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« Officially sanctioned conflict | Main | Society rejects action on climate »
Saturday
Jan052013

On bias

In the UK, the forces that environmentalism is able to deploy in support of its cause are pretty overwhelming. The government, the universities, the civil service, the schools, 90% of the print media, all of the BBC, including the comedy and drama departments, the army, the navy, the airforce, most big businesses, parts of the judiciary etc etc. Whole government departments are given over to propaganda in favour of environmentalism.

In the light of this, I think I do an important service in highlighting bits of information that don't fit the narrative.

Keith Kloor, on the other hand, thinks I should be a bit more even-handed.

I'll bear his concerns in mind.

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Reader Comments (49)

Never has your irony been used to such good effect.

Jan 5, 2013 at 1:22 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Well Bishop he is giving publicity to you and there is a saying that any publicity is good publicity!

Jan 5, 2013 at 1:26 PM | Registered Commenterpeterwalsh

Bishop:

The government, the universities, the civil service, the schools, 90% of the print media, all of the BBC, including the comedy and drama departments, the army, the navy, the airforce, most big businesses, parts of the judiciary etc etc.

Well, it is a little unfair, isn't it? It's like Asterix and Obelix against the entire Roman army. Maybe we should let them win a few times, just to be sporting? :o)

Jan 5, 2013 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

Nullius in Verba has a good response to Kloor, second up (from the bottom):

"Now, I’m not going to pass judgement on the legitimacy of the claims made in the article Montford highlights at his blog."

Really? So you're not going to be sceptical about it either? :-)

Never mind. Luckily for us, the second comment on the Bishop Hill article cited is highly critical of one of the claims made - that the extinction rate is that high. Several of the following comments follow up on this, expressing doubt that there is any significant extinction threat from wind farms. (Although mostly the comments got derailed into discussion of the Beenstock paper and the Met Office's latest weather-is-climate story on the rainy weather.)

So, sceptics being sceptical, showing you how it's done. As requested. :-)

I write as the first commenter on that thread two days ago:

About time the real environmentalists stood up. That was always going to be a tricky moment for the climate change obsessives.

I don't really back down on that, except perhaps for the phrase implying that Clive Hambler is a real environmentalist. That would depend on how one was using the term. Jon Jermey and others then gave pause for thought on how scientific Hambler is, in his own field.

But that certainly doesn't mean Hambler was wrong in identifying "the ongoing obsession with climate change [that] means that many environmentalists are turning a blind eye to the ecological costs of renewable energy". Or, much more importantly, the human costs. And that perhaps is the biggest criticism one can make of environmentalism across the board.

There are many aspects to scepticism and to the humanitarian values that underlie it. Kloor should perhaps look again at those wider aspects, lest anyone thinks the narrowness of his focus here was simply to reinforce his own biases.

Jan 5, 2013 at 1:43 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I too am unconvinced about the latest wind farm claims...still, to dedicate a post to this, surely means Kloor has no objection to pretty much anything you said in the past?

It looks like he'd been waiting in the wings for a weaker post to appear, so he could strike. In other words, it looks like there hasn't been any weak post on BH for a while.

Jan 5, 2013 at 1:43 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

If Keith Kloor wants context, here it is:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/336895-harrier-deaths-renew-calls-for-continued-windfarm-monitoring

http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/perth-kinross/windfarm-opponents-angry-at-loss-of-birds-of-prey-1.62387

Jan 5, 2013 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Well, I'd admit that there is a tendency on sceptic blogs to run stories which appear to offer an anti-consensus view. And there is a tendency for sceptics to jump all over them in support regardless of their quality. Not here, very much, but certainly at WUWT. BUT, there is no bias beyond selection of stories, there is no implication that his grace or Anthony Watts support each one. When consensus blogs start picking these stories rather than suppressing them, we may decide to look again ,but the important thing is that these ideas get a run out to be aired in public. If they don't hold up, that's what the comments are for.

So when did Keith Kloor last run a story critical of climate science in the consensus? Genuine question, because I don't frequent his site.

Jan 5, 2013 at 1:46 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Every now and then, Kloor will write a skeptic-bashing article. These are solely written to shore up credentials amongst his journalist friends who are uniformly warmist, pro-establishment, environmentalist types, because his usual beat is to try to criticize environmentalists. In order to do so, he must keep them at bay by throwing them the occasional bone.

I doubt there is any sincerity behind this article.

Jan 5, 2013 at 2:05 PM | Registered Commentershub

I don't follow Kloor closely either, Rhoda, but to give a couple of points in his favour, he kicked off a fairly even-handed discussion back in June 2010 about the Judith Curry controversies of that time in Who Started this Ruckus, Anyway? If you scroll to the bottom there he links approvingly to an excellent Josh cartoon. So he can't be all bad :)

Jan 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Shub is saying something stronger - and more interesting - than I am there. Do you have a recent example of Kloor criticizing environmentalists?

Jan 5, 2013 at 2:08 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Observe the link to Dan Kahan's website. Note the previous Kloor article bashing Matt Ridley, and the closing line in the present post.

Kloor here is jumping onto the back-asswards Lewandowsky-Cook-Kahan bandwagon of psychology:

"All the people I don't like have confirmation biases and cognitive biases"

Jan 5, 2013 at 2:14 PM | Registered Commentershub

Tom Fowler, on his new blog, is giving an anonymous scientist space to write a summary of how climate science got to be such a mess.

Part I involves Margaret Thatcher; Part II has the wonderful line:

" I remember my debriefing officer’s comments on global warming, “Of course it’s nonsense, but it’s a great way to scare hippies into letting us build nukes.” "

http://thelukewarmersway.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/the-climate-scientists-story-part-2/

Jan 5, 2013 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

Richard, we cross-posted - my post above was not in response to yours. Kloor pursues the Nordhaus-Shellenberger line of environmental criticism. He has several posts on his blog where attacks the supposed shortcomings of environmentalism.

Jan 5, 2013 at 2:22 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub: Got you on the cross-posting - your 2:14 PM wasn't in reply to my 2:08 PM. And the "Nordhaus-Shellenberger line of environmental criticism" has uncovered one of the ongoing confusions in my climate science and policy mind map. Having googled Nordhaus-Shellenberger to learn it was Ted and Michael I googled "ted nordhaus william nordhaus" to have SourceWatch tell me, without moving from Google:

Ted Nordhaus is the son of attorney Robert R. Nordhaus, and the nephew of Yale economist William D. Nordhaus.

Now that makes the map fuller and more interesting. But (and this can only be a favour, never an imposition) can you give one example from Kloor?

Jan 5, 2013 at 2:41 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Kloor is too generous by half.

http://www.prosebeforehos.com/political-ironing/12/29/twelve-months-climate-change/

Jan 5, 2013 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

In an officious effort to appear above the fray, Keith Kloor displays his bias transparently, visible to all but himself. Sadly lacking, a hack.
=====================

Jan 5, 2013 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I wouldn't mind if Kloor could show he has made any effort to find a clear cut “error” or point to any glaring gullibility shown in the original Bish post, but he just hand waves to Robert Wilson’s “healthy pawing” on the issue as if that means something.

Kloor seems to be trying to be snootily meta here, talking about a "bigger picture". Looks like laziness to me; this is the same behaviour you see from the other climate meta quacks like Lewandowsky. Saves them dealing with tiresome specifics I guess if they can make up a whole new meta criteria of their own to hold the mental pathology of their opponents and see the whole future of the world in one single great philosophy.

I have to say the more I read Kloor the less impressive he looks. I’m sure he was better at one time.

Jan 5, 2013 at 3:19 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

@shub- he (Kloor) must hate himself then.

Jan 5, 2013 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

"So when did Keith Kloor last run a story critical of climate science in the consensus? Genuine question, because I don't frequent his site."

The last ones I can find are on the new normal and drought.

"Every now and then, Kloor will write a skeptic-bashing article. These are solely written to shore up credentials amongst his journalist friends who are uniformly warmist, pro-establishment, environmentalist types, because his usual beat is to try to criticize environmentalists. In order to do so, he must keep them at bay by throwing them the occasional bone."

I think there is some truth to the suggestion that he makes a deliberate effort to criticise all sides even-handedly, as a way of justifying that to his community, and this is part of that. His takes some pride in his self-image is as an "impartial journalist". He's not, of course, but I'd call it a sincere and worthwhile effort.

However, he is a typical American liberal, and a firm believer in the dangers of AGW (although not of the more extreme catastrophism), which he bases on his trust in scientific 'consensus' authority. I have not been able to argue him out of that, yet. :-) He hasn't shown any sign of personally understanding any of the science that I can recall. On the other hand, he's pretty solid on free speech, doesn't censor or exclude opposing views, argues for respecting other viewpoints, reducing tribalism, and raising the tone of debate. Which he does, most of the time, although he seems to have developed some sort of grudge over BH and Delingpole recently, and has had a long-standing dislike of WUWT, who he sees as some sort of reflection of Romm and McKibben. I think he doesn't like it that they openly take sides, although I'm sure he's also influenced by the general liberal stereotypes regarding those people. It's both disappointing and irritating - although I don't take it seriously. Opinions differ.

I regard him as a definite partisan for the other side (despite what he might think) but one worth talking to - given that I'm also in favour of respecting other viewpoints, reducing tribalism, and raising the tone of debate. He won't ever agree with you on climate change, but what sort of people would we be if we only talked with people who agreed with us?

Jan 5, 2013 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Just look at this: http://discovermagazine.com/search?q=nordhaus&blog=15#.UOhBS2-7NBn

It is a search for 'Nordhaus' on Kloor's blog. It brings up many posts. The Breakthrough innovation consists of gathering insights from criticism of environmentalism that has long come from outside, and presenting them as though they were radical criticism originating from within.

There are immediate consequences from belonging to this school of thought. For example, if Bishop Hill questions anti-nuclear greens, then he is 'biased'. If Mark Lynas criticizes them, then Lynas is a visionary.

Jan 5, 2013 at 3:46 PM | Registered Commentershub

"Kloor here is jumping onto the back-asswards Lewandowsky-Cook-Kahan bandwagon of psychology: "All the people I don't like have confirmation biases and cognitive biases""

It might be worth noting that Kahan doesn't exactly subscribe to that view, although his work has sometimes been used to try to support it. Kahan's view is that all the people on both sides are equally subject to motivated reasoning, and while he is personally certainly a believer in climate concern (and recently got in trouble for calling Mann a "great climate scientist"), he takes a strictly neutral stance on the question when it comes to doing his own science. If he forgets and you point it out to him, he'll apologise and back up.

See his post on whether bias is symmetric.

(And as an interesting side note, he notes how it has been found that libertarians are different to either liberals or conservatives, scoring higher on cognitive reflection tests than either, in this paper.)

Jan 5, 2013 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Everyone suffers from "confirmation bias" which is inherent in human nature this is why Richard Feynman pointed out in one of his most famous quotes that "the easiest person to fool is yourself". Anyone involved in undertaking weight of evidence reviews is well advised to have someone with a contrary view check the work before publication....

Jan 5, 2013 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Kloor is the agent provocateur type (not the underwear- the inciter). The type that sets out to irritate and bait, to start a bunfight. It was quite amusing to see him pick up a BBD comment to jibe at the Bishop Hill crowd here

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/?p=6327

And then get his due desserts in so doing by inadvertantly recruiting a new regular on his own comment threads, and a bit of an agent provocateur in his own right - BBD.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Jan 5, 2013 at 5:09 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

@Jan 5, 2013 at 4:26 PM | Nullius in Verba

Yeah I would agree I don't think Kahan is part of the same class as the Cook/Lewandowsky axis. Even if he says similar things sometimes. I detect genuine investigative curiosity in Kahan’s work although I think it is overly weighed down by his biases almost to breaking point - ironically I don’t think he knows himself

I mean, why would one go out of the way to say Mann is a "great" scientist? ;)

The Cooks and Lewandowsky’s of this world, however, have irredeemably long gone through the looking glass. Whether they cynically know it or not they operate purely on an agenda. What method they use to convince themselves they have the scientific method as their raison d'etre I dearly would love to see explained to me one day :)

I would say the best guy for helping understanding the state of cognitive reasoning science today is Daniel Kahneman. I’ve been giving his book away this Christmas like a bible thumper :)

Kahneman is pure curiosity without any agenda I can see.

If you read him and then later look at any other pretenders in the realm of understating of motivation then I think you see their flaws very easily. I love Lewandowsky trying to glomm some philosophical backup from Kahneman in this piece during his Moon landing breakdown, after Steve McIntyre made some sharp references to Kahneman here ;)

Jan 5, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

In the words of the Mahatma: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."

I guess we are at stage 2. Which is a long way forward from five years ago.

Jan 5, 2013 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

BTW Steve McIntyre makes "sharp references", yet Lewandowsky "glomms" to Kahneman...

See what I did? Read both links if you want to know my biases ;)

Jan 5, 2013 at 5:20 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

"In the UK, the forces that environmentalism is able to deploy in support of its cause are pretty overwhelming . . . "

Well, I can't disagree with any of that - it's really rather well put. (You could have also included the Kim Il-Sung-style majority of the national and local political establishments.)

But does it not therefore logically follow that the widespread "socialist plot" / "watermelon" nonsense put about by many sceptics is, er, a bit of an over-simplification?

Jan 5, 2013 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

Jan 5, 2013 at 5:50 PM | DaveB

"But does it not therefore logically follow that the widespread "socialist plot" / "watermelon" nonsense put about by many sceptics is, er, a bit of an over-simplification?"

I don't know if you think that's clever remark, or not, but just because the the major parties, with the exception of UKIP support the CAGW meme it certainly doesn't mean there isn't a socialist plot, although I personally don't believe there is anything like a plot, just groups of people using the scare to push their own agendas. It is widespread in that a large number of different philosophies on the left see it as a way of controlling the people. Those in the right who support the meme are invariably making money out of it. So er, yes it was a bit of an over-simplification.

Jan 5, 2013 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I recommend Keith Kloor read the following:

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/protecting_birds_of_prey_at_altamont_pass/index.html

Essentially what is occurring is that the operators of the wind farm at Altamont Pass in California are bribing the authorities and related groups to accept the killing hundreds if not thousands of raptors a year.

I used to drive through that wind farm a couple of times a week ten years ago. It's enormous and it's ugly.

Jan 5, 2013 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

@Richard Drake "Do you have a recent example of Kloor criticizing environmentalists?"

This may qualify: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/12/modern_green_movement_eco_pragmatists_are_challenging_traditional_environmentalists.html

Jan 5, 2013 at 6:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

From another column by Kloor that he links in the link to him above in which he describes disease-like conditions the residential neighbors of wind farms are reputedly experiencing around the world:

. . . For one thing, the alleged health problem has been adopted by demagogues and parroted on popular climate-skeptic websites. But the bigger problem is that “wind turbine syndrome” is what is known as a “communicated” disease, says Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney. The disease, which has reached epidemic proportions in Australia, “spreads via the nocebo effect by being talked about, and is thereby a strong candidate for being defined as a psychogenic condition,” Chapman wrote several months ago in The Conversation.

Apart from the fact that he eschews the same skepticism he would require of the Bish, the condition sounds hauntingly similar to what might be described "CAGW syndrome" to me. Perhaps we should rename it "Catastrophic Psychogenic Global Warming."

Jan 5, 2013 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

@Richard Drake

Another along the same lines: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2012/04/17/the-green-modernist-vision/

Jan 5, 2013 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

MikeC: thanks but that's giving 404.

I just came on to thank Nullius in Verba for his couple of answers at 3:34 PM and especially for his comments about Dan Kahan at 4:26. Off topic and more interesting than dat wot was :)

(I will be thinking about OT-ness for a little while. If I mention it too often in main posts you know what to do. Mention it - but with much amiability.)

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:05 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

NiV, I appreciate that some people can talk to Keith Kloor. However, he moderated my stuff from the gitgo and shut down a thread once about gun violence and American political parties when bias had left an exit wound in him the size of an elephant gun. He pretends evenhandedness, but he's clapping with only his left one.
=================

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

@Richard Drake:

Sorry, I guess I missed the .html part: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/12/modern_green_movement_eco_pragmatists_are_challenging_traditional_environmentalists.html

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

'The government, the universities, the civil service, the schools, 90% of the print media, all of the BBC, including the comedy and drama departments, the army, the navy, the airforce, most big businesses, parts of the judiciary etc etc. Whole government departments are given over to propaganda in favour of environmentalism.'

Joe Bast, who reviewed Mike Hulme's 2009 book 'Why We Disagree About Climate Change' explains how Hulme reveals how 'climate change' is so potent and flexible as a new weapon of the left in this Hulme quote:

"The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identities and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us...Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs" (p. 329). Bast explains..In other words, socialists like Hulme can frame the global warming issue in such as way as to achieve seemingly unrelated goals such as sustainable development, income redistribution, population control, social justice, and many other items on the liberal/socialist wish-list.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/07/what_climate_change_can_do_for.html

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:48 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Richard, You're welcome.

MikeC, it might help if you make it a link.

kim, Sorry to hear that. I haven't seen any complaints to that effect previously (besides the ones about over-zealous spam filters) and there are plenty of critical comments that do get through. I guess you can't really tell. If it was one of those gun threads around the time he moved site, the comment system was especially cranky, as the techs were busy transferring the data. I had several comments vanish around then, too. Might it have been that?

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

OT: if I may invite any interested BH denizens to a new discussion thread, I would like to try to get a handle on what people think about the status of various criticisms of the Hockey Team work now that we are in 2013. What are the best current links and discussions, what can reasonably be said to people who only hear the Mannian version of the story, why is it so difficult to get any rational progress in this field, etc. Mann is continuing to promote depictions of his Hockey Stick graph as "awesome" (his word at link) with new generations of students, so one cannot say that the climatology field has "moved on" as far as the Hockey Stick goes:

Mann loves his Hockey Stick

Jan 5, 2013 at 8:17 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Kloor forgot to take into account that wind turbines have no benefit to society other than to make their owners and builders very wealthy.

Jan 5, 2013 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

What I find hard to understand about Kloor's article is- why pick on Bishop Hill?
Andrew does not deny the GHE, neither does he deny that AGW exists in fact the only thing I am aware of is that he denies "catastrophic".
Whether Kloor is a neutral or a warmist he picked the wrong target.

Jan 5, 2013 at 9:52 PM | Registered CommenterDung

...why pick on Bishop Hill?

That is the whole point. Bishop Hill doesn't matter so much as picking on a skeptic.

Niv, Richard
You are both missing an aspect. The whole premise of the Kahan 'cultural cognition' project is to say that the reasons for why people believe in one thing or the other can be found outside their own arguments for it. Taking this line leads only to debasement of the debate.

Jan 6, 2013 at 12:36 AM | Registered Commentershub

Bish writes:

Keith Kloor, on the other hand, thinks I should be a bit more even-handed.

I'll bear his concerns in mind.

I wouldn't pay too much attention to Kloor's "concerns", Your Grace. On the "even-handedness" front, his posts (and moderation/responses to comments pursuant thereto) cannot hold a candle to yours. If anything, his "concerns" constitute a classic exercise in projection. Well, that's the view from here, so to speak!

As I had observed almost two years ago (where does the time go, eh?!), Kloor:

had no qualms whatsoever attributing to James Delingpole that which Delingpole did not say in a recent BBC TV interview – without checking with Delingpole to make sure that he was “interpreting” his (very few) words correctly.

Yet he berates Fred Pearce for not checking with [Gavin] Schmidt whose unedited – and unrevisionized – words [in an E-mail in which he declined an invitation to participate in Ravetz's Jan. 2011 Lisbon "Reconciliation" workshop] were perfectly clear to anyone for whom English is not a second language.

Kloor's (unexpressed) motto seems to be "freedom to berate/belittle for me, but not obliged to responsively address questions from thee".

In my books, Kloor - who mistakenly appears to think his (often facile and very superficial) commentary is "balanced" and "unbiased" - is Mr. DoubleStandards par excellence!

Jan 6, 2013 at 3:54 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Watching Andrew Marr .They changed the opening credits.Used to be Andy jumping in his Car on his own and driving off to the BBC Studios.Now they changed it .Cutting Andys Carbon Footprint he jumps on on a Moped and rides of to the BBC .

So in few weeks time lets see Andy trying to ride a Moped in the Snow and the Rain.BBC will send a Cab for him.

Jan 6, 2013 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

"You are both missing an aspect. The whole premise of the Kahan 'cultural cognition' project is to say that the reasons for why people believe in one thing or the other can be found outside their own arguments for it. Taking this line leads only to debasement of the debate."

Only if you assume that means their own arguments for it are therefore invalid.

For example, if somebody says something that accords with what you already believe, you say "how obvious!" and move on. You don't waste a lot of time on it. On the other hand, if somebody says something that goes against everything you know and hold true, you'll examinine it in detail. You'll pick out assumptions, chase sources, plot data, test the logic, try to pick holes in it. Or you'll backtrack it against your own reasons for your earlier belief to locate how the chains of argument differ and find out what went wrong. It's quite likely you'll find something, which you'll say with an "aha!"

Whereupon it's the other guy's turn. Each side will come to different conclusions from the same data because they start from different assumptions and background knowledge, set different standards of evidence and burdens of proof, use different mental methods and approaches, trust different sources, assign a different moral weight to consequences, and quite often, simply think differently.

Most people find it as hard to understand that other people think differently as some people find it to intuitively grasp that foreigners really do think in a foreign language - that they don't secretly think in English and have to translate. It's like trying to explain maths to an 'arts' person, or vice versa.

The correlations between cultures and conclusions does not, in any way, imply that the arguments and reasoning people generate as a result of being motivated to look are invalid, or incorrect. The arguments stand (or fall) on their own. But it is an empirical fact that different people do come to radically different conclusions based on the same data, and that has to be explained. At the least, you have to explain why the other side so persistently and consistently get it wrong, and all the mechanisms they propose to try to explain you can be applied just as easily to them. These are all common human characteristics, and two characteristics we do have in common are that all humans are fallible, and all humans secretly believe that they personally are not.

And until somebody identifies what the actual differences in our thinking really are, we have little hope of being able to translate, which is why I follow people like Kahan and Kahneman with interest.

Jan 6, 2013 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

That was a great post NiV, it put into words and clarified thoughts that have been rumbling around my brain for years ^.^

Jan 6, 2013 at 10:14 PM | Registered CommenterDung

But it is an empirical fact that different people do come to radically different conclusions based on the same data, and that has to be explained.

That is all fine, but, one needs to keep one's eyes open as to why and how, in the service of what higher truth if at all such a science operates.

Picture this: one side (your term) harnesses 'science' and its authority in the pursuit of one of its political aims. The rest, who see through this to varying degrees, appear to be resistant to the persuasion owing mainly, among different types of reasons, to the fact that they can see through the cynical ploy. Do you believe the imposition of a cognition science to explain that the second side is non-receptive to the science 'because of its political biases,' is correct?

It would be doubly erroneous to conclude that it is correct. It ignores history and genealogy when both contain within them causal elements in the chain that it intends to study (in this case, that one political faction/side employs science to override political objections that may otherwise arise). Secondly, it devalues the resistance encountered in the second group by meta-analyzing its reasons instead of examining them directly.

In today's political context, cognitive science - as presented in the Cultural Cognition website, - appears to be put to work toward psychologizing and breaking down reasoning into non-cognitive subcomponents (for e.g., he thinks like that because he is a leftie; she is resistant to this idea because she is indivudualistic, etc). It is a circular, non-contributory, self-referential layer of thinking, and very little more.

Jan 7, 2013 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered Commentershub

"Picture this: one side (your term) harnesses 'science' and its authority in the pursuit of one of its political aims. The rest, who see through this to varying degrees, appear to be resistant to the persuasion owing mainly, among different types of reasons, to the fact that they can see through the cynical ploy."

Uh huh. Why do observers on one side and not the other see through the cynical ploy?

As I said, it is an empirical fact that views on topics like climate change are correlated with cultural categories like political worldviews. It's an observation thousands have made. The question is why?

A variety of hypotheses have been put forward. Some suggest one culture knows less about science. The data says otherwise - both sides being equally uninformed, and the more informed people on both sides showing the strongest polarisation. Some say one culture is less intelligent. The data says otherwise - both sides are about equal. Some say one side is less inclined to question their own conclusions. The data says otherwise - Both sides score equally on 'cognitive reflection tests' (while libertarians score a little higher), the more reflective people being more polarised.

It's not that the other side are stupid or incapable. So what is it? And how can you demonstrate it experimentally?

If you want to argue for asymmetry (as in "we're always right and they're always wrong") then you have to come up with a reason and with evidence for it such that the other side can't simply assert the same.

They, of course, say the same thing you just did: it's an organised hijacking of the science by vested interests in industry and they can see through the cynical ploy. How do we distinguish the claims, and break the symmetry?

The ordinary, everyday, man-on-the-street believer in AGW catastrophe is no more in the service of the Mann-ian climate cabal than the average sceptic is in the pay of the oil industry. So why do they so predictably come to one conclusion while you come to another? What's different?

There's nothing in any of this to say that the arguments you put forward in support of a scientific conclusion are invalid just because they are correlated to your politics. There's not even anything to say whether it's the politics that causes the conclusions or the conclusions that causes the politics, if either. But they are correlated. People's ability to come up with those valid scientific arguments is mysteriously linked to their politics. Don't you think that observation is both scientifically interesting, and highly significant for the practice of science in society?

If the data is pointing to a conclusion you really don't like on an emotional level, be doubly careful.

Jan 7, 2013 at 7:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Nullius
I had a long response written, but it was chewed up by the blog. To summarize, you frame the problem, at least as the global warming debate goes, in a way so as to miss the point I'm making.

Jan 8, 2013 at 2:02 AM | Registered Commentershub

... you have to come up with a reason and with evidence for it such that the other side can't simply assert the same.

They, of course, say the same thing you just did: it's an organised hijacking of the science by vested interests in industry ...

As far as the global warming debate goes, the evidence is that it was the global-warmers who came first. The industry-wallahs followed, and were a consequence. The latter would not have taken place without the former. It was the warmies' political innovation to have carved out a sphere of political influence almost out of nowhere, using science as its basis.

The very history is the evidence to suggest that the other side can't assert the same.

I've been reading more Kahan since we started. This guy is terrible and bad news. As an individual, I start by thinking my opponent holds his views sincerely. If I see that he has certain fashionable ideas and is parroting them, I just let it go (no point arguing with him since it is not he who speaks). I believe the same to be true of myself when I enter into a debate. This is the basis of enlightened democratic discourse, and it is the basis of honest one-on-one conversation.

Jan 8, 2013 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

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