Informing versus convincing

I want to clarify something about yesterday’s post that seems to have at least got one person up in arms. The key point that I was trying to get across (and that I think is the same as Michael Tobis’s point) is that, formally, the role of scientists/researchers is to try and understand whatever system it is that they are studying. They also have a role in informing the public and policy makers about their research. However, they are not responsible for whether or not what they present is accepted; they’re not salespeople trying to sell a product.

However, this does not mean that they’re absolved of all responsibility. I do think that scientists/researchers should (mostly) be obliged to speak out when they’re aware that our best understanding is being misrepresented publicly. This, however, does not mean that they should be responsible if the public remains unconvinced. It’s neither their remit, nor something for which we’d expect them to typically have the necessary skills. To be clear, if some scientists do want to try and convince the public, I think that’s fine, as long as they’re honest about what they’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with scientists becoming activists as long as they make their role clear.

I think there is also a few other things to bear in mind. Many scientists who do speak out, do so in a largely personal capacity; they don’t get supported, or rewarded, for doing so. It can therefore be very difficult. It’s time consuming and – certainly in my case – can be very stressful at times. I’ve learned – the hard way mostly – what I can do without negatively impacting my family life, my job, or my health. Even then I don’t get it right all the time. I’ve spent the last few days being verbally abused on another blog because – I think – I didn’t treat someone with the kind of respect they expected. Admittedly, it was my own fault for expecting anything different.

In my view we need to recognise some of this. Some people are doing the best they can and – in my case – don’t always get it right. It is a difficult topic and I think we need to spend more time supporting those who are trying to make a positive contribution, rather than criticising them for not doing enough, or for not getting it completely right all the time. I even accept that I’ve done some of this myself, and so certainly regret some of my own interventions.

A key reason why I think it’s important to distinguish between scientists’ role in informing (it is one of their roles) and their role in convincing/persuading (it isn’t formally one of their roles) is that I fully expect us to recognise at some point in the future that we haven’t taken this issue seriously enough. I also fully expect some to blame scientists for not having done enough. I think this would be wrong and I think we should be careful of laying the groundwork for this.

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115 Responses to Informing versus convincing

  1. I wanted to clarify one thing about the post. I don’t think every scientist should be obliged to speak out when they’re aware that our best understanding is being misrepresented publicly. I do think, however, that as a community we have an obligation to do so, even if not every scientist should be expected to do so.

  2. Clive Best says:

    Our best understanding is that the universe is 9 billion years older than the earth which only formed 4.5 billion years ago , while we ourselves evolved just 200 thousand years ago. Do we have an obligation to to speak out that all world religions have got it wrong?

  3. Clive,
    In some cases, yes. Plus not all world religions have got it wrong (as far as I’m aware – not an expert on world religions). There’s also a difference between speaking out to try and correct misconceptions, and actually convincing people that they’re wrong. That’s kind of the point of the post.

  4. Clive Best says:

    I agree with convincing people that climate science is essentially correct. The problem arises when we start to discuss what to do about it. There are no solutions that currently make any sense. Therefore the message comes over as simply doom and gloom, so the public rightly turn off. They are focussed on the here and now, improving their immediate families wellbeing.

  5. Clive,

    There are no solutions that currently make any sense.

    It appears that some (maybe many) people disagree with this.

    Therefore the message comes over as simply doom and gloom, so the public rightly turn off.

    Possibly, but it’s hard to see how ignoring it would be a better option. Even if there are no currently viable solutions, the only way we’re going to develop any is by trying to do so. We almost certainly will not if we simply ignore that there is something to solve.

    They are focussed on the here and now, improving their immediate families wellbeing.

    Of course, and rightly so. However, I see no reason why we can’t try to address climate change while also giving people the opportunity to improve their own (and their family’s) well-being. I’m not an economist, so maybe one who is could convince me that they’re mutually exclusive, but I’m personally confident that humanity is capable of addressing more than one problem at a time.

  6. Clive Best says:

    The problem is that current policies are failing. German emissions have stopped falling despite huge investment in renewables. Democracies will never accept falling living standards.

  7. Clive,
    Quite possibly, but I can’t quite see how that relates to the point of the post. Are you suggesting that scientists should put more effort into convincing people? My own view is that if we fail to do enough to address this issue, the responsibility will lie with those we elect to make decisions (and with us for electing them) not with scientists. It’s not their role to ensure we make sensible policy decisions.

    Democracies will never accept falling living standards.

    I’m never quite sure how to respond to this. I think we should be aiming to develop economies that help some to improve their living standards and help others to avoid their’s from falling. However, not being willing to accept something doesn’t mean that it won’t actually happen.

  8. Clive. I don’t think you should extrapolate from the German experience to what happens generally when a country invests in renewables. Germany decided—unwisely in many people’s opinion—to close down all their nuclear power while building renewables. It’s hardly surprising then that their emissions reduction efforts are going backwards.

  9. “Democracies will never accept falling living standards.”

    The UK had no problem at all in accepting falling living standards during WWII. People understood that their short term sacrifice was for the long term good of their country. When faced with a threat—provided it’s universally clearly understood—people will do what’s necessary (including giving up their lives) for the common good.

  10. BBD says:

    +1 John

  11. Again, I’m no economist, but what about austerity? Austerity would seem to be an explicit argument for a reduction in some people’s living standards. Admittedly, it’s intended to be for the greater good, in that it will ultimately strengthen our economies, but this is not obviously going to be the case.

  12. Informing:

    Both absolute and per capita global CO2 emissions have already peaked.

    This is a natural consequence of increased energy efficiency, reduced carbon density from cheaper natural gas, and most importantly, decelerating and decreasing population in CO2 emitting nations. Some 75% of CO2 emissions are from nations with below replacement rate fertility.

    These are secular trends which will continue, but didn’t and won’t require dictatorial government intrusion.

  13. TE,

    Both absolute and per capita global CO2 emissions have already peaked.

    You keep claiming this but you cannot possibly know it. Below is roughly what those who actually work on these things regards as projections for emissions. In other words, current committments suggest rising emissions.

  14. Mark B says:

    “TE: Both absolute and per capita global CO2 emissions have already peaked.”

    Stabilizing emission levels, even if that’s the case, does doesn’t stabilize atmospheric concentrations. But, of course, you know that and chose to direct discussion elsewhere.

  15. Stabilizing emission levels, even if that’s the case, does doesn’t stabilize atmospheric concentrations. But, of course, you know that and chose to direct discussion elsewhere.

    Of course not, I never claimed they did, but they indicate decelerating forcing from CO2.

    Good news, right?

    It is good news if one is in love with the problem ( such that it is ) of CO2.
    It is not good news if one is in love with the solution ( such that it is ) of government dictates.

  16. TE,

    Of course not, I never claimed they did, but they indicate decelerating forcing from CO2.

    Good news, right?

    Good would seem to be a judgement. Maybe better than continuing to increase emissions, but your suggestion that we have stabilised emissions would seem to be rather optimistic.

  17. John Hartz says:

    Re the ability of scientists to “convince”…

    You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

  18. You keep claiming this [ CO2 emissions have peaked ] but you cannot possibly know it.

    For the last few years is not a matter of claim but of observation – CO2 emissions have peaked.

    Energy efficiency can’t go infinite, of course, but the trend is clearly upward.

    Natural gas can’t exceed 100% of energy use, but the trend is clearly increasing.

    But most importantly, economic advancement means children are net economic liabilities for a long time compared with agrarian society where children are a net economic asset at a young age. Combined with access to birth control, this trend is quite predictable and unlikely reversible.
    In fact the record is pretty clear – governments have tried even paying young couples to have more children in numerous countries and still fertility rates fall.

    Now, this leaves pretty much India ( with the caste system ) and Africa to develop. India’s population momentum is projected to continue for three more decades. Africa is developing rapidly, but there are limits ( the geography of the Sahara and the interior jungles restrict trade and transport which accelerate economic growth ). Does that mean African population continues at a higher rate but use less total energy? Or does the modern digital world make physical transport less important? That remains to be seen.

  19. Joshua says:

    Clive –

    =={ Therefore the message comes over as simply doom and gloom, so the public rightly turn off. }==

    It really bugs me when I see scientists engage in discussions about scientists effectively communicating, then turn around and make entirely unscientific statements about scientists communicating.

    Where is the actual evidence to support your conjecture. I don’t mean anecdotal evidence whereby some “skeptics” make such a claim. Nor do I mean the empirical literature that shows that negative messaging can be counterproductive w/r/t the desired effect.

    I mean evidence that in this context what you call “doom and gloom” has had a differential effect, of any meaningful magnitude, on public attitudes.

  20. TE,

    For the last few years is not a matter of claim but of observation – CO2 emissions have peaked.

    Come on, this is not a valid claim. That they appear to have not risen for a few years does not mean that they have definitively peaked. Those who actually work in this area do not think that they have.

  21. BBD says:

    UN projections are for >10bn globally by 2050 and energy demand is predicted to grow strongly as development continues over the coming decades. So this stuff about peak CO2 is just twaddle, IMO.

  22. mt says:

    Peak CO2 is not the solution.

    It’s just the first step to carbon zero. We can hope CO2 has peaked, and this is good news.

    But to assume that markets did this without incentives is a baseless claim, and to further extrapolate that markets can get us to net carbon neutrality (without strong imposed incentives that price in externalities sufficiently) is extremely implausible.

  23. mt says:

    Thanks for pointing to my rant, ATTP. My point is not only “don’t blame scientists”, though I think that is indeed important.

    My main point is “we need somebody to do the work of establishing scientific credibility who stands apart from science”. We need this desperately. Journalism, whose task one might assume this would be, rejects it utterly. But somebody has to do it.

    I’d like the discussion to go to how we might achieve this.

  24. (without strong imposed incentives that price in externalities sufficiently) is extremely implausible.

    I was going to make a similar point. If you consider Nordhaus’s recent paper. His most ambitious pathways keep warming below 2.5C, and what he calls his optimum pathway (which I think is defined in terms of some kind of optimumally implemented carbon tax) reaches 3.5C by 2100. His optimum pathway has emissions increasing till about 2040 and then starting to drop (with a short period of reducing emissions about now). As I understand it, this all requires the implementation of a carbon tax, so it seems – as MT says – extremely implausible that we’d somehow start reducing emissions (or even keep them flat) without pricing externalities sufficiently.

  25. MT,

    We need this desperately. Journalism, whose task one might assume this would be, rejects it utterly. But somebody has to do it.

    I’d like the discussion to go to how we might achieve this.

    Indeed, but I’m not sure quite how to do so. One way we might start is to stop shooting the messenger. It seems that the public climate debate is full of people complaining about how others engage, even if they agree with the ultimate goal. If none of us really knows how best to achieve these goals, then it would seem counterproductive to continually criticise those who are at least trying.

  26. Willard says:

    > Democracies will never accept falling living standards.

    How people forget:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_effort

    And obviously there’s right-wing populism.

    Perhaps the most shocking thing about Breitbart’s headline is its accuracy. Trumpcare is a much less generous program than Obamacare — and its cuts will be felt, disproportionately, by the people who wanted Trump to Make America Great Again. Among the reasons why this is the case:

    (1) The bill raises the cap on how much more insurers can charge old people than young people for the same coverage.

    (2) Unlike Obamacare, the size of the bill’s subsidies don’t adjust to the cost of health insurance in a given market — everyone in the same age group gets the same subsidy, no matter where they live. But health insurance costs a lot more in rural areas than it does in urban ones, where there’s the more competition between insurers.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/03/breitbart-may-have-just-killed-trumpcare.html

    Reagan. Tatcher. The list goes on an on.

    Look, Clive. You’re a smart, educated guy. Yet you’re just saying stuff. How could we expect to convince Denizens of anything if you yourself are just saying stuff?

  27. MarkB says:

    “TE: It is not good news if one is in love with the solution ( such that it is ) of government dictates.”

    One does not have to “love government dictates” to acknowledge that commons problems are unlikely to be optimally addressed by everyone acting in their immediate self-interest. Market failure in the case of externalities is fundamental and uncontroversial economics.

  28. mt says:

    I often quote Lech Walesa, who said “It is easier to make a bouillabaise from an aquarium than an aquarium from a bouillabaise”. Maintaining networks of trust between press, public and academy is hard. Establishing it or something like it, after it has failed, is much harder.

    Yet I can’t imagine how we escape this century in one piece without such an institution. I think it’s crucial that we have a trusted institution outside science evaluating science. As far as I know we aren’t even close to thinking about it, other than Roger Pielke Jr’s muddle of a book about “Honest Brokers”.

  29. John Hartz says:

    About the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere…

    Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.

    The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

    “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”

    Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year, NOAA, Mar 10, 2017

  30. the question is how to make horses thirsty. Don’t think so much about leading them to the water. They will find the water when they get thirsty. In that context it is important to point out once again that if a scientist wants to be persuasive with a conservative audience, they might want to think about explaining climate change and global warming from a change from the past perspective rather than from a future impact perspective. http://www.pnas.org/content/113/52/14953.abstract

  31. But to assume that markets did this without incentives is a baseless claim
    And not a claim I made. In fact, I pointed out that fertility rates are highly incentivized, just by economics, not by dictatorships.

    to further extrapolate that markets can get us to net carbon neutrality (without strong imposed incentives that price in externalities sufficiently) is extremely implausible.

    Here is a list of the leading CO2 emitting nations, color coded by fertility rates ( which are continuing to fall for almost all nations ). Replacement rate in the developed world is 2.1 ( though rising somewhat because people are becoming first time parents at a later age ). Replacement rate for the undeveloped world is 2.3 ( due to higher infant mortality ). Roughly three quarters of the worlds CO2 emissions are from nations with lower than developed fertility rate ( 2.1 ). Closer to 80% of CO2 emissions are from nations with lower than the undeveloped fertility rate ( 2.3 ).
    Demographics, as they say, are destiny.

  32. Christian Moe says:

    Is it accurate to say that scientists’ job is to understand and inform, though? Seems to me a crucial part of it is to convince/persuade people that their findings are right. But their job is primarily to convince their peers. The general public is a different audience, as are policy-makers. They don’t share the same background assumptions. Walsh’s recent piece on rhetoric had some helpful pointers about that, I thought (doi: 10.1002/wcc.452).

  33. BBD says:

    Demographics, as they say, are destiny.

    >10bn by 2050 + development = lots of CO2.

  34. Magma says:

    I’m having trouble deciding if CB’s 12:24 pm comment is better described as containing sharp pivots, straw man arguments, or non sequiturs… or are they all there, muddled together?

  35. Christian,

    Seems to me a crucial part of it is to convince/persuade people that their findings are right. But their job is primarily to convince their peers.

    In a sense, but when presenting it to their peers they can present all the evidence and try to convince them through the strength of the evidence. We’re well aware, however, that this doesn’t really work with the general public, partly because you don’t always have the opportunity to present all the evidence, and partly because the public doesn’t really have the background that allows them to assess the evidence.

  36. @Turbulent Eddie,

    So, then what do you say to the point I made on the previous post here, that, even if one assumes “things will be okay,” the present day costs of clear air capture and sequestration and potential costs of “adaptation” are so horrifically high, even if diminished each 1000x by technological improvements and discounted, that the rational thing to do is to hedge with a robust climate science program, greenhouse gas mitigation, and additional incentives to rapidly decarbonize energy?

    I don’t see anyone on that side doing a fair calculation of that. I have made some estimates, based upon the Institute of Physics numbers in 2010, some understanding of the Carbon budget (see the posts for links), and losses from unanticipated nonlinear increases in sea-level rise and impacts to food, both on growing regions and to the oceans. Remember, you cannot shift the grain northwards into Canada: There’s no topsoil up there. it was scraped south by glaciers.

  37. BBD says:

    hypergeometric

    But minimisation is the name of the game. Waving away the risk. Pooh-poohing the ‘alarmism’.

    To fuse memes: ‘it’ll be all right, Jack’. Just let the invisible hands take care of it.

    It’s always worked so well before. Like when ozone sorted itself out and acid rain stopped being so acid.

  38. exactly right about how the presentation to scientists is different from presentation to the public. Similarly, the presentation to a crowd that believes in certain marker ideas like evolution is easily presented in the popular “future impacts” frame, but the presentation to a crowd or population that likes intelligent design and is not sure if the planet is millions or thousands of years old, should be presented in terms of past context, about what has already been lost to the changes.

    I tend to agree that it is not the responsibility of scientists to convince with their presentation, but if scientists love their children and grandchildren, they might want to be as persuasive as possible and hope that turns into support for public policy that limit the intergenerational injustice inherent in global warming.

  39. izen says:

    This article makes a nice point about what happens if one side stops listening to the referees in a sports game. Once a team decides to ignore the umpires there is no way that shouting louder, or advocating is going to change the dynamic.

    http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/3/10/14871696/scott-pruitt-climate-denial

    “Restating, underscoring, or even strengthening those scientific results won’t solve that problem. The results already come from multiple fields, are reinforced by multiple lines of evidence, and have been vetted (extremely vetted, you might say) by several extended, multi-layered review processes. Collectively, we don’t know how to “know” anything more confidently than we know this stuff.

    If someone chooses to simply reject those scientific institutions, procedures, and results, then piling on more facts is beside the point. It’s not about facts any more, it’s about the authority of the institutions.”

    @-CB
    “Democracies will never accept falling living standards.”

    Since the 1960s inequality has risen in most democracies. The only way in which living standards have risen is by the (technology driven) advance in overall wealth. However the proportion of that increasing wealth enjoyed by the majority has been falling.

    Historically democracy only emerges when the differential distribution of wealth falls. The right to vote gets expanded as gross inequality shrinks. It is entirely possible that as the underlying invisible hand of the free markets return income/wealth distribution back towards pre-1900s levels democracy will fade back into autocratic forms of governance. It may be the only stable way to control a more unequal society.
    Trump could be a symptom of this.

  40. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    =={ We’re well aware, however, that this doesn’t really work with the general public, partly because you don’t always have the opportunity to present all the evidence, and partly because the public doesn’t really have the background that allows them to assess the evidence. }==

    As a corollary, perhaps, to that 2nd point…and it may be partly because it may be that presenting more evidence isn’t generally persuasive to the public, except in the sense that it persuades people to deepen their preexisting opinions along preexisting dimensions of identity orientation .

    I’ve been thinking that if what I described is true, then maybe there are two mechanisms to keep in mind, that are extremely difficult to remain disciplined about.

    The first is that layperson A seeing scientist X, from the other side of the ideological dividing line, acknowledging an error or uncertainty may increase A’s receptiveness to X’s overall message. The other is that person B seeing scientist X, from the same side of the ideological dividing line, acknowledging error or uncertainty may increase layperson B’s openness to his or her own error or uncertainty. The dilemma of a scientist-advocate may be the difficulty of reconciling a goal of incorporating the first mechanism while seeking to avoid manifesting the second mechanism, as they may seem to be in a zero sum opposition (a misconception, IMO).

    I think this may go back to something we touched on a few comments back. A scientist who is experienced in scientific debate, and who is focused on exchange through “informing,” may incorporate acknowledging uncertainty and error as a matter of course within the context of scientific debate (at least relative to non-scientists discussing science or scientists discussing non-science). But a scientist who is engaging as an activist may fall into a mode typical of exchange between non-scientists, where acknowledging uncertainty or error is not incorporated as a matter of course. A scientist-activist may be incorporating a misplaced fear that acknowledging error or uncertainty will lessen their effectiveness as advocates.

  41. joshua,
    As to your latter point, I’m not sure. I’ve seen people acknowledge errors and get a lot of credit for doing so. I’ve also seen people acknowledge errors and they’ll still get criticised (didn’t do it fast enough, shouldn’t have made it in the first place,….). I suspect a lot of it depends on the history of those involved. My impression (and this is just an impression) is that the response depends on whether or not the person acknowledging the error is seen as someone who could be an asset (i.e., scientist X agrees with us) or not (scientist X will almost always disagree with us).

  42. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    =={ As to your latter point, I’m not sure. I’ve seen people acknowledge errors and get a lot of credit for doing so. I’ve also seen people acknowledge errors and they’ll still get criticised (didn’t do it fast enough, shouldn’t have made it in the first place,….) }==

    Yes. no doubt.

    =={ I suspect a lot of it depends on the history of those involved. My impression (and this is just an impression) is that the response depends on whether or not the person acknowledging the error is seen as someone who could be an asset (i.e., scientist X agrees with us) or not (scientist X will almost always disagree with us). }==

    Also a good point. It seems that the value of a scientist’s expertise is almost always associated with the degree to which it can be confirming or disconfirming of preexisting views. That is a tough obstacle to scale.

  43. Willard says:

    > But their job is primarily to convince their peers

    To get hired, yes. After that it’s about convincing funding institutions. Which in a way are composed of peers, but the relationship isn’t peerage.

    The thing is that informing still remains a good way to convince an information-seeking audience.

    Also note the difference between convincing and persuading:

    http://writingexplained.org/convince-vs-persuade-difference

    Teh Dilbert was more seeking persuasion while handwaving to cognitive science, whence marketing is where to look.

    Cue to MT’s video about how teh Donald got some AI help.

    Walsh has the right of it, of course.

  44. Shantanu says:

    Scientists do owe that to the society, but I think the bigger gap between them and the common man is the game created by the mode of communication like news agencies etc. For example, if its found that something kills cancer cells in a lab under test conditions, and scientists make that finding public mentioning the facts, even then to attract more people perhaps, the news agencies put up headlines like “Cure to Cancer Found”, which gives the very wrong information to the person on the receiving end with no scientific knowledge, and also sometimes gives rise to consipiracy theories like the cure for cancer is being hidden from us. People need to look up to people of science just like they do to musicians and actors.

  45. Interesting point, and I agree with the gist of it. That said, as scientists and science communicators we’re continuously drawn into verbal battles over the science during which even just trying to explain can come across as trying to convince. That’s to a large extent due to the dynamic of the public debate I think: rather than scientists having to deal mostly with people who are eager to find out something (as would perhaps be more typical in the medical field), we have to deal with people who are actively trying to confuse or who are hopelessly confused, some of whom are ideologically opposed to accepting the scientific conclusions. Because dry explanations fall on deaf ears, oftentimes scientists/sciencec communicators will try to become more persuasive. I find it terribly frustrating if someone, esp someone in a position of influence (e.g. political or via the media) makes demonstrably false or misleading statements. I care whether my students understand what I’m trying to explain, and likewise I care to what extent citizens understand some basics about cllimate change (or evolution, or health, or societally relevant fields of science). The more I care, the more it may come across as trying to persuade,

    Even if we’re not trying to persuade, others will perceive it as if we are.

  46. Bart,

    The more I care, the more it may come across as trying to persuade,

    Likewise. I think this is one reason why there is this narrative that is trying to suggest that good scientists shouldn’t care (which is presented as them being objective).

    Even if we’re not trying to persuade, others will perceive it as if we are.

    Indeed, especially if this can then be used to argue that those doing the “persuading” have lost their objectivity and are, therefore, scientists who can no longer be trusted.

  47. BBD says:

    Indeed, especially if this can then be used to argue that those doing the “persuading” have lost their objectivity and are, therefore, scientists who can no longer be trusted.

    Vs Hansen’s Sea level rise and scientific reticence:

    I suggest that a ‘scientific reticence’ is inhibiting the communication of a threat of a potentially large sea level rise. Delay is dangerous because of system inertias that could create a situation with future sea level changes out of our control. I argue for calling together a panel of scientific leaders to hear evidence and issue a prompt plain-written report on current understanding of the sea level change issue.

  48. Christian Moe says:

    ATTP,
    Those are basic concerns, but I think Walsh is making a somewhat subtler point about how scientists may fail to convince if they don’t think about where their audience is coming from, even if they are given time to present their evidence and even if the evidence in itself isn’t really beyond the layman’s grasp. (To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Scott Adams is a victim of scientists’ rhetorical failings, or that he is entitled to being cognitively coddled out of his willful misapprehensions by people with work to do… And I’m also not suggesting that any amount of rhetorical fine-tuning will convince those whose group identity depends on being unconvinced.)

    Willard,
    Ok, difference noted. I wasn’t so much thinking about *persuading* institutions to hire or fund you, then, as about, say writing a paper with a mind to *convincing* reviewers that it doesn’t suck.

  49. Ken Fabian says:

    “…scientists/researchers should (mostly) be obliged to speak out when they’re aware that our best understanding is being misrepresented publicly.”

    It’s good if individual scientists speak out and better if those that do are capable of holding their own in rough and tumble debate but I thought, perhaps naively, that, with respect to the small number of credentialed scientist engaged in serious misrepresenting, this would be already a role for those overseeing professional ethics and standards. Do those people and bodies have any authority to take actions? Has any credentialed “maverick” climate scientist that misrepresents the work of their professional colleagues – or their own work for that matter – ever been called to account?

    Even though peak science bodies like The Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences are already major contributors to climate science communication I think they remain the best placed to step up and do more. They combine an unparalleled capacity to draw on wide ranging expertise with public respect and recognition.

  50. Joshua says:

    FWIW…

    With respect to scientists communicating with lay audiences, information versus convincing, or ino other words, “different strokes for different folks”:

    Traditionally, political misperceptions have been characterized as “information deficits”arising out of individuals’ “lack of interest in or knowledge of politics.”3 Under this view, the best response, according to no less eminent an authority than Justice Brandeis, “is more speech.”4

    Lawyers tend to find this approach extremely attractive, given their belief, honed through
    years of training, that the best form of persuasion is through content-based arguments (so-called
    “hard evidence”).5 Unfortunately, two political scientists, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler,
    have empirically demonstrated that “more speech” does not cure certain types of political
    misperceptions and may in some cases be counterproductive.6 Their research shows that
    “misperceptions are not just an information problem,” which means that “[e]xposure to accurate
    information may not be enough” to counteract individual or institutional adherence to alt-facts.
    7

    If those findings were not sufficiently sobering, Nyhan and Reifler also discovered that attempts to correct misinformation can actually strengthen political misperceptions among those who are most strongly committed to their initial position.8 This phenomenon is of course extremely problematic given the increasingly polarized nature of U.S. society and explains why various attempts to correct the factual record during the 2016 presidential campaign and the early days of the current administration have been less successful than one might expect. Nyhan and Reifler’s data has subsequently been used as the basis of a metric developed by Edward Glaeserand Cass Sunstein to evaluate when attempts to correct political misperceptions do more harm than good.
    9
    Nyhan and Reifler’s work provides other critical lessons for the legal community. For example, Nyan and Reifler found that people are more likely to maintain factually inaccurate beliefs if the information is offered in a manner that facilitates counter-argument.10 Resistance to change is particularly pronounced when people are presented with both sides of a particular controversy, as is routinely the case in legal and political debates. 11 The point-counterpoint approach is also used by journalists, which again helps to explain why media reports about factual inaccuracies during the recent presidential campaign had very little effect on voter perceptions and practices.
    12

    [Wrong link. – W]

    Also, related:

    http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/45417

    Why does Trump get away with telling untruths? 7:40
    The left’s paranoia 5:36
    How to make facts more persuasive 4:23
    Brendan’s project for detecting signs of authoritarianism 10:33
    The dangerous allure of the retweet… 3:42
    …and the Facebook echo chamber 6:08
    Trump’s vicious strain of tribalism 5:00
    Scientists find that Bloggingheads combats tribalism 5:29

  51. BBD says:

    For example, Nyan and Reifler found that people are more likely to maintain factually inaccurate beliefs if the information is offered in a manner that facilitates counter-argument.

    Then we are indeed doomed. The internet is the father of bickering. Who thought it would end like this? Not with a bang, but a twitter.

    /sarc rant

  52. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    Fortunately, Internet (and twitter and Facebook) exchange may still be a relatively unrepresentative sampling….I am always dubious about pronouncements of large-scale social change (i.e., I think that most stuff is just sameosameo)., but I do worry that it’s representativeness is growing rapidly, and that other media outlets are taking on more and more of a adversarial framework for exchange

  53. Phil says:

    MT:

    My main point is “we need somebody to do the work of establishing scientific credibility who stands apart from science”.

    I understand the motivation behind this desire, however I can’t help wondering how someone can “establish scientific credibility” if they stand apart from the science. It seems to me that anyone who does so, stands the risk of simply being judged an “activist” by those that wish to dismiss the science. Either someone has the scientific knowledge (or is perceived to have it) to act as the public’s judge of climate scientists or they do not, so it seems to me, at least, to be something of a contradiction.

    I’d like the discussion to go to how we might achieve this.

    Obviously Climate feedbacks acts as a check on the scientific credibility of media reports – but it fails your criteria by being written by climate scientists. It also, I imagine, fails in terms of reach. Few people who read the Daily Fail seek out and read the critiques.

    There are obviously personalities who advocate for climate science.James Hansen might, now, be considered to be such a person. In the UK, they also include, Prof Brian Cox (a physicist, so perhaps not “apart” from science), Sir David Attenborough (not a scientist, although probably widely regarded to be one). Prince Charles advocates for climate mitigation policies. US personalities Leonardo diCaprio and Al Gore are also known.

    Another approach is what you might call “professional advocates”; I’m thinking of people like Dana Nuccitelli, or, in the UK, Fred Pearce, who could also be described as journalists.

    All these people, to some extent, are denigrated as “activists” or “hypocrites” on sceptic blogs. None of these people, I imagine, are what you envisage, but a discussion of their deficiencies might clarify whether such a role can exist. For example; If they are not [climate] scientists, or well known and respected personalities, wherein does their authority lie ?

    Another question is the platform; as mentioned above, it seems unlikely that the Climate Feedback website has the same reach as the tabloid newspapers it corrects. To reach the pointy-haired Scott Adams and his ilk, surely your “establisher of scientific credibility” needs to be on TV, newspapers or high traffic, factual web sites – and doesn’t that bring us back to journalists ?

  54. John Hartz says:

    In light of the anti-science bent of the Trump Regime, the issues raised in both this OP and in the prior OP are being widely discussed in the US scientific community. Numerous articles and opinion pieces about the roles and responsibilities of scientists have been recently published and more will undoubtedly be forthcoming. One of the better posts that I have come across is:

    Why Are Scientists So Averse to Public Engagement?, Guest Blog by Ploy Achakulwisut, Scientific American, Mar 8, 2016

    The subtitle of this post is: It’s time to confront our demons

  55. John Hartz says:

    The concluding paragraphs of Why Are Scientists So Averse to Public Engagement? are definitey worth pondering.

    Recent events indicate that there are in fact many scientists, especially early-career ones, willing to step beyond the current norms of academia. I therefore call on my fellow members of the scientific community to: (1) re-evaluate our roles and responsibilities in today’s society, and to foster these discussions in our labs and universities (I recommend Jane Lubchenco’s and Naomi Oreskes’ thoughtful remarks on this issue); and (2) consider practicing at least one form of engagement with the public, media, or policymakers, ranging from outreach and education to advocacy. I also urge advisors and department heads to support early-career scientists wishing to acquire interdisciplinary skills for public engagement.

    Let’s transform the culture of academia so that being a scientist-advocate is no longer an oxymoron, but a moral responsibility we owe to society. Let’s support, not suppress, our colleagues who choose to engage. Let’s change the mantra of academia from “Publish. Publish. Publish” to “Publish. Communicate. Engage.”

  56. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Fortunately, Internet (and twitter and Facebook) exchange may still be a relatively unrepresentative sampling….I am always dubious about pronouncements of large-scale social change

    And rightly so. The troubling thing for me is that it only takes one voter to decide an election (or referendum),

  57. Oh, I don’t think we are “doomed,”, just that this will all cost everyone a great deal more than it otherwise had to cost.

    I agree with ATTP in the following sense. While scientists do have an educational responsibility, engagement with science (or mathematics, or engineering) is ultimately a two-way street. If the audience is unwilling to do that, or worse, if the audience is preconditioned to want to listen to things that they want to hear, rather than things as they are, and does not want to do the work to tell the difference, then, really, there is no point engaging with them.

    I am not a climate scientist, but I study a lot of it and was trained in undergraduate physics and have a masters in engineering. I also have devoted weeks of times studying papers, and books like Ray Pierrehumbert’s POPC and David Archer’s books, as well as the history of climate change. It really is not that difficult to understand, given good will. Wheter it’s Judith Curry or Richard Lindzen sowing the ill will, I dunno, and to some extent I do not care. I have engaged with many many people, with the benefit of knowing a lot of this material, and explaining it from many perspectives and in different ways. I have the advantage of having no financial exposure for doing so, and, so, to a great extent, cannot be intimidated.

    At some point, someone who understands this stuff needs to realize that people are not going to listen, and to sadly withdraw. They will listen after the fact, perhaps. A good deal of our risk assessment in the United States is based upon, effectively, putting up Stop Signs after a certain number of bodies are carried away. In cases of high personal property value or emotional ties, such as coastal areas repeatedly clobbered by storms, the last thing people want to hear is that they have to move.

    Sure, there are malevolent organizations and groups and people who know these buttons and are pushing them for their own self interest, but the responsibility ultimately belongs to the public who permit themselves to be manipulated. Accordingly, despite our best efforts they are going to carry the responsibility of having to deal with the costs of climate disruption, as well as the moral burden of its effects upon people in other countries and upon future generations. They don’t want to hear this.

    So, I say, at some point we need to go away, and wait. Continue to explain to those who want to listen, or those bugged enough with what’s going on to seek answers, but to continue to fight this self-interested tide is, after some point, foolish. Sure, march, as I will, for Science. Try to keep funding for these activities, but do not allow some excessive sense of loyalty to country or a position get in the way of your doing Science or what’s best.

    And, when the damage comes, as Rev Fred Small has accepted, “Praise be the Flood.” Maybe that’ll be a beginning.

  58. Knowledge is power. never correct idiots.

  59. “Here is a list of the leading CO2 emitting nations, color coded by fertility rates ( which are continuing to fall for almost all nations ). Replacement rate in the developed world is 2.1 ( though rising somewhat because people are becoming first time parents at a later age ). Replacement rate for the undeveloped world is 2.3 ( due to higher infant mortality ). Roughly three quarters of the worlds CO2 emissions are from nations with lower than developed fertility rate ( 2.1 ). Closer to 80% of CO2 emissions are from nations with lower than the undeveloped fertility rate ( 2.3 ).”

    TE.

    it would interesting to see what would have happened if we didnt replace the bottoms up SRES approach with the top down RCP approach.

  60. “I think it’s crucial that we have a trusted institution outside science evaluating science. ”

    Judge Judy’s science court.

  61. angech says:

    48% of the voting American public chose as part of their world view to support a person/ party that was not convinced by the information available over the last 45 years. The party is appointing people like Pruitt to reduce the information and convincement components. Expanded it suggests that upwards of 100 million Americans are not convinced.

    The fault could be poor communication but after 45 years I doubt it. the fault could be in the scientists, again I doubt it. A third possibility exists but is inconceivable, hence when Pruitt mentions it there is much angst. What if we need better proof?

    That is where I would like to see the science go. Take up the Pruitt and Curry and Pielke points. Don’t use the same old tired arguments. Address the deficits in knowledge and make them see.

  62. angech,

    Address the deficits in knowledge and make them see.

    As far as I’m aware there is a great deal of social science research that suggests that this does not work.

  63. jacksmith4tx says:

    Mosher,
    RE: Judge Judy’s science court
    “I think it’s crucial that we have a trusted institution outside science evaluating science. ”

    The only trusted institution left is the military if you believe the polls.
    Judy won’t like the answer.

  64. making horses thirsty: I believe that ATTP is correct that there is social science (and years of first hand experience) to show that simply presenting the scientific evidence (same old tired argument?) or working to address the perceived deficits in knowledge is not particularly persuasive. There is also social science that indicates that framing the evidence in the past historical context is more persuasive with the conservative thinker than framing the evidence in the context of future impacts (the dominant model based on IPCC goals of future temp rise, etc).

    The future framing is persuasive to many people (liberal and progressive thinkers), the bulk of evidence is quite persuasive to folks who process their experience of the world through the scientific process, but we are clearly not reaching and persuading the conservative slice of the population with future framing. http://www.pnas.org/content/113/52/14953.abstract

    If you think conservative thinkers are stodgy, try to imagine convincing the scientific community to provide a more balanced presentation of AGW impacts to equally discuss changes from both future and past perspectives. We are all pretty happy with our routines and frames and many of us are happily dismissive of the routines and frames that another population might use.

    If you wonder why Trump was persuasive to so many voters you might consider that making america great again is a very nice match to the social science about how to reach and persuade a conservative thinker.

    we need to talk about making weather great again. sounds silly, but….

    don’t think of elephants

    Mike

  65. John Hartz says:

    In the US, we have a trusted instittution — the National Academy of Sciences.

  66. John Hartz says:

    Tilt!

    angech incorrectly asserts that Turmp garnered 48% of the vote in the 2016 US Presidential election.

    The results after all of the votes were officially counted:

    Clinton received 65,844,610 votes, or 48.2% of the total vote.

    Trump received 62,979,636 votes, or 46.1% of the total vote. (That’s a difference of 2.86 million votes.)

    The remaining 5.7% of the vote went to other candidates, like Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Evan McMullin, and, I don’t know, write-ins for flesh-eating bacteria.

    Here is the final popular vote count of the 2016 election just in case you want to feel bad by Katie McDonough, Fusion, Dec 20, 2016

  67. HG says: “So, I say, at some point we need to go away, and wait.”
    I am inclined to agree with this approach, though I might frame it as “step back and go quiet.”
    I have been saying that there really is little hope for effective action until conservatives and republicans get worried. The impact of AGW is more obvious every year. The conservatives will come to us eventually. They will say, well, no one saw this coming. They will say the scientists kept getting it wrong and creating controversy and confusion, but they will come to us eventually.

    some will go this way:

  68. Joshua says:

    angech –

    =={ What if we need better proof?

    That is where I would like to see the science go. Take up the Pruitt and Curry and Pielke points. Don’t use the same old tired arguments. Address the deficits in knowledge and make them see. }==

    Do you have some evidence in which you ground your speculation? Where do you see support for your conjecture that opinions among groups that are heavily identified with particular ideological orientation are changed as the result of “better proof?”

    The evidence that I see suggest that the notion of “proof” is highly correlated with identity association. That evidence is filtered through ideological orientation as a part of how its validity is assessed. Thus, more “proof” would not be the answer, as it would merely be configured so as to reinforce existing opinions (that are associated with ideological orientation).

    Surely, as a “skeptic” who evaluates evidence on the basis of “proof,” then you must have some reasonably convincing evidence that in fact, it isn’t the method of communication, the scientists, or a propensity towards motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, cultural cognition, identity-protective cognition, etc., that explains views on climate change, but the degree to which the existing evidence is depository.

    So please, share the evidence that leads you to your theory. Does it relate to some historical analog? Or, perhaps, you have evidence that relates to a contemporary, similarly polarized issue? Or, better yet, you have some evidence that is directly tied to the issue of climate change – where you’ve seen minds made up in direct proportion to some objective evaluation of “proof?”

  69. Joshua says:

    angech –

    =={ A third possibility exists but is inconceivable, hence when Pruitt mentions it there is much angst. }==

    The logic here is quite interesting. Since we see “angst” expressed when “skeptics” are called “deniers,” should we thus conclude that such a label is “inconceivable,” and thus the angst elicited reflects its accuracy (because the truth is so hard to face)?

    Did I get something wrong about the flow of your logic?

  70. John Hartz says:

    The issues addressed raised in the OP and in this discussion thread are indeed many and complex. Here’s an important one that I just became aware of…

    If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably at least a little worried about climate change — and you probably aren’t talking about it. Research has shown that two-thirds of people in the U.S. say they’re “moderately interested” or “very interested” in global warming; at the same time, around 70 percent say they rarely or never broach the subject with the people close to them. It’s a paradox that also doubles as an explanation: Climate scientists have suggested that the reason people don’t discuss climate change is simply because they don’t hear it being discussed, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “spiral of silence.”

    The term was coined by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in her book The Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion — Our Social Skin, in which she observed that silence can manifest itself in different ways: Both people who hold majority opinions and those in the minority will often keep quiet on issues that are important to them, but they’ll do it for different reasons. But both of those reasons, explains Elizabeth Suhay, a political scientist who studies conformity, stem from a misjudgment about the prevalence of their opinions. “The majority just assumes that everybody thinks like them,” she says, “and people in the minority think they’re the only ones.”

    The ‘Spiral of Silence’ Theory Explains Why People Don’t Speak Up on Things That Matter by Olga Meking, The Science of Us, March 10, 2017

  71. “Trusted institution.” This situation only exists because people don’t know enough science and maths to do it for themselves. That is where the problem is, and the rest of this stuff is just workarounds.

  72. andrew adams says:

    Democracies will never accept falling living standards.

    But the UK voted for Brexit despite clear warnings that it will lead to lower living standards. Of course whether people are so happy to accept it when it actually happens remains to be seen.

  73. graemeu says:

    ATTP,
    I realise I am somewhat behind in these discussions but it was good to see you clarify your previous position. It’s something that seems to be weighing on you a bit of late ‘ivory towers’ etc.
    From my perspective, the situation is grave in which case climate scientists do have a responsibility to ensure their message is heard and understood and if public/govt/industry actions indicate it hasn’t been taken on board then they do have a role in continuing to educate, advocate and if necessary lobby. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to do it personally because my experience of a lot of scientists (including university academics) is that they struggle to use plain english but their university department, govt. dept. or NGO can do so collectively as an organisation. That oft used example of a bus accelerating toward catastrophe comes to mind. You’re sitting behind the driver so you can see that the bus is accelerating that the driver needs to slow down or stop, you might tap them on the shoulder and suggest they do so. If the driver
    ignored you, surely you wouldn’t just shrug and say oh, well I’ve communicated my concerns and sit there hoping someone else would do something. Even if everyone else is asleep you’d get more vocal, try and wake others up to help you and maybe even try and directly intervene in the speed, direction etc.

    Still the communication has to be effective and that’s where a lot of scientists fall down. I think the 2014 report on climate change by the NZ Parliamentary Commisioner for the Environment, Dr. Jan Wright is a good example of how to go about communicating to the public and politicians.

    http://www.pce.parliament.nz/media/1258/changing-climate-and-rising-seas-web.pdf

    In the introduction she has this to say:

    “As my own understanding of the science has evolved through this investigation, my concern has grown. I had hoped to find greater reason for optimism, but unfortunately the opposite has occurred.”

    and in the conclusions gives this explanation that really brings it home for New Zealanders

    “A small rise in sea level can have big impacts.
    New Zealand is a coastal nation. The impacts of sea level rise will vary around the coastline. Some areas are low lying and prone to flooding. Some are exposed and vulnerable to erosion. Some are subsiding resulting in higher sea level rises.A rise in sea level of 20 to 40 centimetres may sound minor, but each successive centimetre has a bigger effect than the last.The impacts of a rise in sea level are most evident during storm surges when wind and waves pile up water against the coast. Flooding is worse when a storm surge coincides with a high tide, and especially so if the high tide is one of the ‘king’ tides that occur a few times a year.
    In January 2011, a storm surge hit downtown Auckland, flooding shops, homes, and roads. The Northwestern Motorway flooded (Figure 5.1) and stormwater systems backed up. The flooding was worse than that caused by a similar size storm that hit Auckland in 1936 – largely because the sea was 11 centimetres higher.
    88
    The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has projected that in 30 years’ time, this level of flooding in Auckland will occur about once every ten years. A few decades later, such flooding is expected to occur every year if the world takes no action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Accompanied by this photo http://blog.metservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Buslane.jpg

    It made it real and most importantly relevant for New Zealanders. Most of whom still don’t seem to get the difference between weather and climate but they get that climate change is real and largely the fault of industrialised nations. Dr. Jan Wright has seen the encumbent National (think Tory) government go from denial to full acceptance that it is real, even though they’re still reluctant to take effective steps in mitigation.

  74. graemu,
    I think we’re roughly on the same page. I do think that scientists have an obligation to speak out and I do think that they should try to do so as effectively as possible. However, I do not think that they should somehow be held responsible if what they present is not accepted. That’s neither really their role, nor something that they should be particularly skilled at achieving (they are researchers, not salespeople).

  75. I think there are natural consequences to the failure to convey the danger of AGW to the general population. One is the election of a guy who will severely cut back funding of climate science. That is probably not the most significant consequence of election of a guy who does not believe in AGW, but at least it creates some discomfort for a group that many of us think has failed to communicate our climate situation effectively. I am not saying that any of this is good, but reticence to plunge into the political implications of the science does have consequences and some of them will be less earth shattering than others.

    The good news on this subject is that the planet will communicate our situation to almost all of us eventually. Lots of us have already gotten the news, but there are a lot of stragglers still trying to read the handwriting on the wall. They will get the news eventually because it’s happening. It’s not a hoax. Wish I was wrong about that, but can’t drink that particular flavor of koolaid.

  76. @smallbluemike,

    Agreed, the cutback of climate science and, for that matter, science in general is horrible. Agreed, the rollback of environmental regulations which protect The Commons, or even a failure to acknowledge that there is such a thing as The Commons, is horrible. However, apart from these many specific things, on significant climate mitigation by the United States, note that circumstances would very probably not be that much different if Secretary Clinton were President. Moreover, the individuals who need convincing are not the current occupant of the Oval Office and his team, or even Congress, but the people who prioritized the goals he campaigned on over climate and environment. And they have simply said they are not willing to put their economic well-being or their comforts at financial risk to pay for climate mitigation, and are willing to take the risks posed by climate disruption instead, straight out of Prof Daniel Kahneman. (See also the opening lines here.)

    And, I agree with you, that “The good news on this subject is that the planet will communicate our situation to almost all of us eventually. Lots of us have already gotten the news, but there are a lot of stragglers still trying to read the handwriting on the wall,” and I hope that people will act appropriately when they do. Of course, it is likely to be late, in the same way when groups get evacuation notices from endangered areas, they delay until some threshold, assigning to the authorities without real justification or consideration to anyone else, like rescue crews, the attribute of being overcautious. In that case, the disruption we get will be wherever disruption is at the time of that realization, transition to zero or extremely low carbon emissions will still take decades, and people won’t see any improvement in their situation when they do all this and they may be puzzled or mad, because they do not understand how systems with lags work. (Leading a target when doing skeet is an analogy that seems to connect.)

    However, I have witnessed firsthand how some people respond when presented with an overwhelming threat, such as to their homes from ocean flooding also out of Kahneman. I attended hearings in Scituate, MA, when that area was first faced with this. That is, some people simply beg to have their property protected by whatever means necessary and, when it is damaged, want to make that go away, including rebuilding right on the spot again. This is not rational, it is the worst possible outcome, this has been repeatedly pointed out, and it is a very popular thing to do, encouraged by politicians — including many who should know better — who see it a way of cementing their relationships with their home turf.

  77. BTW, this site has a nice roundup of environmental regulatory changes made by the Trumpistas.

  78. Agreed on almost everything. One reservation is that I think humans may be capable of changing their dominant living paradigm (high standard of living idea) on the planet, but that change in human culture is likely to be quite chaotic and I am not sure we have the time for the cultural evolution that we need to make, but I think it’s possible and interesting/optimistic to think about what that would look like.

    I think it might look like the transition from hunter/gatherer human culture to planter/harvester culture. I think there was no planetary vote taken or agreement made to switch from nomadic hunting to more stable agro-village culture, it just happened slowly over time as certain groups experimented with the change and succeeded. I think a lot of people (not enough yet, but a lot) would be happy to lower their standard of living and make necessary changes. I know some of these folks personally and I bet you do as well.

    I agree with you completely that there are a large number of people who do not and will not respond rationally to the changes that are occurring on the planet. It’s too bad that so many of them have relatively unfettered access to firearms and military power. That is a secondary threat of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, like methane releases and ocean acidification. I lump all of that competitive violence into a category of resource conflict. We have our peaceful work cut out for us.

  79. John Hartz says:

    smalbluemike & hypergeometric: Kudos to both of you engaging in an insightful and civil convesation

  80. John Hartz says:

    This article explains why Trump gets away with lying to his hard core base of support. The “climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese” meme is specifically cited as one of his big blue lies.

    How the Science of “Blue Lies” May Explain Trump’s Support

    They’re a very particular form of deception that can build solidarity within groups

    by Jeremy Adam Smith, Scientific American, Mar 24, 2017

    The folk of Deniersville apparently swim in a sea of blue lies.

  81. Joshua says:

    A very interesting interactive graphicfor evaluating breakdowns in Americans’ opinions about climate change,

  82. Joshua says:

    I always promise myself not to get surprised by the illogic of public opinions about climate change…but check out that interactive graphic I linked above…and look at the contrast when you toggle from “Global warming is happening” to “Most scientists think that global warming is happening”

    Not factoring in potential ambiguities in how the questions are interpreted…..those data suggest that a whole lot of people think that “global warming” is happening despite that they think that “most scientists” don’t agree that “global warming is happening.” And that is even though they “trust climate scientists about global warming.”

    Ok. That is just bizarre.

  83. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: It’s not so bizarre once you take into account the propaganda generated by the fossil fuel industry and their allies over the past decades. Fox News only has to interview a single scientist, e.g. John Christy, in order to create the illusion that there is disagreement within the scientific community.

  84. Joshua says:

    JH –

    But then why would they think that global warming is happening even though they don’t think that most scientists agree with them?

    I get that there are reasons why the public (in aggregate) thinks that there is more diversity of opinion in the scientific community than there actually is…but that wouldn’t explain why they think that GW is happening despite thinking that most climate scientists don’t agree. And keep in mind…many of those same people say that they trust the climate scientists.

    So if they think that Christy is representative of the majority of scientists, then that might explain why they fail to understand the predominate view among scientists, but if they also trust Christy as a representative of the scientific community, why do they think that global warming is happening even though they think that Christy, and most scientists, don’t agree?

    Just bizarre.

  85. Joshua says:

    Hey willard –

    Is there a formal fallacy for tending to inflate the significance of intergroup differences relative to intragroup differences? In other words, say that there is in general, a (small in magnitude) grater tendency among “skeptics” to pick their nose than among “realists.” That might lead one to falsely fail to realize that the diversity in nose-picking rates among realists might be much greater in magnitude than the generalized differences in “skeptics” relative to “realists.”

  86. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Anyone who embraces the overwhelming body of scientific evidence about manmade climate change and its consequences should openly and proudly embrace being an “alarmist”.

    Winston Churchill was indeed an alarmist when he warned about the rise of Hitler and his Nazi Party prior to the outbreak of WWII.

    Churchill’s example should inspire each of us to be an alarmist about manmade climate change.

    Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

  87. Vinny,
    You should probably double check the definition of “alarmist”.

  88. Joshua says:

    Anyone who wants to deny the one world government conspiracy the opportunity to starve children in Africa should openly and proudly embrace being a “denier.”

  89. Vinny Burgoo says:

    For one thing, do you still think that I should probably double check the definition of ‘alarmist’? For another, why still John Hartz? (Ditto Robert Scribbler?)

  90. Vinny,

    For one thing, do you still think that I should probably double check the definition of ‘alarmist’?

    Yes.

    For another, why still John Hartz? (Ditto Robert Scribbler?)

    No idea what they have to do with this.

  91. Joshua says:

    Vinny –

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  92. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ‘No idea what they have to do with this.’

    No. Ne neither. Sorry.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/a-meeting-of-minds/#comment-33689

  93. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: I believe that more and more Americans are experiencing some impacts of climate change as time goes by.

  94. John Hartz says:

    Vinny: Thanks for reminding me of that particular comment. I rather like it.

  95. Vinny,
    I’ll explain. Technically, alarmist means to “exaggerates a danger and so causes needless worry or panic.” If there actually is a danger, then warning of it is not “alarmist”.

  96. per Climate Central: “900,000 acres of Oklahoma so far this year, a record, as well as parts of Kansas and Texas. The blazes have destroyed dozens of buildings and killed seven people as well as hundreds of cattle” Apparently God is mad at the folks in these states for denying global warming and is sending drought and fires as punishment. Red states burning.
    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/drought-weather-record-oklahoma-wildfires-21276

  97. On the public’s mindset, again, I think the best way for them to answer this for themselves is to learn the basic science needed. However, if they are unwilling (too lazy?) to do that, they are stuck where they are.

    I also think it is less than this stuff has been “politicized” than it has been “sportified.” That is, there are clearly “two teams” and once identifying “a player” as belonging to one team, if they are on “your” team, you root for them, and if they are not, you boo them. And whether or not the positions of the teams has anything to do with reality doesn’t matter to you in the same way that if it irrelevant to the stock market whether or not the Yankees make the playoffs.

  98. Joshua says:

    JH –

    =={ Joshua: I believe that more and more Americans are experiencing some impacts of climate change as time goes by. }==

    That may be, but I don’t think that the relative change you speak of explains the contrasts I referred to shown by that interactive graphic as you change the parameters.

    Consider the absolute numbers:

    Most people think that climate change will harm Americans, but they don’t think it will happen to them.

    From those data, it seems that not only do most Americans say they haven’t experienced impacts so far, they say don’t even think they will in the future. From that, I don’t think that it’s likely that they think that GW is happening despite their view that climate scientist don’t agree comes from them experiencing climate change that scientists aren’t aware of.

  99. “Is there a formal fallacy for tending to inflate the significance of intergroup differences relative to intragroup differences? In other words, say that there is in general, a (small in magnitude) grater tendency among “skeptics” to pick their nose than among “realists.” That might lead one to falsely fail to realize that the diversity in nose-picking rates among realists might be much greater in magnitude than the generalized differences in “skeptics” relative to “realists.”“

    It is true that there are many datasets for which the distance between the closest members of two groups is but a fraction of the distance between the group centroids or means.

  100. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ‘Vinny, I’ll explain…’
    Why do you think that I need that explained?
    Serious question.

  101. Vinny,
    Because of the first comment you made. If you had intended that to be a quote, then you could have made that clearer.

  102. Joshua says:

    Vinny –

    What was your point?
    Serious question.

  103. Indeed, I’d quite like to know too. It almost seems as though Vinny copied a comment from a couple of years ago and expected me to remember that someone else had made it.

  104. Willard says:

    > Is there a formal fallacy for tending to inflate the significance of intergroup differences relative to intragroup differences?

    Depends on how you construct the argument. Representativeness, perhaps:

    https://flowingdata.com/2012/05/03/common-statistical-fallacies/

    Contrarians aren’t compelled to mutual consistency, however. Symmetry doesn’t apply.

  105. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: Right now I do not have the time to delve into the NY Times interactive maps and engage you in a indepth discussion. Perhaps tomorrow.

    Saturday’s are one of my busier days because becasue I finalize and post the SkS Weekly News Roundup on Saturday and work on the SkS Weekly Digest which is finalized and posted on Sunday.

  106. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Lest there be any confusion, I define an “alarmist” to simply be someone who sounds an alarm.

  107. John Hartz says:

    Just in case Judith Curry’s name has not yet been mentioned on this comment thread…

    “Get your popcorn ready,” writes Judith Curry, one of four witnesses who will testify before the House Science Committee on climate change science next Wednesday.

    Curry is right. The congressional hearing, featuring some of the more polarizing figures in the climate change discussion, is sure to make for great political theater. But it won’t reveal much, if anything, new about science or advance the conversation about how to address the issue.

    The hearing, titled “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method,” is an act of gamesmanship from a body intent on manufacturing doubt on scientific issues which have long been settled.

    House Science Committee to hold climate change hearing from which we’ll learn nothing by Jason Samenow, Capital Weather Gang, Washington Post, Mar 24, 2017

    FWIW: As an American, I am deeply ashamed that a clown like Lamar Smith chairs the US House Science Committee. He is nothing more than a shill for the fossil fuel industry,

  108. Willard says:

    Alarmism is the opposite of denial:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alarmism

    I had no problem recently speaking of denial among contrarians pushing the CAGW meme.

    I did not find any need to say “deniers.”

  109. JH,

    Lest there be any confusion, I define an “alarmist” to simply be someone who sounds an alarm.

    I guessed as much.

  110. Jim Hunt says:

    John H – Since you mention Judith Curry’s name you may have noticed my own name sprinkled around the thread you reference. Amongst other things I have managed to negotiate exclusive rights to live stream the forthcoming show trial across Cornwall!

    Some initial conclusions from my journey into the Heart of Darkness:

    A Report on the State of the Arctic in 2017

    Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    Lamar Smith comes to bury Michael Mann, not to praise him.

  111. graemeu says:

    Going back to 25 March. ATTP quite right, the messenger is not responsible for how the message is received provided there has been a genuine attempt at conveying the message in a language and manner that enables the receiver to understand the message. However, where there is resistance to the message it may need to be presented several times in different ways. Here the P.C.E has excelled with repetition effected through the use of all media including lengthy interviews.

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