Appendix 2. An analysis of Poll results:
Strong polarizations as shown in the data at DK1 are usually indicative of cultural influence at work, of alignment to worldviews as Dan himself notes. If we were truly objective when trying to identify the source of this influence, we wouldn’t start by assuming that one culture was ‘right’ and the other not. And yet this is effectively what Dan has done within his analysis. But what if neither are right? Or the truth lies somewhere between the two poles? Plus Dan has started with a field of only two cultural players, of which he assumes one (Democrat) is not significantly biased by their worldview because they have a good grasp of an ‘absolute truth’ from climate science, despite this is an infant and highly contested field engaged upon a wicked problem. To make matters worse all the individuals that cultures might recruit, including all the scientists from whom Dan believes the truth emanates, are embedded within a highly malleable society that has for decades been soaked in emotive messaging regarding climate change. And scientists are no more immune to bias than anyone else. In such circumstances the received truth, climate orthodoxy if you will, should at least be regarded as suspicious. If this assumption produces a better psychological explanation that is more fitted to the various survey data, one can then draw the conclusion that climate orthodoxy is likely contaminated with misinformation. The differential shifts of emphasis from Appendix 1 regarding people’s beliefs plus resolve on the issue of global warming, are a very big clue as to who is influenced by which culture. (Cultures are notorious for propagating narratives that serve the culture and not veracity, which among other methods can be detected via gaps between stated belief and action, or will for action, within the constraint of real-world issues). Yet even before exploring a hot lead like this, one should really attempt to establish who the likely players are.
Dan has essentially defined that there are just two (opposed) main cultural (political) players, arranged around an absolute scientific truth. Yet if we assume per above that the received truth could well be contaminated, plus we search the social topography a little bit more thoroughly, we instead ought to be considering a field with at least three players arranged around a disputed truth. And furthermore, one of the cultural players is not a traditional political party. To keep this article from mushrooming I have to take a shortcut here: the above-mentioned posts AW1 to AW3 at Watts Up With That demonstrate that the climate Consensus is pretty much saturated with psychological effects, and as a consequence it is bulging with bias too. This is the critical take-away from these posts (rather than the additional conclusion of Lewandowsky’s personal bias). And not only can this be shown using standard literature reporting mainstream effects within various populations, for theoretical support the posts AW1 to AW3 stick to papers on cognitive bias exclusively from Lewandowsky and associated authors. These authors are all avid CAGW advocates; hence there can’t be any realistic possibility of counter (climate skeptic) bias from their papers. (And no minority psychological oddities like Dan’s ‘duality’ are required within this explanation either). The level of Consensus bias, mainly from misinformation about the certainty of catastrophe, is high enough and coherent enough (a tight consensus is after all bound to be coherent!), and its effects influential enough, that the climate Consensus can be considered a culture in its own right. A culture that has gradually come to dominate environmentalism and also to have a major impact on government and society in general. A culture that at the very least should be a candidate player within our investigation, which may allow the interpretations of survey data to fall out better than they did for Dan.
So, our main players are the long established Democrat and Republican political cultures (leanings to which as Dan notes are somewhat fuzzy proxies for identity), and the nascent yet burgeoning (hence still more fuzzy) CAGW culture. Core adherents of the latter can self-identify as ‘above’ politics, yet all cultures are in the pragmatic game of social cross-coalitions, and necessarily therefore oppositions too. Enabled by this wider vision and stoking our innate skepticism to protect us from leaning towards any concept of an ‘absolute truth’ as output from socially processed speculative science, we can revisit Dan’s data to see whether there’s a more fitted psychological explanation than his final DK1 theory of ‘duality’ regarding the Rep/Cons.
The main device that Dan uses to separate identity from knowledge in DK2 / DK4 is very simple. Rather than asking folks directly what they believe, he asks them what they think ‘climate scientists believe’. As noted in the main body of the post, it seems that a similarly large majority from both political camps think that climate scientists believe all sorts of scary things about carbon dioxide and human caused global warming, even though some theories on his list are (deliberately inserted) baloney. While Dan is pained about the state of civic knowledge on the science, he interprets this data as showing that folks across the political spectrum have ‘a widespread apprehension of danger’, because ‘the mistakes are all in the same direction’, i.e. favoring all the scary stories. He proposes that this is an indication of ‘a latent (unobserved) disposition to attribute to climate scientists the position “we are screwed if we don’t do something”.’ By which I believe he means that: the public might be ignorant of the details, but they believe it deep down (including the Rep/Cons) when the climate scientists say we’re screwed.
However, this form of removing identity defense has likely also removed identification with respondents genuine thoughts. It is much more likely that respondents have very literally answered the question asked; i.e. their answers reflect only what they think the scientists believe, but not what they believe themselves. In a healthy moment of doubt, Dan considers this very possibility: ‘Someone could say, reasonably, that asking people what they think “climate scientists believe” is different from measuring whether those people themselves believe what they [sic] climate scientists have concluded.’
However he immediately rules this out because of the ‘discrepancy’ between the bi-partisan consensus regarding these questions, and the strong polarization regarding the more direct questioning of belief in global warming, per DK1. I think his distilled logic is this: Regarding the strong polarization, especially of the science aware, the clear assumption is that the Dem/Libs are ‘right’, therefore it is the Rep/Cons who must be culturally steered to the opposite pole. Hence, when he believes he’s removed identity issues using the pre-amble of ‘climate scientists believe’, he concludes that the Rep/Cons, who are now able to let their guard down and respond more personally, must essentially be agreeing that we’re in deep trouble just as the scientists state (even if supporters from both political camps appear to be very poor indeed at distinguishing the scientific wheat from the chaff regarding the details). Hence also, the puzzle of how the more polarized science-aware Rep/Cons, can apparently both believe and disbelieve simultaneously.
However, there’s a more plausible explanation. We start into this by assuming that Dan’s moment of doubt was a moment of insight. So the respondents in DK2 are telling us only what they think scientists believe, but for most folks in both political camps this is not what they believe themselves (not even as some kind of ‘latent’ or ‘unobserved’ apprehension). After decades of being emotively battered by almost every alarmist scare imaginable, no matter how tenuously linked to Global Warming aka Climate Change, plus constant urgings to act regarding ever-elapsing deadlines of X years or months or days, this is hardly a surprise. And despite eliciting an unintended kind of answer, Dan’s plan to separate knowledge from identity has nevertheless still worked. Yet it is not the Rep/Cons who’ve let their guard down, it is the Dem/Libs. No longer constrained to defend their party in a direct challenge of identity, many of them too admit that climate scientists come out with all sorts of scare stories which are not particularly believable. This also helps to explain some of the terrible lack of discrimination regarding the scientific red herrings; confidence in the credibility of climate scientists is so low in the opinion of both political camps, that they can each well believe that scientists actually do put out such stories as serious findings. For the bulk of Rep/Cons, this is more or less their normal public position regarding the state of climate science. Their response is consistent. Yet for many of the Dem/Libs this represents a significant shift from the party line of complete belief in the output of that favored discipline; in other words a weakening of their belief and a loss of resolve, because they are not directly challenged here to defend their party and associated identity.
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