..and how the denial movement is “tone deaf” to true knowledge
Jo Nova takes umbrage to being labelled a conspiracy theorist in an irony free post that goes on to indulge in text book conspiracy making. Take her comments on the 9/11 Truthers who posit the Bush Administration orchestrated the September 11 attacks in 2001:
Is the planet warming from man-made CO2? Lewandowsky “knows” it is. Why? Because the 9/11 truthers are conspiracy theorists (and conspiracies are always wrong). O’ look, a few people ask odd questions about an accident in a building years ago, and sometimes those people are also the species Homo Sapiens Climate Scepticus (!). So it follows (if you are insane) that because some people still doubt the official story of an unrelated past event, man-made global warming will contribute 3.7W/m2 in the year 2079, and we’ll all become souffles in the global Sahara.
9/11 was a building accident? And 9/11 Truthers are merely asking “odd” questions?
Oh no Jo, you’re not a conspiracy theorist at all… But Nova knows that many of her core constituents are conspiracy theorists (viz this post in which one of her fans postulates the theory of AGW is being used to depopulate the US and destroy capitalism).
Indeed, if you mine the comments on Nova’s site you will find pretty every species of conspiracy theory. These are the “angry minds” who see the hand of socialists/greens/liberals behind the science of climate change.
As a consequence she is an equal opportunity conspiracy theorist: all these theories are given free rain on her site without being challenged. Otherwise she risks putting off side core elements of her “community”.
But, but… it’s on the Internet!
Further into her post, Nova makes reference to the thickness of sea ice and an incident with a US submarine in the 1950’s. For Jo, this story it disproves AGW:
“Lewandowsky tries to casually slide some evidence in there, but nothing much is going his way. He speculates that US Navy submarines must be part of these “conspiracy theories” because they show so much Arctic melting, but if they are in on the Big Scare Campaign, the US Navy got the wrong memo. The USS Skate surfaced at the North Pole in 1959, and the US Navy has photos of it…”
Here is the photo that “smashes” climate science:
She then states:
The Skate records says: “We surfaced near the North Pole in the winter through thin ice less than 2 feet thick.”
Apparently there a many similar examples all over the web.
One submarine recording local events?
The Arctic is a very big place. To then draw a connection between one isolated event and assume those conditions apply to the entire Arctic is sloppy, irrational thinking. In any other field you’d be laughed out of the building. This is what passes for climate “scepticism”?
To wave away any concerns with such “data” with the claim that there are “many similar examples all over the web” is incredible.
No references, citations or further evidence is presented. This is “Google research”: plug in some search terms and pick the information that suits your purposes.
It’s also text book pattern seeking.
A “beautiful mind” seeks patterns, even when none exist
There is a powerful scene in the film “A beautiful mind” (depicting the life of John Nash) that perfectly illustrates how conspiracy theorists piece together disparate sources of information and build them into (for them) a coherent world view.
The wife of Nash and colleges enter his room in order to determine what he has been working feverishly on. As they enter the room they are confronted with thousands of paper clippings and papers pinned to the wall, each one evidence of “communist” plot to rely messages to “sleeper cells” via coded messages in the mainstream press. As we know, Nash – who is a paranoid schizophrenic – is under the influence of his delusions.
Sure – I get this scene is taken from a heavily fictionalised account of Nash’s life, but it offers a powerful analogy/image for understanding the conspiratorial mindset.
Pattern seeking is one of the inherent qualities of our species. Normally it a useful tool, its a trait we evolved over millennium:
“Oh look those antelopes keep coming to this water hole… they are tasty. I will come back tomorrow because there will be more antelopes…”
However, it means we assign patterns and intentionality to nearly all events. As Michael Shermer, one of the world’s leading sceptics (and I mean a real sceptic) explains:
Why do people see faces in nature, interpret window stains as human figures, hear voices in random sounds generated by electronic devices or find conspiracies in the daily news? A proximate cause is the priming effect, in which our brain and senses are prepared to interpret stimuli according to an expected model. UFOlogists see a face on Mars. Religionists see the Virgin Mary on the side of a building. Paranormalists hear dead people speaking to them through a radio receiver. Conspiracy theorists think 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration. Is there a deeper ultimate cause for why people believe such weird things? There is. I call it “patternicity,” or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.
When Lewandowsky states the we understand the cognitive basis for conspiracy theories, this is what he is referring too.
It’s well understood and studied. Simply put, homo sapiens have a host of cognitive biases built into our consciousness and they can result – for some – a conspiratorial world view.
Climate change sceptics are tone deaf to the “music” of real knowledge
Like a legion of magpies with a dystopic worldview, the army of angry “climate sceptics” scour the Internet into the wee hours of the night, scanning for factoids and “proofs”. Anything that looks shiny is built into the “nest” of climate change scepticism. A picture of a submarine, Al Gore’s personal wealth, snippets of scientific papers. It is an ugly, miss-matched collection of data.
These “bits and bytes” are incorporated into their fantasies of global conspiracies. They are proudly collected and added the collection of other “facts” that is the totality of the deniers world view. That these facts constitute a “nest” that is a ugly, misshapen object lacking elegance or functionality is beside the point.
For the denial movement, “facts” are trophies they hold aloft:
“See! See!” they scream “… A submarine, with thin ice!”
They forget that facts are just that: facts.
It is the ability to discern what is essential from the trivia that constitutes the scientific method. Wisdom and knowledge comes from determining the true relationship between facts and robust theoretical models.
The denial movement is tone deaf: it treats all “noise” as equal.
They fail to see the true, elegant and beautiful “song” that a robust scientific theory is. Instead they hear white noise, and believe it has meaning.
What a cramped, limited and yet – paradoxically – overwhelming world view it is. How sad that the “denier” fails to recognise the majestic sounds of true knowledge.
For the denier, the world is a cacophony of clashing, ringing and terrifying sounds mixed with disparate images and words. No wonder they retreat into the fantasy of climate change denial.
Yes Jo, the effects are well understood. But then of course, Nova’s posters dismiss the entire field of psychology as well…
Ask him about the great fraud of the 20th century, in his own area: Freudian psychoanalysis. It’s been totally discredited and is now an embarrassment. Freud was a cocaine addicted ratbag with his crazy theories. But he held them up as “science” and fools followed him for half a century.
You and your fellow deniers are tone deaf to wisdom, knowledge and insight.
Your world lacks beauty.