Tim at New Anthropocene has posted an article exploring the strange nexus between conspiracy culture, belief and climate change denial. It is a good extension of some of the conversation that has been focussed on conspiracy ideation. It is part of the growing awareness that parts of the climate change “sceptic” movement employ motifs and tropes typical of conspiracy culture, some of which extend back decades. Enjoy, Mike @ WtD.
In rejecting evidence contrary to ones values we’re left with an obvious question; what is it about the value that leaves it immune to reasoning?
In The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris provides such an answer to religious conviction with a fear of death. As discussed in my previous post, this clearly spills into other subjects, such as evolution and climate change, which ultimately question a given doctrine adhered to by an individual. Without meaning to, by challenging the creation myth or omnipotence of a super being (in controlling our climate), we bring the theology into question and with it, one’s immortality. It’s simply unquestionable to such people.
On the other hand, what can we make of the mantra of people like Dr David Evans and Christopher Monckton (associated and apparently shared views with The Galileo Movement)? An outline of this was spotted by Mike at WtD and highlighted in the post, A cabal of bankers and Sister Souljah: Lewandowsky versus the extreme sceptic fringe. I suggest you read through the full article, but for the sake of this post, I’ll mention a few key features.
Basically, dating back to the Middle Ages, there has been a developing class of invisible people growing rich on making money out of thin air, leading us down a path of endless debt to this secret group, siphoned from communities via taxes and interest (bared on, money imagined into existence). It gets weirder in that this invisible enemy is working to develop a single world government that one gets the impression would be oppressive.
Even involuntary commitments, such as only being able to purchase high-efficiency light globes (I suspect fluoridation of drinking water as well – especially if it’s deemed to be costing us) are taken as evidence of the build-up to this new government. Nova provides a caricature of these fears (which she obviously shares).
It reads like Hubbard’s Dianetics.
This doctrine, like its religious counterparts, is far older than the “debate” over climate change and is not really focused on the science of climate change at all (ie. it’s more about the use of fuel to power their dreams and taxes that propose to restrict climate change – the scientific evidence is just a victim to all this). It is an extremely conservative ideology, manifesting its own boogiemen to drawn the necessary conclusions. It justifies (and indeed, exaggerates) a core conservative value: individualism. As Sam Harris puts it in Free Will;
“Liberals tend to understand that a person can be lucky or unlucky in all matters relevant to his success. Conservatives, however, often make a religious fetish of individualism. Many seem to have absolutely no awareness of how fortunate one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, physically healthy, and not bankrupted in middle age by the illness of a spouse…
“And yet, living in America, one gets the distinct sense that if certain conservatives were asked why they weren’t born with club feet or orphaned before the age of five, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments.”
Now, to bring this back to the opening point; what is it about this ideology that leads one to reject compelling contrary evidence? I suspect the principles of individualism ultimately let such people down and they need a scapegoat.
To return to the Harris quote, such individuals believe beyond all doubt, that it is the individual alone that is responsible for their successes and failures in life. We of course tend to far more easily acknowledge our personal successes than the shortcomings of our actions. In the case of extreme conservatives, the only thing that ought to stand between themselves and the riches they can obtain (or deserve) is, well, themself. Why then, are they not rich/powerful/etc?
It is those who “steal” their money – the banks and governments. It is the “powerful” (which, in most cases, doesn’t seem to stretch to the CEO’s and players on Wall Street within this ideologies – rather, such people are the example they wish to emulate) to blame.
Accepting the compelling evidence against reckless resource exploitation and climate change leads to changes in behaviour necessary to ensure increased sustainability into the distant future (and look how this is portrayed in Nova’s caricature). This ignores the core principles of individualism while amplifying the fears that governments and bankers are out to take your hard-earned money.
Just as with the religiously minded who hears you challenge their doctrine when confronted with conflicting evidence, these extreme conservatives hear mindless puppets to a secret world order, threatening their way of life; their pursuit of personal wealth. It also touches on a sensitive nerve already imbedded to explain their failed attempts to emulate their heroes of success.
It would explain the venomous behaviour we encounter in such “debates” and the overall tone of works, such as Nova’s second handbook.
The only course of action, I suspect is, firstly, keep your distance. Secondly, ask questions (as mentioned in the previous post). Questions such as, “Who is behind the multigenerational “hoax” of climate change?” or “What hard evidence do you have of this secret banker society, their desire for a new world government and involvement with climate change?” or “Why have they been hiding for more than 500 years, waiting to take over – surely they could have in the great depression or at countless other times in history – why wait so long in hiding?”
Nut it out – dig into the rabbit whole. By exposing it to the light, one would hope they would start to see the many unanswerable questions to their ideology – the great lengths they go to make it fit reality. They may start to feel a little silly with the increasingly odd conclusions they have to draw (again, I direct you back to the post at WtD for a more detailed look at it).
The thing to remember is that you’re not arguing with such people over the validity of the scientific evidence regarding climate change. You’re nowhere near it. For that reason, you need to aim the conversation instead to what it really in question; how valid is the idea of hidden bankers out to take over the world?