to wonder as to why that is the case.

So regarding mainstream science as a whole (which is why I separated the personal above), where has been the objection over decades that this overwhelmingly dominant narrative is simply not supported?

The overwhelmingness of the dominance of narrative is far, far more prevalent in the "skept-o-sphere" than it is in the real world. The number of times that I have read "skeptics" claim that climate scientists frame the issue as that "the science is settled" - to mean that catastrophe is certain - exceeds, IMO by orders of magnitude, the number of times that I have read of any "mainstream" climate scientists making that statement (or one like it when considering the intended message - i.e,, with the intent that it be interpreted that catastrophe is certain). IMO, (IMO, provably false) claims by "skeptics" about what scientists do or don't say is inseparable from the public framework, and thus they can't be dismissed when one is discussing the public framework. But further, once again, I question your assertions about the "dominant" aspects of the public discussion, along various lines of critique.

In this sense, the label is still accurate even for science, because despite the range of personal opinions, the mainstream domain science as a whole has implicitly backed this narrative with their silence.

I don't agree. I see most mainstream scientists repeatedly talking about a bounded risk. That is often accompanied by an expression that in the face of uncertainty, addressing the potential risk is an imperative. I see no problem with that.
That does address the misconception (of certain catastrophe) - as no doubt stated by some but I think far less prevalently than you suggest (justified through a search performed with an effectiely bounded search term which effectively, if not necessarily intentionally, guarantees a particular frame for what gets returned, that catastrophe is certain*). Once again, the oft' repeated iconic characterization of the risk from the IPCC does place the risk within a context of probabilities. Once again, it seems entirely reasonable to me for scientists to debate the veracity of that range of probabilities, and I see the discussion there to be quite problematic. But that is, IMO, an ancillary (not to imply unimportant) issue here.

Hence my benefit of the doubt defaults the other way to yours,

And as such, I think that there can be room for a better discussion. Acknowledgement of our "defaults" i(I guess some might say "priors") is key here. First, an acknowledgement that everyone carries defaults around with them and 2nd, that it's highly implausible that any particular group is less prone to doing so and finally, and perhaps most importantly, that we as individuals do so.

and albeit I agree that the context of *how* such terms are deployed and the level of personal identification, denigrating rhetoric etc etc makes a big difference to the acceptability of any such terms, and this applies to both sides.

Indeed. But at the same time, IMO, focusing on the denigrating rhetoric, as if that in itself were the genesis of the problem, is actually just a recursive loop. I don't pick up my bag of defaults because someone (who self-identifies with a dfferent label - labels which IMO, are largely arbitrary) insults me.


But these are the most powerful people in the world, of whom more are saying the same,

Once again, for me, this statement lacks the kinds of important context that are required here. How is the importance of those people, and the importance of their rhetoric, measured and quantified? How does it compare, quantitatively, to important "skeptical" politicians? How does it compare to the importance of corporate entities and academics that either supply different rhetoric or supply different economic influences that steer in different directions? How does it interact with the context of the statements (e.g., with an understanding that basically everyone knows that politicians in general lie and exaggerate, it is clear that anything some people say will be rejected by those who are differently aligned, ideologically). How often do I hear "hoax" language from important "skeptics?" How often to I hear about the catastrophic cost of mitigation from important "skeptics?" And what is the influence of important economic forces that have a vested interest in fossil fuels? It is interesting to me that I have been asking "skeptics" for years to quantify how they reach their certainty about the relative costs of fossil fuels versus alternative energy pathways along with accounting for (positive and negative) externalities, respectively - and I haven't yet gotten one serious answer. Of course, that is just anecdotal - but it is certainly curious that there is uniform agreement of the "draconian" cost of mitigation policies when no one can answer that particular question. How does that happen without "powerful" forces in play? A good question into itself, IMO, but then the question only gets that much more interesting when we look at the ideological overlay on that uniformity.

The mainstream scientific context that would seriously challenge this over-stated narrative of certainty of calamity, almost never accompanies these expressions, whereas a frequent repetition that this narrative is fully supported by science, does.

Once again, I see a statement that quantifies a prevalence without a careful quantification and classification of the data, and without a clear explanation of how terms are defined. That isn't to say that I don't agree that (1) there is an general imbalance as you describe, even if I'm "skeptical" about what I see as your facile quantification of that imbalance and (2) I certainly agree that more focus on uncertainty would be a good thing and (3) the way that people address uncertainty in these risk assessment frames is always complicated by ideological orientation and factors of political expediency and also, importantly fairly common human biases that affect how we approach risk. Perhaps an instructive example here might be the sub-issue of how scientists and politicians address the issue of extreme weather events. We could certainly perform a search where we find politicians and or scientists saying that "Event X was caused by global warming." And as such, we could make a seemingly solid case in support of the "skeptic" frame of "See, CAGW!!!!" But if we enlarged out search*, we would also find a bevy of politicians and climate scientists saying something on the order of "We can't say that event X is exactly caused by global warming, but the risk of such an event occurring is increased by global warming - and that is a serious problem that should be addressed." or "We can't say that event X is caused by global warming, but that is the sort of even that the consensus of climate scientists say is an example of what we might expect to see more of because of global warming." So how do we measure, quantify, and categorize the relative "power" of those different narratives, and then further, how do we compare them to the competing narratives (those consistent with the science and those inconsistent with the science) on the other side - including (IMO false) narratives from "skeptics" that the only thing that "realist" scientists and politicians say is alarmist messages that "We're all doomed." - based on a combined religious faith, funding-motivated scientific fraud, and a "Chinese hoax?"
'

attempts to promote a counter-point of any kind (even from a mainstream perspective), are I think typically denigrated or even demonized,

I don't doubt that is true - but of course there is a corresponding dynamic in the other direction.

but at any rate don't generally make it out beyond a small fraction of the same spread.

Argument by assertion, IMO, for the reasons I have repeated many times.

I'm going to draw this comment to a close here. I had some trouble following the rest of what you wrote, and as such my attention is beginning to wander. I'll try to come back to it later. But perhaps as an elevator statement - in response to your question which initiated this sub-topic; once again, I see reason to absolve "skeptics" rhetorical frames from basic scrutiny - of a sort that seems to me to be a baseline requirement (e.g., careful quantification and categorization of relevant data, clear definitions, clear rationale for those definitions, clearly addressing obvious counterarguments, and perhaps most importantly, clear acknowledgement of and accountabilitiy for the sorts of biases what are hard-wired into the context along with a unswerving realization that such biases are most likely not distributed disproportionately across the viewpoint divide, etc.) As such, I am explaining to you the scrutiny which I am applying, and which leaves the argumentative frame that has been presented to me, lacking.

* I've been thinking about how the power of the Google and information availability has (or hasn't) exacerbated this problem. I'll provide a convenient example, that I think we see in this very thread. An intelligent and (I assume to be careful) scientist, someone who clearly is capable of sophisticated analysis, in this very thread searched for information relevant to addressing a question being discussed, and (it seems to me) passed over thousands? tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands? possibly instructive samples, to select two examples of a counter phenomenon, to (IMO) imply a message that would be generalizable to the question at hand, and did so even though those two counter-examples were actually not even meaningfully applicable in their own right, let alone useful when viewed within the larger context of the myriad examples s/he passed over. This is a tendency that The Google, for all it's power to advance our understanding, exacerbates a problem. There are ways to address this problem. And one is to employ the kind of search process that is typically included in a scientific paper - where search terms are explained carefully, to enhance accountability for potential biasing factors. When I see "skeptics" employ such a process as they frame their arguments, I tend to (or at least try to) be more open to my own biases.

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan -

Shouldn't goal be public *recognition* of valid science rather than *trust* of scientis? Otherwise, why not "trust" "scientists" on both sides of any particular disputed empirical issue?

I'm not entirely sure how that question relates to the ongoing discussion in this thread...I would be curious about the explanation, but...

Somewhat like Andy, I got caught on the word "valid" in your question.

I don't know how to recognize what is "valid" science on many issues. I lack the capacity, knowledge, and skills required. So I often try to take a bird's-eye view to try to estimate validity.

One work-around is to try to measure relative prevalence of agreement among scientists. Another is to try to evaluate the likelihood of bias influencing how that prevalence might have been established. Another is to search and look at different claims of validity of competing scientific arguments among scientists to see if I can glean something useful about patterns in play. Finally, particularly in polarized contexts, I can look at the ancillary arguments being made by scientists, in areas where I have more confidence about my ability to determine "validity," which I can then use as "information" to inform me about the reasoning processes of the different scientists involved.

Of course, I understand that all of these heuristics are (1) likely to be gamed by myself due to ideological orientation and (2) imperfect.

So, rather than simply "trust" scientists on both sides, part of my process is to evaluate the relative trustworthiness of the scientists on the respective sides - kind of the opposite of what you suggest.

But that's only my personal process. As to what the "goal" should be, my belief is that the goal should be to try to create dialog processes where people are engaged in good faith, so they can be fostered in accepting accountability for the biases in how they interpret validity.


Anyway, as an aside - sometimes since I can't determine validity on my own, particularly if the issue at hand isn't ideologically charged (but not only then), I try to consider the reality that sometimes in real life, oppositional frames can, enigmatically, both be true, and thus the point is how to move on with an acceptance of that seeming contradiction. Often times, if not always, the answer there is that the frame of the opposition is, in itself, insufficient, and there are actually larger issues in play than just those that are created within the framework of the opposing "both sides." There, the key is to search for valid ways to enlarge the framework.

It's perhaps easier to describe something that is, perhaps, analogous in an interpersonal context: oftentimes I and my partner have very different explanations for what motivates each other's actions, or what creates a different viewpoint on a "reality." And from each of our own individual perspectives, the thinking is entirely rational. But we have different starting points, and what can be very difficult to accept is that actually, both of our viewpoints are "real" and rational - because of what we're bringing to the table. IN such situations, sometimes enlarging the framework - that it may not be particularly important to chose between competing viewpoints on what is valid, because each viewpoint is more usefully seen as "information" that fits into the overall context, i.e., that each of us has a valid viewpoint and that resolution can only come about through accepting that understanding what's at hand comes about through thinking of what kind of context can be reconciled with both viewpoints being valid. Maybe that makes some sense? If not, try to find a way that it does even if it doesn't. :-)

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

The main bulwark of your argument here, expressed in various detailed angles, seems to be that because the exampled calamitous narrative is not formally measured and compared to all competing narratives and oppositional positions, in relative strengths / channels / influences etc. then it cannot be assumed as the dominant narrative. I do not know of any surveys or projects that attempt such a comprehensive analysis for the climate change domain or any other, but it seems to me rather like saying Christmas in the West cannot be assumed as a dominant cultural winter tradition until we have formally measured all its expressions and oppositions relative to every other competing tradition. Yes there are lots of other games in town and yes some folks adhrerence is nominal, yes these days many object to the religious angle and many object to the commercialization, plus non-Christian religions may complain about the imposition, but yes too, casual observation perceives it is still the big beast in the room, and this assumption is likely to be about right, or at least not too far wrong.

>'How is the importance of those people, and the importance of their rhetoric, measured and quantified?'

I think it is safe to assume that pretty much the entire cadre of Western leadership (pre Trump) singing the same tune as exampled, will result in one of the strongest social influences on the plant, given that they are literally the most influential people on the planet, and that they only rarely agree so universally on anything else. If you can figure a means to measure this exactly relative to everything else this would be a great contribution, but the assumption is a reasonable one, unless there is a similarly reasonable assumption of the same magnitude that directly challenges it. So do you have one? I find it surprising that you seem to believe (if I have this right) that this narrative from its many authority sources, won't be highly consequential for the domain at the very least.

>'How does it compare, quantitatively, to important "skeptical" politicians?'

Until Trump, what important skeptical politicians anywhere near the same league as above? They are not zero, but they haven't on average mustered anything that could seriously put up much of a candle to that alliance. Nor is this the real point. Why should it fall to the tiny minority of skeptics (politicians or otherwise) to challenge this enormous pollution of the SC environment, to use Dan's terminology? Your comparisons to skeptic activity / communication seem to implicitly assume that this is their role. But it is also the role of the *mainstream* politicians and scientists (by which I mean not AGW skeptical) to promote the truth over fiction and reason over emotion. Why are you giving all of these a free pass?

>'I see most mainstream scientists repeatedly talking about a bounded risk.'

Many do. Whether it is 'most' would require an exact measurement ;) But typically in restricted forums. Where has been their challenge on the world stage to the exampled calamitous narrative, that is not supported by mainstream science? That despite promotion by the leaders of the Western world for decades, is just wrong. These leaders and their governments sanction policy, which when driven by wrong and emotive laden narrative, will also go wrong, will misfire. Far too little and far too late, we do see some public push-back, '...scientists saying something on the order of "We can't say that event X is exactly caused by global warming... etc.' Even including Mann regarding the multiple apocalypses of the New York Magazine article recently. This activity would have to be orders of magnitude greater to arrest the narrative inertia built up by many years of messaging per the above narrative examples.

CAGW is an appropriate label on the tin of the narrative exampled above, which has been output for decades from almost the entire Western leadership. You argue that this may nevertheless not be the dominant (i.e. single biggest in terms of influence) narrative of the domain. But you cannot say it doesn't exist, and coming in harmony from the mouths it does throughout so many years, you surely acknowledge at least that it is an important narrative of the domain. So assuming the term CAGW is used in reference to this narrative, and not regarding the position of individual scientists who may not hold such a view on the certainty of imminent catastrophe, are you then okay with the term?

>'How often do I hear "hoax" language from important "skeptics?" '

Incessantly. On various skeptic blogs. But until the emergence of Trump this call has never made a dint on the world stage. Nor do we want it to. This is just as wrong as the certainty of imminent calamity. It is generally conservative culture that drives this language (as revealed by the fact that it is usually a 'left wing hoax' or other similar term). So two wrongs don't make a right. Other than that, what has it got to do with the price of fish? It is not a correction to the exampled narrative, and via polarization will only make things worse. I don't know whether the advent of Trump will cause this angle to survive as a mainstream meme, typically he seems to be reigned back from it by others; let's hope not.

I'm trying to get beneath the lines of your text to understand the deeper thrust. The (IMO) justified existence of the term CAGW, gives no sanction for any inappropriate behaviors, or any free pass regarding bias (both of which you explore in some detail) on the skeptic side, or come to that no terms should do this regarding either side. Yet you seem to conflate the very existence of this term with such behaviors. Above, I asked if you were happy with the term in the context of strict use for the exampled narrative (whether you consider said narrative dominant or not). If you are not happy with this term, what would you call it instead? (CAGW is hardly snappy, but something no less snappy at least, can't repeat an indigestible sentence every time).

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Andy -

The main bulwark of your argument here, expressed in various detailed angles, seems to be that because the exampled calamitous narrative is not formally measured and compared to all competing narratives and oppositional positions, in relative strengths / channels / influences etc. then it cannot be assumed as the dominant narrative.

Actually, I'm saying that but I'm saying more than that. I'm also saying that your finding of a "dominant narrative," is too vague to be meaningful. I know that it signals something rather specific to "skeptic," but I don't see that it would really explain much, even if it were true. Further, I'm also questioning your assumptions (without qualification and quantification) as what the "power" of that dominant narrative is, especially in a sense where it is compared w/r/t "power" to other narratives.

I do not know of any surveys or projects that attempt such a comprehensive analysis for the climate change domain...

Well, the fact that none exists concurrent with absolutely certain conclusions being drawn about the magnitude of that "dominance," along with the degree of associated power of that "dominance" seems highly conspicuous to me. It strikes me that most of the people who are drawing conclusions in this regard have a very strong set of predispositions to view these issues from one angle or another. In such a circumstance, it seems to me to be a requirement of people who want to present an evidence-based argument to take steps that scientists usually take to prevent against creating biased narratives. In this case, that would involve some process of an objective evidence-collection methodology, complete with clear and precise definitions of terms along with clear and precise explanations for the rationales in support of those definitions.

but it seems to me rather like saying Christmas in the West cannot be assumed as a dominant cultural winter tradition until we have formally measured all its expressions and oppositions relative to every other competing tradition.

Interesting that you would bring that up, because it just so happened that in the last couple of days I have heard a couple of pieces discussing whether or how the "meaning of Christmas" may have changed in recent years compared to past times, and a series of different opinions w/r/t what that might mean. My point being, that your definition of terms so as to quantify "dominance" and methodology for determining "power" are ambiguous - to the point to me where it looks like an argument by assertion. It doesn't help that in response to that criticism, you basically just went to an argument from incredulity (or perhaps ad populum?) as a justification. It seems to me that if someone wanted to argue about the meaning of a "dominance" of Christmas as a winter tradition, with a related argument about the "power" represented by that dominance, would engage in a series of methodological steps to make that assertion somehow meaningful beyond just a simple argument by assertion.

I happen to disagree with you in a variety of ways about (1) your assessment of dominance and (2) your definitions of terms associated with that dominance and (3) your related assessment of "power" associated with that dominance - and my disagreement is based in a history of seeing "skeptics" such as yourself make along series of such assertions where, IMO, their process was provably false (and emotive in nature). I'm not necessarily making the the argument that your assertions are false (due to the emotive resonance it has for you to make those assertions), but I am saying that you haven't really provided any meat on the bones for me to check your assertions against my own biases. And I haven't seen you lay out a methodological process by which you make it apparent how you have provided a check against your own biases (whatever they might be).


Yes there are lots of other games in town and yes some folks adhrerence is nominal, yes these days many object to the religious angle and many object to the commercialization, plus non-Christian religions may complain about the imposition, but yes too, casual observation perceives it is still the big beast in the room, and this assumption is likely to be about right, or at least not too far wrong.

So my argument is what do you mean by "beast" and how are you making a meaningful argument about the "power" of that "beast?" For example, is the commercialization aspect of what you're talking about really a manifestation of "Christmas," or is it a measure of just one of many facets in how consumerism has become more widely and powerfully manifest? If talking about the religious component, are you talking that the religious aspects of Christmas, or are you talking about the ways that the religious aspects of Christmas are part and parcel of larger societal trends related to religiosity in our society?


I think it is safe to assume that pretty much the entire cadre of Western leadership (pre Trump) singing the same tune as exampled, will result in one of the strongest social influences on the plant, given that they are literally the most influential people on the planet, and that they only rarely agree so universally on anything else.

I get that you think that. I don't reject your statement completely, but I think that it is basically too vague to be of much use.
For example, the Republican Party power structure in the United States is largely comprised of politicians who flat out reject the concept that the risk from ACO2 emissions requires a policy response (of basically any sort), and who (I believe fallaciously and without evidence in support) argue that mitigation policies would be economically catastrophic and vastly expensive (even thought they cant present arguments that deal comprehensively with the very fundamental aspect of positive vs. negative externalities of different energy pathways). Similarly, those politicians are very, very heavily influence by industry lobbyists who have any variety of vested interest in specific policy outcomes. Those politicians are also influence by specific constituencies who have very strong vested interests in specific policy outcomes. And then we have the extremely powerful economic stakeholders from oil producing countries who, obviously, have vested interests. Those, it seems to me, are extremely large vectors of power that interact in a very complicated set of way with the "power" of rhetoric from a specific set of politicians who express apply their rhetoric in a very complicated matrix where the mechanistic chain between their rhetoric and the manifestation of the resulting "power" is far from obvious, IMO. And that even ignores the ambiguities or inconsistencies of their rhetoric, which you also don't speak to.

If you can figure a means to measure this exactly relative to everything else this would be a great contribution, but the assumption is a reasonable one,

It seems like a simplistic one to me. And I'm not expressing certainty here - I'm expressing that I think that you are over-simplifying the issues here, to a great degree.

So do you have one? I find it surprising that you seem to believe (if I have this right) that this narrative from its many authority sources, won't be highly consequential for the domain at the very least.

I'm saying that I think that drawing conclusions about the magnitude of the "consequences" is quite complicated, and one that requires a systematic approach that people often do when the engage in such an analysis - where often the first step would be to create a matrix of different forms of rhetoric with clear definitions of how the information is being categorized as well as a clear outline of the criteria used to determine such measures of "power." Then a broad-scale search is conducted with a discussion of the findings. That is opposed to first creating vague definitions of terms and vaguely determining what criteria are used to determine "power" and then conduct a search for only those findings that will meet your criteria - without analyzing how well that return generalizes to the larger context.

>'How does it compare, quantitatively, to important "skeptical" politicians?'

Until Trump, what important skeptical politicians anywhere near the same league as above?

Again, "anywhere near the same league" is vaguely defined. In terms of real power, I'd say that someone like Jim Inhofe has a great deal of power as compared to, say, the Pope, or some British Royal figurehead. The influence of "skeptics" in the American Congress was sufficient that they largely transformed the Party platform on the issue of climate change in a matter of decades or less. And that platform represents enormous power. I don't actually know the relative "power" of all the different part in play, but I think it is facile to make assumptions in that regard. Create a matrix with a clear definition of the criteria you use for measuring "power." How are you measuring impact? It seems to me that it is quite easy to make pronouncements about "power" that have no direct correspondence to impact. Now maybe it is meaningful in some way to define "power" as completely distinct from impact, but I question whether it is, and as such, it makes sense to me to address that issue. It seems to me to be rather obvious that to discuss "power" you should at least discuss how you're addressing the question of whether impact is relevant and how it's being measured.

I'm going to mostly cut off here - as I think that we're mostly going in circles at this point. Perhaps if I think about it more, I will be able to express my views that are clearer, or find that there really is as little meaning to what I"m saying as you seem to think (although I doubt either)....


I'll just address this one more part directly:

Yet you seem to conflate the very existence of this term with such behaviors.

Indeed. "CAGW" is a cultural, partisan icon, that is predominantly used to rally the "skeptic" troops. I see it as basically another arrow in the quiver of people who are heavily invested in identity-protective and identity-defensive behaviors. I don't see it as materially different from "deniers" pr "alarmists" in that regard. I think that it sheds far more heat than light, as it is actually intended to do (even if not consciously). I see it as largely circumventing and ignoring the more meaningful issues in play - primarily among those the tendency towards partisan identity-protective and identity-defensive behaviors, and the difficulty which presents to humans when they are trying to understand and deal with risk in the face of uncertainty, particularly high damage function low probability risk over long time horizons.

I tend to think of the situation as contrasting people who are relatively more/less concerned about the risks of continuing to increase ACO2 emissions. IMO, that is the meaningful contrast in play, and people can choose all sorts of ways to characterize that contrast so as to reinforce the ways that their ideological identification interacts with that issue.

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Jonathan -

I read an article like this:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/23/us/politics/trump-immigration.html?_r=0

And I'm inclined to start thinking that the whole line of thinking whereby con authoritarianz are inclined towards disgust and contamination (as discussed between Peterson and Haidt) - which then means I can't just dismiss their assertions about libz out of hand.

But I'm still hanging on (by a thread?) to my belief that Trump is just a really unfortunate person (the stuff he tweeted about Ebola completely undermine the claims of Trump supporters about their belief in small, non-interventionist government, IMO), and I should try to avoid at all costs generalizing from a Trump sample to characterize that other conz view immigrants as contaminants.

And, of course, being the NYT it could just all be fake newz anywayz.

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

>'I'm saying that I think that drawing conclusions about the magnitude of the "consequences" is quite complicated, and one that requires a systematic approach...'

Well while no-one has collected and catergorized all those piles of narrative statements from their multifarious authority sources from around the world, and narrative power cannot be measured directly (that I know of, though cultural consensus theory can deduce if or what cultural consensus exists in collected narrative sets), for sure public and academic surveys and analysis, such as Dan does here for instance, can measure the resultant behavior in specific domains, which either will or won't be consistent with original assumptions made about said narrative. As noted in several posts with systemic approach each focusing on an aspect of the issue, mainly at Climate Etc (which posts you have declined to examine), the results of such measurements are consistent with the exampled narrative being a main cultural driver, whether or not it is the outright dominant driver. This doesn't disprove all other potential candidates (e.g. via combinatory factors, which could hence be more modest in effect each). But these would need similar systemic presentation and support. Dan's excellent data forms a significant piece of some of those posts. But we already had this discussion more than once, and you don't approve of evidence collection and methodology leveraged from others rather than executed from scratch, though this is perfectly valid.

So you disagree with dominance (1,2,3, Christmas, etc.) But this narrative exists, it cannot be 'unimportant' to the domain, given its provenance and timescale. It still must have a name. What would you call it?

>'I don't reject your statement completely, but I think that it is basically too vague to be of much use. For example, the Republican Party power structure in the United States is largely comprised of politicians who flat out reject the concept that the risk from ACO2 emissions requires a policy response (of basically any sort)...'

So you don't think, for instance, that the polarizing effect of messaging the certainty of imminent calamity in the most urgent and emotive terms for decades, a narrative not supported by mainstream science, from all the main authority sources in the West, will have had a major hand in producing that stance from many Republicans, and others not currently in power but likely very frustrated by this long barrage and potentially steaming in the background. This messaging is a major distortion of science and sadly, got the rejective response that can be expected when something highly emotive and basically wrong, is heavily pushed without restriction or correction from those who are able (in this instance, the mainstream scientists).

>'...I think that we're mostly going in circles at this point.'

Well I agree with that, and on ground trodden before. I would also agree that matrices of relative power for all involved in all their ways, would be highly complex to say the least, probably beyond any of us here including Dan; marshaling the data in the first place would be the biggest challenge. Yet despite the absence of such a matrix (and essentially this may be calling for a measurement that no-one could do and hence stalls any assumptions if defined as a pre-requisite), I am still mystified by the fact that you seem to continuously avoid acknowledgement that a narrative which (pre-Trump) was put out by the entire Western leadership for decades, is not highly important to say the least. And likewise the fact that this narrative is highly emotive and wrong, is not a major issue for the CC domain. Not to mention an issue that mainstream science has not risen to on the world stage. The fact that stated this way it is not a scientific formulation, and hence could be interpreted as 'vague', is a bar that is not necessary to vault over for that importance to be acknowledged. Social and political science is nowhere near the point where any such statements could be scientifically formulated. Can you scientifically formulate all Inhofe's statements along with all others you consider to be on the skeptical side. If you can't, does that erode their importance to the domain? I do not think so; these statements impact the domain too, albeit Inhofe is not world ranking.

Re partisan terms, I agree that in a domain already on fire and massively polarized, all terms can be culturally appropriated. But we must still use terms, or we can't conceptualise anything in the domain, and I get the feeling (rightly or wrongly), that in avoiding like the plague the term CAGW, you are also avoiding the issues reagrding the narrative it genuinely (i.e. when not considered as a partisan tool) describes. It seems to me now, that you are indeed edging away from an acknowledgement of this narrative, and the 'CAGW' terminology issue is just a route you are taking to do this. So let me start here: Do you acknowledge the exampled narrative as a factor (be it dominant narrative or not) which not reflecting the mainstream science and being pushed in the most emotive and urgent manner from the highest authorities, will hence have caused some kind of negative issue for the domain, albeit you may have a very different view on the relative significance? If the term CAGW had not become partisan in any way, would you accept this as a reasonable term that could be used for that narrative? And per above, if you feel nevertheless that the term has become too culturally appropriated to use, what would you use instead? (and bearing in mind that any term may in turn become appropriated by either side, but we cannot work completely without descriptors).

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Joshua,

I don't think this is binary. I also think there's much more to it than disgust/contamination. Roughly:

First: Consider each person as containing a function from social distance to favorability. The function isn't constant over a person's life, nor identical in all contexts - but is roughly so. The function's output is non-linear but continuous and almost always monotonically decreasing (greater social distance -> lower favorability). Some people tend to have functions with steeper curves (plotting this function with increasing social distance as the X axis and increasing favorability on the Y axis) than others.

Second: we notice each others functions (by collecting data points), and can get a rough idea of how steep they are as well as roughly what each person considers to have high favorability vs. low. Some even broadcast info about the steepness/mildness of their functions.

Third: we each believe our functions and favorability judgements are the bestest.

Fourth: there is self-sorting based on what we notice about each other's functions, because those with steeply decreasing functions (which they think are the bestest) with considerable favorability overlaps will aggregate, while those people with mildly decreasing functions will aggregate (because they think mildly decreasing functions are the bestest, and any differences in mutual favorability never get too big to prevent aggregation).

Fifth: Trump has an exceptionally steep function.

Sixth: Alliances of the steep function variety are stronger but more fragile than those of the mild function variety. Perturbations in who is considered favorable have very large impacts on steep function alliances, especially at points of greatest rate of favorability change.

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

A Christmas present!

News from the alt-right which seem to have eluded the august cultural experts among the 14 billion readers of Dan's blog - there is now a vaccine to cure aversion to persons appearing filthy, diseased, alien, illegal, dangerous, and otherwise repulsive. Combined with intensive brainwashing, of course:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170814162334.htm

"...Through the combined administration of oxytocin with a social norm, the donations for refugees in those skeptical towards migrants nearly reached half of the sums donated by the group, which showed a positive attitude towards refugees...."

December 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

All this - to me - white noise about culture obscures a significant contribution here by Andy West :

https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/20/innate-skepticism/

It's the only attempt I have seen here so far to quantify risk - in fairness problem itself is identified by Dan in the initial post here, but Andy actually points the way to a solution.

Risk is quantifiable, uncertainty is not. This has been known to economists formally since Frank Knight's classic "Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit" and to insurers, gamblers, and mathematicians since time immemorial.

Numbers point the way out of the cultural morass visible here. People who may be heliocentrics do not object to their tax dollars used to send spacecraft to the outer planets - in fact, judging by their public utterances, they appear to be just as entranced by pictures of Saturn's rings as those of us familiar with orbital calculations. But they DO object to their money getting wasted on subsidies to Elon Musk's follies like solar power generation - and so is everyone familiar with the actual numbers.

Brainwashing them has obviously not worked - maybe the vaccine mentioned in my previous post will do the trick! Some of the Soviet-era psychiatrists must still be around, they should be consulted.

December 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

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