Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to talk to an ostrich

Nice video. But will this matter? Not to global warming deniers.

Increasingly, it's not ignorance that's the issue here, but politics. Global warming denial has become a right-wing culture war issue, a cultural badge of identity.

From Science News:
There has been a prevalent view among scientists that skeptics of climate change and its ramifications would come around if they understood the facts, says Dan Kahan of Yale Law School. But studies by his group and others have shown that cultural factors can strongly influence what people accept as truth about certain technical issues. ...

The data show that on climate change issues, “cultural identity is what is disposing people to find evidence convincing or not,” Kahan says. And “the study shows this divide only gets bigger, for ordinary people, when they become better able to understand science.”

The findings point to the steep uphill challenge for advocates of climate science and policy to broadly communicate risks, says political scientist Arthur Lupia of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In fact, some of the most science-literate critics will listen to experts only to generate compelling counterarguments, he says.

We won't reach hard-core deniers, because their self image is wrapped up in this issue. But we still might reach the majority by teaching them about the scientific method.

You don't need to become an expert in climatology. Indeed, as a layman, you won't be an expert in climatology. And even scientists can't become an expert in every scientific issue.

But if you understand the scientific method, you'll understand why rational laymen should accept the scientific consensus - not just about global warming, but about everything. In science, if there's a consensus among the experts, that's the best answer we've got, period.

It's not guaranteed to be right. Nothing is. But choosing to believe anything else is just believing what you want to believe.

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