Minecraft Mindcraft

Oxford University has recently sought to enhance its imperiously stated reputation for academic excellence by dabbling in the murky world of opinionology. I may have just made that word up, but it does feel like an apt label to apply to the pseudo-scientific number-crunching that one normally associates with the consensus-mongering intrigues of the likes of John Cook. From what I have seen, it seems actually quite an easy discipline to master, so much so that I wish I had chosen it as a career path, back in my formative years when notoriety and influence seemed a tempting alternative to integrity and obscurity. Who knows, if I had chosen that path, I too could have been an Oxford don riding the climate change gravy train by engaging in opinion polling of world-saving importance. But I didn’t, and so I am reduced to envious bitching in an article that will be read by just 300 people – if I’m lucky. Never mind, I hadn’t anything better to do today, as it happens.

The opinion poll that has interrupted my lockdown ennui goes by the name of ‘The People’s Climate Vote’. That all sounds very democratic, I’m sure you will agree, but the fact is that nothing, and no one, was being voted upon. Instead, it was simply yet another poll canvassing the viewpoint of a large group of people on the subject of climate change. Basically, it was just a stocktake to see how effective the many years of propagandizing in schools has been to date. And whilst we are at it, why not egregiously misrepresent the results to hammer the point home. According to the BBC, the poll shows that, “Despite the pandemic, almost two thirds of people around the world now view climate change as a global emergency.”

I think it was Johnny Cash who once sang that a hammer will do exactly what you tell it to. In this instance, the hammer has fallen on the heads of anyone who doesn’t care to observe the process by which the BBC’s startling conclusion had been arrived at. It is really very simple.

Firstly, you need two apparently prestigious organisations to get their heads together to conduct a poll – let’s say the United Nations Development Programme in conjunction with Oxford University. Then you make the poll the biggest one of its type ever undertaken, say 1.22 million people. Then, just to make sure you get the answers you are looking for, only distribute the poll questions in adverts for mobile gaming apps. Downplay the obvious bias introduced by such a sampling plan by glibly noting that “people of all genders, ages, and educational backgrounds took part”. Finally, having canvassed the opinion of a group that is grotesquely skewed towards the 14-18 year group, get the BBC to run with a headline that deliberately misinforms the reader by claiming the results represent the opinion of all demographics around the world. There you go – a master class in opinionology. John Cook would be envious.

To be fair, I suspect there was nothing disingenuous behind the original intent of the pollsters. By deliberately targeting computer gamers, one can gather data that indicates just how scared the recently educated yoof are compared to society’s insouciant wrinklies. This is an important analysis for anyone who is keen to check on the value for money they are receiving from the huge investment in the climate change curriculum. And I have to say, the results were suitably impressive:

“Across all countries, 64% of participants [X-Box jockeys] saw climate change as an emergency, requiring urgent responses from countries.”

“Overall, younger people were more likely to agree with the view that rising temperatures were an emergency, with nearly 70% in favour. For people over the age of 60, this dropped to 58%.”

According to Cassie Flynn, strategic adviser to the UNDP, the reasons for this are straightforward:

“People are scared, they are seeing the wildfires in Australia and California, they’re seeing the category five storms and in the Caribbean, they are seeing flooding in in Southeast Asia, and they’re looking around them and they’re saying, this is a real problem. We have to do something about this.”

On the contrary, people are not seeing these things and coming to their conclusions, they are being shown all of these things and then being told it is a real problem and they have to do something about this. That’s the beauty of education. Back to Cassie:

“When it comes to demographics, something that we saw very clearly was that there is a high correlation between a level of education and belief in the climate emergency. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to believe that there is a climate emergency. And this is really, really powerful, because it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it doesn’t matter your age, education really, really is important.”

Actually, Cassie, as your own figures clearly show, age does matter. It isn’t an education that is important here, it is a recent education. That’s what is really, really important. Because, as I said earlier:

A hammer will do exactly what you tell it to.

17 Comments

  1. “Art is not only a mirror. It is also a hammer”.
    The climate consensus has been forged by hammering truth to pieces…

    Like

  2. I don’t see how anyone could take this seriously. Using ads on mobile games? First off, you’re selecting people with games on their phones (as an example I have a phone but do not have any games, so would not be exposed to the survey). Second, you’re only dealing with cheapskates. They only have the free version of their games, or else they wouldn’t see any ads anyway. They have no dosh and expect someone else will pay the fee for this pseudo-crisis. Third, you are dealing with people who will interact with an ad. (This must be a small subset, unless my sense of human nature is way off. These people want to be pinging their birds around the screen, not answering questions.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Scratch that, there seems to be a good breakdown of categories / countries in the report pdf, which includes a variety of demographics. Haven’t time to look at it though for now, will have to wait a while.

    Like

  4. …but the worst bias is probably selection bias; it’s highly likely that only people more concerned about climate-change would respond to the advert in order to take the survey in the first place.

    “Instead of seeing a traditional advert in their game, the player would be invited to participate in the Peoples’ Climate Vote. The look and feel of the vote was developed as an inviting, fun, and playful way for people to send a message to world leaders.”

    …if you wanted the survey to generate a ‘do more’ message to World Leaders, this indeed is extremely likely to come up with the answer you first thought of!

    Like

  5. So we have come full circle. It is now admitted that climate change (crisis, emergency, etc.) is a matter of opinion, not of knowledge or facts. And thus, social policy results from the majority public opinion (if you happen to live in an actual democratic nation), or is set by the elite majority opinion in the alternative case.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You can see the survey’s questions and answers here (the PCV report says they are the same):

    https://mission1point5.org

    I played one round and gave up. The questions weren’t too bad but the available answers were just stupid. You get only three possible answers for each question and you can only choose one, so when, for example, you are told that transport causes a lot of pollution (the quiz conflates the problems of air pollution and climate change in the usual greenie way) and are asked how to ‘make transport greener’, you can’t choose to promote the use of bicycles and electric vehicles as well as promoting ride-sharing.

    The third option for that question is one for the naughty step: ‘Cut public transport’. All the questions probably have a naughty-step answer. The next question was ‘How can the transport of goods become greener?’ Naughty step: ‘Stop vehicle maintenance’. Third question: ‘How can you improve air quality in cities and rural communities?’ Naughty step: ‘Cut down trees’.

    One answer offered for the second transport question was to make all freight transporters use clean energy, a noble aim but completely impossible for the foreseeable. Later on in the quiz they probably suggest giving everyone a free pony and a pair of organic tinfoil underpants.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “When it comes to demographics, something that we saw very clearly was that there is a high correlation between a level of education and belief in the climate emergency. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to believe that there is a climate emergency,” said Cassie Flynn.

    And yet the nearly half of the sample who were between 14 and 18 were the most likely to believe. How does that work?

    Overall, of the 64% who thought that climate change was an emergency, 20% thought we should act slowly, 10% that the world is already doing enough, and 11% that we should do nothing. Add them to the 31% who don’t believe there’s an emergency, and that’s 59% who think we should act slowly or do nothing at all.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Note that Oxford University and the UN don’t accept the figures I give above. They say, in a note to figure 6:

    Please note that the results in Fig. 6 do not present the proportion of people in a given country who support urgent, comprehensive action. The results show the proportion of people who said this, who also said climate change is a global emergency. This was because people who did not support the idea of climate change as a global emergency, were not asked the question about the response. There may be people, and indeed it is very likely there are many people who believe in urgent, comprehensive action, who did not say that climate change is a global emergency.

    Geddit? Oxford believes that there are people who don’t think there’s a global emergency and that we should take urgent action to not solve it. Well, that’s their opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John I appreciate your attempts to educate us oiks into the new lexography as applied to Cookensian climate alarm by employing the flash new word “opinionology”. My spell-checker doesn’t like it and is repeatedly red-lining it (get down boy!).

    Clearly based upon the word “opinion” this raises issues when opinionology is applied to catastrophic climate change. Synonyms of opinion are belief, conviction, sentiment, and view. All of these words mean “a judgment one holds as true,” (all perfectly acceptable to the infallibility of climate scientists) the word “opinion” implies a conclusion thought out yet open to dispute, i.e. the exact opposite of what is implied by climate science

    I believe the word you should have employed is “convictionology” or “beliefology” if you don’t wish to tangle with the legal profession.

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  10. Alan,

    When I came up with ‘opinionology’, I was just engaging in a bit of wordplay. Of course, it immediately occurred to me that if I could think of it there must have been many before who had.

    And so it turned out. Looking online, I see it is already in the Urban Dictionary and at least one company carries the name. So ‘opinionology’ is just an example of a not particularly original neology. I’ve just thought of a word for the study of such phenomena; it’s neologiology. I’ll google that one just to confirm its originality.

    Damn it!

    Like

  11. The survey is a pure joy to analyse. Consider their division into country groups. The fourth of four groups is “Small Island Developing States” consisting of Belize, Fiji, and Trinidad and Tobago. Three problems with that:
    – Belize isn’t an island
    – Trinidad and Tobago isn’t a developing state, being recognised as a high income country, third in the Americas after the USA and Canada
    – The interest in small island states by climate worriers is that they may soon disappear under rising sea levels. Fiji is two volcanic rocks rising 4000 ft above sea level.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. ‘The survey is a pure joy to analyse. Consider their division into country groups. The fourth of four groups is “Small Island Developing States” consisting of Belize, Fiji, and Trinidad and Tobago.” ‘

    Only they ain’t.- Livin in the Age of (mis) Information.

    Heck, even those coral islands ain”t sinking, Darwin hisself showed it isn’t so.

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  13. John, A Google search for Neologiology (including several repeats) only got 7 replies, whereas Neology Definition got a mere 67,000, so I think you are free to claim your unique definition as your own. Even conviction-ology had 190 hits, including one writing about forensic convictionologists – now there’s a suitable job for your talents

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  14. You know something, Alan. I can’t help but think that trying to come up with the least stupid word that no one has already thought of is much more interesting than most things I’ve discussed on this website.

    It may be the lockdown talking, but I feel another of my retirements coming on.

    Liked by 1 person

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