Climate Culture

  1. Whatever is happening in society now will be due mainly to cultural effects, and not due to what will emerge regarding the physical climate (whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent).
  2. There will be a socially enforced consensus serving a cultural narrative.
  3. The above will include statements that are presented as all-explaining and/or indisputable.
  4. The consensus will be actively policed via a range of mechanisms including status control and emotive pressure.
  5. There will be uncritical acceptance of an authority or authority figures, possibly even adoration.
  6. There will likely be some rights or privileges granted to only a few.
  7. There will likely be some vision of catastrophe, and yet also an expectation of salvation / rebirth / renewal that is conditional upon catastrophe avoidance.
  8. Anxieties, fears, guilt, hopes and inspiration will all be culturally steered via the above visions and consensus, causing immense bias within all areas of endeavor connected with the culture.
  9. There will be double standards concerning many matters within the cultural domain, the creation of a feeling of threat, a shifting moral landscape and likely large changes to the law (if the culture has been active long enough).
  10. The core narrative promoted by the cultural consensus will be spread into many areas of society as justification for all sorts of changes that benefit the culture, independent of their true usefulness to the human condition and in fact even if some are damaging.
  11. There will be organizations acting as aggressively advocate wings who are still more emotive and still more convinced. Orgs like this contribute to the policing of internal ranks in a culture, plus also get the job of missionaries and recruitment agents (think Jesuits).
  12. Many adherents especially in the advocate wings, will self-identify with the culture. This produces instinctive and emotional (rather than reasoned) support.
  13. While conspiracies can latch onto any sufficiently large human endeavor, the phenomenon is not driven by conspiracy as root cause. Cultures are emergent phenomena, driven as much or more from the convinced at all levels of society and grass roots passion, as from top down command.
  14. Dissenters will be demonized, and possibly persecuted if the culture has gained enough moral penetration.
  15. Notwithstanding above, unless the culture has achieved a clean sweep of elites already, the domain-knowledgeable will be highly polarized.
  16. The 30+ years since the professor was stranded is not enough to get the multi-generational penetration needed to overcome ‘innate skepticism’ in the wider population. Hence there will still be a large rump of the public, possibly a majority, who are unconvinced.
  17. The culture will attempt to form cross-coalitions with other cultures (religious, or political or other secular).
  18. If as the sailors say this is already a global phenomenon, then likely whole governments and various other authorities will have bought into it.
  19. Huge resources will be going into infra-structure that benefits / promotes the culture and its ideals, yet doesn’t necessarily help with the renewal / salvation advertised by the core narrative.
  20. Despite an avidly promoted certainty of an apparently static position, the core cultural narrative will in fact slowly evolve.
  21. There will be icons. The evolution in 20 means that some icons will be set aside for new ones, having lost their usefulness for some reason.
  22. Cultures are by no means all bad, and not only that, without the mechanisms on which cultural consensus are founded, human civilization wouldn’t have arisen in the first place. Though some cultures can be net very negative, there will likely be positive elements to this culture.

And more too. Well not all relevant professors would suppose all of this, for instance there is still strong (even bitter) resistance in some social sciences to anything seen to be verging on reductionism. And some would be happy categorizing dead cultures this way, yet apprehensive about doing the same for living ones. Others would be perfectly happy categorizing living religions this way, for instance Blackmore, and I doubt Dawkins would have any problem here too, yet be horrified by applying the same system to the social aspects of climate change. However they’d all recognize the approach, and the point here is that these differences reflect more the different biases of the academics involved than they do the validity of the characteristics. And the Crusoe professor is by his long absence extracted from any bias regarding the climate domain at least. He would see it with new eyes.

The list reflects much about the climate consensus, and at this point our Crusoe knows a great deal more than the sailors. Our Crusoe would also guess that the relevant science must be highly uncertain, because otherwise there would be too much constraint for the emotive memes that power mainline cultures to have arisen and gotten such a grip. He doesn’t know about funding bias or what Climategate revealed about 4), or that the authorities in 5) include the IPCC or adoration of Gore and Hansen. Per 6) he doesn’t know about the reluctance of scientists to let data out of the privileged circle, or that the WWF and Greenpeace and others fulfill 11). He doesn’t know about particular skeptics who claim ‘hoax’ and ‘conspiracy’ per 13), or about the ‘denier’ term per 14), or the Democrat-climate coalition in the US per 17), or the bio-fuels debacle, or wind turbines that would disappear without trace without large subsidy, per 19). Or that per 21) the once prominent icon of the hockey stick had to be de-emphasized because of ‘the pause’. He just knows that these kind of things happen in strong cultures.

Regarding 8), this previous post at Climate Etc looks at emotional bias in the Consensus, and footnote 5 links to detail on more relevant bias mechanisms. There’s just room left in this post to briefly look a bit deeper at the important topics in 2) and 9).

Next page for more…

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5 Responses to Climate Culture

  1. Michael 2 says:

    This is a main reason I have been following this topic these past few years; witnessing the birth of a new religion. It is quite exciting to watch it come together and coalesce like rocks grinding themselves into a planet.

    It won’t be exactly what anyone wants and yet it will be at least some of what a great many people want, achieving “critical mass”, a vortex perhaps that will continue to exist long after the intiating force is removed.

  2. andywest2012 says:

    Yes, a lot of social inertia has gathered, and seeing its expanding force over the years does have a certain fascination!

  3. Barclay E MacDonald says:

    I read and briefly commented on your post regarding The Denialism Frame at Judith Curry’s on April 21, 2016. Today, May 13, 2016, WUWT has a top post, Breaking: CEI Defeats RICO-20…., which I’m sure you are now aware of.

    It appears there will now be endless, specific data that you may gather in pursuit of your cultural cognition theory as it applies to Climate. The emails released appear to be a virtual treasure trove of examples of culture and its impact on reasoning for even the most intelligent of us homo sapiens. Clearly, objectivity does not track intelligence. In that context this is all very interesting to me.

    I became interested in cognition and how it applies to ideologues, generally, from the neuroscience approach. I have now reviewed your postings at Climate etc. and WUWT and see that I am missing a big piece of the analysis of which I was totally unaware, except on an anecdotal basis.

    I am wondering whether you might be able to recommend a book(s)/reading material on cognitive cognition and how it applies to the world around me, especially as it relates to the creation and actions of ideologues, generally. From Amazon I recently downloaded Culture and Cognition by Walter Brehkus. It is a miserable book to plow through. As an attorney, I have read thousands of mortgages and commercial leases, and even the fine print therein is more lucid and coherent than Mr. Brehkus’ writing. Your recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • andywest2012 says:

      Hi Barclay. I’m not sure I can help, this is a huge topic and my own approach has been synthesized from many works over many years, some of which I can scarcely recall individually now. But the direction I came from is cultural evolution and memetics, which in turn needs some understanding of general evolutionary principles. To understand the big picture of how cultural entities or cults or just strong cultural influence operates, this ‘external social mechanisms looking inwards’ approach is the best way to get the big picture, rather than attempting the opposite approach of ‘individual psychological mechanisms looking outwards’ to culture, which gets bogged down in immense detail and can quickly lose the big picture, albeit this stuff must be doggedly filled in one day. So I haven’t spent much time on the latter. Having said that, and looking at the intro for the book you mention, it is indeed a pre-requisite for cultural evolution and memetics that, as it says, ‘thinking is a distinctly social phenomenon’. A very readable work on this same theme is “Who’s in Charge” by neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga, and especially chapter 5 ‘the social mind’. Much much better than reading mortgage documents anyhow (and I’ve spent a lot of time processing software licenses, which I’m sure are similarly dull). But even accepting the principle of ‘the social mind’ at first hand, doesn’t tell you how strong cultural influence and cultural entities actually work. For that, you still need the evolutionary principles mentioned above for the big picture (and rafts of other stuff like particular bias mechanisms etc), all of which point not to dishonesty or conspiracy or hoax or whatever, but to emergent behaviors that have been with us from prehistory due to their selective advantages.

      • Barclay E MacDonald says:

        Your response is appreciated! Recommendation looks excellent! I am familiar with the author and look forward to actually reading one of his books! I will continue to follow you with interest. You obviously have me moving in the right direction.

        Thank you,


        Sent from Barclay’s IPad


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