…twice as many Democrats as Republicans consider astrology “very” scientific and Republicans are more likely than Democrats to consider astrology “not at all” scientific. What’s going on here? Is there a solid scientific case for believing in astrology?
Verheggen et al gets the final word:
“Different surveys are not directly comparable, due to different groups of people being asked different questions…. Different surveys typically use slightly different criteria to determine their survey sample and to define the consensus position, hampering a direct comparison. It is possible that our definition of “agreement” sets a higher standard than, for example, survey question[s] about whether human activity is ‘a significant contributing factor’.”
The last post addressed the consensus definitions, methods and findings of the top four papers in the graphic (Oreskes 2004, Doran 2009, Anderegg 2010, and Cook 2013). This post will address the bottom three papers…
The above graphic conveys two things: first, getting skeptics to accept the scientific consensus on climate change is essential to convincing them of the need for urgent action. Second, in order for skeptics to accept the consensus, you have to convince them that the consensus is overwhelming - not just most scientists, but the vast majority of scientists. So is that what the studies in this graphic show? Let’s find out.
Rule # 1: If you’re going to have an honest conversation about climate change, don’t misrepresent what the scientific consensus actually is.
Rule # 2: If you’re going to have an honest conversation about climate change, be prepared to discuss the evidence for a scientific consensus.
Rule # 3: If you want to have an honest conversation about climate change, remember that conversation is a two-way street. That means it’s just as much about listening as speaking.
Rule # 4: If your goal is to persuade someone to agree with you, then your goal is not to have an honest conversation.
The FBI compiles detailed stats on US hate crimes, based on data submitted by thousands of law enforcement agencies covering most of the US population. News outlets and politicians often cite the FBI data as proof that hate crimes are increasing in the age of Trump. So let’s look at the data!
Why the difference in expert opinion about the likelihood of the worst-case scenario? Because climate models generate different futures depending on their assumptions and inputs.
The placebo effect has also been found in interventions designed to improve cognitive functioning in areas such as intelligence, attention, memory, and self-control.
In 2016, US life expectancy was 78.6 years, compared to an average of 82.2 years for comparable high-income countries. Most of the difference is due to “excess” American deaths before the age of 40. By the age of 65, the disparity in life expectancy between the US and the other rich countries is just 1.6 years for women and 1 year for men.
The rest of us rely on mental shortcuts to arrive at our opinions on climate change - mostly to do with trust and perceived plausibility. In other words, how we feel/think about climate change depends in large part on whom we trust or don’t trust, as well as what information, explanations, and opinions fit with our understanding of how the world works. This is not an irrational way for non-scientists to approach a subject as complex as climate change.
But we could do better. We could live the words “science is real”…
Most Americans have accepted that the climate is changing as a result of human activity. If pressed for a reason, many will refer to the scientific consensus that such is the case. Some will refer to a 97% consensus.
Not that these survey results are implausible. Plenty of peer-reviewed studies have revealed today’s millionaires to be frugal, hard-working, and mostly from middle-class backgrounds. They buy boring cars. They’re diligent savers. This is not new information - twenty years ago academics Thomas Stanley and William Danko found that 80% of US millionaires were first-generation rich. That is, they did not inherit their wealth.
The capacity to imagine future danger and take constructive steps to avert it is called “adaptive anticipation”. Adaptive adaptation starts with sensitivity to threat. It ends with effective problem solving.
According to this trope, the Fearful Conservative is afraid of change and uncertainty, clinging to the safe harbor of habit and tradition, overly controlled, troubled by bad dreams and distressed by disorder. In so many words: fear makes conservatives stupid. The authors usually bolster their case with a few studies and quotes from “experts”, which can be hard to refute if you don’t know what they’re leaving out - namely, evidence to the contrary.
One thing the articles and opinion pieces don’t mention is the decades of research on personality and political attitudes, covering tens of thousands of participants. And that research is, well, unequivocal: conservatism is not associated with anxiety or fear - it’s most strongly associated with Conscientiousness.
Azarian wrote a Psychology Today piece titled, “Fear and Anxiety Drive Conservatives' Political Attitudes” …he supported his claims with evidence from four studies. Luckily I was able to locate most of the original studies to see if his conclusions were reasonable. Here’s what I found…
…in Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, Robert Sapolsky concludes a discussion of MFT with the claim that “…conservatives heavily value loyalty, authority, and sanctity.”
“…a four-year old’s openness to a new toy predicts how open she’ll be as an adult to, say, the US forging new relations with Iran and Cuba.” — Robert Sapolsky (2017) Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
Locus of control is not just a belief in the head - it is a belief tendency that reflects reality and creates reality. Change the reality and the belief will shift - maybe not in lock-step but in time.
Self-serving bias: the tendency to take credit for desirable outcomes and blame factors outside one’s control for undesired outcome, e.g., attributing a job promotion to hard work but failure to get promoted to a bad boss. What accounts for this tendency? Here are four possibilities: