Climate change and conspiracy theories - Lewandowsky


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I just found this interesting interview with Stephan Lewandowsky, for anyone with a spare 43 minutes.

Here's a few quotes from the transcript

When it comes to the drivers of belief or acceptance of scientific findings, in particular
climate change, then what we find is that one of the most important factors is a person’s
worldview or you can call it a political ideology, their belief in things such as the free market.
It turns out, in particular in the case of climate change, that people who are very enthusiastic
about free markets and who think that government should not interfere with free markets, that
they tend to reject the findings from climate change, climate science based on that ideology.
It’s a very strong effect. It’s a huge effect. In some of my data, it explains two-thirds
of the variance. Now what that means is that if I know somebody’s belief about the free
markets, I can reduce my uncertainty about what their climate change attitude is by two-thirds.
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A sitting US senator has written a book that’s entitled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global
Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.” Now that’s pretty explicit. If you call
something a hoax and you talk about a conspiracy, well, then you probably think that there is
a conspiracy among scientists to invent this hoax called climate change, and that is precisely
what this person is saying in his book.
That’s not an isolated instance. If you look at the discourse on climate change blogs,
it is suffused with the attributes of conspiratorial thinking. This notion, this overriding suspicion
of scientists, that scientists are—they’re all cheats, and they’re all making this
up, and they’re all trying to scare you for, well, I don’t know why, but there is
this suspicion and fear and paranoia that people express when they are rejecting climate
science. That is a small, but I think in public life, significant driver as well.
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I’ve performed a number of studies that looked at the association between acceptance
of science and people’s tendency to endorse conspiracy theories, and one of those involved
visitors to climate blogs, and the other one involved a representative sample of Americans,
a thousand US representative respondents. What I found in both studies is the same thing,
and that is that as people are more likely to endorse various conspiracy theories—for
example, that MI5 killed Princess Diana, or that the UN is trying to create a world government,
that sort of thing—the more people tend to endorse that, the less likely they are
to accept scientific propositions.
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Is this surprising? I suspect there's a fundamental epistemological difference between most CTers and most non-CTers. CTers see mainstream institutions and VIPs (e.g. the government, universities, large media providers, corporations, etc) as inherently untrustworthy and even 'sinister until proven innocent' and routinely extrapolate extraordinary 'truths' (as they see it) from minor incongruities while non-CTers generally have a very different approach. So I'd expect CTers to be generally more doubtful of science than non-CTers.
no, not surprising, but there are some insights there into why CTers become so fixed in their viewpoint and seem to have great difficulty accepting any information the conflicts with their theory - for example, aside from the science of how and why contrails persist there is so much evidence on this site of things on the CT websites that are quite simply wrong - like the photos of tanks on planes, the evergreen fire fighting plane, the tanker enemy video, WW2 film etc ...- but the hardened CTers can't seem to stand back and look at this evidence impartially because the whole theory is part of their world view - if you try to take that away it creates a hole in their cognitive processes and so that is quite threatening to their whole way of thinking
A bit more about that here
Lewandowsky: Now if you then, as a researcher or communicator, present them with more evidence that climate science is real, then chances are that the recipients of the message are digging themselves deeper into their existing position and actually believe even more strongly that that is not the case. We have the experimental data to show that in a lot of different circumstances. It doesn’t just have to be climate science. It’s whenever people’s world-views are at stake, then presenting them with corrective information can have a so-called “backfire effect” of making them believe the mistaken information even more strongly.
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