Category Archives: Social Psychology

Social Psychology material, covering generic issues such as ‘innate skepticism’ and ‘denialism’, and also much specific to the social psychology of the Climate Change domain, all of which inspired by cultural mechanics / mememtics.

Child Prophets and Proselytizers of Climate Catastrophe

The role of children in the culture of climate catastrophism.

Some long overdue housekeeping. This is of my guest post at Prof Curry’s ‘Climate Etc’ over a year ago: https://judithcurry.com/2019/07/29/child-prophets-and-proselytizers-of-climate-catastrophe/

(See bottom of last page for a link to the Footnotes file).

  1. Serious scenarios for children: reality or culture?

1.1 Frightening our children: When do we find it acceptable to institutionally frighten children? While our first thought is perhaps that this should never happen, in practice there are at least two scenarios where it’s considered morally acceptable. The first is where dangerous hard realities beyond adult control, require that children must be taught a respect of such realities. This may often involve a certain amount of fear among other techniques, in hope that this will help children autonomously keep themselves safe. An example is gas-mask training in WW21, because adults can’t be everywhere at once to assist all children with their masks in time. The second scenario is where it’s morally acceptable by virtue of supporting a culture that has defined the moral landscape (or an up-and-coming culture that is attempting so to do). In this second case, instilling culturally approved fears is considered normative, to achieve desired social behavior, grant access to group benefits, and provide supposed cultural rewards. An example is scaring children about sin or Hell or the Crucifixion2, in order to reinforce Christian social behavior and introduce the partnering carrot of going to Heaven (instead of Hell) for conformance.

1.2 Children Protesting: When do children band together to try and make a communal voice of protest heard by society? Continue reading

Posted in Social Psychology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

CAGW: A Snarl Word?

The term has both appropriate and inappropriate usage.

This is a mirror of my guest post at Prof Curry’s ‘Climate Etc’ blog last week :
https://judithcurry.com/2018/11/26/cagw-a-snarl-word/
(See bottom of last page for a link to the Footnotes file here, which is common to ‘The Catastrophe Narrative’ companion post below).

  1. Introduction

Rational Wiki says: ‘CAGW”, for “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming”, is a snarl word (or snarl acronym) that global warming denialists use for the established science of climate change. A Google Scholar search indicates that the term is never used in the scientific literature on climate.’10

Where in turn the link for ‘snarl word’ says: ‘A snarl word is a derogatory label that can be attached to something (or even to people), in order to dismiss their importance or worth, without guilt. When used as snarl words, these words are essentially meaningless; most of them can be used with meaning, but that seldom happens.

So setting aside the snarl implications of the word ‘denialist’11 above, is all the usage of the ‘CAGW’ acronym meaningless, i.e. it is essentially a snarl word only? Or is there significant meaning associated with some usage? i.e. does it have legitimate, ‘non-snarl’ currency also, associated with real meaning? Continue reading

Posted in Social Psychology | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Catastrophe Narrative

A narrative propagated by emotive engagement, not veracity.

This post came out on Prof Curry’s most excellent blog ‘Climate Etc’ yesterday.
https://judithcurry.com/2018/11/14/the-catastrophe-narrative/

(See bottom of last page for a link to the Footnotes file here, which is common to ‘The Catastrophe Narrative’ companion post below).

  1. Introduction

Within the public domain there is a widespread narrative of certainty (absent deep emissions cuts) of near-term (decades) climate catastrophe. This narrative is not supported by mainstream science (no skeptical views required), and in the same manner as an endless sequence of historic cultural narratives, propagates via emotive engagement, not veracity.

The catastrophe narrative is propagated by all levels of authority from the highest downwards, granting it huge influence, and differentially via favored functional arms of society, plus at grass roots level. Over decades, various forms via which the catastrophe narrative best propagates have become established via selection, and can be categorized. While covering a large range, these forms typically feature powerful emotive cocktails (mixed emotions invoked simultaneously) and great urgency, which are highly adapted to undermining objectivity.

This narrative elephant in the room not only tramples upon the mainstream output of science, but all other  attempts at objectivity, at a minimum invoking bias wherever it propagates, and at maximum a complete disconnect from domain realities. While the catastrophe narrative is sometimes acknowledged even by those on the orthodox side of the climate change issue, it is typically neither studied nor opposed (and not infrequently its propagation is praised). On the skeptic side, there is often misunderstanding regarding who propagates this narrative and who merely fails to oppose it, which leads to mis-labelling. These issues are discussed in more detail within a companion post to be released shortly. Below deals just with narrative propagation and the forms via which this occurs. Continue reading

Posted in Social Psychology | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The Denialism Frame

An inadequately testable and inappropriate framing.

Well this post is extremely late, it was up at Climate Etc back in April 2016 but I never got around to mirroring it here. Better late than never, I guess. See ‘update’ section at the end for 2 minor tweaks, and link to Footnotes file. Climate Etc link: https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/21/the-denialism-frame/

  1. Introduction

Geoff Chambers commenting recently in a Cliscep Post reminded me of the paper ‘Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?’ by Diethelm and McKee (D&M2009). Chambers calls this paper ‘the standard scientific work on Denialism’, and rightly so I think. Certainly the paper is quoted or referenced in support of many works1. Its principles also form the core of the wiki page for Denialism. Though the word ‘denialism’ existed prior to D&M2009, the paper appears to have contributed to increasing usage4 along with academic legitimization. I found no in-depth analysis of the popular framing of ‘denialism’ as promoted by D&M2009, despite its impact on several domains and not least that of climate change. So my own analysis follows.
Continue reading

Posted in Social Psychology | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Climate Culture

NOTE: from 20th November this Post was up at Climate Etc, the well known Lukewarmer blog of atmospheric scientist Judith Curry: http://judithcurry.com/2015/11/20/climate-culture/

A frequent topic at Climate Etc. is the ‘consensus.’ An argument is presented here that the climate consensus is as much about culture as it is about climate science.

For about 150 years we’ve been learning how cultures work and evolve. Great progress has been made on a wide range of topics such as the mapping of cultures, cultural coalitions, the categorization of underlying bias mechanisms, gene-culture co-evolution and others, even if much mystery remains, for instance at the fundamental level of what happens inside the mind regarding the social / individual interface, gnawed at from different directions by anthropology, memetics, psychology, neuroscience and other disciplines.

This accumulated knowledge on cultures is directly relevant to understanding the climate movement. So that we don’t have to relearn the 150 years experience again in the climate domain as though this is all something new, it is crucial to acknowledge the cultural nature of the consensus and bring this wealth of acquired knowledge to bear. Continue reading

Posted in Social Psychology | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Who is Who

Detecting a cultural position in debates, with focus on creationism and climate change.

  1. Classes of debate

There are different classes of debate. Some debates occur between two or more culturally defined (CD) positions, of which none are ‘correct’; all positions are simply a matter of cultural support and beliefs. An example of this class is the clash between two sides of a religious schism.

Some debates occur between evidentially defined (ED) positions where, nevertheless, the current state of knowledge is such that no resolution can yet be attained. In such a debate there is theoretically a ‘correct’ answer, despite it is not yet uncovered. An example of this class is the dark matter debate, on which the scientific method could take decades or longer to eliminate challenging uncertainties. In scenarios like this all competing positions claim evidential support, but the uncertainties are wide enough such that the total evidence cannot yet resolve candidate theories, and indeed may even include what seem to be (from a state of limited knowledge / data) complete contradictions.

Other debates are hybrids of the above cases, wherein one side is largely characterized by (an) evidential position(s) while the other side is largely characterized by a cultural position. In this ED versus CD class the ‘correct’ answer may, like the ED versus ED case above, simply be unobtainable yet. Or the correct answer may actually be available, but it is largely obscured by the cultural inertia working in opposition (and so also keeping a debate alive). Or the very process of obtaining an answer is likewise resisted and undermined by the opposing culture. An example of this class is the evolution versus creationism debate. Continue reading

Posted in Social Psychology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment