Wednesday, September 28, 2016

We Shouldn't Dismiss People Who Deny Facts? Why The Hell NOT?

A recent irritating, short essay in TIME (Sept. 12-19, p. 26) insisted rational and fact-based people need to give all the zombies,  knuckle draggers, and ignorant buffoons among us a 'break' and not dismiss them.  So, for example, we must give a pass to those who "believe things that are factually incorrect". Say like those who believe that vaccines cause autism, or to one innominate,  self-proclaimed genius of Intertel who is 100 percent convinced that "scientific conspirators falsified their data on which they based their alarming findings."  Or -from the same genius: "these scientists manipulated the peer review process to keep valid research against global warming from being published."

But anyone who's  been involved in serious climate science research would know the latter two beliefs are pure balderdash and definitely merit no respect. Especially if they issue from people who are members of a high IQ group.  They ought to have known or found out that denier papers are rejected because they don't meet minimum publication standards, including: use of proper mathematical or statistical techniques to assess data, use of coherent and testable physical models and/or simulations and assessment of errors in each of the preceding. But it's easier for deniers simply to believe denier research papers are left out because the review process is "manipulated."

While ordinary people may be partly excused for their beliefs, a high IQ person cannot be similarly excused, and he or she merits the full hammer of criticism and opprobrium. He has effectively misused his high intelligence to 'go off the rails'  and not conducted sufficient self-checks on his claims. Nor used his intelligence - with sufficient energy - to do his own research to first seek to disprove his many superficially -based beliefs.

Why? Because by virtue of their very intelligence they ought to fucking know better!  They actually possess the necessary intellect to ferret out the truth and DO the research but are too god damned lazy to do it. They don't want to read 15 or 20 papers that thoroughly debunk their idiotic beliefs, they'd rather just go to climate denier websites, imbibe the misinformation and repeat it. Especially with the conspiracy aspect.

The authors of the TIME essay ('We Shouldn't Dismiss People Who Deny Facts') claim:

"If we really want to change how they think, we need to take an honest look at what's driving those beliefs. Because it's not ignorance, it's psychology."

Actually, in the case of the genius climate deniers (or their  soft soaping allies who aren't as denial -based but still think "the jury is out")  it's politics that's to blame. Specifically Libertarianism,  which most of them espouse, whether in Mensa or Intertel.  This leads them to collect — even inventbad information to flesh out what they already believe to justify their economics theories.  Their aim isn't scientific pursuit but rather defending an economic system they believe will unravel if practical solutions to global warming became law.

My point? Their  interjection and invocation of politics means they can no longer be afforded special consideration, and this distinguishes them from say, the vaccine skeptics. The TIME authors, Sara and Jack Gorman, claim we are all subject to the same principles that "cause scientific denial".  They add:

"Research has shown that humans are distinctly uncomfortable with events or phenomena without clear causes - and when we don't  know something we tend to fill in the gaps ourselves. Take autism. Since we don't know why it occurs it becomes easy to misplace blame."

Fair enough, but autism is not global warming, for which we KNOW the cause is ever increasing CO2 concentrations that cause the atmosphere to retain more moisture and heat creating a thermal blanket that heats the Earth like a mammoth greenhouse. Indeed, the source of the greenhouse effect has been known for nearly 120 years, from the time of chemist Svante Arrhenius, e.g.

This issue also transpired in the debate Monday night when Trump tried to deny he had earlier called global warming a "hoax".  This, despite the fact an old tweet of his was dug up where in he babbled:

"the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese."

Why recite such crap? Because it served a political advantage. But sorry, you don't get any breaks nor are you spared criticism when you go that route. The same applies to Libertarians in Mensa and Intertel who have banged the denier drum until they're blue in the face. They do it precisely because they don't wish to acknowledge that - if true (which it is) - economic sacrifices will have to be made in the short and long term interest of future generations.  The upshot of their unquestioning belief in market economics leads them to craft a pseudo-scientific narrative ( in the guise of real science) to attack genuine climate science. To accomplish this trick they make use of  the data, papers of proven scientific whores and hacks, willing to sell their dubious skills for a few shekels to the highest capitalist bidders or think tanks e.g.

One of the best exposes of their methods and dynamics has come from Yale Law school prof and science communication researcher Dan Kahan.  He has concluded that their information processing is almost entirely determined by their deep-seated political values and cultural identities. Thus, a white libertarian member of  Intertel, for example, will see global warming science as just one more vehicle of  subversive force backed  by the "untermenschen"  to be used against his precious economic values and Eurocentric ideals. All of this is then attributed to "global warming alarmism", as an expeditious cover for his own abysmal laziness, ignorance and cynicism. At this point, his thinking is already so corrupted and contaminated it's almost impossible to break through on any rational or critical thinking level.

From Kahan's theory, these pseudo skeptics don't really have the time to evaluate every piece of evidence that comes before them (say ice cores containing CO2) so basically punt. Instead of rationally and objectively evaluating the evidence they side with the top bananas in their political group  - in this case folks like Charles Murray- and use their generic  economic arguments (i.e. against taxes as "theft" and "force")  to attack climate science or more precisely the climate science consensus that human induced warming is real, e.g.

One of their most used shticks is to clump all federal science agencies (like NOAA, NASA, EPA  etc.) together and "in on the scam". This makes it easy so they don't have to use their brains or  time plowing through separate specialist climate papers. Why do that when you can kill five birds with one stone?

Driven by this short cut mental modality, they then seek out those oddball contrarians (like Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas, Richard Lindzen) who do sound off against the climate consensus, even though they are dead wrong and have been proven so.  The stage then emerges for the next phase: cherry picking only the data which conforms to their economic or political values. By now we have  a self-reinforcing mechanism: the more the Libbie genius gets exposed to the faux science that  supports his economic and political stance the more he continues to adopt that position and related ones further out. These include such far out, paranoid ideations that one's opponents "demand that Western Industrial Civilization commit cultural suicide by adopting the crippling constraints sought by the global warming conspirators."  in the words of Kort Patterson.

Meanwhile, by extension, misinformation in public life isn’t the exception, it’s the rule, according to a study published in Social Science Quarterly  which employed a “knowledge distortion index” and looked at two competing explanations for why this is so — one top-down, the other bottom-up.  The researchers used three Washington state initiatives from the 2006 general election cycle to examine the dynamics of what is going on in this particular sort of political environment.  The study, “How Voters Become Misinformed: An Investigation of the Emergence and Consequences of False Factual Beliefs,” found that “voters’ values and partisanship had the strongest associations with distorted beliefs, which then influenced voting choices. Self-reported levels of exposure to media and campaign messages "played a surprisingly limited role,” despite the presence of significantly mistaken “facts,” which were used to help construct the knowledge distortion index.

Lead author, Justin Reedy in one interview stated “Both of these theories recognize that citizens can develop distorted factual beliefs because of their political views, but they disagree about how those distortions might happen. Heuristics researchers generally think that citizens have limited attention for politics and try to process information quickly and efficiently.”
Again, this reverts to Kahan's theory of why intelligent climate deniers give short shrift to deep research that might change their minds - if they only got off their butts and put their high IQs to use for an activity other than denial. But because simple denial consumes less time (one can get denier "misinformation" quickly and efficiently from numerous websites) then their denier behavior is more likely to be reinforced. That means they will be less likely to expend time or effort on difficult independent  research that might change their mind.

The Gormans assert Iibid.):

"Rather than chastising people for focusing so heavily on stories, we should figure out why we are all so drawn to stories in the first place. Changing minds requires compassion and understanding, not disdain."

A sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur. And that's why I often make allowances for those like the anti-vaxxers because they aren't privy to detailed biological science nor are they likely to understand autism if they did access research. So they must confabulate "stories" and these often support their false beliefs. However, I am not about to extend the same generosity to a Mensan or Ilian - especially one who cynically uses his intelligence to spread misinformation and misbegotten conspiracy theories about "global warming alarmists".

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