2011-08-16 04:34:47The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science -- Chris Mooney -- Mother Jones
John Hartz
John Hartz

The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science

How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.


You can follow the logic to its conclusion: Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue. Doing so is, effectively, to signal a détente in what Kahan has called a "culture war of fact." In other words, paradoxically, you don't lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance.

2011-08-16 10:50:19
Tom Curtis


I think we need to take home a different message.  I am not going to change my politics and values, or pretend to, in order to convince climate change deniers.  Indeed, I think any attempt to do so would simply back fire in that my insincerity would surely be detected.  And while I can agree that the measage that global warming is real, anthropogenic and very dangerous will be far more persuasive to Republicans coming from Inhofe than from me, I'll not hold my breath.  However, there is one relevant aspect of the message we can control and legitimately push.  From the article (second last paragraph):


This theory is gaining traction in part because of Kahan's work at Yale. In one study, he and his colleagues packaged the basic science of climate change into fake newspaper articles bearing two very different headlines—"Scientific Panel Recommends Anti-Pollution Solution to Global Warming" and "Scientific Panel Recommends Nuclear Solution to Global Warming"—and then tested how citizens with different values responded. Sure enough, the latter framing made hierarchical individualists much more open to accepting the fact that humans are causing global warming. Kahan infers that the effect occurred because the science had been written into an alternative narrative that appealed to their pro-industry worldview.


If this is correct, pushing technological solutions to climate change may well increase acceptance of the basic science.  Instead of saying how much we are going to have to wind back western consumerism (which is in doubt in any event) and cut back on energy usage, we should be presenting the technology of new generation methods up front.  Hit them with the appeal of good old "know how".

2011-08-16 18:20:52


Another point of view: If you don't present someone with a way out, the only way they hear your warning is as a counsel of despair. Conservatives are constitutionally more optimistic than liberals, so they are less likely to find such a message acceptable.