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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

This is an interesting blog from James Hrynyshyn, who is a communication expert who writes a science blog called Class: M. I guess I never viewed it this way, but it is intriguing. The idea is that a human effect on climate is hard to believe because it runs counter to thousands of years of human belief, not just biblical but in other cultures as well, that climate is something so huge and beyond our human purview that it is totally counter-intuitive to accept that we could indeed be having quite a large impact on climate. It makes sense to me because I see a parallel with evolution, it is also counter-intuitive to accept that life's diversity could have occurred by simple natural processes and deep time (another completely counter-intuitive concept), and that humans are just a type of ape. It is easier to believe in a process of creation and design that one of evolution by random variation and selection. This is why I think science education is crucial, it opens to mind to countre-intuitive ideas, models, explanations, etc.


What do you guys think? Is this a possible good explanation?


Why it's hard to change a climate denier's mind

Category: Communication and Politics
Posted on: March 3, 2011 9:27 AM, by James Hrynyshyn

Four years after Al Gore unleashed his army of slide show presenters on the planet in an attempt to spread the word that climate is something we should be worried about, the polls show public opinion has budged hardly at all. If anything, opposition to climate-change mitigation strategies has only hardened. Why?

Some, like Chris Mooney, have turned their attention to the idea that there's a link between political ideology and psychology. There could be something to that, although it's unclear what's the cause and what's the effect. But University of British Columbia geographer Simon Donner has what seems to me to be a more powerful explanation. In a presentation to the American Meteorological Society at a recent conference titled "Making the climate a part of the human world" he argues:

It is unreasonable to expect a lay audience not armed with the same analytical tools [available to professional climatologists] to develop lasting acceptance of a scientific conclusion that runs counter to thousands of years of human belief in a one hour public seminar.

On the one hand, it's most frustrating to learn that people with no scientific training would dismiss the convictions of thousands of scientists who have devoted their entire professional lives to the study of the subject at hand. What hubris! But what Donner is saying is that that's entirely predictable, given how strongly embedded in the fabric of our culture is the idea that changing the climate is beyond the capacity of us mere mortals.

Donner isn't just talking about the Bible. His experience among Pacific Island cultures suggests that this notion -- that climate change is by definition the purview of forces greater than ourslves -- is near universal, predating the Judeo-Christian canon and deeply embedded just about everywhere we go.

He suggests that any communications strategy designed to shift public opinion on global warming literacy "needs to include the full history and development of human thinking about climate."

Great. So culling the collection of 380 slides that Gore painstakingly assembled down to something that fits into a 45-minute show isn't enough. Now I have to add another 100 slides on the religious and cultural forces that shaped our collective consciousness.

Of course, isn't the story of civilization one example of overcoming the biases of tradition after another? Donner likens the challenge of communications climate change to that of evolution, which still faces considerable opposition in this country and elsewhere. (A similarity that has not gone unnoticed by others.) The difference here being that rising global temperature averages imply a unique degree of urgency missing in other battles against historical prejudice. If Donner is right, then we may not have the time we need to overcome the primary obstacle to generating public support for the policy necessary to avert catastrophic climate change.

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I really do think the extreme variations in climate we have been experiencing is starting to turn the majority. They know something is different about this decade.  Global climate change will be accepted eventually.  


The reasons for not accepting it right now as stated in the blog are pretty spot on in my opinion.

That's good news!
It's not in our DNA to accept climate change. The above argument fits nicely with Richard Dawkins well made point that we are animals adapted to "middle earth". The cosmos is to big for our mind to easily contemplate and the quantum scale to small. We evolved for noticing rapid changes (the river is rising fast, that lion is running toward my child, etc) not long term changes to something so big as the atmosphere.

I agree with doone that people are slowly taking notice of the extreme weather. Sadly until we have a few massive hurricanes and droughts in the Southeast to many science deniers will continue to hold sway.
Yes, we have trouble with big scales, deep time, stuff like that. We may not have evolved for this, but we did evolve to be, is a social species, a "tribe" with leaders we respect, with "elders" (in this case, scientists) whom we trust. A big problem in my mind is that the general anti-science mentality creates mistrust; otherwise intelligent people should accept the evidence as evaluated by others that know much more than we do.
I agree that there is a general anti-science mentality.  I am in the process of reading a book, "Merchants of Doubt" by Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway.  They maintain that there is an active small group (not a conspiracy) of scientists who have done all they can to create doubt in the minds of the general public with regards to tobacco smoking, ozone hole, acid rain, second hand smoke and global warming.  Most of these people keep reappearing in all these policy arguments.  They are funded by right wing think tanks (Heritage Foundation, Cato, etc) and their bad science/anti-science message if propagated by credulous journalists.  Of course I think that the majority of Americans trust scientists but when the message is that there are two sides to an issue (and there really are not) the majority support no action.

It sounds like an interesting book. Yes, there is a very small group of scientists who are paid by corporate interests or right wing think tanks (aren't those two the same thing anyway?) who pretend to be "whistleblowers" but they are paid talking heads. Very often they are not even expertts in the field in question. They just have PhDs.


Another shameless group is the Center for Consumer Freedom, which runs media campaigns which oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, animal advocates, environmentalists and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calling them "the Nanny Culture -- the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, anti-meat activists, and meddling bureaucrats who 'know what's best for you.'"  In my book, they despicable.

CCF is registered as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization under the IRS code 501(c)(3). Its advisory board is comprised mainly of representatives from the restaurant, meat and alcoholic beverage industries.
You're right, most of the players appearing in the press objecting to the science of global warming are PhDs but in disciplines completely unrelated to climate science.  Not that any intelligent person could if the chose become an expert outside their discipline, but these players chose not to and just snipe from outside.  For us non experts we have a right to be skeptical of any claim until the vast majority of peer-reviewed and published reporting goes in a particular direction, then I think it is incumbent to follow what is then settled science (realizing that nothing is ever completely settled in science).  That global warming is settled science appears to be unimpeachable.
Yes, not only global warming is real, but our effects on these changes are a matter of well-established science. There may be discrepancies regarding time, magnitude, different models, etc., but at this point it cannot be disputed that human-generated carbon emissions are having a real impact on climate.
Yes, anthropogenic warming is having devastating effects on the Arctic right now, not to mention the increase if extreme weather events, and the future only gets bleaker.  Yet we in the U.S. are held captive to the Koch brothers and their science deniers in Congress.  I hope the U.S. wakes up and does something soon (before its to late for my kids).

short answer to question


 "Why it's hard to change a climate denier's mind" is..............



Clusterfaux news, and alllll it's many subsidiries..
 religion, is mass group hypnosis, not based on facts nor science.

Plus, i do think the initial labelling of it, as "global warming" was fodder for deniers who did not understand warmer ocean temps and summers = more snow.  They took photos of the giant piles of snow, and posted, "I'd like some of that global warming in my driveway please." etc etc.


"Climate change" is better name, as many other forms of change are resulting, globally, more hurricanes, droughts, floods, blizzards, etc etc..

The problem is most people don't understand the difference between climate and weather, basically because they've been fed a load of misinformation, but also because while weather is "simpler" to understand, climate is complex, and most people, like the article says, have difficulty thinking large scale or globally.


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