Wrapped in Lew Papers: The psychology of climate psychologization – Part1

Note: as of 6th November, this Post is up at ‘Watts Up With That’, the most viewed climate site on the planet: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/11/06/wrapped-in-lew-papers-the-psychology-of-climate-psychologization-part1/

∙First of 3 posts examining papers by Lewandowsky & co-authors before ‘conspiracy ideation’ claims. These papers warn of cognitive bias effects, all of which occur in the CAGW Consensus, confirming it is heavily biased. Can’t admit this? Skeptics exposing the dilemma? So… push skeptics beyond the pale, minimizing cognitive dissonance.

Psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky’s ‘conspiracy ideation’ papers (‘Moon hoax’ and ‘Recursive Fury’) that link climate skeptics to generic belief in ‘way out there’ conspiracies, have generated a great deal of traffic in the climate blogosphere and the media. Not least regarding pretty much inarguable challenges to their detailed methodology and data collection, the legitimacy of such approval procedures as occurred, and even the ethics of the papers; essentially the entire validity of these works. Indeed ‘Recursive Fury’ was eventually withdrawn from the journal Frontiers of Psychology on ethical grounds.

However prior papers from Lewandowsky (with various co-authors) identify and warn us about a list of major cognitive bias effects in society, all of which occur within the social phenomenon† of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW), and strongly contribute to the dominance of this phenomenon. Constrained so tightly by his own findings, wrapped if you will in Lew papers, yet apparently possessing a worldview that is highly challenged by any questioning of the climate change ‘Consensus’ (note: a challenge to worldview is itself one of the warnings), any attempt by Lewandowsky to analyze rising world skepticism is very likely to have resulted in a polarized outcome: Either a wholesale rejection of the climate Consensus based upon the belated realization that all his above warnings apply to CAGW, and must always have applied, or an attempt to place skeptics beyond the pale, which hence might preserve a pre-existing worldview and prevent the head-on intellectual and emotional crash of the bias list with the behavior of the Consensus. It seems that the latter course was taken. While I have some sympathy for anyone caught in such an excruciating position, and the resultant behavior in these circumstances is typically not fully conscious, the debacle described in the second paragraph above seems very much like a desperate and sustained attempt to reduce cognitive dissonance.

This short series of posts does not delve further into the tangle surrounding Lewandowsky’s recent jaunt into conspiracy ideation, represented by Moon Hoax / Recursive Fury and other papers. Instead I explore, in detail, warnings about cognitive bias that came mainly before that jaunt. In this first post, each of the warnings is detailed by type. In the second post, the excellent applicability of each warning to CAGW is demonstrated. And finally the clash of these warnings with pre-conceptions is examined in the third post, a clash that psychologists and academia generally should heed regarding climate change perceptions. The three posts together form an extensive look at climate psychologization, using Lewandowsky’s work and stance as a prominent example case and framework, demonstrating that bias has blinded the discipline of psychology and prevented it from applying established principles and past findings (even about bias!) to the climate domain, which in turn has led to grossly erroneous conclusions. Along the way we glimpse the root causes of, and flawed treatments for, climate depression aka eco-anxiety aka apocalypse fatigue, and open a useful window onto the fundamental workings of Consensus culture itself.

Next page (2) for more…

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