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Geoff Chambers talks to Adam Corner

BH regular Geoff Chambers chats to Cardiff University psychologist Adam Corner about being a sceptic.

There is a growing body of aca­demic lit­er­ature that seeks to under­stand, explain – and even over­come – cli­mate change scep­ti­cism. But is it get­ting to grips with scep­ti­cism, or missing the point? In this unusual exchange (we hope the first of many) between Adam Corner (Talking Climate) and Geoff Chambers – (a reg­ular and prom­inent com­menter at sev­eral cli­mate sceptic blogs), they dis­cuss research on the psy­cho­logy of scepticism.

Read it here.


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Reader Comments (202)

Attempts to psycho-analyse sceptics miss the point completely. Should we psycho-analyse Copernicus, Galileo or other great scientists who we now consider to be correct, even though they were a single lone voice in the face of the consensus beliefs at the time?

Concensus is not science but scepticism is. Those wishing to psycho-analyse sceptics should perhaps read a bit more by people like Feynman (or possibly even Popper). They might learn then what the basis of science is - a single correct idea can overturn any consensus and that consensus is politics, not science. The peversion of the scientific method is what got me into climate change science scepticism in the first. I am a scientist andwhat I seek is truth, not consensus.

It would be more valid to psycho-analyse why so many people have irrational beliefs in the idea of man-made climate change in the face of strong evidence both against the hypothesis and of the lack of a properly applied scientific method to its study. The herd mentality of jumping on a bandwagon is surely of more interest than a minority that stick to their principles.

Jun 15, 2012 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

I'm not sure what the point is of engaging with this blogger, whose raison d'etre is to find techniques to make sceptics change their minds.
These people are like Christian missionaries in Africa - utterly convinced of their own beliefs, and looking for any way to overcome objections.
Having said that, it's disappointing that Geoff sees himself as one of a "tiny number of active scep­tics, who’ve come to a reasoned con­clu­sion" rather than one of the hoi-polloi he identifies as "the Jeremy Clarkson fans who show up in polls". This is terribly dismissive of the intellect of the average sceptic out there, and I think wholly unjustified and unfounded.

Jun 15, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

I wonder if climate scientists hate it when another pseudo-science tries to muscle in on their climate change action.

Jun 15, 2012 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

I think Geoffs point about the hoi polloi is probably true, and applies to both sides of the argument. The Jeremy Clarkson red neck cheer leader equivalents on the pro-AGW side are the concerned masses who follow the Greenpeace/Friends of the Earthparty line get very upset when cardboard has not been put in the correct recycling bin. Monckton has taken several of them to task quite successfully and publicly.

The missionary zeal comment wrt pro-AGW supporters is also quite apt.

Jun 15, 2012 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

I just posted this on the blog:

Hello Adam

I think that the very fact that this is sup­posed to be a dis­cus­sion about the psy­cho­logy of scep­ti­cism says a great deal about the psy­cho­logy of believers in CAGW. There is a built in assump­tion that scep­ti­cism is caused by some kind of psy­cho­lo­gical devi­ance rather than a study of the rel­evant sci­ence.
Scepticism in its broadest sense is healthy, dont believe everything you are told (espe­cially by gov­ern­ments), find out for your­self.
My exper­i­ence of sceptic blogs is that the blog­gers did exactly that, they were not happy to take (for example) The Hockey Stick at face value and started to read around the subject.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Registered CommenterDung

The thing is, Geoff (correct me if I'm wrong, Geoff) would be ok with the ideas of CAGW if they were proven to be right in some unequivocal way. He at least can live with the notion that he is wrong, that is the nature of sceticism. Adam knows damn well he is right. He cannot go anywhere near thinking that his side may be wrong. The science is settled and some people are too reactionary to admit it, would be my estimate of his position.

No meaningful conversation can take place, the man is a bigot.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

My comment - I have a fun­da­mental problem with the whole approach. What is the point of studying “the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism”? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to study “the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change act­ivism” in gen­eral, skep­tical or otherwise?

That’s “how social sci­ent­ists might get more enlight­ening answers about the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism” and more. Otherwise it’ll end up, as usual, in the equi­valent of a Tory party ana­lysis on Labour voters, or vice-versa…content-free, at best.

And once that is done, it will even be pos­sible for social sci­ent­ists to listen to people inter­ested in cli­mate change, rather than obsess on how to find a socio-cultural explan­a­tion for their opinions.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

"Would you agree that scep­ti­cism about cli­mate change has more to do with polit­ical views than an assess­ment of the science?"

No, I don't think that the science was correct.

"But things like rising energy prices, taxes, reg­u­la­tions, and restric­tions on people’s beha­viour have become syn­onymous with ‘cli­mate change’. I believe – based on the avail­able research – that this is why many people are scep­tical."

No, I don't think that the science was correct.

"Do you think that many scep­tics would be less likely to doubt the reality or ser­i­ous­ness of cli­mate change if tack­ling it had no impact on their lives, or could be shown to be ‘cost-free’?"

No, I don't think that the science was correct.

"So the biggest reasons for your scep­ti­cism are that you are dis­il­lu­sioned with the media and have, in your own words, an ‘instinct’ that the common man is often more trust­worthy and reli­able than the so-called ‘experts’?"

No, I don't think that the science was correct.

"So how would you say social sci­ent­ists might get more enlight­ening answers about the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism? Do you think there is an argu­ment for more direct engage­ment between scep­tics and researchers?"

SMACK,punch on the nose.

Is that direct enough for you!

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

There is only one reason why psychologists engage in pseudo analysis of so called “climate skepticism” and that is because of the large sums of available research money that are thrown around at anything related to climate science.
They of course themselves are to stupid to understand that it is the lack of evidence which is the main source of such skepticism.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPer Strandberg


it's disappointing that Geoff sees himself as one of a "tiny number of active sceptics, who’ve come to a reasoned conclusion" rather than one of the hoi-polloi he identifies as "the Jeremy Clarkson fans who show up in polls". This is terribly dismissive of the intellect of the average sceptic out there
It does sound a bit snotty, doesn’t it. My point was simply that there are magnitudes of differences between sceptics who comment here and those who are measured in opinion polls. I’d guess thousands of active sceptics; tens of thousands of active “warmists”; and millions of non-concerned citizens on either side (who are not stupid, just simply not bothered or not well-informed). This difference of scale renders meaningless many of the observations of social scientists and journalists.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

The site censors rational criticism of the science.

Therefore it is a polemic by a biased observer.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

This post was meant to go up simultaneously on Adam Corner’s blog and at Harmless Sky. My only condition for participating was that it should appear on both a warmist and a sceptic blog at the same time. Adam has jumped the gun rather.
I said here once that if the discussion at BishopHill is like a noisy city centre pub on Saturday night, Harmless Sky is more like a long afternoon conversation in a gentleman’s club. I hope you’ll continue the conversation over there after closing time here (once TonyN wakes up from his post prandial snooze).

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:41 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

for me, the economic impacts drive my entire interest in this arcane area of "science". If the UK government was not committed to destabilising the supply of energy and to forcing up its price; if it had continued to use conventional, tried and trusted means of power generation, then i would have no interest in the ruminations of various modellers about the potential effects of CO2 emissions. The fact that these modellers tend to present themselves as intellectually defective and extraordinarily arrogant - eg James Annan - makes me suspect that this whole "science" has no basis in reality.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

The latest post by Adam includes the following smoking gun:

So I guess I’m saying that if we can keep the (legit­imate) con­cerns about the politics of cli­mate change dis­tinct from the sci­ence, we’d prob­ably be making some pro­gress. Scepticism about cli­mate policies — and debate about what altern­at­ives might be– seems much more important than a repeated doubting of well-established science.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:49 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Useless, "post-normal" (a.k.a. subjective) discussion, without basis in fact. I utterly DENY the consensus (I am not just "skeptical") because I am a competent physicist, who has personally, and definitively, disproved the "greenhouse effect", and know that any competent climate scientist, if there had been any, should have disproved that false hypothesis 20 years ago.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Come to think, Corner might have just been leading himself to the wrong path. Skepticism does not have socio-cultural roots per se. Activism in skepticism (and in belief) obviously does.

There are many areas of "science" where I find the consensus dodgy to say the least (public-health research, dark matter and dark energy, etc) but I don't spend time on them unless I can feel them dangerous enough to warrant me spending my time.

What makes some individuals abandon the "silent majority"? That IS the question for socio-cultural analysis.

Jun 15, 2012 at 2:56 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Just finished watching recording of last night's Question Time and then read the exchanges in this "discussion". The intellectual content of both were about the same.

Jun 15, 2012 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterVernon E

Adam seems to be part of a concerted attempt to move the argument away from the science and towards how to deal with the "accepted" threat.
Last week a couple of people appeared here and were trying to persuade us to accept a lower but simpler carbon tax. They did not seem to comprehend that many would object to any and all carbon taxes on principle.
Nice to see that "Phil's Mum" is active in this discussion ^.^

Jun 15, 2012 at 3:11 PM | Registered CommenterDung

diogenes: this science isn't even flaky. The problem is a serious failure of physics which led to five major mistakes. Three are elementary for anyone with a decent background in experimental science. Two are more subtle so I can forgive them.

A key issue is Houghton's 'The Physics of Atmospheres' being based on the 'two--stream' approximation which also led to the mistake by Sagan in aerosol optical physics. It's standard physics but it goes wrong at boundaries. Hence the models exaggerate warming by 40% then hide it by claiming imaginary cooling by clouds.

2/10 Must do better.

Jun 15, 2012 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

What a bizarre interview! Adam Corner simply doesn't get it or doesn't want to.

Many sceptics have arrived at their position due to the lack of hard evidence to support the CAGW hypothesis. And this is what Geoff Chambers was arguing but Adam Corner keep on about politico-economic issues.

What this would indicate to me is that the non-scientists who support CAGW clearly have no understanding of the science and therefore lack any kind of critical assessment of the science.

Jun 15, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Commenters should know this dialogue was a result of contact I made with Adam Corner following an article by Ben Pile at
about some research into scepticism which Corner had conducted at Cardiff University, and his article discussing the research at Guardian Environment. (There was a similar thread later at
concerning the Kahan research which Corner refers to in the article)

I have a lot of criticisms of the kind of research done by Corner and others discussed at his blog. There’s also the question of government finance for research into quasi-political belief which looks at just one “side” in the debate. It seems odd to me though to oppose all social science research in this area on principle.

Jun 15, 2012 at 3:39 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I called Adam a bigot, Clearly he didn't like that as mentioned at his own blog. But he shows no inkling that he is not a hundred per cent 'science is settled' believer. He does not say he would change his mind if the evidence was there. That's why I call him a bigot still. His position appears to be 'if only we could get over your prejudice we could get on with solving the indisputable problem'. If he cannot admit the sceptics could just possibly have a tenable position we ever are we going to agree on?

Jun 15, 2012 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

"There is a growing body of aca­demic lit­er­ature that seeks to under­stand, explain – and even over­come – cli­mate change scep­ti­cism."

To me, this is another pseodo science discipline jumping on the gravy train.

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Geoff, I don't know if the majority of sceptic in the polls are "Jeremy Clarkson" types, and neither do you. I believe the majority are just pepole who can suss out a scam when they see one, and don't need the science to tell them that (Jeremy Clarkson might be one of these). My Doctor a young man believes it's bunkum, but has no inkling of the science. Why would he, and many the others who've not read the arguments think it's bunkum? Well for a start that's where I was, I thought it was bunkum for two reasons (a) it's apocolyptic, so some one's trying to frighten me and (b) I've been fed apocolyptic stories all my life. Annother person I know who believes it's bunkum believes it because he sees it (accurately) as a way of controlling people's lives, and keeping them in order, just like the great religions. I just don't believe the great unwashed are as thick as Greenpeace et al (and you now) think they are.

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I think it is time to invert the debate.

As an engineer I understand 1+1=2, logic, makes sense, move on.

When it is stated that due to changes in the physical world that 1+1 no longer = 2, it now produces 2+ and the amount of "+" can be quantified by predictive computer models. I still understand and await the outcome.

When the same people who claimed to be able to quantify "+" start making statements that "+" has gone missing and they don’t know why or where it might be.

Why ask for the psychological and socio-political reasons for people knowing that 1+1=2?

Should not the questions be directed towards those who still believe that 1+1=2+?

What can it be in their psychological and socio-political make up that makes them absolutely sure that "+" is still there?

By their own admission it cannot be the science.

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:18 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Yet another de haut en bas attempt to show that climate change sceptics must be suffering from some curious psychological shortcoming they are incapable of recognising – how else could such evident perversity in the face of bien pensant opinion be explained? – allied to an unspecified but generally rather suspect political cast of mind. All the while, the bleedingly obvious is ignored: that it is bogus science and bogus scientists they object to.

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

Green Sand: they put into the models a 'Perpetual Motion Machine of the 2nd Kind', to give it its proper description. This comes from making two elementary heat transfer mistakes. Then they hide the 40% increased heating by grossly exaggerating cooling from low level clouds. This has also been deduced by the US' top cloud physicist but he has not been permitted to publish it as peer reviewed science.

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree


Geoff, I don't know if the majority of sceptic in the polls are "Jeremy Clarkson" types, and neither do you. I believe the majority are just people who can suss out a scam when they see one, and don't need the science to tell them that
My reference to “Jeremy Clarkson types” was ironic. That’s the way we all get typecast. I like Clarkson. He writes well and makes me laugh. It seems to me a shame though that, if the CAGW scam collapses suddenly, the Delingpoles and Clarksons will get the credit, and not the Montfords and McIntyres.
I can easily imagine a situation where CAGW is dropped for economic reasons, without its scientific failings being addressed. This would lead the scientific and environmentalist establishment into a 1918 Germany “stabbed in the back” mentality, refusing to admit they were wrong, and plotting revenge.

Corner is worried about the mass sceptics, because they vote (and comment at the Graun where Corner writes). He really didn’t know we existed until the article at Climate Resistance. I know my insistence on the difference between informed and uninformed sceptics makes me sound snooty, but it’s a reality. One of the huge weaknesses of us educated lefties is that we’ve always been afraid to admit that there are lot of pretty uninformed people about.

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:33 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

When Copernicus questioned the geocentric model of the solar system proposed by Ptolemy he was attacked by the scientific consensus and the establishment (the church). One can imagine Adam Corner in the 16th Century questioning Copernicus and trying to understand why he was such a sceptic.

Sitting there with his Bishop's mitre on and saying, "The only reason you are a sceptic Copernicus is politics! - "Can't be the science since Ptolemy settled it and the scientific consensus confirms that"

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

I'm am trying to give Corner some credit here for doing this with Geof.. but he is also policy advisor to COIN, whose founder George Marsghall thinks deniers halls of shame are a good idea..

Adam if you read this. do you think 'Deniers' Halls of Shame are a good idea.

Can you persuade COIN to encourage others to stop this silly politicised rhetoric.

George Marshall is founder of Rising Tide (has a deniers hall of shame)
George Marshall is on the advisory board of the Campaign ahgainst climate change, which has a deniers hall of shame.

PIRC (who help fund Talking Climate) has Tim Helweg larsen (on PIRC board) also on the advisory board of the CaCC...

halls of shame, nasty leftist student type political rhetoric, by fringe groups... yet phycologists seem to not recognisethe problems with this, and even get into metaphoric bed with them) see About at Talking Climate (COIN and PIRC)

For the record Mark Lynas who used to be on the board has said to me that the 'Halls of Shame' are shameful (he has since stepped down. Can Adam understand why?

Many sceptics would see thse two groups (COIN & PIRC) as activists lobbying for policy, who are intolerant of any dissent. and partly responsible for the polarisation of thedebate.

Ie I note George Marshall refuses to allow my comments on his blog-

An article entitled - 'How to Talk to a Climate Change Denier' his lack of empathy, and intoelrance to others views is astounding...

However. climate change is yesterdays thinking... take a look at at Rio.. that is all about 'sustainability' now, 'climate change' all but forgotten about..

Future reserch required in 'sustainability scepticism? Perhaps?

as not even the Rio participants can sem to agree what exactly 'sustainability' means?

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I can't quite wrap my mind round this (apparently) knee-jerk opposition to an attempt by two people on opposite sides of this debate to start a reasoned discussion.
If I have the time later this evening I will probably go across to one site or the other and argue my case which as I pointed out to Richard Betts yesterday) is that I'm getting pissed off with the arrogance of people (of which Adam Corner may be one; I don't know yet) who assume that because I don't agree with them I am an ignorant cretin who needs educating.
But as I also said to Richard, unless there is some sort of inter-action between the Adam Corners and the Geoff Chambers we are all going to sit in our personal bunkers and take put shots at each other.
I'm a bit inclined to agree with Jimmy Haigh that this is one more bandwagon for under-employed social scientists to jump on but if all we're going to do is sit and here and huff and puff are we going to make any progress ingetting the proper debate we need? Or in persuading aforesaId social scientists that they are barking up the wrong tree.
Or just barking, perhaps!

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:50 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


'It seems odd to me though to oppose all social science research in this area on principle'

Sure. With the country in recession, and the worst economic conditions in living memory what we really really need to spend our hard-earned money on is more 'social science research'. One of the very few academic disciplines that has even less intellectual validity - or point - than dendropaleoclimatology/teleconnections.

Give me strength.....

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterStirling English

Geoff's mischaracterization of Tea Party supporters is rather bizarre. Should we chalk it up to gross ignorance?

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Mike, the debate we need is on the science. After that we can do policy. The problem is that the science is settled. The likes of Adam Corner do not want to debate it. Now, I have no time for the sceptic=reactionary meme, I consider it irrelevant except to show what some deluded people are thinking. What we are always up against is the IPPR warm words scheme. This is a deliberate tactic of the other side to assume the science and not debate it. You just can't have a real conversation on those lines if you cannot agree a set of premises, among which must be that there is room for doubt. I propose to use that as the shibboleth for the science communicator people. Is there room for doubt? If they say no, there is no point in going on. I believe Corner has effectively said no.

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:05 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

The problem is 'social scientists', as with many concerned public,have been indoctrinated by inadequately educated scientists many of whom can't work things out from first principles.

So, even if they are sceptical, they can't deduce why climate science is based on a distortion of science dispersed in the finite difference models, diluted to make it more difficult to work out the scam.Freeman Dyson, a really bright physicist, worked this out a few years ago but was denigrated for it.

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree


Bullseye. What is so depressing about the likes of Corner is that, buttressed by an assumed superiority, he and his smirking ilk genuinely struggle to contend with a simple reality: that there may be people who not only don't accept their smug sense of their self-worth but who do so because they are interested in truth. But as 'truth' is what Corner and his cronies have complacently asserted it to be, anyone who disagrees with them must by definition be more or less deluded. (That there is grant money to had in investigating these sad, sorry souls shouldn't be overlooked either, of course). But the crux is that for Corner et al, it is axiomatic that they are right and that anyone who questions them must be the victim of some pitiful, possibly sinister, conceivably deliberate, mental incapacity.

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

In my experience, the average skeptical voter has a much better reasoned approach to skepticism than the average alarmist voter has for alarm. To be an alarmist voter means simply parroting the same stupidity barfed out by a clueless news media which happily publishes whatever left-wing propaganda it is provided. To be a skeptic requires a decision to reject the view being propelled by the news media, the schools, the universities, television and Hollywood. It requires more thought and more effort to resist than to simply go along.

Note, neither may have a clue about the science. Both may choose to be for or against because of political affiliation. But then we get down to the relative intelligence and education of those who choose one side or the other of the political spectrum. In the USA, we know that people who listen to Rush Limbaugh or those who show up at a Tea Party rally (some overlap, but also some very significant differences) are, on average, much better educated and much more knowledgeable about current issues than the average American voter.

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan


Geoff's mischaracterization of Tea Party supporters is rather bizarre.
My characterisation of “Tea Party types who think global warming is a commie plot to install global government” was part of a tongue-in-cheek list of the variety of non-scientific reasons for scepticism. I tried to demonstrate that I don’t reject the basic premiss of Corner’s type of research: that we’re all influenced by factors which aren’t entirely rational.
One of the most interesting things about this experiment was my own state of mind in doing it. I titled the version to appear on Harmless Sky “Football at Christmas in Nomansland” and I was well aware of the "Stockholm Syndrome” aspect. I’d been quite rude about Corner in comments at Climate Resistance, and was surprised when he provided me with background material to his research, as long as I stopped slagging him off. (Steve McIntyre should try investigating social scientists. They’re a bunch of big softies).
Comments here and on the Worstall and the Jones “Death threats” threads demonstrate that we all have issues with confronting those we disagree with as soon as the confrontation is person-to-person, instead of graph-to-graph.

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:28 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I think Rhoda has hit it pretty much on the head. Its like the following conversation:

Person A "I believe in CAGW and we must make policies to address it"

Person B "I think the science is not conclusive or contradictory and that there is no evidence of AGW"

Person A "Well never mind that, just forget about the science for the moment and lets try and agree on the policy"

Person B "But if the science is wrong, no policy is required."

Its the last bit that I don't think people like Corner get. They cannot contemplate the possibility that whole basis of CAGW could be wrong. On the other hand if someone presents me with good evidence that my scepticism is misplaced, well as a sciencist I will do what Maynard Keynes proposed and change my mind.

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist


To be a skeptic requires a decision to reject the view being propelled by the news media, the schools, the universities, television and Hollywood. It requires more thought and more effort to resist than to simply go along.
Absolutely. That’s why we’re all so weird : )
To be an alarmist voter means simply parroting the same stupidity barfed out by a clueless news media
I’ve tried to discuss CAGW with three English left-wing Guardian-reading friends, all of whom have science PhDs. All three look at me pityingly as someone who’s gone rightwing in their dotage. All get their information from the Guardian and have never read a scientific article on the subject. Two are Labour activists in Caroline Lucas’s constituency, and still they won’t question it!
This is clear evidence to me that Corner’s basic premiss - that most people (including Corner and me) make decisions based on prior belief, which is a function of complex social and psychological forces - is correct. Don’t Corner’s own questions confirm his thesis?

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:46 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Thinking Scientist - it is not that simple.

Policies are naturally decoupled from science. For example I would like soot reduced to save children and I don't care if somebody else approves of the same because they believe soot is tiny evil aliens.

Jun 15, 2012 at 5:55 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

"Scep­ti­cism about cli­mate change is not primarily caused by a ‘mis­un­der­standing’ of the sci­ence but by motiv­ated reas­oning pro­cesses – rooted in ideo­lo­gical dif­fer­ences – that mean that the ‘same’ evid­ence is not eval­u­ated in the same way".

While I would not entirely disagree with this, wouldn't it be just as true to say the same about belief in climate change?

None of us can help being ideological to some degree in the value we attach to different evidence. If CAGW were true, it would be a very inconvenient truth to me as it appears to justify massive interference in individual freedom. Doubtless this affects my judgement, as I am not perfectly rational - though I think I should try to be. If on the other hand CAGW were not true this would be equally inconvenient for people with strong environmental sympathies, who have seen the threat as a pretext for imposing their values on others and controlling their behaviour. What's source for the goose is source for the gander.

In his enthusiasm for removing psychological barriers to the adoption of pro-environmental behaviours, Dr Corner reveals his own ideological bias, and invites a similar psychological enquiry into the grounds of his environmental beliefs.

Jun 15, 2012 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

The topic is the wrong way around, shouldn't we be asking what makes an otherwise intelligent being accept such flimsy evidence as a done deal. What despite the obvious flaws in such approaches do climate alarmists argue the man rather than the subject and believe that supports their position in some way?

Jun 15, 2012 at 6:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavidCH

We all, yes every one of us, make up our minds first and then seek justifying evidence. Our original position is born of our prejudice and life experience. But only a fool sticks to the opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence. Every day we see people of equivalent intelligence and similar backgrounds on opposing sides of some issue. That is a human trait. It may even be a survival characteristic, the ability to fool oneself, and to justify any action to ourselves. That is in the field of social science, and good luck to anyone who takes it on. BUT, there are at least two sides to any argument, and if your opening gambit is to call your opponent mad or evil, there is little to be gained in going on with it.

Jun 15, 2012 at 6:15 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

In this rather anguished and elaborate ritual dance between Adam and Geoff, with those in the cheap seats offering polite encouragement - I think someone needs to be uncouth enough to spell out the bleeding obvious.

Adam isn't seeking any middle ground here, or even just putting interesting specimens of sceptical delusion under the microscope for his next psychological opus in the Graun.

Adam has recently been outed as a fully committed Green Party activist who paraded around Copenhagen with a placard demanding "Action Now" - and put himself forward as the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Cardiff North.

The website where Adam and Geoff are having this debate was put together, with public funds, by Adam and his mate George Marshall who runs a green activist group called COIN and describes himself as a lifetime environmental activist.

You only have to view George's "How to talk to a climate sceptic" video on the site to realise that the purpose of the site isn't the dissemination of academic research (as Adam frequently claims) - but naked political activism for the green cause.

There is a massive obstacle in the way of any attempt at debate by real climate scientists and those seriously sceptical of the science - and the obstacle is the simple fact that climate science has been infiltrated and pretty well taken over by organised political activists.

Science is the dispassionate search for truth. Activism is the exact antithesis of science since activists believe they've found their truth and only need to convince the rest of us.

I fear this dialogue is a waste of time.

Jun 15, 2012 at 6:16 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Because I am a climate realist, a skeptic, a denier, I am a minority. I see so-called papers, studies and other pseudo-psychological material being produced to explain away what is basically a fundamental political difference in my viewpoint from the establishment’s.


Jun 15, 2012 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterpointman

As proved by the guy removing my post on his blog which politely and very simply explained why climate science was so full of errors it cannot be used to make predictions of climate.

Jun 15, 2012 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

As a sceptic, why would I put myself forward for psycho-analysis when I know that you are only going to try and find something wrong with me?

(With apologies to Phil Jones)

Jun 15, 2012 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

"My characterisation of “Tea Party types who think global warming is a commie plot to install global government” was part of a tongue-in-cheek list of the variety of non-scientific reasons for scepticism. "

Geoff, the tea party rallies attracted large numbers of Democrats, independents and Republicans. They were an incredibly diverse group of people whose main focus in coming together was to protest out of control spending. They weren't an assembly of political conservatives. Anti-communism had nothing to do with the tea party rallies.

There is a difference between 'tongue-in-cheek' and 'tongue-licking-frogbacks'. I doubt that anyone would think it tongue-in-cheek if one were to write about those 'NAACP types' thinking that skepticism of global warming is a plot to impose protestantism. They'd think it meaningless drivel and quite daft.

Jun 15, 2012 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan


He already "knows" there's something wrong with you/us..... he's merely collecting anecdotes to better describe it.

...or could we go toward the cynicism of "psychoanalysis is the disease for which psychoanalysis is the cure"

Actually, stepping back a bit, I do think any civil and reasoned dialogue on these matters is to be commended. I see what we are discussing (mostly) as the "meta" topic of whether the process in which Adam and Geoff are engaged has been accurately and fully described.

I do think such conversations are valuable, always, simply in seeking clarifications and mutual understanding. However, it does seem one-sided in the assumptions that the "skeptics" are the ones in need of study and explanation (I know, one project cannot take on too much but still....).

With regard to "motivated belief" I see that everywhere with cAGWarmists at all levels, not only in the simple Greens who jump on the bandwagon without knowing much about it, to various levels of scientific knowledge which certainly does seem to be influenced by extra-scientific beliefs at many levels. It will be helpful if psychologists show more interest in all the people who "believe" in cAGW because it serves other cultural, political, and economic agendas.

Jun 15, 2012 at 7:50 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

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