Motivated rejection of (climate) science: causes, tools, and effects

Posted in: Comment, Talks and Presentations

This was the title of the I-SEE seminar the other week by Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol.  This is his Abstract:

"Although the relevant scientific community long ago settled on the conclusion that human economic activities are causing climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases, a small but vocal number of dissenters remains unswayed by the evidence. I examine the cognitive and motivational factors that underlie the rejection of scientific evidence, and I illustrate the techniques by which contrarians seek to shape public debate and mislead the public. I also show how contrarian activities have seeped into the scientific community and have arguably altered the interpretation of the risks posed by climate change."

It was hugely informative and entertaining, and the detail provided of investigations into climate change denial using proxy measures were impressive.  For example, you can tell a lot (in the USA) about someone's attitude towards the idea of anthropogenic climate change by asking them about free trade as the two tend to be correlated.

A lot of his points resonated with the audience.  My favourite was that (in the USA) the more highly educated the Republican voter, the more likely they were to reject the idea of anthropogenic climate change.  It's the opposite with Democrats.  It's not, Lewandowsky said, that the well-educated Republicans don't understand that anthropogenic climate change is taking place – they do – it's just that supporting that idea (and hence the need for the federal government to interfere in their lives) conflicts with the idea that such interference is a very bad thing indeed.  Fascinating.

I was left wondering how that plays out here.

Posted in: Comment, Talks and Presentations


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