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“CULTURAL COGNITION AND SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS” May 3, 2015

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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The Pharaoh and his minions on our trail, and I am attempting to cross Denial 101x (UQ Massive Open Online Course) and am attempting the crossing without being swept away and drowning. God help us. Better still let’s help ourselves.

It turns out that along with improving our understanding the relevant scientific disciplines and findings. Who could possibly understand all that stuff with any felicity? It is argued that to understand the failure to accept the scientific consensus on the causes and implications of climate change we also need to interrogate our worldviews, political ideologies and paradigms. As the blessed and cursed Al Gore noted it is about “inconvenient truths”. Slack thinking can be a problem. Those concepts that I have mentioned – worldviews, ideology, and paradigm – need to be described as distinct ideas. At least then the ghost of Rene Descarte will be satisfied. Since he came down on the side of God, there has to something wrong with that, or it was politically savvy, getting a good job as a military strategist, perchance to be a refugee in an oven.

Naomi Oreskes says- I think it applies universally, or at least in Western Democracies, not just the US – that Climate Change is ” a political debate being made to look like a scientific debate”. I am perfectly aware by mentioning the sainted Al Gore and Naomi Oreskes, if of a mind, you will have already rejected what I am saying. I notice I do the same thing. Please stay with me and continue to use your impartial critical faculty.

As I am trying to suggest there are some questions about our cultural and political conditioning. I am not Einstein, so I am not going to suggest that these might be “optical delusions of consciousness”, or even prisons of the mind with real effects in the world. Still we could ask how people differ. That might then raise other questions,such as: Can like-minded people conduct peer reviews? All that we can say is that the purpose of science, even psychology, is to be self-correcting.

There is a landmark study, that supports Naomi Orekes reported by Nancy Huinh for Yale Scientific. I will quote her introduction, since she is way more competent a writer – and implication, logical thinker:

For years, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has released expert consensus reports confirming the reality of global warming and the safety of disposing nuclear wastes deep underground. However, intense debate still persists over these and many other issues scientifically proven and reported by the NAS. The arguments do not revolve around criticizing scientists and their evidence, so the main problem is not actually a lack of faith in the scientific method. Rather, people on both sides of these debates believe that the science supports their side. This phenomenon may be due to “cultural cognition,” and Yale Researchers at the Cultural Cognition Project (CCP) have been studying cultural cognition in a variety of topics, ranging from nanotechnology to gay and lesbian parenting to adjudicatory fact-findings. They aim to improve our understanding of how cultural values influence the perception of risk and the potent effect that this phenomenon can have on public policy.

At this point I could suggest you read the article on the study for yourself, but I am for some reason supposed to make a summary to show what I have, and have not, understood. Here is a video. It seems that if you believe that markets work fine, and always have done, which explains for example why we have a minimum wage and various occupational and health requirements and, for example, the various coal mining disasters of the NSW South Coast in the late 19th and early 20th Century were not due to managerial incompetence, or that managerial competence is now so much improved under the general conditions of global monopoly capitalism that pollution or other consequences, either do not exist or can be made to be a fiction. Nobody, least of all me, would suggest this a stretch. Contarily, you might consider I slipped into a variation of logical fallacy – “red” herring, conspiracy thinking, over generalization, selective information.

Now I have got my bias out of the ocean of internal variability, lets consider the evidence, or not. We might then be a in position to frame public policy.

Here is the studies leading author, holding forth, but is he an expert in this subject?

The way You Tube works now, and if you have the time, there is much more. I should not be saying this, but if we could stop Pharaoh in his tracks, we may avoid the apocalypse, or to failure to concerted, global action.

Postscript:

Jo Nova and the team are not impressed. She comments throughout Tony Thomas’ report on his first week experience, “Putting the Stink in Distinction”. He seems to have joined to repudiate the course. One week was enough for him. I agree the stuff about Middle Earth does seem a bit flaky  – but we will see. By any criteria Jo would not qualify as a climate scientist, although both of them know more about the subject that I do. There was an interesting exchange:

He drills his students that the “consensus” is that human-caused CO2 promotes warming. This is hardly controversial. I can’t find anywhere in Week 1 where he explicitly states, rather than implies, the orthodox case that humans have been causing most of the past half-century’s warming – an assertion at the heart of the climate controversy.

Instead he says that satellites are showing “less heat escaping to space”. And this somehow proves that greenhouse gases are responsible and what’s more, it’s “a human fingerprint in outgoing heat”.

[This’ll be Harries et al, which shows that CO2 is indeed a greenhouse gas and does absorb the frequencies we think it does. It doesn’t show that there is less heat escaping overall, just that there is less heat escaping in a small part of the spectrum. It shows that CO2 levels have increased, which skeptics agree with, and which we already know. – Jo]

Another “distinct human fingerprint”, he says, is that there’s a warming lower atmosphere (not for the past 18 years, actually) but a cooling upper atmosphere. The two fingerprints, plus others, “rule out” the sun and internal variability as causes of the (halted) global warming.[i]

[The warming lower atmosphere and cooling stratosphere can also be due to changes in ozone, it’s not unique, and it doesn’t show that the models have their calculations right. The key fingerprint that climate experts predicted is the tropospheric hot spot that is absolutely, completely missing. – Jo]

All the following phenomena do not involve ‘internal variability’ as a climate driver, Cook maintains: Cooling upper atmosphere; less heat to space; rising tropopause; annual cycles; daily cycle; ocean warming; more heat back to earth; and land warming faster than oceans.

This is not exactly clear, dispassionate analysis.Tony joined the course to debunk it and satisfy his beliefs. Great, but engage with the evidence. If you are that advanced promote yourself to 201 or 301. Jo is knowledgeable but she is not an expert engaged in sweating the details and identifying the consequences. Here is Dr Benjamin Santer, who like Dr Willie Soon has been subject to personal attack:

I don’t think Tony came across the following information. It is easily understood that may be the case. It takes awhile to explore any nny unfamiliar template to see what it contains and how it works. At least to me these definitions of terms, note the qualifications, make sense:

In this course, we use the term denial to refer to a process, and we do not use it as a label. Specifically, we’re talking about the psychological process of denial, and in the course we look at the scientific research into what drives people to reject scientific evidence. This allows us to explore how cognitive biases result in the various techniques of science denial. Only then can we develop a framework of the different fallacies appearing in the most common myths about climate change. The biases and the framework we use are discussed in detail within Week 1 of the course.

In this course, we also talk about misinformation, which refers to factually incorrect information. However, in psychology, misinformation does not necessarily imply intent to deceive. This course will examine the psychological processes that can lead to a person genuinely believing misinformation. Misinformation is to be distinguished from disinformation, which is false information created intentionally to deceive people.

References:

I am finding the quoted scientific papers very difficult to read. However, this first reference looks exceptionally readable and comprehensive.

Boaz Miller, “When is Consensus Knowledge Based? Distinguishing Shared Knowledge from mere Agreement” (2011)

Abstract

Scientific consensus is widely deferred to in public debates as a social indicator of the existence of knowledge. However, it is far from clear that such deference to consensus is always justified. The existence of agreement in a community of researchers is a contingent fact, and researchers may reach a consensus for all kinds of reasons, such as fighting a common foe or sharing a common bias. Scientific consensus,by itself, does not necessarily indicate the existence of shared knowledge among the members of the consensus community. I address the question of under what conditions it is likely that a consensus is in fact knowledge based. I argue that a consensus is likely to be knowledge based when knowledge is the best explanation of the consensus,
and I identify three conditions—social calibration, apparent consilience of evidence, and social diversity, for knowledge being the best explanation of a consensus.

Here are my thoughts before I read the paper. Consensus seemed to me semantically problematic. It seems to connote conformity. In a sense it is. It seems to be the belief, not based on certainty, but substantial evidence built on thorough testing to create a level of confidence that can be acted upon. For the scientist this means in practice that further propositions and sets of observations can be undertaken. When done, the previous understanding may potentially be either confirmed or critically undermined. So it is interesting when a theory is not confirmed. The example that comes to mind is the Michelson-Morley experiment. What I take from this description is eliminating contending possible explanations is as important as replication. This seems to me how hypotheses become theory. Research papers should both identify the scientific consensus and provide a history of it’s formation.

The reason I am excited about it because it was in mind to suggest that acceptance of the scientific world view has lead to the ingrained belief that nature is expendable and the acceptance of pollution. Thus, the scientific mindset played a significant role in creating pollution and thereby triggering climate change. Don’t exam me on this but isn’t this a great description and definition:

Social calibration understood, under my suggestion, as joint acceptance of fundamental
evidential standards, ontological schemes, and shared formalism strikes the
right balance between preventing the consensus from being accidental, which disqualifies
it from being knowledge-based, and allowing the parties to it to maintain a
diversity of perspectives, views and interpretations, which, as I will argue in the next
sections, is required for knowledge-based consensus. An essential consensus can exist
despite conceptual disagreements among the group, and may therefore be knowledge
based.

Here is another quote:

There is a common intuition, which states, roughly, that it is likely that a consensus
is knowledge based when the parties to it are independent of one another in the
ways they form their views. I will explore this intuition and argue that it amounts to
two separate conditions. The first, to which this section will be devoted, is apparent
consilience of evidence. The second, which is social diversity, will be discussed in
Sect. 6.

I am happy now. I feel challenged and I have now got an account of the inside running that makes things meaningful, both in general and in particular. It is worth my time reading carefully and really learn, rather than be just in agreement and regurgitation. It is a good thing we are all different and individuals. There is also the concept of unity in diversity. All of this can be readily interrelated with motivated thinking.

I am pretty confident that nobody reads this, so I feel pretty confident in expressing whatever goes to mind.

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