Who is Who

The robot double checks for any systemic ‘convenient belief’ linked downwards. This is not visible in public surveys. (But see footnote 9 for what this might look like, and Kahan’s claim to have found some e.g. in farmers). So it provisionally assumes that the bottom stripe, CAGW skepticism, is ED. It then checks the host narratives for both the bottom and top stripes to see what these yield. The top stripe is hosted by a strong emotive narrative about imminent calamity (the very reason for a ‘top priority’), which as expected for a culture stretches well outside the narrow domain of climate into various areas of society. Useful confirmation. (Bear in mind that although adherents say this scope is necessary to save the planet, all major cultures declare that their wide application is a highly important necessity, and bias mechanisms powerfully reinforce this for adherents – the robot sees no difference to other cases). It does perceive that the culture may still be young and facing innate resistance; while spilling into many social areas, climate change has not gained the social control of, say, historic Christianity. It also notes that climate skepticism has limited scope; rather like atheism it is really only defined in opposition to that which expresses itself as a main culture, and has no framework as a standalone issue. This marks it as ED.

The robot then notices that both the host narrative for man-made climate change and the roots of climate skepticism, claim validation by science. This is not so for creationism in the case above. However, it’s knowledge of social analysis tells it that science is fragile; over a course of years the scientific endeavor itself can easily be assimilated by the co-evolving framework of emotive memes in a mainline culture. There is no reason to change its analysis thus far. This fact does lead to a further assumption though: the ‘correct answer’ is less likely to exist and be obscured by culture. More likely, the scientific uncertainties are such that there cannot yet be an answer, and this lack of knowledge is the window through which the climate culture originally gained its emotive leverage, which leverage now works (net) against further efforts towards an answer (cultures evolve to maximize their environment).

This time around, the humans’ own Pew system of evaluating all influences appears to have an omission, yet despite this once again provides further validation. The omission is that there is no separate category for a climate culture in its own right, which once again suggests that this culture is new, humans have not yet realized that it does have an influence in its own right. So another clue to verify the ultimate cultural source would thus be useful, but for now the robot can fortunately continue unhindered, because it knows from Figure 6 that there is major asymmetry on climate belief between US political parties, so the ‘party’ category is a useful reflection of the candidate climate culture. (From Figure 5 and 6, Democrats are about as religious as they are climate calamitous, yet Republicans are significantly higher for the former and dramatically lower for the latter). So armed with a good proxy, the robot moves to Figure 7.


This looks very much like Figure 3 for the creationism case, except that the strong cultural influence has switched from the far RHS, i.e. religion, to the far LHS, i.e. ideology / party, which is the proxy for climate culture. Otherwise all the same factors apply: the battleground of age resisting new culture and youth promoting it, the polarization in higher education preventing it being a highest strength influence1, etc. All this is once again a great fit to the robot’s prior findings. Race may creep in because it also has a political dimension (and political asymmetry is higher than for creationism), yet once again I have no clue why gender is involved. The religious-political and climate-political slopes are in opposite directions, so presumably will cancel in part to produce the observed weak influence of religion. (The Pope’s attempt to form a cross-coalition with climate culture is too recent to impact; it could further polarize the Catholic-racial divide on climate change3, or alternatively pull more white Catholics into concern).

As noted this Pew system does not distinguish a separate climate culture, and hence is unable to verify earlier findings that there is such. Reading Figure 7 in isolation gives the impression that differences in belief regarding climate change in the US are mainly a matter of political allegiance. Hence this time the robot seeks a different confirmation: outside the US there is not strong political polarization on climate change in many countries, yet there is still cultural behavior regarding climate change issues. It knows from social analysis that fundamental emotive bias and social consensus mechanisms are common to all humans, or at least all those in similar developmental stages (e.g. all modern societies, as opposed to say an isolated and primitive New Guinea tribe). Hence the ultimate behavioral drive in the US should be the same as elsewhere, i.e. a drive from climate culture, albeit with which there is more asymmetry regarding cross-coalitions with (US) political parties.

  1. Conclusion for the Climate Change debate

So using identical methods as employed for its analysis of the creationism debate, regarding the climate change debate our robot has attributed a CD position to the mainstream climate change Consensus, which promotes a narrative of imminent (decades) calamity, and an ED position to the climate skeptics.

However, it also knows that climate change culture was spawned by science and in terms of generational penetration, is likely still new. Hence the core climate change narrative and wind turbines may not be wholly equivalent to the bible and churches. Yet our robot would certainly assume that the former have more in common with the latter than with, say, the evidence for General Relativity and power stations.

Andy West   www.wearenarrative.wordpress.com


Dan Kahan post at Cultural Cognition blog including Figure 1 & 5 charts.

Gallup 2012 poll calibrating Figure 2.

Pew 2015 poll including Figures 3,4 and 7.

Pew 2012 and Gallup 2013 polls calibrating Figure 6.

Next page for Footnotes…

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