Tim Dean (Ockam's Beard blog, graduate student of Moral Philosophy) wrote this absolutely excellent piece on why climate change is such a threat to conservatives that they HAVE to keep denying it, no matter how much evidence is accumulated. Naturally there are tremendous economic interests behind this denialism, but his piece really brought something new to my mind: why climate change threatens the moral worldview of conservatives. In a nutshell, because hard work must ALWAYS be rewarded, and in this case, human "hard work: is being "punished" by the natural world that reacts to the destruction of the environment.
I post excerpts here, but read the whole thing, it's priceless.
And why is it many conservatives appear to be immune to the overwhelming scientific evidence and rational argument that suggests anthropogenic climate change is real?
The simple fact is it’s because, to conservatives, climate change is not about science or economics. To conservatives, climate change is a moral issue.
And the moral worldview adopted by many conservatives predisposes them to reject the very notion of anthropogenic climate change well before any evidence or reason has a chance to interject.
Why a moral issue? Because politics is, for many, an inherently moral subject: it has to do with the duties and obligations of those in power over the people. And when it comes to morality, and how we form our moral attitudes, it’s (sadly) not reason that is the prime mover, but psychology, emotion and ultimately our implicit worldview.
Characteristic of the conservative worldview is a general tendency to see nature as hostile, as being a force at odds with humanity, something to be conquered and exploited for our benefit. Leave nature alone, and it won’t show us any mercy. It’s survival of the fittest, you know.
Add to this the implicit idea the world is a meritocracy, and you can see how a conservative might lean away from environmentalism which, to them, just seeks to prevent hard-working individuals from exploiting nature for humanity’s benefit, and seeks to pervert the natural order by preventing enterprise in order to protect a few trees. Jobs over frogs, and all that.
Anthropogenic climate change represents a fundamental threat to this conservative moral worldview. First of all, it challenges the notion that hard work is rewarded. Instead, it suggests our hard work and our striving for better living conditions for humanity has resulted in harming ourselves and our environment.
As a consequence, action against climate change requires that we value the environment over humanity, that we kowtow to a hostile and uncaring nature, and that we effectively cease rewarding enterprise.
Instead, we embrace the very anti-meritocratic policies that the political Left love and conservatives hate: common good over individual enterprise; equality over freedom; softness over strength. Taxing polluters (the hard working industries that provide us with the energy that makes our lifestyle possible) and redistributing that to individuals who haven’t earned it is gut wrenchingly unfair to the conservative worldview.
To conservatives, climate change represents a surrender to progressivism, it undermines the conservative belief in being rewarded for hard work, and it places nature ahead of humanity. Frogs ahead of jobs.
Read the comments to his piece, too, the meme that "belief in climate change is like a religion" seems to be spreading among conservatives. Sounds familiar?
This one is a great comment from one of the readers. It's a keeper!
24 Mar 2011 10:27:12pm
I am a man of psychology and I don't need statistics (ha ha) to tell me why conservatives are climate change sceptics. Dealing with climate change leads to social consciousness and stepping away from greed, selfishness and ego driven mass consumerism.
Current day conservatives seem to have very little in common with conservatives from fifty years ago, rather than being cautious and resisting change they seemed locked into teenage like excess and a desire to exploit everything and everyone around them, and are purely emotionally driven, fearful, hateful braggarts driven to attack anyone who threatens their lifestyle of excess.
I like this man as he is so dead right in what he says!
Conservatives, Liberals or indeed the trembling masses may have an opinion on whether or not man's CO2 emissions have a dangerous effect on global climate, but their opinion is irrelevant to the science.
Climate science is... a science. Science doesn't depend on politics. Scientific conclusions depend on testing of an hypothesis. In all records, global climate hasn't changed outside of historical norms since the industrial age, in fact since the dawn of civilization. Ergo, the hypothesis has thus far not been proven. The predictive model has failed the test. That is all. To compare the political reaction to climate change politics may be valid but to introduce social factors as a determinate to whether or not the hypothesis tests in favour of one conclusion or the other is fallacious. Use of the term denier is also incorrect. One can only deny something that has happened. One cannot be accused of denying the validity of a prophecy or a prediction. I believe deniers would be better labelled as heretics under the Algorian faith model.
As an atheist I cannot give credibility to prophecies or predictions based on faith. The Algorian faith requires that I put aside the results of the data and accept that climate will change as a result of man-made CO2 emissions. I don't contest that it might... or might not, but it hasn't and that dear friends, is science.
Einstein said (words to the effect) it takes only one man to prove me wrong. Such is the nature of science. Consensus is not a conclusion. This of course is the problem with a science that is championed by art students.