Alex & Andy: Madness or Culture?
One of the best things about this website is the quality of comments under posts. See for example Jaime’s latest on Scottish summers and RCP8.5 or Paul’s on Boris Johnson’s promises on climate and electric vehicles.
Comments cover everything, from weather to battery technology to the real reason for Boris’s new-found green mania. Sometimes a promising strand in the thread is cut short unnoticed, like a Briffa Siberian larch lurking nervously behind a Mannly Stripbark Pine. For example, this exchange between Alex Cull and Andy West on the thread below Paul’s article, which I reproduce, together with a highly relevant comment from Barry Woods. More comments welcome.
This is something I’ve been wondering about for some time, now. Some possibilities:
1) Politicians are stupid. We’ve all thought this, I’m sure, at some point or another. But is that strictly true? You don’t have to be a genius to see that a near-future mass rollout of EVs, a concurrent ban of petrol vehicles and gas boilers and ever more reliance on intermittent and non-dispatchable electricity generation will be a recipe for disaster and chaos. Not *all* of them surely could have taken a hard look at that prospect and been so dim as to think: nah, it’ll be all right?
2) So are they just deluded? Even ostensibly bright people, with degrees and all that, fall victim to the craziest ideas, as per Orwell’s dictum about intellectuals. However, I’m not totally convinced – these are politicians after all, and if nothing else, might not cold, hard self-interest inoculate them, to some extent? Could running the entire economy full-speed into a brick wall conceivably *not* be the sort of thing they’d want to be remembered for?
3) Could they be playing some sort of devious long game? Lying, in other words. Promote the lunacy in the short term, just to get the green zealots off their backs and steal the opposition parties’ thunder? Then start to reel it all back, once it becomes blindingly obvious even to the dimmest and least engaged members of the public that it’s not going to work? Again, I’m not entirely convinced. If this is some kind of clever 4D chess-type move, it’s also a very dangerous one, as their actions and signals *now* are doing damage, and the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to reverse. Would they really risk that?
4) Or could it just be short-termism? Look good now, hang the consequences later? Don’t think too much about what we could actually be facing in, say, 2030 or 2035. Get all the virtue-signalling and halo-polishing done now, while the country is still relatively prosperous, and leave a poisoned chalice for the opposition once the political tide has turned and everything has started to go belly-up?
Maybe one of the above? Or a combination? Or none of the above? What could it be?
Alex: None of the above. It’s a culture.
1) Not only is intelligence no defence against cultural belief, there’s some evidence that more intelligent people who are believers, are more culturally committed. Cognitive capability and knowledge is in service to cultural belief, so can better further this belief compared to less capable / knowledgeable people.
2) This is the closest, but still not in the sense of an individual delusion, which for example cold, hard self interest would typically counter as you say. Nor a medical delusion, cultural believers are perfectly normal in all respects; this is a feature of humanity not a bug and we’re all capable of cultural belief (and in fact several at once). However, cultures do impose a kind of group delusion, which subverts at the brain architecture level, so cannot be countered within individuals by logic or rational interests or such. As the subversion is subconscious, believers *honestly* and indeed passionately (uses emotive paths) believe, so they are not lying and they are not stupid.
3) This is essentially a conspiracy theory, albeit one that proposes a conspiracy against catastrophic climate change, not for it. Would require massively coordinated conscious lies by lots of orgs and individuals at all levels including the highest. Vanishingly unlikely, especially when there’s a much simpler explanation at hand – i.e. cultural belief. The latter coordinates *subconsciously*, it’s what cultures are for, so no lying required. Many, no doubt, are not full believers yet don’t actively disbelieve either, hence one could say they are to some extent pandering to the culture. But this is not actually a double-bluff or lying in that they still think it must be true, just they are just less than fully (emotively) committed. It is these latter folks that can be swayed, and even in the elite they out-number the emotively committed; Boris is very likely one such. In the general pop (i.e. not elite) of countries such as the UK, there are ways to tell that the vast majority of folks are not committed, probably >90% in the UK.
4) Essentially a variant of 3). Requires that there is a widespread conscious conspiracy with knowledge that it’s all not true, and within the elite too (where there are far more cultural believers). Far more likely that committed cultural belief is driving and convenient belief is pulled along in its wake. After all, this has happened endlessly throughout the entire history of homo-sapiens-sapiens. All religions, for a start. Many secular cultures too. Interestingly, strong cultures interact with each other, hence one can see the ‘shape’ of catastrophic climate change culture, via its profile across a wide range of nations having different religiosity. Hope to have some pieces on that soon.
Alex- another simple answer to: Why Tories? Why Boris & climate change, now?.. Carrie Symonds –
(Boris wants an easy life)
Crikey, an expenditure of up to £12 trillion (according to Bjorn Lomborg) and the radical reorganisation of society to go net zero between now and 2050 basically because Boris is henpecked. He got her the rescue puppy. It wan’t enough.
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I think William of Ockham would give the prize to Barry. Which isn’t to say that Alex’s and Andy’s explanations aren’t without merit. And note that they’re not mutually exclusive, since they operate on different levels. It could be that politicians are all mad because a new cultural movement requires madmen to put it into place.
However, none of the three reach the level of divine spiritual simplicity achieved by Professor Ed Hawkins before the Climate Assembly when he explained that heatwaves are caused by higher temperatures, which are caused by global warming.
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It’s those damn red stripes Geoff. I bet Boris’s tea cosy has loads of them knitted into it.
Yes but, Andy. Why do cultures coalesce around certain ideas?
Here’s one answer:
As I see it, basically, if parliaments are weak and unable to influence the economy and thus the well-being of their constituents, their members will still want to be seen ‘doing something’ and will the prey to any passing societal movement that is strong enough to appear to offer parliamentarians the promise of more power to do GOOD THINGS™.
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BILL BEDFORD’s link is to a lecture (1 hr 30 min) by Scottish economist Mark Blyth on Austerity (starts 13 min in.) Funny, interesting, so far. I’m guessing the link is that it’s about a daft idea (current euro-economics) being an immovable cultural phenomenon, immune to reason. I’ll keep watching. Thanks Bill.
LOL Climate assembly tomorrow – Session Travel
Panel one continued livestream
Jason Torrance, UK 100 – fairness and how that relates to surface transport (informant)
how about career eco activist who is anti-car and anti roads…
a co-founder of Earth First..
from the Guardian. Bowers and Torrance
“We knew EF US’s original hardline “rednecks for wilderness” attitude wouldn’t appeal here, so we set out to build a group that combined radical action and social justice to protect Britain’s few remaining natural places.
The idea was to remind people that the Earth was not dying but being murdered, and that the murderers had names and addresses. If somebody was trying to rape and murder your mum, you wouldn’t, we reasoned, write a letter to your MP about the issue – you’d physically intervene.
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Another speaker.. Lynn Sloman, Transport for Quality of Life – alternatives to cars (informant)
not just fossil fue anti car. but anti-electric car aswell…
Lynn Sloman was Assistant Director of the environmental pressure group Transport 2000 for ten years until 2002. She now runs a sustainable transport consultancy, Transport for Quality of Life, helping the government, local councils and voluntary groups find ways to cut traffic.
Barry, the ban on diesel and petrol cars was originally planned for 2040 and the government have now brought it forward to 2035 ‘or sooner if feasible’. We should be in no doubt at all that the intention is not to replace the 30 million or so current fleet of personal vehicles with electric vehicles, it is to severely restrict personal car ownership.
From a recent report by the Common Select Committee on Science and Technology re. ‘Decarbonising transport’:
124.A ban on the sale of new diesel-powered heavy-goods vehicles will be needed by 2040 in order for the sector to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This will require policies now that will drive the development of alternative technologies and demonstrate the technical feasibility of such a ban.
The current and future transport system
125.Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, noted that emissions were generated over the full lifecycle of a vehicle, not just as it travels. Indeed, research for the European Parliament estimated that manufacturing accounts for around 23% of an internal combustion engine vehicle’s lifetime emissions, and can account for as much as 80% of an electric vehicle’s lifetime emissions depending upon the source of the electricity used to charge the vehicle. In addition to the emissions associated with manufacturing, the availability of some of the materials required to make the batteries used in electric vehicles has also raised concern (see also Box 4). Mr Eastlake argued that in the long term, “we probably do not want 40 million very large electric cars circulating on our roads in the same way as we have 40 million vehicles currently”:
Our objective is not to have a lot of zero-emission vehicles on the road, but to have zero-emission mobility. That can be delivered through a combination of buses, cars, small L-category vehicles—not the current type—rail and trams. We need to deliver a mobility system, not a fleet of vehicles.
Few people are aware that this is what Greens are planning for the UK and this message has been lost in the current furore over the ban on the sale of ICE vehicles which is being spun as a switchover to electric. It won’t be. Many drivers will be forced off the roads altogether.
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The more intelligent and/or educated we are, the more reasons we can drum up to enable belief in the irrational.
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One possibility that hadn’t occurred to me earlier is that the “ban petrol cars” move could also have been an appeal to Conservatives’ trust that “the market will provide”. An over-simplification perhaps, but it’s a bit like the right-wing flipside to the left’s “the state will provide”. Both can be victim to hubris and “magical thinking” – either the state will defeat climate change in x years (Apollo project or World War II metaphor, take your pick) or the market will defeat climate change in x years (private enterprise and consumer choices will do it).
That’s not quite the whole story though, as Boris’s approach seems to be a hybrid of the two – the state bans petrol cars and then the market leaps into action to deliver.
Yes, the market can provide, if it can deliver solutions that people will want without being coerced – mobile phones are an example. There was never a ban on landlines. The Boris approach has sort of worked with light bulbs, although the ban on incandescents meant that many of us had to buy the not-as-good CFL bulbs for a while, before LEDs really started to take off.
But this is on a much vaster, more grandiose, hubristic scale altogether. Switching to EVs and heat pumps is not going to be like changing a light bulb! The transition being planned by this government would need magic to make it work by 2035 (or 2050, come to that) – and Harry Potter, as we Muggles well know, is fiction.
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Michael Shellenberger has an interesting take on unworkable solutions at 54 minutes into his great interview with Brendan O’Neill. Environmentalists don’t want to solve the problem. If they solve the problem, they have an existential crisis. That’s why they hate nuclear. It solves the problem.
Shellenberger is really pushing the outer edges of the envelope of environmental discussion.
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Yep, Shellenberger’s almost as much a conspiracist as me these days. And convincing.
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The way I was planning it, comments on unworkable solutions, EVs etc. would stay under Paul’s post, while this one was to be reserved for Andy’s criticism/interpretation of Alex’s thoughts. They are separate subjects, and I know from experience that Andy’s interventions often require long and detailed discussion.
As soon as the power shortages start, the idiots running the country at the time will have nowhere to hide. Until then it seems most people will shrug at the climate lunacy and try to carry on with their lives.
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If you start with the assumption that politicians will do and say whatever they BELIEVE at the time, will improve their long term employment, salary, pensions, sense of importance, power/influence, fan base, popularity etc, their behaviour is almost always “logical”, even though it may be deranged because of their assumptions and beliefs.
Conservative MPs are not going to criticise BoJo at the moment. Labour Leadership contenders can’t condemn Corbyn yet. Liberal MPs can’t remember whatshername, and don’t know what they do believe in.
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Geoff, I’m honoured 🙂
“And note that they’re not mutually exclusive, since they operate on different levels” – indeed.
“Yes but, Andy. Why do cultures coalesce around certain ideas?”
This is an excellent question, but the answer is much deeper than austerity and parliaments. Bear in mind that cultural entities have dominated us likely since before even homo-sapiens-sapiens (there’s evidence of religion in Neanderthal finds for instance). Hence the cultural forms have co-evolved with our biology (especially brain architecture), and the ideas around which they coalesce must satisfy certain criteria that were honed by that evolution. In turn these criteria are emotive, and seem always to involve fear and hope and anxiety and even joy and other emotions in a kind of cocktail. This still gives them plenty of flexibility regarding ideas that make the grade. But relevant to each era and civilisation there must be an overarching ‘umbrella’ narrative that can be expressed in only a few words yet invokes the top level of these emotions (typically hope and fear), while allowing for a vast plug-in of sub-narratives that gives the culture a much wider adherent base plus also a much wider narrative base via which to pivot as situations change (cultures adapt). So: ‘Jesus died to forgive us our sins, and if you truly believe in him, you’ll be saved as well so will not go to Hell’. Or: ‘We’re doomed from climate catastrophe but if everyone – that means you – truly plays their part and strives mightily towards soonest possible FF-free solutions, we’ll all be saved and have a utopia that is much better and cleaner and socially just than before’. To get the requisite *level* of emotion, the umbrella narrative almost always has to be existential in nature – but what it is saying is quite meaningless really. It comes down to “are you in the club or not?” because cultures are subconscious group coordinating mechanisms (which are also polarising, because if you create and in-group you create an out-group too).
Intuitively, we know it’s deeper than austerity and parliaments, because catastrophic climate change culture is blossoming in many nations with all sorts of different parliaments and different economic levels (or indeed no proper parliament at all really). So above says what sort of idea, but how do the actual candidates get chosen? Well it is self-selection. The more emotive narratives get propagated more, they engage people’s cultural machinery more as it were, and those people start to both believe and re-transmit more. The ‘best’ narratives not only rise to the top, they co-evolve (have idea sex) such that the best combinations succeed, and they’ll automatically be relevant to the era / nation / political situation etc because they wouldn’t get re-transmitted if they weren’t highly relevant. In practice, most of the memes are ancient, but as they constantly cycle around and around and take ever changing partners in the constant selection dance, they pick up the fresh paint and style of the latest era, despite having often extremely long pedigrees.
Here are examples of old core memes that you can find in climate culture:
Our era is special -> we are special -> we special people must fight to save our special era
The past is always better -> things are deteriorating -> the future is grim
The natural order is best -> unnatural brings bad -> we are unnatural -> we bring bad
They’ve remained universally untrue forever, but have evergreen popularity with the right lick of paint. There are many more. Quite a number are in direct contradiction yet still work in alliance (remember it is emotive selection that keeps them going, not rational selection!)
What Geoff said above is very true, deeper and more surface explanations can be compatible. At some point these deeper memes must translate to an era / society relevant form that appears to be something folks think is unique to their time and place, which could indeed involve parliaments and austerity, and certainly in the case of climate culture involves ACO2 and energy policy. But even the mainstream science that many think is afflicted by group-think does not say that ACO2 is going to cause a global catastrophe / end-of-life / the planet absent truly dramatic action to end FF use. The culture coalesced around this idea, that over decades was selected for wider and wider spread and more and more distilled emotive content, until you reach XR and wild policy and so on. What in the early days made this topic a good candidate was the genuine scientific uncertainty around how the climate system works (or may be perturbed), which allowed the existential emotive narrative to get its start in life, but it left science behind decades ago.
And for sure cultures feature massive virtue signalling (the ideal action from a culture’s PoV is that which spends lots of money, time, and infra-structure on the culture, but which can’t possibly solve whatever the existential problem is supposed to be). Hence politicians ‘being seen to do something’ are indeed both pandering to the culture and propagating its power and belief still further. Generally speaking they are doing so passionately and honestly, but it’s still virtue signalling – it really only means “I am a good and moral and lead member of this group”. In that sense, this is more a symptom than a cause, or rather it is both at once because cultures are emergent systems from various such behaviours of millions of people.
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Great. I’ll summarise, I hope fairly:
Cultural forces (or narratives) are implanted (or hardwired, I don’t mind which) by evolutionary forces which depend on emotion, not reason. They propagate and mutate like a virus, exchanging memes like genes in the normal evolutionary process for survival. “Criteria [for survival] are emotive, and seem always to involve fear and hope and anxiety and even joy and other emotions.”
I’m fine with this. I note that you give pride of place to the emotions of fear and hope, which obviously are the emotions relating to the future. Though distinctions between present and future were less clear for our ancestors, due to ignorance: “I hope we don’t get attacked tomorrow” is the same fear as as: “I hope there are no enemies the other side of the hills.”
First thought: Modern technology has sharpened the formerly blurred distinction between present and future. In a thousand ways we know all there is to be known about the present, and 90% of the spread of the technology to make that happen has happened in the past twenty years. Only the future is still unknown, though we’re better at guessing the future than our ancestors. But they’re still guesses, otherwise the words “hope” and fear” would change their meaning.
As always, I still want to ask: “Why this particular narrative?” and: “Why now?” Alex adds an important piece to the puzzle: the increased stupidity of our politicians and academics seems to be an objective fact. Why? No-one has ever suggested that the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity because he was stupider than his predecessors – rather the opposite.
“First thought: Modern technology has sharpened the formerly blurred distinction between present and future. In a thousand ways we know all there is to be known about the present, and 90% of the spread of the technology to make that happen has happened in the past twenty years. Only the future is still unknown, though we’re better at guessing the future than our ancestors. But they’re still guesses, otherwise the words “hope” and fear” would change their meaning.”
Culture quite happily distorts our perceptions of past, present and future, and is by no means limited to any such sub-domain, and seeing as how it is also comfortable with the ineffable, the fantastical and certainly the impossible, some of its imperatives can reach down into us in ways that transcend any such rationally set boundaries. This is because strong cultural narratives are fundamentally *irrational*; they have to be in order to fulfil their ‘purpose’ (which is to say the evolutionary advantage they once [net] granted, and may [net] still do). And their reach bypasses our rational centre to directly touch emotive hot buttons with no processing in-between to even perceive stuff like timeline, or indeed whether any fundamental incompatibilities in timeline presentation may exist.
So for instance regarding the present and past (as well as the future), many cultural adherents to catastrophic climate change culture (CCCC) firmly believe that the catastrophe is already under way *now*, and slaying people and species as we speak, and seriously damaging the planet at every *present* second that passes. And indeed Greta believes it ‘stole her childhood’, which as she is 17 already is largely in the *past*, as are many of the ‘carbon sins’ for the older industrial nations like the UK, for which guilt money / effort is now required. In the promoted eugenical nightmare scenarios propagated within Europe in the 20s and 30s, the Jews *had* (past) maliciously and deliberately infiltrated everywhere and *were* (present) turning society to degeneration and evil, so must be stopped *in order to save* (future) Europe. All three are utterly false. And all 3 contribute to the emotive hot buttons that ensnare adherents.
Technology has little direct impact on bounding cultural entities. As noted in prior exchanges here, revolutions in communication technology (hieroglyphs, writing, printing, telegraph, radio, TV, email, internet) have ripple-outward effects that may temporarily help one side or other in cultural conflicts. But long-term they help every culture (or instinctive scepticism against a culture, or even rational scepticism), equally. The things that can fight culture are the means to apply rationality and realism at social scale, because cultures depend upon distancing from reality / truth, and themselves are the ultimate group cohesion mechanism. So, these tools include the law and democracy and indeed the enterprise of science. But the technologies of science (which help discover truths) are only part of the equation, because it is the spread and belief in those discovered truths that is the issue. Here is the battle between science and culture, and it is ultimately a social battle, not one of technology. Whatever truths science discovers, culture is perfectly capable of distorting them, cutting the dissemination off at the knees, or even wholesale hi-jacking the science (which means at that point the technology is in service to culture, and will be used to promote it, *not* to discover truths). Climate science being a case in point, and for instance within that as some claim, climate models that use massive compute power merely to support the perceived truths of CCCC. Or wind turbine technology that is more akin to churches than to power stations.
This doesn’t mean that the law, democracy and science (of which indeed social science too) haven’t made progress against cultural domination. They certainly have. Much. But it’s two steps forward one step back, and net advancement is still surprisingly shallow. The great majority of our modern technological world is still religious, for instance, even while legions of them drive cars, use mobile phones, and avail themselves of modern medicine, some of which would not exist had it not been for evolutionary principles that many religions deny. And much technology is used to propagate culture. And now there is a major global catastrophic climate culture blossoming very happily in our technological world.
And culture is adept at evolving beyond our current state of knowledge, however we expand it. Because there’s always plenty of uncertainties that remain. Not to mention that the biggest uncertainty, is *us*. None of our technology and predictive power has made much of a real dint in predicting human society. It is an emergent wicked system probably far more complex and unpredictable than the climate one. This gives culture an effectively endless supply of uncertainty, which is unlikely to be resolvable even in principle and at any timescale. And if by some miracle we *could* resolve that, culture could merely invent a *perception* of uncertainty that isn’t true. Heck, everything else it invents isn’t true, and it already plays major games with certainty (creating consensus around an untrue ‘certainty’) and uncertainty (amplifying minor uncertainties into existential plays). The problem with fighting this tenacious phenomenon is that, considering even some animals have culture, it has a few million years start on us, and we are still a very very long way from catching up. And culture can always convince folks that (untrue) bad things happened in the *past*, to which they must react now (e.g. atone, relearn, rewrite the history books, whatever), and/or are happening in the *present*, to which they must react (e.g. curb suddenly defined as ‘inappropriate’ social behaviours), or indeed in the *future*, which they must strive to prevent.
“No-one has ever suggested that the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity because he was stupider than his predecessors – rather the opposite.”
I don’t understand why are you bringing stupidity into this? As I’ve pointed out all along, vulnerability to cultural narratives does not rest upon either intelligence or lack of it; we all have built-in cultural machinery and we’re all vulnerable. This is a feature not a bug, right down at brain architecture level. It’s a result of evolutionary (group) advantage. In a secondary sense, there is evidence that for those people who are believers, the more cognitively capable / domain knowledgeable ones can better promote and defend the culture, just like they can do a bunch of other things better too. But this emphasises still more that intelligence is in service to culture, not the other way around.
“As always, I still want to ask: “Why this particular narrative?” and: “Why now?””
So, not much of an ask them. Effectively, you only want the Holy Grail of social science that 150 years of solid progress has not discovered. That if we knew, and knew at scale across society (not some tiny ignored voices in corner somewhere) would utterly transform humanity. You only want the name and phone number of the next god in the series: bull-man, zeus, yaweh, communal utopia, eugenical demon, green blob. Okay I missed out about 999,994 as homo-sapiens-sapiens has had about 100,000 spiritual religions in the past and some secular ones latterly, but you get the gist. Because if we knew *exactly* why the last one arose, we could indeed accurately anticipate the next one.
Well, the solid progress has provided some guidance, if not an actual answer. And that guidance says we can *never* know, because it is not a deterministic thing. The next big global one to arise is the product of the aforementioned wicked emergent system. And just like for the climate, we know the sorts of cultures that can emerge, we can catagorize them somewhat, we even know some of the kind of conditions that help such phenomena arise, and so on and so forth. But we cannot predict the next big one. And by implication, while we can look back retrospectively and say ‘this condition’ and ‘that characteristic’ and ‘this subgroup’ promoting emergence, and ‘those elite connections’ and ‘the other’ fortuitous acceleration ‘due to that’ social collapse, or whatever, are all *compatible* with the arisal, this is hugely short of “why this narrative” as opposed to the practically infinite choice of others, and “why now”, as opposed to the wide date range that was possible. In determining that long list of factors, cultural theory fades out and standard history, politics, and domain knowledge become a useful guide.
BUT… that guide must be used in conjunction with cultural basics, or the whole project will be massively off-base from the off. For instance, resting on an utterly false assumption that this has something to do with ‘stupidity’, and hence searching uselessly for causation paths linked to same. And cultural analysis can still give a running start even to the political / historic phase; the interaction of catastrophic climate change and religious faith globally, is nothing short of amazingly revealing imho, I hope to have articles on same soon. And for instance a comprehensive memetic analysis (easier with the internet) of all the highly emotive (so high selection) memes circulating within bounded dates / societies / strata, and domain categorised, would be a hell of an advantage, albeit an almighty effort.
“Alex adds an important piece to the puzzle: the increased stupidity of our politicians and academics seems to be an objective fact. Why”
He adds no such thing. Which is not to demean his comment, because he is raising proposals that for sure need addressing, and for sure it can often *seem* like this is the case regarding stupidity specifically, ***if you don’t take culture into account***. But no way has he presented ‘a fact’, in regard to stupidity. And as I have said many times here before, including in my answer to Alex, and I’ll say again – cultural adherence has nothing to do with stupidity!
Now if Alex had said: “I have an objective double-blind IQ test of all our politicians. And I have compared it to an identical test of the same sized sample of folks from a cross-section of walks of life similar to the politician distribution, yet with the critical exception that none of these folks are or were politicians, or have ever even had aspirations to become same. And guess what? Definitely and significantly outside of the error margins and with good ‘p’ significance, the politicians have less IQ than the control sample – they *are* stupider!” Then, subject only to an independent confirmation and validation of the methodology, this would very closely approach, a fact! And it is highly likely in any case that, within the error margins, any such test would produce the exact same result for both samples. But at any rate, without such a test there is no ‘fact’.
If you mean some other characteristic that is not *not* stupidity, and you don’t want to go with cultural adherence either (whether weak, i.e. ‘convenient’ belief aka disabled innate / instinctive skepticism, or strong, i.e. as in full emotively committed believer in CCCC), then you have to express better what it is you do mean.
Damn, I wrote a lot. Sorry.
Geoff p.s. I was assuming Alex is new to the stupidity / dishonesty arguments, but you are not 0:
I’ll admit it, I was mainly just chucking around ideas and seeing if any might stick. 🙂 Andy, your idea of a cultural belief is good and would seem to be a fit to much that we’re seeing. I was also struck by “committed cultural belief is driving and convenient belief is pulled along in its wake” and have noticed that it’s happening in local politics in the UK, where councils everywhere have declared a “Climate Emergency” – the zealots are driving it and the rest are being pulled along, either giving lip service or trying to square it somehow with limited budgets and other pressing priorities.
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As you say, “Culture quite happily distorts our perceptions of past, present and future,” because of it being largely unconscious. Freud showed how the unconscious ignores temporal differences, with people from the past popping up in dreams etc.
Jumping over some important stuff that needs thinking about, you say you don’t understand why I brought stupidity into this: because Alex did, making a reasonable point about what seems to be an objective fact – that our politicians really do seem to be stupid. (I take him to mean stupider than they were even a few decades ago, while you take him to mean stupider than the general population, but no matter.) Taking the Labour Party as an example: the post-war party was an uneasy alliance between a huge trade union movement, whose leaders could hardly get to the summit of million-strong movements without being pretty bright – and some extremely sharp middle class intellectuals. The modern party has brought on board millions of women, descendants of immigrants, and otherwise marginalised groups which presumably have huge untapped sources of intelligence – and look at them. Alex’s question is a simple one, but its answer lies not in an overarching theory of what cultures are, but in a lot of detailed analysis of contemporary society.
And I mentioned the Emperor Constantine because Christianity – irrationally based cultural phenomenon or not – was a huge improvement on what went before – morally, (no more animal sacrifice, torture, infanticide,) but also intellectually. Some cultures really are better than others. Environmentalism is a step backwards from whatever you call the dominant culture today, as Seventh Day Adventism is a step backwards from Catholicism.I can’t prove those assertions of course, though I could support them with evidence.
Similarly with my questions “Why this particular narrative?” and: “Why now?” OK A full answer would require omniscience; but a partial one should be possible. We do it with the rise of Bolshevism or National Socialism. Climatophobia is demanding Lenin-size sacrifices, and no-one knows why.
Here I think we’re bound to differ, because my idea of an explanation would be a summing of dozens of micro-explanations (in terms of social class e.g.) each one of which might be a lifetime’s work for a social scientist. All we can do is write the plot summary for a book which will never be written. In this book your theory would be the first chapter. But then it would have to progress at a lower level of abstraction. I’ve mentioned many times the rise of a particular part of the middle class – those involved in media, communications, PR, advertising etc. – opinion merchants. Other factors I’d suggest are: the rise of feminism; the brake on the sexual revolution represented by AIDS; later childbearing; cheap travel; decline of print media in relation to electronic; and a host of technological changes like free photography; data crunching apps for dummies etc.
And stupid politicians.
“Jumping over some important stuff that needs thinking about, you say you don’t understand why I brought stupidity into this: because Alex did…”
Fair enough. But while he hasn’t been through this loop before, you have, and I don’t think there’s anything new raised here 0:
“…making a reasonable point about what seems to be an objective fact – that our politicians really do seem to be stupid.”
It is indeed a reasonable point to raise. But ‘seems’ and ‘seem’ are doing a lot of work here. And as per previous passes and explicitly in my last response, there is actually no objective fact here whatsoever regarding their level of stupidity, which remains completely unmeasured.
“(I take him to mean stupider than they were even a few decades ago, while you take him to mean stupider than the general population, but no matter.) Taking the Labour Party as an example: the post-war party was an uneasy alliance between a huge trade union movement, whose leaders could hardly get to the summit of million-strong movements without being pretty bright – and some extremely sharp middle class intellectuals. The modern party has brought on board millions of women, descendants of immigrants, and otherwise marginalised groups which presumably have huge untapped sources of intelligence – and look at them.”
If you mean labour is a mess at the moment, then I’d agree. But in the bigger picture (I guess in any sizeable group there must be some stupider individuals) this has nothing to do with individual stupidity. Generally speaking, and in the longer term, diversity of ethnicity and background in a group increases it’s capability (more viewpoints to compete), assuming this is not so wide as to split. So if anything the labour stock, so to speak, should have increased. And indeed you have part of the explanation yourself: the intelligence is ‘untapped’. This is not a case of stupidity; efficiently tapping the intelligence of everyone within a large organisation is a high challenge problem that in turn everyone in the org must be invested in to some degree (so it’s a dynamic process with high feedback, can easily go wrong). Even with a far, far narrower remit, corporations know this criticality and spend inordinate amounts of time on it. Ironically, they must use culture to get everyone aligned to best contribution in the same direction. But it’s a risky game. Too little, there is confusion, wasted contributions, even conflict, instability of goals and overall strategy. Yet too much, and the opposite problem occurs, an unshakeable purpose and goals and hard consensus locks in, which unfortunately rapidly diverges from reality; there is internal virtue signalling, arbitrary narratives, denial of technical realities and demonization of out-groupers (e.g. whistle blowers), etc. This is exactly what happened to Enron, for instance.
I do not pretend to have any insight regarding Labour’s current predicament, it’s not something that I’ve devoted any time to. But merely out of curiosity after the election, I have read quite a number of the opinions in the press and online venues regarding the reasons for their woes, from people who at least presume to know something. And I note that not one has mentioned any level of causation due to more stupid people within the ranks of labour politicians, or indeed within the much wider ranks of those (even before new membership rules) that form Labour party character and strategy. In one form or another, I saw ‘out of touch’ quite a lot; this is not stupidity.
“Alex’s question is a simple one, but its answer lies not in an overarching theory of what cultures are, but in a lot of detailed analysis of contemporary society.”
As noted above (and on various previous occasions), when attempting to characterise the trajectory of a phenomenon such as the catastrophic climate change movement, inclusive of it’s entanglement with other cultures and social structures (such as political parties or business), you need both. The cultural theory does the heavy lifting regarding primary motivations, widespread public attitudes, expectation / confirmation of characteristics such as consensus enforcing, consensus narratives (and analysis of narrative variants), demonization, and a whole lot more, see here: https://judithcurry.com/2015/11/20/climate-culture/
…while the detailed political / historical / domain knowledge analysis fills in a mass of detail that the cultural angle alone cannot possibly determine. However, if you mean by ‘simple one’ Alex’s indeed reasonable proposal regarding specifically ‘stupidity’ as causal, we can indeed answer this without any reference to a detailed analysis of contemporary society. There have been some unfortunately stupid people in history who for one reason or another have found themselves in influential positions and have managed to leave significant damage behind them. But there is no theoretical explanation anywhere that I’m aware of, which proposes stupidity for the rise or characteristics or fall of any phenomena such as religions or fascism or other secular cultures (catastrophic climate change is one of these). Or indeed for the *long-term* fortunes of any political party, notwithstanding damaging blunders by both less intelligent and indeed highly intelligent people. And we have an explanation for these (catastrophic climate change) behaviours that fits endless cultures down the ages.
“And I mentioned the Emperor Constantine because Christianity – irrationally based cultural phenomenon or not – was a huge improvement on what went before – morally, (no more animal sacrifice, torture, infanticide,) but also intellectually. Some cultures really are better than others.”
Absolutely. And so whether Constantine, culturally influenced by his mother, would have gone for it or not, it is pretty likely that the improved culture would have won out in any case, maybe only an emperor or two later, maybe much later. If it didn’t win, there were various other improved cultures competing at that time so one would almost inevitably with; Mithraism was one contender as far as I recall.
“Environmentalism is a step backwards from whatever you call the dominant culture today, as Seventh Day Adventism is a step backwards from Catholicism. I can’t prove those assertions of course, though I could support them with evidence.”
Well I can’t prove that catastrophic climate culture is a step backwards either, but I’d nevertheless agree with you in hazarding a guess that indeed it *is* a step backwards. At least from modern benign religions if not the forms of a few centuries back, and certainly a big step back from a period of history that has probably been least dominated by culture forever, i.e. the modern post-war West as religion has faded. But I guess that was too good to last, in that there’s a cultural vacuum so to speak, which the longer it lasts is the more inviting to a new intruder. A specific issue that emphasises this, is the characteristic of children to accept cultural templates, which they evolutionarily are primed to receive, and as the religious templates that fulfilled that function have faded out, it is far harder to protect them from intruders through that phase. And not only are they *not* being protected, as extolled by the good Bish, the catastrophic climate change cultural template, with all the right emotive touch-points, is being pushed hard at them in schools. Much more on the whole child angle plus template thing here: https://judithcurry.com/2019/07/29/child-prophets-and-proselytizers-of-climate-catastrophe/
Overall, there is no reason to assume a linear improvement of one culture to another in sequence. Especially as many have occurred in parallel, and interact with each other at various different phases and positions within the bigger developmental advance. For sure regions can go very seriously backwards; and there’s nothing to stop the whole globe going backwards, the only thing stopping this in the past was the lack of geographical connectivity. Nor are individual cultures (e.g. Christianity) fixed in terms of their net social benefits, they evolve / split / merge and go through good and bad phases in different regions simultaneously. Overall, cultures often start very bad for us, because the characteristics they need to spread and take hold maximally, just *are* bad for us. Over time and having accumulated a large following, they evolve to be more benign, such that they have less chance of burdening their hosts too much relative to competitive cultures. Sub-branches or spin-off cults can go through a mini version of this cycle all over again though.
“Similarly with my questions “Why this particular narrative?” and: “Why now?” OK A full answer would require omniscience; but a partial one should be possible. We do it with the rise of Bolshevism or National Socialism. Climatophobia is demanding Lenin-size sacrifices, and no-one knows why.”
We have a very decent indeed partial one already, notwithstanding it could still do with much more improvement for sure. It’s a culture. And precisely how and why that culture got started has received good attention using the political / historic / social analysis side of the contributions too. I think it was Rupert Darwall for instance, who did the great analysis of the early climate shindigs and traced the growth of the concepts plus their escape out into the wilds of the public. My own overview of all the catastrophe narrative variants for the last 20 years (also at Climate Etc) makes a handy contribution here too. But as you note, this is a case of thousands of contributions; perhaps an all-inclusive integration might be the biggest piece missing, not least because some at the political analysis end have difficulty acknowledging an ultimate cultural motivation (whatever corruption or other secondary issues have occurred on top). However, I recall in your case you did say that you are comfortable with this, but… if so I do not think this is compatible with ‘stupidity’ as a significant cause.
“Here I think we’re bound to differ, because my idea of an explanation would be a summing of dozens of micro-explanations (in terms of social class e.g.) each one of which might be a lifetime’s work for a social scientist.”
Well per above we need this too. But the only reason it would take lifetimes is if one *didn’t* use the theoretical basics underneath to know where and how to look. That’s what makes the two together more powerful. Yes it takes years, but some has already been done, and the chief difficulty is I suspect is not the extra investment in time, but that 99.99% of all the usual people and disciplines that would normally investigate this kind of thing, are *not* doing so, because of cultural blindness or cultural pressure or outright cultural thuggery that is preventing them from doing so!
“All we can do is write the plot summary for a book which will never be written.”
It is being written, very piecemeal, as we speak (even this conversation is part of it). Albeit we may not live long enough to see the finished work. But you never know, you never know. And bear in mind re your point about Bolshevism and National Socialism and various others, all the books figuring out how they worked and unfolded were written after the main characterising events too, if not all after many decades of consequences and continuance. And those books are still being improved, with cultural aspects being one contributor. Hindsight is a great tool! It may be great to wish we could do better with CC, and I wish it myself, heck all of my posts are probing the thing. But that doesn’t mean we should have some kind of major expectation that we ought to be doing much better for some reason.
“And stupid politicians.”
Per above, I think there is no shred of evidence or theory anywhere to back this up. I think you need some in order to continue. They are either culturally convinced, or convenient believers pulled along in the wake. I think it’s fair enough if you translated your intuitive feeling into: “cultures are stupid”. Of course they are; in order to fulfil their purpose they must necessarily be blatantly untrue, along with a host of other non-rational characteristics. But people who believe in them, or even who are dragged along by not exactly disbelieving, are not stupid. They span all the range of cognitive capability. Cultural belief is, right down at brain architecture level, a bypass of our rational centre (however more or less capable that centre happens to be).
I didn’t mean to drag you into a detailed argument about stupid politicians. I don’t see that as an underlying cause, but simply a manifestation of something deeper.
My micro-explanations have to be observable changes in society (empirically verifiable, at least in principle) acting over decades, occurring at the time and in the countries where Green ideas have taken root (essentially North West Europe and the English-speaking countries.) For the stupidity of politicians I would substitute the dumbing down of society generally, observable in the fact (and I’m quoting a source I don’t have to hand) that tests of arithmetical and reading skills which had shown a steady progress started to level off and even fall a little, first in the USA in the fifties and then in Europe a decade or two later. Emmanuel Todd in a recent book attributes this to the advent of TV, which causes a decline in reading at the young age when it develops the mental skills necessary for critical thought.
“Dumbing down” is the kind of accusation that serious commenters tend to avoid because it’s so easily distorted for political ends (e.g. by an élite discussing the “deplorables”) but it seems bloody obvious to me. Modern newspapers, public libraries, or the books on sale at WH Smith are more “fun” and infinitely less useful for stimulating or satisfying curiosity than they were thirty or fifty years ago. I couldn’t prove it in less than 200 pages but it’s just so. This is the context in which politicians can be stupid, or simply act stupid, because no more is demanded of them.
I’ve mentioned Dominic Cummings in a comment somewhere here today. Those who detest him do so, not because they disagree with him, but because his mental processes are invisible to them. Criticisms I’ve read come down to no more than considering him a snotty cleverdick. I’ve no idea whether his ideas are sound, but I can see what he is, a man obsessed with getting the right answers and willing to work extremely hard at it. This quality is not so much denigrated by his critics; they can’t see it. They can’t engage with his thinking because it’s simply invisible to them, hidden in articles too long and complicated for their attention span, written by someone with a motivation that escapes them. (They’d have the same problem with your articles at Climate etc.) I don’t know if he’s as clever as some think, but Cummings is certainly a man out of fashion.
I wasn’t offering the Labour Party as a causal factor. Anyone could have found a dozen similar examples of powerful groups which have suddenly started exhibiting high levels of stupidity for no apparent reason, in academia, the BBC etc. They’re stupid about climate, but they’re stupid about a lot of other things, so one might think climate needs no special explanation.
I’m going to stop there. In a few years they’ll be coming to rip out your gas boiler. Discussing why does seem a little pointless sometimes. The thing is to resist.
“I didn’t mean to drag you into a detailed argument about stupid politicians. I don’t see that as an underlying cause, but simply a manifestation of something deeper.”
Then what is the deeper?
“For the stupidity of politicians I would substitute the dumbing down of society generally…”
Pretty much all nations at all times have bewailed about dumbing down and things going to pot, ‘the past is always better’; it was a big thing in Roman society. Hence I’m immediately wary of this as a causal explanation, as usually it’s nonsense (these memes have circulated for endless millennia). And even where briefly it happens to be true, that’s usually a symptom not a cause, such as occurred in China in the great proletarian revolution (which of course was due to culture). In any case, catastrophic climate change is blossoming in many countries across the world with different education systems and different levels of attainment and so on. I’m pretty certain there’s not a direct relationship of its support in those countries with the level of educative attainment, but there could well be an indirect one, because there are two types of clear relationship with religiosity across all nations. One of those relationships is that climate activism is highest within the most irreligious nations, which, albeit roughly, would I guess have some correspondence to a *high* educational achievement, not low, i.e. the opposite direction to your prediction. [For good reasons of cultural mechanics, the US and Vietnam do not correspond to these religiosity relationships]. And here in the UK, given we have more graduates than ever, plus a secondary school / intermediate level (e.g. tech college / apprenticeships) of achievement also massively more than when my parents were children, even if the standards have eroded somewhat in more recent years, society is way ahead of where it was decades ago and very far from dumbed down. Of course, culture can bias or outright hi-jack the education system, and indeed John Shade and the Bish have done good work showing that this process has been under way for years in UK schools – but this has nothing to do with stupidity or dumbing down, it’s to do with culture invading the classroom and inculcating children en-masse.
“This is the context in which politicians can be stupid, or simply act stupid, because no more is demanded of them.”
I think the direction of motivation is completely the other way around. Far more is demanded of politicians; their cultural loyalty above any principles, or their career, their friendships and maybe even their family links may all be forfeit. And the green blob is only one of several cultures leaning on them right now, though the one with by far the biggest policy implications.
“I wasn’t offering the Labour Party as a causal factor. Anyone could have found a dozen similar examples of powerful groups which have suddenly started exhibiting high levels of stupidity for no apparent reason, in academia, the BBC etc. They’re stupid about climate, but they’re stupid about a lot of other things, so one might think climate needs no special explanation.”
But these other examples, let’s take the BBC, are clearly not about stupidity either. The BBC is culturally sold on the catastrophic climate change thing. Because even if that factor was magicked away, the org has clearly developed (per my corporate examples above) a very unhealthy and insulated internal culture, which therefore makes them as an entity far more vulnerable to invasion by much bigger outside cultures, for which they will then lend aid and virtue-signalling, and of which catastrophic climate change culture is but one. This is a shining example of cultural factors, not stupidity. I’m willing to bet that the average IQ of the professional staff at the BBC beats the general population, as would be the case for a number of corporations. These are not stupid people. And if you mean corporate not individual stupidity, then there’s no prizes for guessing what that really is, and how it works. Yes, there is much irrational behaviour in your examples; saying this is ‘stupidity’ entirely misses what is really going on; systemic group irrationality means culture is in the driving seat.
“I’m going to stop there. In a few years they’ll be coming to rip out your gas boiler. Discussing why does seem a little pointless sometimes. The thing is to resist.”
Well I’m not going to argue against resistance by any means. But otherwise, I hugely disagree. It’s highly relevant and useful to know why this is happening. And ultimately, it’s the same reason why Communists came to take away your property or National Socialists came to take away your Jewish neighbours or why the earlier church burnt scientists, and why all of those and many other cultures both spiritual and secular ultimately prefer to take away your freedom of speech too, at least for certain controlled domains.
You have yourself above, drawn comparisons regarding an understanding of the climate change phenomenon, with other largely culturally driven phenomena such as National Socialism. But stupidity is no more a cause or even a major symptom of the latter, than it is for catastrophic climate culture. And in principle, it’s a great deal easier to know how to resist something if you know what it is. For instance if this was largely stupidity, they would only come for the boiler and the car due to some massive misunderstandings that indeed amount to stupidity. And they likely would give up with strong resistance; stupidity is actually easy to defeat. But I happen to know that it’s a culture, so if this gets past a certain threshold they will not only come for the boiler and the car, they also will come for the right to resist same, and eventually even the right to verbally protest same, and ultimately every other right including that of mentioning any downsides like many more excess cold deaths, or accidentally doing any science that gives the ‘wrong’ result, or expressing any morality whatsoever that contradicts the narrative of climate catastrophe in any way, shape or form. Strong culture can be very hard to defeat indeed, not least because it wields the massive combined intelligence of millions of clever people.
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The “politicians are stupid” argument sounds to me like a variant of the “politicians seem to be lower quality than they were in the past” argument, which could also be described as the “today’s politicians are crap” argument.
I seem to recall that Jeremy Paxman presented a TV documentary for Channel 5 a few months ago called “Paxman: Why Are Our Politicians So Crap?”.
Ann Widdecombe had a go at explaining the lower quality of British politicians in the 21st Century in this Daily Express article:
In the article she identifies what she thinks are two major factors. One is the desire by political parties to meet diversity quotas, which Widdecombe thinks has resulted in a large number of low quality female MPs going into Parliament. Another factor is the increasing portrayal in the media of MPs as being “naturally lazy, sleazy and corrupt”, which Widdecombe thinks puts off higher quality people now going into politics. Back in the 1970s that particular portrayal of politicians would be pretty much limited to Private Eye magazine, but possibly due to the influence of the long-running BBC comedy panel show “Have I got news for you”, which seems to have always embraced a Private Eye-type view of politics (and includes Private Eye’s editor Ian Hislop as one of the team captains), this cynical view of politics seems to have got well established in the mainstream media.
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Speaking of stupid:
In setting targets for nuclear weapon safety, the US Army came up with the idea that when deciding the acceptable threshold for deaths that might be caused by nuclear accidents, one should compare against the numbers of deaths caused in the preceding 50 years by floods, earthquakes, tropical storms and other natural disasters. This calculation was first made in 1955. Since then, global warming has caused an increase in the incidence of natural disasters and so, even without doing anything, nuclear weapons will now meet their safety target by an increased margin. When it comes to global warming, environmentalists always concentrate on the negatives. They never mention that it has made nuclear weapons seem so much safer.
I’m thinking of posting the above comment on an alarmist website, just to see how many people take it seriously. If one takes for granted the stupidity of those that disagree with you, then every remark they make can be taken at face value, no matter how stupid it appears.
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ANDY WEST 12 Feb 20 10.53pm
What’s deeper than the stupidity of politicians (deeper in the sense of more fundamental, not necessarily more intellectually profound) is something about the development of our society over the past fifty years that has got us to where we are. A satisfactory description of that something would have to explain why the alarm of a small number of scientists about a barely perceptible change in temperature has been elevated by environmental activists, the media and politicians into a catastrophe acknowledged by the whole western world, while similar alarms (the Club of Rome, Ehrlich on population, resource depletion) all of which have received similar hysterical coverage in the past, ran their course and died a natural death, or at least declined to manageable proportions. There are still plenty of people worried about overpopulation etc., but they aren’t able to demand the spending of trillions to solve their pet problem, or keep opposing views out of public view. Why?
What you’ve done, and done very well, is place the current climatophobia in a general context, explaining how such things happen. What I want to know is how and why this particular thing happened. I’ve indicated in dozens of comments the general lines of my thinking, in terms of the rise of a social class whose economic activity revolves around the exchange of information and opinions – in journalism, public relations, advertising etc. and which in quite recent times has become signifiant enough to act and think as an autonomous social entity – the chattering classes. There’s nothing particularly profound or original in this idea – Delingpole and Rod Liddle make the same point every week. But instead of simply mocking the luvvies I’d like to provide explanations, and that would demand a tremendous amount of detailed work, and couldn’t possibly be backed up by double blind-tested empirical evidence at every turn, as you seemed to demand at one point.
Dumbing down in the West, or at least a halt in the steady progress of competence in reading and arithmetic, seems to be established empirically. There is the claim that modern generations are differently intelligent, thanks to the internet, etc. I don’t buy it, and could produce a host of anecdotal evidence to support an archaic far-right view that the western world is going to the dogs intellectually, but I’ll leave that for another day. I’ll also stop making comparisons with past cultures, e.g. the rise of Christianity, since it leads us too far astray. (Incidentally, I’ve never seen it claimed that the revolution in China was accompanied by a dumbing down. Literacy and every other measure of intellectual advance has gone steadily upwards for a century in China. The persecution of intellectuals under the Great Leap Forward is typical of periods of revolutionary advance – e.g. the protestant revolution, where the rejection of the Catholic church was the rejection of the Latin-speaking élite.
To stick to the current subject; you say:
If you tried to establish a correlation between level of concern about climate change and educational attainment of course you’ll fail, because the data is garbage. Once again, I reject the demand for evidence based on empirical quantitative data. It limits the discussion to what the powers that be (governments and academics) care to provide in the way of data. The fact that professors and journalists can tell us with a straight face that people in the Philippines, say, are very concerned about global warming is an example of the dumbing down. (OK, it’s also culture, but you can’t adopt a culture like this one without having been dumbed down beforehand.)
People in the Philippines are naturally pissed off that their miserable shacks are blown away in every hurricane, and no doubt aware that there are millions of dollars to be had in blaming it on global warming. I can allow myself a level of political uncorrectness that would get a sociology professor sacked in any country in the freethinking, free-speaking Western world, and say that I don’t give a monkey’s what the Filipinos think about global warming, at least as assessed by some cock-eyed transnational survey conducted in the height of summer in a topical country where no-one has air conditioning. (And how do you say “global warming” in Tagalog? Oh, “Pag-iinit ng mundo.” So the idea of “global” only arrived with the Spanish then, and when I translate “pag-iinit” back into English, Google Translate gives “heating.” Guardian readers, are they?)
Your suggestion of establishing a relationship between religiosity and climate belief is a good one, but, as you point out, the USA provides an immediate exception to the rule of negative correlation, so let’s abandon it and look at the question historically instead of quantitatively.
Briefly, I’d suggest climatophobia has two geographical sources; 1) Germany and Scandinavia, where it owes its prevalence to strongly implanted Green parties; and 2) the English speaking countries, where the main scientific authorities are based (NASA, Tyndall/UEA, etc.) The rest of Europe takes its orders from their Green parties, which are influenced by Germany, and the rest of the world from the UN and the generally all-pervading influence of Anglo-Saxon culture.
[Slightly off-topic: here in France, fifteen years ago, English teachers in search of a hot topic article in the English press to give their pupils would always go for something on global warming, so much so that when I got them in the university first year they’d be well fed-up with the subject. So when I was teaching Geography students I thought I’d try and find something a bit different, and happened upon David Evans (Mr. Jo Nova) and the missing lower troposphere tropical hotspot. Which is how I got here.]
It would be impossible to support this point of view empirically, and I don’t care. My only “proof” is my own intellectual honesty, which has been the scientific weak spot of history since Herodotus. I’ll just have to live with it.
Certainly. And that goes for any élite organisation or subgroup you care to mention. We don’t live in a meritocracy for nothing. Perhaps my (and Alex’s?) definition of stupidity is not the same as yours. “Culturally blinkered” maybe comes closer. But I’m using the word “culture” in a different sense from yours. I’ve hardly seen the BBC except the evening news and occasionally Q.I. (which I hate, though it makes me laugh) since “the Office” which I consider a profound commentary on our times. The characters in “the Office” have university degrees and the intellectual horizon of a Brueghel peasant, but they watch Q.I. and think they’re clever. That’s dumbing down.
When I said “Discussing why does seem a little pointless sometimes” I was just expressing a sense of pessimism that comes over me about twice a day, so of course I agree entirely with you when you say that you hugely disagree.
I also hugely agree with you in your final paragraph when you say:
That’s an excellent formulation of something that most of us have great difficulty formulating – a vague Godwin-defying intuition that it’s worse than we thought. Perhaps it’s your habit of analysing at the abstract level of culture which furnishes such an insight. Perhaps its the same level of abstraction which results in these discussions which seem to me to be based more on misunderstanding than real disagreement.
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For a classic example of alarmist spin, one need look no further than the BBC’s headline coverage of the impending Storm Dennis, provided last night on the 6 o’clock news. To paraphrase, it went something like this:
Storm Ciara was awful but Storm Dennis is going to be even worse. It’s all down to global warming don’t you know.
Cut to footage of flooded homes and businesses.
And scientists say the ice caps are melting, which is causing sea levels to rise. This means that coastal regions are even more vulnerable. Over to Bob on the Norfolk coast.
Bob: Yes, here on the Norfolk coast whole houses are being swallowed up by the sea as the effects of global warming take hold.
Cut to footage of houses disappearing over clifftops that have actually been receding for thousands of years. To be precise, we are talking about 12 miles in the last 10,000 years. The current rate of retreat is an average of 2 meters a year, which is (you guessed it) 12 miles per 10,000 years.
They were still at it this morning when referring to the 2015 floods in the village of Mytholmroyd. According to the BBC, ‘thousands of homes were destroyed’. Not bad for a village with a population of only 4,000.
The situation is bad enough, but not, apparently, for the purposes of the BBC’s campaign of hysteria and misinformation. And it’s all done so effortlessly. I don’t think the BBC is stupid. I think they know exactly what they are doing – they just don’t think it is wrong.
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>“…or at least declined to manageable proportions. There are still plenty of people worried about overpopulation etc., but they aren’t able to demand the spending of trillions to solve their pet problem, or keep opposing views out of public view. Why?”
This constancy of meme survival you note here is a clue. All of these memes (there are very many) have pedigrees that go back essentially forever. And as you imply we carry a huge circulating load of them all the time. And they constantly spark new combinations that can then co-evolve, and indeed those that via selection rise to the most propagated umbrella narratives typically host a plethora of others that play their part, even as they also have an independent existence. So, Ehrlich’s population thing is actually making a reasonable current living *within* the CC domain as well as without, possibly more propagation within, actually; climate becoming the primary excuse for the need to reduce pop. And in this way, many of them help each other even as they also compete (co-opetition). So it isn’t usually a case of one outright winner and the rest losing. It’s about the best co-evolving combinations. And indeed CC hosts an almost bewildering heirarchy of others. Remember, all these memes are nonsense, they do not have to be logically compatible in the slightest (and few are), only emotively compatible. Plus, Ehrlich’s version of the pop meme is just a lick of modern paint on Malthus, which is just a lick of paint on what went before him, and so on backwards in time. The same for climate apocalypse too. They’ve all been around the loop many times. A theme of a whole bunch of them as religion has declined and science has risen (~150yrs), is how to take advantage of the increasing space left behind by declining religion (especially in the West), and lever the authority of science to do it. One successful shot at this last century was Eugenics, but it was not so evolved to the task, and success really came as a combo of this with ‘more traditional’ anti-Semite memes and also other National Socialist emotive fairy tales. So, potent combinations again. A century on, catastrophic climate change (CCC) memes are far more evolved at doing this, and have also co-evolved all the right partnerships (note: all this is via selection only, there is no sentience or even agency).
CCC memes have also been around forever – they likely formed the primary ethos of an entire civilisation once, the Lambeyeque, if the proposals around their man-made mountains and other remains are correct. BUT… CCC memes could not hi-jack a science discipline that essentially didn’t yet exist! So the starting gate is having sufficient of this, hence can’t even begin to happen *in the modern form* before say the 60s or 70s. So, this is a significant part of your “why now”, given also there must be many years of momentum-build to get global and truly influential after the initial incubation. And when it did first start, it started as the cooling scare, not the warming scare. Emotive memes can be nothing other than opportunistic, given they work via selection, and that was the most opportunistic option at the time (the temp was actually falling, and handy links to nuclear fears at the time – nuclear winter – emotive memes can link just as easily to other real or imagined fears, or combos thereof). Probably cost it 15 years. But the fact that the cooling scare transitioned so very easily into the warming scare, with some of the actual same people still in the ride (e.g. Schneider), emphasizes that this is nothing to do with what the science or any rationality might say; it’s just an exploitation of emotive reactions with uncertainty as a major gateway. But… a weakness of Ehrlich’s species of population catastrophe meme is that it’s just too easily provable wrong. It is too near term and explicit regarding dire predictions plus exactly why they would happen, in terms you don’t need big science to evaluate. The big winners tend to be much more cloaked than this, especially in the early stages. Now all of these emotive meme species are fairy tales, and so this weakness is by no means fatal. His stuff is renting business premises from climate catastrophe and making hay. It would likely have stumbled on without CC. But it would really need a major refresh and significant new subsidiary partnerships if it was to become a lead biggy itself, plus a much better angle at hi-jacking science – this is where the big paydirt is for emotive memes currently. The genuine uncertainties regarding a scientific understanding of the climate, are a huge opportunity for CCC memes in this respect, and emotive memes rarely miss an opportunity. The out-sized authority of computer models are just one fantastic and yet relatively normalised response (so, doesn’t just look like a bunch of crazies, per XR). But this cannot have happened before widespread powerful computing that can support these models – 90s at least.
Of course, if a cultural narrative consisting of an umbrella and many subsidiary emotive memes *does* manage to convince half the population and hi-jack the right parts of science too – it can afford to be much more dire than when it was more delicate, by then objection is far more difficult. Which doesn’t mean that dire won’t be tested all the way down the line, just that it risks harming the narrative before those variants are suppressed, and sometimes it will extinguish or at least damage the pedigree (so to some extent, Ehrlich was premature ejeculation, and nor did he have a supportive science domain behind him to act as incubator). As influence rises, opposing views can indeed be undermined or suppressed, as you note. Yet this occurs via a long rise and is generally done by hi-jacking sub-domains in order; cultural elites are particularly vulnerable (and useful), as are any orgs that have already sacrificed themselves to *internal* culture and virtue-signalling (so ripe for hi-jack – the BBC springs to mind). But if a science discipline is hi-jacked first, in our era this can be a key to nearly everywhere.
>“What you’ve done, and done very well, is place the current climatophobia in a general context, explaining how such things happen.”
>“What I want to know is how and why this particular thing happened.”
Above scratches the surface, but it is *a particular* explanation based upon how cultural narratives prosper and influence us, in history and wrt our current (scientific) era. And comparing / contrasting with your example of Ehrlich’s stuff. You can similarly compare and contrast many other stuffs. As I’ve stated throughout, on top you need to layer the historical / political and domain expertise analyses coming from the other direction, but you must have *both* and they should meet in the middle. There are extremely good descriptions of the incubation and escape of the climate catastrophe narrative. And hook-ups with different politics (e.g. left of centre, Dems in US, right of centre Merkel climate chancellor, in Germany) or other allies, have much material on them that is surprisingly open because of course the writers don’t think there’s anything wrong with those relationships. But in distinguishing between say CCC and Ehrlich-species population catastrophe, you are essentially focusing on quite narrow co-opting properties each of those possess, and the early timescale when either may or may not have gained critical inertia, and so around 30 years ago or more anyhow.
>“I’ve indicated in dozens of comments the general lines of my thinking, in terms of the rise of a social class whose economic activity revolves around the exchange of information and opinions – in journalism, public relations, advertising etc. and which in quite recent times has become signifiant enough to act and think as an autonomous social entity – the chattering classes. There’s nothing particularly profound or original in this idea – Delingpole and Rod Liddle make the same point every week.”
I think the way we’re talking past each other here is that you think the rise of CCC is something very unusual. And hence it must have explanations that are largely to do with things that are specific to our era. But this is not the case. CCC type entities, albeit having a wide range of strengths and scope and temporal stability, are absolutely business as usual for the whole of history. So the explanations are largely rooted in what has always been the case for humans. And come to that, there have been chattering classes since at least agricultural societies (~10,000 years), and likely much further back (discoveries of hierarchical agglomerations of many thousands, long before farming). We know of similar activities and the critical role of gossip (= ‘power without responsibility’) even in small hunter-gatherer tribes. Hence I’d agree with you there’s nothing profound about the current chattering class at all. Of course cultural narratives are bound up with whatever society they find themselves in, and adapt to be appealing to the most vulnerable sections of same – but this doesn’t make the current chattering class causal. Evolution may make flippers out of legs if the seas slowly flood the land via the intermediate stage of marshes, but legs aren’t causal in making flippers, that was evolution. This doesn’t mean either that a top-down analysis should dismiss the specific mediums of society through which cultural narrative travels, or the functions that it infects. And things do go hand in hand. The same compute technology that provided the opportunity of computer modelling authority, supports social media. But this doesn’t mean you can pin it on computers either. The truth is that these things are *emergent*. Hence all factors ‘matter at once’, so to speak. But your implication always seems to be within your dozens of comments re chattering class, that this must be a significant causal factor. I disagree, in the sense that there have been cultures forever, and chattering classes essentially nearly forever. That they are formally more sizeable now is just a quantitative thing, and only incremental on each generation having more leisure and more chatter across about 200 years (in the West). It’s also a mistake to assume that large numbers of those who in the past were not associated with careers in information, ‘chattered’ any less than much of society now. In the modern era more of the chatter is captured; if you want to see unofficial society grabbing memes in Roman times, you often have to look at graffiti, of which little is recorded. The official ones, such as Christianity, are of course very well recorded.
A good clarification for an emergent system where everything ‘matters at once’, is to rank what you think are main causal factors. A nuance is maybe to add timescales of action.
>“But instead of simply mocking the luvvies I’d like to provide explanations, and that would demand a tremendous amount of detailed work, and couldn’t possibly be backed up by double blind-tested empirical evidence at every turn, as you seemed to demand at one point.”
Agree, mocking them is pointless. The test (for politicians) was to establish IQ. I by no means demanded anything. You said that the ‘stupidity of politicians’ seemed to be an established fact. I pointed out that without such an IQ test, there was no such established fact at all. And indeed it’s extremely unlikely that they’d score lower than the general populace. Mistaking the group irrationality of intelligent people driven by culture, for individual stupidity (or a range of other individual characteristics), is common.
>“Dumbing down in the West, or at least a halt in the steady progress of competence in reading and arithmetic, seems to be established empirically.”
Re test scores, this is extremely recent, still modest, and still leaves the West generally ahead. As noted above the climate catastrophe thing was well under way several decades ago, albeit it started on the cold foot before shifting to the hot foot. Western competence was still very much on the rise at the time. And not only that, the current drop-off (which very likely is a *symptom* not cause of strong cultural gains, such as identity politics and CCC), is *relative*. The entire world has risen dramatically in this respect, and on the background of that rise the West has (patchily) lost some of its lead. And even in an absolute sense, we are still miles and miles ahead of where we were in my parents’ time – very recent history. Huge swathes of youth have degrees; by 2017 42% of the entire UK pop up to 64(!) had higher education achievement. If the degrees are worth a little less than thirty years back (some say so), the sheer volume easily outweighs this in terms of total educative attainment in the populations. If your proposition is that educational decline is significantly causal regarding catastrophic climate change takeover, then either in an absolute sense or a relative sense, this simply does not work! And as noted last time, CC has infiltrated many nations with all sorts of different education features.
>“There is the claim that modern generations are differently intelligent, thanks to the internet, etc. I don’t buy it, and could produce a host of anecdotal evidence to support an archaic far-right view that the western world is going to the dogs intellectually, but I’ll leave that for another day.”
Largely, I don’t buy it either. Large-scale intense activities do both culturally (and obviously longer timescale) select for different skills. But to date I don’t think this is material to our vulnerability or lack thereof to culture, even if a minor change compared to say 30 years back, could be measured. And testing for it is an issue anyhow.
>“I’ll also stop making comparisons with past cultures, e.g. the rise of Christianity, since it leads us too far astray.”
I think such comparisons are highly relevant!
>”(Incidentally, I’ve never seen it claimed that the revolution in China was accompanied by a dumbing down. Literacy and every other measure of intellectual advance has gone steadily upwards for a century in China. The persecution of intellectuals under the Great Leap Forward is typical of periods of revolutionary advance – e.g. the protestant revolution, where the rejection of the Catholic church was the rejection of the Latin-speaking élite.”
Well if you don’t think wiping out intellectuals and stigmatising the application of intellectual effort isn’t dumbing down, I don’t what is. It’s the most extreme example one can think of. I didn’t say it wasn’t typical of aggressive cultural turnovers (some of which may be termed ‘advance’ in the longer term, and some of which may not); quite the opposite, I agree that this is the case. My point, which essentially you reinforce here, is that it is a symptom and not a cause. Nor did I say it would last forever, so for instance interrupt too much the longer term rise of advance in China, or any other nation that might be so afflicted. Typically, it’s a short-term thing, maybe fixed within 20 years as the fervour dies back. But in terms of people’s lives, and the damage that 20 year period of stigma can do, it is still very real. On a very gentler scale, any modest dumbing down so far recently observed in the West (re test scores) is highly likely also to be a symptom not a cause.
“If you tried to establish a correlation between level of concern about climate change and educational attainment of course you’ll fail, because the data is garbage.”
Nonsense. I suggest you have no evidence of this. If you do, prove me wrong and present it 0: That doesn’t mean I’m sufficiently knowledgeable in the right literature and surveys to make the analysis. But I think it highly likely that reasonable data exists which is sufficient to navigate biases and make some reasonable first pass propositions. Of course no-one in all the right disciplines is likely to be looking, because that’s not the sort of thing the cultural narrative of climate change would want you to look for. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be dug out.
“Once again, I reject the demand for evidence based on empirical quantitative data. It limits the discussion to what the powers that be (governments and academics) care to provide in the way of data.”
Not at all. Only if you take *their analyses* at face value. Why would we do that if we suspect the parties providing said analysis are hopelessly biased? So we do our own. Or take various analyses from several sources, including governmental, and compare. Bear in mind that in a science orientated cultural conflict, the non-orthodox side may also be invested in culture and bias, so all sides must be navigated. But if you have raw data, usually most of these issues are avoided, and in looking for very simple relationships then simple trend analysis can go a long way.
>“The fact that professors and journalists can tell us with a straight face that people in the Philippines, say, are very concerned about global warming is an example of the dumbing down. (OK, it’s also culture, but you can’t adopt a culture like this one without having been dumbed down beforehand.)”
But analysis of the basic surveys (aka raw data), tells us in fact that the professors are right, but only for *for Allied Belief* in catastrophic climate change culture (CCCC), the Philippines scoring incredibly high (>75%) in *unconstrained* surveys on climate change concerns. However, what they don’t say is that in reality *constrained* surveys (e.g. a sufficiently large priority list choice, in which priority on climate change is an option), the Philippines scores incredibly *low* (<4%) for CC as the top priority, aka *Core Belief* in CCCC. This *apparent* paradox is not a paradox at all *if you know how cultures work*, and is entirely explainable by the relationship of CCCC with religion – the Philippines is a very high religiosity nation, and the higher is religiosity the higher is the gulf between Allied Belief (which completely disappears when reality is applied) and Core belief (full-on emotive commitment to CCCC). This is fantastic evidence that CCCC is a secular ‘religion’, as there is no other explanation that plausibly fits these trends, and this evidence is collected from *data*. Science (yes, even social science) is our friend when all else is in confusion. We (merely!) need to step around the biases. Is that a challenge, yes! Do we abandon science and data, no!!
Part of the above ‘paradox’ is that they should have, and on shallow evidence at least do have, one of the lowest climate activist rates, despite the incredibly high allied belief. This is because of their religion, which essentially has taken advantage of the easy virtue-signalling aspects of CC, without giving an inch in terms of true commitment, which their real faith (Christianity) keeps to itself. No doubt they’ll have some politicians angling for climate money. But there is not push from the people (very low relative to push norms in irreligious nations), whether they live in shacks or not.
>“Your suggestion of establishing a relationship between religiosity and climate belief is a good one, but, as you point out, the USA provides an immediate exception to the rule of negative correlation, so let’s abandon it and look at the question historically instead of quantitatively.”
Most certainly we won’t abandon it! Why would we abandon science and data! Per the above case of the Philippines, the relationships across many nations are highly informative, and could only occur if the catastrophic climate thing was cultural (in the public domain). The US is not an exception to explanation! It is an exception to a *simple* subset rule involving religiosity that holds across many nations. I have Core belief rule conformance for 48 nations, and with no reason to suspect further exceptions, and Allied belief rule conformance for 22 (unfortunately need more survey cover for rest of the 48, and it’s not available to date that I know of). And the US is the most highly researched / surveyed nation of all regarding social data, of which simple surveys and pre-main-analysis data (so ‘raw’ enough) are available. It’s a more complex case because the unique lib/dem v con/rep cultural clash that makes it behave like 2 nations in one, but it *is* explainable in cultural terms too, just not within the context of the simple rule.
Did Steve M say ‘forget the science’ when he realised it was compromised? We’ll just wing it or whinge. No! He went and did the science himself. My skills are very vastly lower, but we should do the same in the social domain. The social science is indeed compromised; so we should do it ourselves, and this is highly revealing even at the very basic level I’m at.
>“Briefly, I’d suggest climatophobia has two geographical sources; 1) Germany and Scandinavia, where it owes its prevalence to strongly implanted Green parties; and 2) the English speaking countries, where the main scientific authorities are based (NASA, Tyndall/UEA, etc.) The rest of Europe takes its orders from their Green parties, which are influenced by Germany, and the rest of the world from the UN and the generally all-pervading influence of Anglo-Saxon culture.”
A look with some intuitive insights that would nevertheless benefit hugely from *data* to back it up. And which doesn’t explain why “1) Germany and Scandinavia” have “strongly implanted Green parties” in the first place, or come to that *why* ‘The rest of Europe takes its orders from their Green parties’ especially when until the very recent EU elections they were very modest in size. Nor does it explain for instance why public scepticism (aka lack of allied belief) *and* activism (due to core belief) are simultaneously highest in Sweden, which is the opposite situation to the Philippines. Or similar in Denmark and Norway, but why Finland has less of both. Or why these things are much more emphasized in Sweden / Denmark than in any English speaking nation, or indeed Germany too. Or why youth in the West are more activist than adults, and for instance why this is more prevalent still in certain nations like Spain. Or for instance how GDP per Capita is a secondary effect after religiosity in a way that is opposite to what one would expect from the less-wealthy nations activating to get climate $. I don’t pretend that we can answer all these things yet, but I’ve thrown in a few that I’ve a damn good lead on, and *data* will one day tell us the answers to all of these things.
>“It would be impossible to support this point of view empirically,”
Of course it wouldn’t! Why on earth do you think that? You may be wrong, of course, and you haven't actually said much that's very specific above so this mitigates being wrong or right 😉 . But for sure this view could be confirmed or challenged by data, even though researching it would be a challenge for non-experts. But for instance if the GWPF hired an unbiased couple of bright folks and gave them a year to produce, I’m sure you’d have data good enough to show whether the view was largely right or wrong, mostly why, and in the wrong case where the path leads to instead.
>“and I don’t care.”
What!!?? You don’t care whether your proposals can be shown to be b*ll*x or not?? No kind of analysis I’m familiar with!
>“My only “proof” is my own intellectual honesty, which has been the scientific weak spot of history since Herodotus. I’ll just have to live with it.”
Your intellectual honesty is unimpeachable! BUT… this is also ‘proof’ of absolutely nothing. It helps that this means you would consciously be trying to avoid bias. But walking away from available data that can hugely help, means you will albeit inadvertently only walk towards bias, because data is the North Pole of truth, so to speak, and anywhere away from it is hence going south…
>“Perhaps my (and Alex’s?) definition of stupidity is not the same as yours. “Culturally blinkered” maybe comes closer. But I’m using the word “culture” in a different sense from yours.”
But ultimately, this is the thing, I don’t think you are using it in a much different way. You’ve migrated the description of what you’re trying to express from (per my PoV) individual stupidity, to communal dumbing down, to culturally blinkered. And while full-on emotively committed belief in catastrophic climate change is ‘cultural’ writ very strong, the same mechanisms cover various different types and strengths. ‘Group think’ is a modest / local form, for instance; one can think of this as culture writ small. ‘Allied Belief’ (my term) in X as mentioned above, occurs when innate scepticism is disabled because one is invested in a culture that is loosely allied to X. It might be termed a ‘lack of disbelief’, which is thus accompanied by a lack of questioning, but not an actual committed belief. And more. It is something at this end of the scale that I think you meant all along, but without the concept to express it. And even committed belief comes in strengths (there is usually the equivalent of a ‘Jesuit wing’, for instance). As religion has faded and the initial surge forward of science is bogged down in all sorts of enterprise and domain difficulties, a myriad actual cultures, and just cultural behaviours like being far more insular and virtue signalling in orgs where there is little consequence for same (so more in the BBC than a business that answers to shareholders – though it happens there too), have risen to fill the vacuum. These behaviours whether directly driven by an actual outside main cultural activity such as CCCC or leftish identity culture or right populism, or only the result of local / insular substitutes, are however nothing to do with individual stupidity (as I think we now agree), or dumbing down – where the latter occurs it’s *because of* this return of cultural behaviours in multiple forms. And as the clear relationship of religion with CCCC across many nations shows (and yes the US can be worked out too, albeit the answer is more complex as it’s a 4-way cultural dance), if you want a single modern event to pin this all on, the decline of religion is likely the best one.
>“That’s an excellent formulation of something that most of us have great difficulty formulating
>“Perhaps its the same level of abstraction which results in these discussions which seem to me to be based more on misunderstanding than real disagreement.”
Well I agree that we agree on much. And abstraction may be part of the issue of missing each other, but this does naturally lend itself to more objectivity too. And per above I think also another difference between us is that you appear to think this scenario is highly unusual, and I think its business as usual. This is partly abstraction too, in timescale. And full explanation needs the deep / long / theory *and* the short / near / detail, because neither have it covered alone. But on the data thing I have to disagree. On any timescale at any level of abstraction or not, the data can only help. It can just as easily turn over an assumption based on the deep / theoretical, as one based on the near / detail, or indeed support either too. It is the friend of truth alone, not the friend or enemy of either (or any) approach to truth. Without it, we will never know what is truly happening.
“I don’t think the BBC is stupid. I think they know exactly what they are doing – they just don’t think it is wrong.”
They absolutely know that they are promoting the issue, which as a corporate entity they believe in. And they believe passionately as well that we the great unwashed need to know about it daily and act upon it pronto for our own existential good. Yes indeed, this isn’t just not wrong, it’s heroic!
But they don’t know it’s a culture, they think it’s science. And within the entity (also overlapping heavily with other climate change invested entities and individuals even more ardent), they are all contributing to making each other blind regarding any possibilities that might contradict the narrative, such as the long-term geological significance. Science says it’s so; should any contradictory science ever be glimpsed beyond the filter everyone is applying to everyone else, it must of course be trumped by *the* ultimate science – finicky details don’t matter compared to existential threat.
Geoff, I just noticed that for some reason half of one of my paragraphs above got mysteriously cut off;
[Comment corrected – Geoff]
I suppose somebody should point out what the dictionary definition of ‘stupid’ is. According the web version of the Cambridge English Dictionary, it means: “silly or unwise; showing poor judgment or little intelligence”.
Some people contributing to the thread seem to be interpreting ‘stupid’ as being limited to meaning ‘low IQ’, but you can have a high IQ and still display poor judgment (Theresa May would be an example).
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Much claimed poor judgement in politics and social conflict, is a function of the observers not the person assessed, given there is frequently a wide range of opinions as to whether it exists or not and to what degree. Such assessments are often performed retrospectively too, when the picture is clearer and new info is available to the assessed (who may not or may not have taken the same decisions, but even they may not know) and the observers too. While intelligence but lack of knowledge can indeed lead to what a majority of observers might consider to be poor judgement, this is in part a tool of cultural operation anyhow, because strong culture blinds its adherents to whole swathes of knowledge, and substitutes false consensus derived by emotive selection. Other adherents wouldn’t assess as poor judgement, obviously. For systemic ‘stupidity’, the main choices are still low IQ or cultural influence. If it’s an individual, we can’t know. If it’s a group, this is almost certainly cultural influence / belief, unless one has a damn good reason why the group was selected for lower IQ *and* why their actions are apparently coordinated.
Lots to absorb and agree with there. Your point about memes needing the right environment to incubate and flourish (e.g. computer power to run the models) is known as Morabito’s Law. Maurizio formulated it on his blog Omnologos years go, noting the incredible coincidence that things start to get catastrophic right at the time we become able to measure them – e.g. dangerous Arctic melting just as satellites start overflying the North Pole.
Ehrlich’s domain was butterflies. Not sure that an incubator is much help in cases of premature ejaculation, unless…
[Sorry, my mind tends to wander]
Really? Rupert Darwall’s is the only book-length one I can think of offhand, but no doubt there are many I’ve missed. But the heavy lifting was all done on blogs. Ben Pile was/is the best, and if he compiled his Climate Resistance posts he’d have a monster.
When I get on my hobbyhorse of the chattering classes you say you think we’re talking past each other. Maybe, but I still find I can learn something from the crosstalk. Your mention of gossip among the hunter gatherers is particularly apposite. The whole point of being a Guardian reader is to know stuff other people don’t, preferably about something important. The civil war in Libya is a bit of a conversation stopper, but the future of the planet – who can be bored with that? It’s share tipstering for people who disapprove of betting on the stock market.
Your figure of 42% of the population aged 64 and under with further education seems way too high. By further education I mean after school i.e. post A-level, and 64 year olds would have left school in 1974 or so.
Agreed, comparisons with other cultures are fascinating, and necessary for you to establish your thesis about the omnipresence of cultural memes. It’s just that there they take us off subject here. (I’ve got a book of graffiti from Pompeii but I don’t remember any memes.)
I was going by figures for literacy, and you on the horrors of Maoism, so we’ve changed sides on the nature of our evidence. A country can advance intellectually while putting its best minds in prison.
My reasons for saying that polling evidence is garbage when it comes to transnational levels of concern on a subject as misunderstood as climate change are multiple, but simple. Impossibility of establishing the meaning of key terms across languages and cultures; impossibility of conducting the survey in the same fashion in countries at different levels of technological advance; (How do you contact respondents? By internet? Telephone? Face to face in the shopping mall/village compound?) The international surveys I’v seen are all conducted at the same time, i.e. summer in one hemisphere, and winter in the other. It’s in the nature of weather that there will have been a hurricane here, and a chilly month there, an Attenborough epic on your telly, and a minister of ecology sacked for feeding his friends lobsters at the taxpayers’ expense on ours.
But my point was that the raw data isn’t there because, as you rightly say: “…no-one in all the right disciplines is likely to be looking, because that’s not the sort of thing the cultural narrative of climate change would want you to look for.”
Look at the academic work on climate denialism. We all know that we’re here because of the blogs, yet the hundreds, possibly thousands of academic studies of denialism barely mention them. The forerunners decided that the story is the Heartland Institute, the fossil fuel lobby, and Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. This is a Soviet Union-level of academic suppression of the truth. Hoping that the raw data is out there somewhere to prove us right is wishful thinking.
Excellent paragraph on the Philippines which I’ve restored as instructed. I guess the same is true for Pakistan. Have you got a reference for the stuff on Core belief, Allied belief and religion, or do we have to start from scratch?
I know my intellectual honesty is proof of nothing. This was part of an internal debate I have with myself about the relative value of quantitative and qualitative survey methods. As a market researcher I gravitated from the former to the latter because I was bored with percentages and correlation coefficients. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I did some research for the government which resembled the Climate Assembly setup, in that it involved prompting respondents with information. It’s scientifically valueless, since there ‘s no way of insuring against researcher bias, yet it can get useful results (I was told by the lady from the Ministry.) For the Ministry of Defence, our team contained an ex-anarchist, an ex-communist, an American socialist, and a lady whose companion had written a history of the IRA. We did a good job because we enjoyed it, I suppose.
On the stupidity of politicians, I suspect Alex means something nearer “incompetent” or “not fit for purpose.” There’s a link to dumbing down in every sneer at Boris Johnson when he quotes a Latin tag, or at Cummings when he links to some weirdo mathematician. We’re all agreed that I.Q. is irrelevant to this discussion.
Dave the relationship between stupidity and intelligence is complex and commonly variable. I am much reminded of the relations in comedy duos like the early Morecambe and Wise. Here the straight-man (Ernie) considers himself urbane and wise but is stupid in his self pretence. But Eric is the more stupid for believing in Ernie*.
In the same way otherwise wise people may be stupid when they admire specific stupid ideas or people holding those ideas.
* Later Morecambe and Wise shows altered the rubric by occasionally giving Morecambe straight roles, thereby increasing the comedic value of Wise (and his apparent stupidity).
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>“…Morabito’s Law. Maurizio formulated it on his blog Omnologos years go, noting the incredible coincidence that things start to get catastrophic right at the time we become able to measure them – e.g. dangerous Arctic melting just as satellites start overflying the North Pole.”
I remember this law. Although it’s true I had forgotten it again 0:
>“Really? Rupert Darwall’s is the only book-length one I can think of offhand, but no doubt there are many I’ve missed. But the heavy lifting was all done on blogs. Ben Pile was/is the best, and if he compiled his Climate Resistance posts he’d have a monster.”
I said nowhere that descriptions had to be in a formal book, or that blogs don’t do heavy lifting. And in our last engagement on a similar topic, I indeed specifically mentioned Ben as a good source too.
>”Your figure of 42% of the population aged 64 and under with further education seems way too high. By further education I mean after school i.e. post A-level, and 64 year olds would have left school in 1974 or so.”
It’s from the Office of National Statistics. Note, per the opening line they exclude from the figures all those who are actually still on an education course at the time of measurement, presumably on the presumption that they may or may not come out with something… ‘In July to September 2017, there were 34 million people aged between 21 and 64 in the UK who were not enrolled on any educational course (Figure 1). Breaking these people down by the highest qualification they held: 14 million, or 42% were graduates. 7 million, or 21% had qualifications equivalent to an A level. 7 million, or 20% had qualifications equivalent to an A* to C grade GCSE. 3 million, or 9% had “other” qualifications not categorised in the UK. 3 million, or 8% had no qualifications.’ The nation has never been as educated as we are now.
>“Agreed, comparisons with other cultures are fascinating, and necessary for you to establish your thesis about the omnipresence of cultural memes. It’s just that there they take us off subject here.”
Direct relevance is a matter of opinion – I think it is indeed necessary as a base component, because the same co-evolved bio-cultural mechanisms are driving in all cases. For instance a big majority of the planet is still religious (and religions go back eons of course). Not only does social data point to a major dual-pronged relationship between CCCC and (equally for all) the main faiths, I don’t think there’s any way to explain that duality unless CCCC, as indeed as my labelling implies, is also a culture following the same rules (in the public domain). The comparisons are sometimes directly relevant regarding particular features or effects.
>“I’ve got a book of graffiti from Pompeii but I don’t remember any memes.”
Technically, it’s all memes (memes just means info snippets). But I know what you mean. Not seen stuff specific to Pompeii, although I have actually been there. But you’ll need to get past the big knobs and acclamations of love and grading of local prostitutes and the amazing amount of Roman football hooliganism with the usual rival town (aka gladiatorial loyalties and ‘slice the visiting side’, which they often did literally), and on for instance to the interesting religious scepticism and bewails of society falling apart plus the past is better and back to nature etc.
>“I was going by figures for literacy, and you on the horrors of Maoism, so we’ve changed sides on the nature of our evidence. A country can advance intellectually while putting its best minds in prison.”
Goodness me. There will not be sensible internal figures for literacy (the most basic step) and indeed higher educational achievement, which are the figures we were discussing above, in the midst of a cultural explosion that is busy hosing such achievement, or indeed sensible figures from around that period at any time afterwards while the emergent regime is still in power. I presume there’ll be outside analyses. They extinguish or enslave or imprison many of the intellectuals and create major stigmatism regarding intellectual activity, generally the biggest spike within a relatively short period. The total educational level / intellectual engine of your country drops like a stone. It’s no good having educated people if they’re in prison or tilling the fields until they drop, because in reality they’ve ceased to be contributing the benefits of their education to society. And, for quite a while, you can’t create new degree-level achievement either, because you wiped out the system and those capable of staffing it. Yes, if this clears the way to educating masses that had previously been held back (not always the case), then over a period of years you will, slowly at first and then more quickly as newer output eventually reaches the higher levels of education, overtake the old total volume of educational achievement and carry on upwards. As I pointed out in the last comment. But you are meanwhile dumbed down, and in the cruellest fashion, for quite a number of years minimum. A crop of 5 year olds in the new system won’t come out with their degree level for 16 more years. Some who were older at inception will benefit sooner, but not benefit as much because education works far better when it’s started very young, and as noted above there is also the difficulty of system restart / rebuild inertia. Nor are regimes generally able to surgically target the specific type of intellectual that they’ve decided is superfluous to requirements or holding them back. Heavy turnovers pretty much always get out of hand and splurge all over the place, so removing useful function and in this case also meaning that it takes quite a while before intellectual activity generally, i.e. even the ‘right’ sort, is properly embraced again, because of the stigma and because folks will be fearful. For the third time, my point if that this is a symptom not a cause, and the cause was cultural. Such mild (and completely gentle) dumbing down as is observable from test stats in some Western nations, in the context of a massive world rise in which the Western lead is (patchily) reduced, is highly likely also to be a symptom not a cause. The culprit cultures being numerous and various (and at various strengths / cohesiveness) but including victim culture, identity politics, CCCC, and more.
>“My reasons for saying that polling evidence is garbage when it comes to transnational levels of concern on a subject as misunderstood as climate change are multiple, but simple. Impossibility of establishing the meaning of key terms across languages and cultures;”
No. The useful surveys for what’s happening in society are not probing climate science. They are probing attitudes to climate change. Hence there are many surveys with a wide range of very straightforward questions, such as “how much do you think you will personally be impacted by climate change”, followed by a short range of response options from ‘naff all’ to ‘a great deal’, and some in-between. These are universally understood, no technical terms are needed, and publics from Sweden to Serbia or Great Britain to Ghana or Ireland to Indonesia have no difficulty whatsoever in responding. Cultural mechanics as interpreted by moi suggests that the answer ‘a great deal’ to that particular question, should be very culturally aligned to catastrophe narrative as propagated by CCCC, and hence should also have a direct and strong relationship with religiosity. And this turned out to be exactly the case (over 22 nations).
>“…impossibility of conducting the survey in the same fashion in countries at different levels of technological advance; (How do you contact respondents? By internet? Telephone? Face to face in the shopping mall/village compound?)”
You think most professional survey outfits the world over are not very familiar with the approaches and potential issues? The big My World UN survey was conducted over several years, used several of the above, maybe all, and others too (e.g. SMS), and especially within the low HDI countries polled masses of folks (almost a million in India, for instance). Much of this was conducted via hundreds of partners world-wide, generally either international polling orgs or local-with-necessary-knowledge orgs. And all it’s doing is getting people to state which are most important to them out of a list of easily understandable major and universally recognised issues, of which ‘action on climate change’ is one. Not the most major challenge regarding translatability or ensuring the commonality of approach. And perfectly adequate for cross-correlation purposes.
>“The international surveys I’v seen are all conducted at the same time, i.e. summer in one hemisphere, and winter in the other. It’s in the nature of weather that there will have been a hurricane here, and a chilly month there, an Attenborough epic on your telly, and a minister of ecology sacked for feeding his friends lobsters at the taxpayers’ expense on ours.”
The above UN survey (and similar like the continuously ongoing WVS) are exceptionally comprehensive. But there are also a few reasonable surveys with around a thousand or so participants each across a range of nations, from the recognised outfits such as Pew or YouGov or whoever. The main problem is simply getting enough nations in the same set. No doubt the factors you speak of (along with others), contribute to noise in results as they’ll act in various directions. But even the simple use of Excel (very much my limit on stats!) can distinguish whether correlations are significantly outside of noise levels or not. So obviously I would only be putting forward effects that indeed are in general well beyond such noise ambiguity. Plus some ones that aren’t, to show why, and also some ones where correlation *isn’t* expected, and why again. And, even some systemic variability within a still viable trend might be pinned down, and maybe or maybe not also identified in terms of cause, but at least boxed in terms of amount and hence level of bandwidth re trend prediction. This is all extremely standard fare, and I hope would be the same for all data explorers. The main point is that whatever are the explanations for them – and clearly I favour my own (!) – the data reveals universal and strong effects that very much *do* require explanation, and very much are *not* lost in random noise.
Obviously, I’m explaining approaches forward in terms of my own experience and a recent project that happens still to be fresh in my mind. But in terms of detail this will be far from the only way forward.
Skeptics say climate science is seriously compromised all over the place; does that stop them going forward? Not a bit of it! Why would you think that one similarly can’t progress in the social science domain regarding the same topic?
>”But my point was that the raw data isn’t there because, as you rightly say: “…no-one in all the right disciplines is likely to be looking, because that’s not the sort of thing the cultural narrative of climate change would want you to look for.”
No! The *analyses* aren’t there ‘because that’s not the sort of thing the cultural narrative of climate change would want you to look for’. The raw *data* is there. Powerful though climate change culture has become, it can’t stop world surveys of religiosity, any more than it can stop world surveys of education levels or types, and many other cultural / social factors of interest too. And per above social surveys on climate change attitudes abound (albeit, unfortunately, more within countries that have more surveys of everything, i.e. the West, and especially the US), because the narrative is obsessed with how well it is doing and so constantly measures. While indeed it selectively presents the results it most likes, indeed loves, ALL the results are frequently still there. And because most measures are done by professional survey orgs that operate in normal mode, they do indeed get some inconvenient results. And many questions, e.g. the couple mentioned above, are so simple they naturally defy bias unless they literally don’t publish the responses. However, the more interesting protection against these results disappearing is that most people, and the culture itself, simply does not realise that some of them *are* inconvenient. This only comes to light if you use them in ways the culture, whilst per above discouraging curiosity that may turn out to be awkward, does not explicitly know about. So for instance, the large literature on intersect between religion and climate change has never looked for the correlations I’m looking for, and would have zero expectation to find them. In fact, that entire intersect literature is pretty much geared around ‘how to use religions as tools to further climate agendas’, about which, incidentally, it comes up with no decent overall strategy. So… it is perfectly possible to cross-correlate the non-climate domain surveys with the climate surveys and look for a whole stack of stuff that, as the cultural adherents don’t know they’re part of a culture, they would never themselves think to look for. Once again, I’m using my recent experience here as an example, but if a range of curious people engage, usually many paths around an overweening orthodoxy can be found, albeit some of them may be circuitous and some of them will require expertise of various sorts.
>“Look at the academic work on climate denialism. We all know that we’re here because of the blogs, yet the hundreds, possibly thousands of academic studies of denialism barely mention them. The forerunners decided that the story is the Heartland Institute, the fossil fuel lobby, and Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. This is a Soviet Union-level of academic suppression of the truth. Hoping that the raw data is out there somewhere to prove us right is wishful thinking.”
Goodness me. Not again. Who are you? And what have you done with the inspiring and uncowed skeptic that is Geoff Chambers? Who connects disparate intellect of all types and somehow finds common ground upon which the unravelling of overweening orthodoxies can be progressed. “They’ve already won!” You say. What?? “All possible data is already down the memory hole!” WTF?? “No meaningful work in this area can possibly be carried out – it’s doomed, we’re doomed, because us poor supressed people can never now by any means exercise our puny intellect against the overwhelming might of the orthodoxy in CC related social psychology.” What are you on? “So we can never even in principle ever understand the relevant social psychology here.” Okay; you can’t possibly be Geoff. This is nonsense with nobs on. The level of orthodoxy and protection and demonisation and all the usual features, is indeed bad, BUT… it’s nowhere near as bad as the tight bounds around climate science. Has that dissuaded you? No! And unlike climate science (where there is only one Earth climate system), the exact same principles apply to many social / science conflicts and cultural entanglements, so there’s plenty available from such efforts not impacted by CC (albeit with other biases in some cases), and indeed some researchers who are culturally blinded themselves by catastrophic climate narratives, are on the right side of other conflicts. And some of them even on the climate topic, still have great data *because there are protections against bias built into their generic collection methodologies*, and relevant ideas too even if the higher analysis then falls over. I have learned hugely from Kahan in this respect, who incidentally acknowledges some of the catastrophe messaging as the greatest ‘pollution of the science communication environment’ (his phrase) out there.
If we see compromised social science – we do not give up! We redo it ourselves. For goodness sake. Isn’t that a big part of what all these forums are about? You don’t bat an eyelid at Jaime or whoever else pitching into the temp records or fire area or whatever it might be, of a domain that outnumbers her and the other citizen science contributors on same by probably 10,000 to 1 minimum, and orders of magnitude more if you count the catastrophe narrative orgs and hangers on, and with supposed levels of expertise and actual levels of qualification similarly outgunning. In response, not everyone is a Steve M, but everyone can chew off a piece and it can be done!! Why are you taking their word that it can’t be done? And not just giving up, but even recommending that others give up too, indeed moi! Why? A lot of this is not hard, it *is* doable. And we need to do it. Apart from the open gate of climate system uncertainty, which will exist for a very long time yet, everything that’s happening in the CC domain is happening because of social effects, NOT physical climate science. Hence the critical importance of progressing on the social front too.
As it happens I am pretty familiar with the academic work on denialism, of which climate denialism just one sub-species, albeit I haven’t revisited it for 3 or 4 years now. So yes it’s a complete crock in every possible sense and description, with absolutely (well, virtually, there’s the odd patch) no science and no redeeming factors in it whatsoever. Albeit (in some domains at least) some of it turns out to be quite nobly motivated, yet from massively biased folks without a clue who ended up wasting their noble motivation in a massively misdirected attempt to shut down all discussion they didn’t like, so merely equated denialism to said discussion. And hence gave academic justification for anyone to slay any group about anything. An interesting fall-out of which, is that it’s also been used to slay some of the creators in domains where they happen to be on the right side. HOWEVER, we redo it ourselves! I bit off a foundational chunk of this, which was used to support the entirely false and utterly unfounded ‘tests’ for denialism. I’ve completely deconstructed it with full explanation of why it can’t possibly work, and, have dug down to reach some foundational principles on the topic THAT THEY should have been digging down to find. So now we have some basis for what is *really* going on, which others need to take and improve upon, or indeed critique if they think that these principles have significant issues. Here is a link: https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/21/the-denialism-frame/ You may even recall this as it opened with a quote from *you* here at CliScep about the said chunk, Diethelm and Mckee’s (1st) paper. I’ve used this link to great effect when anyone comes heavy with the denialism thing and quotes the literature. But the real benefit is clarifying in my mind the proper principles involved, and hopefully that’s a benefit to everyone else too. The most crucial one is that, the behaviour that might legitimately be labelled ‘denialism’, if it weren’t for the fact that this particular label is now corrupted beyond all redemption, and which we consider very bad, stems from the *same* root as the instinctive (not rational) rejection of overweening orthodoxy, which behaviour when this happens, we consider good. But you can’t have one without the other; they’re part of the same system.
>“Excellent paragraph on the Philippines which I’ve restored as instructed. I guess the same is true for Pakistan. Have you got a reference for the stuff on Core belief, Allied belief and religion, or do we have to start from scratch?”
Thank you. Only have constrained survey for Pakistan (it’s in the big My World one), not an unconstrained set that has all the same questions / methodology as a lot of other nations for better comparison. Scores even lower than Philippines for Core belief; they have similar religiosity, so may be just noise, but Pakistan also has lower GDP per Capita, which is a secondary variable for core belief and might be kicking in. Core belief and Allied belief are my terms in which I’m trying to express what’s really happening. Though you can find similar principles elsewhere, this is via lots of disparate stuff and most not related to the climate domain anyhow. I hope to get out a two part series on all the stuff I mentioned in respect of this current project, which I’m hoping Judith will accept, so you’d best wait for that. Xcel data will be included. However, will be a few weeks yet at least – I’m doing this between other stuff, and while I think the main issues are cracked (but there are loose ends) I need to write up properly, crayon in all the charts, double-check all the figures, write copious footnotes to address many side-issues and anticipated questions and much detail that is never going to fit into the main-post wordcount limit (which I usually break anyway 0: ) etc.
>“On the stupidity of politicians, I suspect Alex means something nearer “incompetent” or “not fit for purpose.” There’s a link to dumbing down in every sneer at Boris Johnson when he quotes a Latin tag, or at Cummings when he links to some weirdo mathematician. We’re all agreed that I.Q. is irrelevant to this discussion.”
I think it might be better to let Alex say what he meant 😉. And given he said he was punting (absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s a critically necessary function, in fact), his exact meaning may not have been fully evaluated anyhow. Your new definition emphasises lack of appropriate knowledge, rather than lack of intelligence. Of course, what’s appropriate in politics generally is itself the subject of fierce political contention. However, more generally, see the answer to Dave Gardner above. A major mechanism by which cultures operate across the group they tightly link (all of which works via selection and emotive bypass of rationality by the narratives selected), is to blind the rationality of those in afflicted groups to whole swathes of knowledge, and substitute emotively manufactured group consensuses instead. This will occur at various different strength levels from practically full-on hypnosis to modest bias against data that future history (the only real judge) proves to be correct, depending on the status of the individual relative to a raft of different cultural influences. If indeed irrationality which is deemed to cause unfitness to purposes (e.g. with climate policy being one more well-defined ‘purpose’) is on the rise currently (dynamically rises and falls on all timescales, but probably yes in shorter-term), then indeed this is a strong indicator that the causal cultural influences are on the rise. If you disagree, you will need a sound alternate theory covering many nations of various types, as to why lots of intelligent but nevertheless unfit for purpose people have latterly achieved influence and are systemically behaving in unfit manners that are also very similar, and even coordinated across said nations (as evidenced by the climate change case, specifically).
“But you’ll need to get past the big knobs…”
Sometimes you ask too much of your readers, Andy.
“The useful surveys for what’s happening in society are not probing climate science. They are probing attitudes to climate change.”
This is very true, but I would put things slightly differently: “The useful surveys for what’s happening in society are not probing climate science. They are analyzing and measuring the impact of the ‘climate change’ meme.”
Maybe that’s just another way of saying ‘probing attitudes’, but questions such as “how much do you think you will personally be impacted by climate change” take on a somewhat tautological nature when one considers that many people will consider personal impact to be a main defining characteristic of the term ‘climate change’. This will be because ‘climate change’ is a meme that is laden with cultural narrative that causes it to share some of the semantic value of memes such as ‘doom’, ‘truth’ and ‘guilt’. I’m just not sure what such questions can be probing when they use terminology that carries so much baggage and yet is left to the respondent to define for themselves.
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re knobs, um… probably.
“They are analyzing and measuring the impact of the ‘climate change’ meme.”
Well observed. And that’s exactly what we want, albeit the survey designers didn’t explicitly intend it.
“I’m just not sure what such questions can be probing when they use terminology that carries so much baggage and yet is left to the respondent to define for themselves.”
Exactly as you have rightly determined above, questions like this are measuring the cultural impact of (to be slightly more specific) the catastrophic climate change narrative. Or rather, *some of* the questions like this do, i.e. those that indeed have enough baggage and other caveats.
So, we can look at the responses to questions like this that *should* probe cultural responses linked to said narrative, due indeed to their load or inherent alignment via baggage, so to speak. And questions that *shouldn’t* be probing cultural responses linked to said narrative, because the form of the question invokes too many conflated domains, or simply has very low baggage (so much higher noise), or indeed, rarely, where some actual rationality about things that the public kind of know, would largely win out over a cultural response. The ones for which a cultural response is expected, should in turn have a specific relationship with religiosity, and they do. The ones where a cultural response isn’t expected, have a random scatter with religiosity. Some are in-between. But there’s also very different relationships for reality constrained and unconstrained surveys, and really I’m preempting my unfinished work on same. So I’d appreciate if you could hang fire until the work appears, and then let rip…
“…albeit the survey designers didn’t explicitly intend it.”
I suppose that if the survey designers wanted to be explicit they could always use word association as their method of probing:
“When I say ‘climate change’, what words come to mind?”
“Doom, truth, guilt, impact, mother, err.. big knobs?”
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This debate regarding the importance, or otherwise, of intelligent understanding reminds me of Daniel C. Dennett, when he writes of ‘competence without comprehension’. He uses the phrase to refer to the competence of evolutionary designs resulting from natural selection. There is no comprehending, intelligent designer behind evolution, but you try outperforming it! He also uses the same phrase to apply to the role of memes in cultural evolution, when he says:
“Competence without comprehension: The ‘designedness’ of some cultural items is attributable to no author or syndicate of authors, no architects, no intelligent designers at all; the undeniable cleverness or aptness of the arrangements of the parts is due entirely to natural selection: the differential replication of informational symbionts whose hosts can be as clueless about their cleverness as butterflies are of eyespots on their wings…Human comprehension—and approval—is neither necessary nor sufficient for the fixation of a meme in a culture.”
I think that aligns very well with what you and others have said on this blog regarding the nature of the beast. There is a Blind Watchmaker behind all of this, for good or for bad.
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ANDY WEST 17 Feb 20 1.03pm
Wow! That was some pep talk. At least, that’s how I’m interpreting it. Many thanks.
Apologies for doubting your word on further education levels. On surveys, the WVS one looks interesting. The UN My World one is useless. It’s not a survey but a mail-in-your-thoughts programme. The vast majority of responses seem to be from Mexico. Last time I looked it was Nigeria. Governments get all secondary school children to fill it in.
Excellent. You’ve made an important find there – that the survey is useless for purpose, since it’s measuring something quite different from the content of the question (which, far from being straightforward, is positively mystical. Only a Buddhist or animist or Guardian reader could understand it.) I remember a UK government opinion survey which asked: “Should private companies be run to benefit mainly shareholders, employees, or customers?” Just 3% replied “shareholders,” which proves that 97% of the population rejects capitalism and favours anarcho-syndicalism.
I don”’t think I ever read your paper https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/21/the-denialism-frame/
I will now. Maybe the real Geoff will come back and reply more fully some time.
“The UN My World one is useless.”
If so, its responses would not yield any meaningful results. But they do.
“The vast majority of responses seem to be from Mexico.”
The results are available per nation. We do not care that Mexico chews up 20% and India 9%, as long as there are usefully large responses from very many other nations. And out of the total of about 10 million responses, there certainly is.
“Excellent. You’ve made an important find there – that the survey is useless for purpose, since it’s measuring something quite different from the content of the question…”
Of course questions like this are typically measuring something quite different to what the initiators of the questions thought they’d be measuring. Certainly in regard to climate change anyhow. Very perceptively, John R realised exactly what it is they are really measuring. And in an investigation of the cultural, that happens to be precisely what we want to measure. In order to most easily render what we’re after visible, we also need a similarly global (to CC beliefs) cross-cultural interaction. We have one of those.
“which, far from being straightforward, is positively mystical”
Mystical?!? I get the feeling that you think nothing in social psychology is truly tractable. If so, that is as Spock might say, illogical.
“Only a Buddhist or animist or Guardian reader could understand it.”
I do not know whether you are any of those; but I’m willing to bet that you will understand it. You may not think my explanations are the best ones, which is absolutely fine. But I do not believe that you are going to think the relationships are mystical, or indeed that they have mystical explanations, even if you don’t favour mine.
“I don”’t think I ever read your paper https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/21/the-denialism-frame/
I will now.”
Cool. There’s an extra couple of paragraphs at the same post mirrored on my own blog, something important that I forgot. Worth reading the original at link above first though, because then you can also see some of the critique in comments (as usual a lot not particularly relevant, but as far as I recall there is some interesting stuff too).