Saturday, April 14, 2012

It's Like Living With Crazy People

Case in point.  A great guy.  We've been friends for almost 40-years.  He's devoutly Conservative and has been actively involved in the party longer than I've known him.  Well educated, well traveled, well spoken.  He has had a career as a lawyer, judge and an elected official in two levels of government.  He remains a backroom guy in his party.

We happened to get on the subject of global warming a couple of weeks back.  I told him how we see it setting in out here on the Wet Coast.  He came back with the standard denialist retort.  It was all a hoax by the scientists.  The earth has always warmed and cooled in the past.  Global warming is a myth.

I asked my friend how he would have handled the global warming argument had it come before him when he was sitting on the bench.

One side, seeking to legally prove the fact of global warming, adduced a mountain of peer-reviewed studies from top climate scientists in the broad array of "earth sciences" including geology, hydrology, botany, biology, meteorology, chemistry, epidemiology, atmospherics and so on, all of which corroborate the greater theory of global warming.

On the other side, the denialists.   Now they didn't have any prominent earth scientists or any peer-reviewed research or studies.  Worse still, they didn't even directly address any of the science the other side had amassed.   They simply stood up and said it was a hoax..  because they said so.  They argued the earth had warmed and cooled in the past so there was no need to consider what all that science was demonstrating.  That was it, case closed.

Now my friend could see where this was going and he knew he was getting boxed in so he deftly derailed it by saying he couldn't respond to a hypothetical scenario.

Then I fell back on the "scientific method" argument, how all this mass of global warming science stood unrefuted, how the scientific method invites others to show it erroneous.   And I asked how, with trillions of dollars potentially at stake, the greater fossil fuel industry wasn't even trying to use science to disprove the link between carbon emissions and global warming.  I asked what it said that the fossil fuel industry was using public relations, not science, to fight back?  I asked why the fossil fuel industry wasn't spending at least several billions of dollars on its own research if it even suspected the conventional science was flawed?  Follow the money.

By this point my friend became exasperated, apparently feeling beset.  He couldn't respond to any of this.   He didn't even try.  He simply blurted out "it's a myth" and that was that.

In subsequent conversations I began to discover what was behind his seemingly senseless denialism.   My friend is a devoted, loving grandfather.  Accepting the reality of anthropogenic global warming to him means admitting that his grandkids and all the other grandkids in the world are facing a very troubling future, one that we have handed to them, one of our making.   His moment of contrition came when he said, "I think they're going to hate us."  And then the moment passed, my friend hit his internal "reset" button and it was - as it began - all a hoax.


And, just minutes after posting this, I stumbled across a piece from the Washington Post exploring the divergent political psychology of conservatives and liberals.  Part of this is described as "the need for cognitive closure."

This describes discomfort with uncertainty and a desire to resolve it into a firm belief. Someone with a high need for closure tends to seize on a piece of information that dispels doubt or ambiguity, and then freeze, refusing to consider new information. Those who have this trait can also be expected to spend less time processing information than those who are driven by different motivations, such as achieving accuracy.

A number of studies show that conservatives tend to have a greater need for closure than do liberals, which is precisely what you would expect in light of the strong relationship between liberalism and openness. “The finding is very robust,” explained Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland psychologist who has pioneered research in this area and worked to develop a scale for measuring the need for closure.

...Anti-evolutionists have been found to score higher on the need for closure. And in the global-warming debate, tea party followers not only strongly deny the science but also tend to say that they “do not need any more information” about the issue.

For Conservatives it's a "don't confuse me with the facts, my mind's made up already" world.   They can reach certain conclusions, not for want of facts but because facts aren't wanted or welcome.

And that's how we wind up in a society where one part insists on living in reality and the other part is equally insistent on living in beliefs even if they border on outright fantasy.   A divide like that is a perfect opportunity for those who peddle wedge politics using fear and anger as their currency.   It's a world tailor made for creatures like Stephen Harper.

It's like living with crazy people.


Purple library guy said...

It is living with crazy people.
But I'd argue those features are far from completely innate. People can learn to be more or less curious, more or less fearful, more or less needy of closure.
That is yet another reason why right wing propaganda seeks to make people scared, and specifically scared of the kinds of problems that only more authority can save them from, scared of The Enemy. Because that kind of fear suppresses openness and curiosity. It makes people shut down; it turns people conservative.

Anonymous said...

Flat Earth Society.

Dana said...

Two things:

So, so hard to believe a lawyer and judge has his head so far up his ass. I'm absolutely certain such a thing has never before happened in the history of the world.

Your 'friend' has an unbelievably high opinion of climate scientists. In the history of the world no group has been able to successfully perpetrate such a complex and consistent sustained hoax on a global scale.

Other than the vatican of course.

But it sounds to me like your 'friend' buys that one.

I hope your 'friend' lives long enough to witness some of the consequences of his ignorant assholery.

I'm not even a little forgiving or generous on this matter.

Anonymous said...

On a forum I frequent, it's mostly populated by very religious people. The one I am most surprised by is a doctor, yet he is also extremely religious, conservative, and completely a gun nut. I don't know if I would want my doctor to disregard science in favor of fairy tales and talking snakes. It frightens me more than the enemy Harper has created for us.

Anonymous said...

"...Now they didn't have any prominent earth scientists or any peer-reviewed research or studies. Worse still, they didn't even directly address any of the science the other side had amassed. They simply stood up and said it was a hoax..."

(Ahem) 2009 NIPCC Report & and the 2011 Interim Report, seen here and here

Collectively, multi-thousand page report citing thousands of peer-reviewed science journal-published papers, directly addressing the science of the IPCC and coming to a conclusion contradicting it, leading to the conclusion that the IPCC has not made its case in a convincing manner that human activity drives global warming.

In addition to that, you may read mind-blowing levels of detail concerning the way in which Michael Mann's hockey stick graph is disassembled at ClimateAudit ( )

The Mound of Sound said...

And let me offer up something else that may help clear the fog in your mind. The fossil fuel companies (you may have heard of them) have many hundreds of billions of dollars, probably trillions, at stake in this one. As you may also be aware, Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Gas have no shortage of friends in Congress and even our own Parliament Hill. Now, if your NIPCC actually had any valid science capable of refuting the positions of the IPCC, the environment ministries and the National Academies of Science of every (without exception) OECD nation - that's the 'developed world' to you, the fossil fuelers wouldn't waste a heartbeat using it to sweep away the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

Yet, despite the vast wealth that hangs in the balance for them, the fossil fuelers aren't doing that. Why do you think that would be, dimwit? Follow the money.

And, while you're at it, try to figure out why the global insurance industry, the lot of them, long ago figured out global warming was real. That's why, in much of the United States, they no longer sell hurricane coverage and why, in much of the United States, it's the federal government that has had to step in to provide flood insurance to all those redneck morons who seethe at government meddling.

Your gullibility is mind-boggling and obviously nurtured only by your ignorance. Ahem.

Anonymous said...

"Now they didn't have any prominent earth scientists or any peer-reviewed research or studies."

That's not true of course. However, climate skeptics don't really need much peer-reviewed research. Remember, its the climate alarmists who are making the claims of future catastrophe, its up to the alarmists to support those claims. The deniers aren't making any claims to speak of, so they need no peer-reviewed support. All the deniers need to do is pick apart the alarmist claims, which actually turns out to be rather easy and fun.

Anonymous said...

"I hope your 'friend' lives long enough to witness some of the consequences of his ignorant assholery."

He already has starting with the day he was born. Climate has always changed, it changes today and will continue to change.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anon 8:34, you'll plainly believe whatever you want to believe. be my guest. you'll also understand if I take you to be pin-headed.

Holly Stick said...

In one of his books, W.O Mitchell wrote "Don't eat that, Elmer, it's bullshit!" I always wondered if he made it up or got it from somewhere.

Anonymous said...

@The Mound of Sound 6:56 AM, April 16, 2012: An assertion was made that no peer-reviewed material exists to oppose man-caused global warming. I submit the NIPCC reports, clearly identifiable as containing such, and the best you can do is is say "nothing to see there, move along."

And then to add insult to your own injury, you sidestep my point even further with some 'follow the money' shell game. Ok, I'll play.

Please, for the betterment of your own loyal readers who probably can't come up with this on their own and others tuning in here to see how you do, provide actual proof of specific payments given by particular fossil fuel industry execs that yielded specific false fabricated climate assessments by skeptic scientists in specific peer-reviewed science journal-published papers in the NIPCC or elsewhere. Not general guilt-by-association accusations, those are a dime a dozen, and you know exactly how far those would go in any given court trial cross examination.

Take your time, we'll wait.

But in case you can't deliver on that, what will be your next fallback position? Religious zealotry? Political direction?

What happens if those dominoes fall too? What other backflips will you have to resort to before you succumb to the obvious, that skeptic climate assessments will have to be pitted against IPCC assessments, in order see which stands? Why resort to any backflips to begin with?

When skeptics are constantly open to debate and ask for discussion, while AGW promoters constantly assert the debate is over without being able to show any evidence of when any such debate ever took place and constantly try to quash dissent, are you oblivious to how such reactions fatally undermine your side of the issue?

Martin Vermeer said...

> the NIPCC reports

"It's like living with crazy people"

Anonymous, all it takes to recognize the NIPCC for the mendacious nonsense it is, is to acquire an actual understanding of the science, using the abundance of excellent material available for free. You owe yourself an education. We owe you nothing.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, Martin is right. You are being mendacious. Why don't you check out your NIPCC. There is no end of information about it. You can begin with the Heartland Institute and go from there to Dr. Fred Singer. And then find their peer-reviewed science and try to find something they themselves haven't vetted. That should keep you busy for a very long time.

kootcoot said...


You seem to deal with idiots the same way I do at my place, let their stupidity shine on the comment threads they try to hijack. Though I'm not really pro-capital punishment, I sometimes think that people who have a brain but refuse to use it, or maybe just don't have one, should be used to harvest other organs for people who need them.

At least the prince of assholery and idiocy above hasn't gotten around yet to the classic denier line that the whole climate change scam is just a trick to make Al Gore wealthy. By the way genius, how long did Big Tobacco manage to obfuscate the fact that tobacco, especially smoked, was both harmful and ADDICTING....letting the folks like you at the time pretend that neither was actually the case? Or if you are consistent, perhaps you feel the evidence isn't really there yet on that issue.

I'm confident that many aboriginals consider their introduction of tobacco to the white man at the least a minor payback for all the dead Indians and stolen land.