Groupthink and politics trump science: climate alarmism as the ultimate signal of political correctness

Steven Pinker’s latest book in defence of the Enlightenment values of Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress has provided a key to the persistence of climate alarmism in defiance of evidence and scientific arguments. Drawing from work by a legal scholar Dan Kahan he suggests that certain beliefs become symbols of cultural allegiance. We all align with our particular tribe or subculture and each of them have creeds which amount to criteria for membership. He introduces some left-right contrasts which I think confuse rather than illuminate (given that I do not identify as ‘rightwing”) but the bottom line is that most people disagree about climate change on cultural lines that have next to nothing to do with science.

He suggests that this has become in a sense rational. For a start unless you are an incredible mover and shaker your position on the issue makes no discernible difference in the larger scheme of things. But we all have to get along with the people around us day by day. So he points out that expressing the wrong opinion on a politicised issue can be career threatening or at least risk a lot of crap, eye-rolling and a degree of social ostracism.

Hence expressing a scientifically suspect opinion may not be irrational if it permits people to get on with their friends, family and colleagues. It matters to the planet if the belief is sufficiently widespread among politicians and other decision makers, but that is another matter. Amusingly, or ironically, Pinker is a card carrying alarmist but the valid point that he makes is “we are all actors in a Tragedy of the Belief Commons: what’s rational for every individual to believe (based on esteem) can be irrational for the society to act upon (based on reality).”

The interesting thing about Pinker’s book is that he harpoons a whole herd of leftwing sacred cows relating to equality, social progress and Deep Greenism but still leftwing contaminants remain, like failing to realise how the (sort of) successful welfare states are parasitic on gains made by non-socialist liberal economic policies past and present.

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14 Responses to Groupthink and politics trump science: climate alarmism as the ultimate signal of political correctness

  1. Procrustes

    Thanks – a good snapshot of Pinker’s book – I’m only half way through it.

    Pinker does have a few American liberal traces but there is far more in there that skewers the left blob. Pinker will come over to the classical liberal side after he tires of being attacked by lefty group thinkers.

  2. Talk about Groupthink – it’s Trump’s fault:

    ‘Dubai: For Eddie Woo, there’s a direct link between the trouble many adults have with maths and the election of Donald Trump, Brexit and climate change denial.’

    https://www.theage.com.au/education/maths-illiteracy-has-led-to-trump-and-brexit-eddie-woo-20180319-p4z4zs.html

    ‘Giant fleets of self-driving cars – as many as 10,000 or 20,000 of them – will be on American roads in the near future, and those cars will, inevitably, cause accidents that kill people, all thanks to the Trump administration.’

    https://www.drive.com.au/motor-news/will-driverless-cars-lower-the-road-toll–117600.html?ffref=theage&trackLink=SMH0

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    We all align with our particular tribe or subculture

    That is particularly strong in the Left. For example no ALP member dares to cross the floor no matter how strongly they disagree with the ALP position. But Libs cross the floor any time they like to.

    He suggests that this has become in a sense rational.

    No it is irrational still. Going against the truth is always irrational. Especially when it comes to science and engineering.

    For a start unless you are an incredible mover and shaker your position on the issue makes no discernible difference in the larger scheme of things.

    Rubbish. Every vote for a political party promulgating non-existent global warming is encouraging them to pass stupid electricity laws, which you immediately feel in the next power bill.

    a degree of social ostracism

    The Left does the ostracism. Righties almost never do. They may tease or lampoon but they, more often than not, will listen. And they don’t kick people out because of their politics. The Left, though, does so all the time.

    Hence expressing a scientifically suspect opinion may not be irrational if it permits people to get on with their friends, family and colleagues.

    That is called ‘lying’.

    Pinker may be getting closer to the right track but he has to admit that all these lefty doctrines are religious, which is why the left treats any dissent as heresy and crucifies the dissenter. Only when it is realised that the green-progressives have become an unscientific religious cult can progress be made to move them to the fringe of society with all the other cults.

  4. pbw

    This reflects back on Steve’s immediately preceding post, and the cultural alignments on display there.

    We all align with our particular tribe or subculture and each of them have creeds which amount to criteria for membership.

    This isn’t just true of questions which might, in some alternative universe, be solved by scientific means, but of everything. While out theoretical degrees of freedon may be large, they are in practice very limited. I seem to recall Whitehead said something about thinking being like the cavalry; only to be applied judiciously and for maximum effect. It’s too expensive for everyday use.

  5. pbw

    But we all have to get along with the people around us day by day. So he points out that expressing the wrong opinion on a politicised issue can be career threatening or at least risk a lot of crap, eye-rolling and a degree of social ostracism.

    This is an important observation. Anyone who had the misfortune to be skeptical of DAGW from the early Naughties, or earlier, knows how utterly isolating that is. That’s especially true if you work with geeks. Geekdom is a magnet for the planets pregressives, who consider themselves, and in their narrow focus are, very clever.

  6. classical_hero

    The enlightenment is more like the endarkenment. It tries to take man away from God and that has resulted in disastrous results. The Reformation is what got the West to it’s peak and we need to go back to that if we’re ever going to be strong again.

  7. Bruce of Newcastle
    #2664778, posted on March 19, 2018 at 1:32 pm
    +1

    Pinker is an intellectual. The most dangerous people on the planet are so called intellectuals, especially French intellectuals.
    Most of the 20th Century ills have come from the minds of intellectuals.

    On Global Warming, the whole thing would be laughable if it didn’t mean the gross transfer of wealth from the 1st World to the pockets of 3rd World tyrants.
    Global Warming is a means by which the UN wants to take legislative authority away from sovereign nations onto itself (No different to the EU in Europe). AGW is not about science. The Montreal Protocol on CFCs was the test case and template for AGW.

    Human Rights is another way to take legislative authority away from sovereign nations, and water is next.
    People who don’t grasp that bigger picture are living in ignorance.

  8. David Archibald

    Nicholas Wade’s book “The Faith Instinct” makes the case that we are genetically hardwired to believe in a religion. Religion has to become better to enable a higher state of civilisation. Christianity does the best job of getting the males to work together cooperatively and not waste their time fighting over the females. Unfortunately the current crop of clerics have lost the plot. But people need something to believe in so many have reverted to nature worship – belief in AGW and Man’s original sin. Belief in AGW is not enough for a society to keep together. It seems that Jordan Peterson is a latter day Moses, with 12 commandments instead of 10. People with a moral compass have higher output than the faithless. If we are ever to be rid of AGW belief then it would help if we had another religion ready to go to replace it.

  9. IRFM

    Perhaps John Faine needs to read this book after his efforts on 774 this morning at about 10.50 am.

  10. egg_

    He suggests that this has become in a sense rational.

    No it is irrational still. Going against the truth is always irrational. Especially when it comes to science and engineering.

    Don’t let the mere facts get in the road of a good argument?
    Tattoo ‘climate deniers’ and put them on Pinchgut Island?

  11. Rafe Champion

    I am not endorsing anything that Pinker suggested about ignoring the truth but like Procrustes I think that most of the book is remarkably good.
    Contrary to Procrustes I have got a dollar that says Pinker will not change sides:)

  12. manalive

    Framing the issue as alarmists v ‘deniers’ is a false dichotomy.
    The vocal lay alarmists usually couldn’t explain what they are alarmed about, they are generally pretty clueless on what the IPCC reports say or the counter arguments.
    If I were as alarmed as they claim I would personally abstain from fossil fuels altogether — they are usually frequent flyers.
    Those who might say they are ‘concerned’ do so for the same reason as people once mindlessly ticked C of E on the census form but are more concerned about the costs of ‘climate action’.
    ‘The case for climate alarmism is strong because there is no evidence for it and therefore can’t be disputed’
    That’s a paraphrase of a quote from Anatole France on the Dreyfus Affair that I think aptly fits the CC™ invincible conviction.

  13. Leo G

    Framing the issue as alarmists v ‘deniers’ is a false dichotomy.

    Yes, the dichotomy is between sets of “frames”- for instance between “alarmists v skeptics” and “climate change progressivists v climate change deniers”.

  14. Luke

    Yeah I hear a lot of ‘right-wing’* or ‘conservative’* commentators talk about Pinker’s new book and how it smashes a lot of leftist sacred cows. But while I have very much enjoyed his other books I find this one very much a man in the grip of cognitive dissonance. He is able to see how much of the leftists causes are full of illogical or irrational BS but he himself still holds to some of those ideals. Global warming is the prime example.

    A good book except that chapter on Trump which was just unhinged, and was written only months into his presidency with some of his predictions already false by date of release (why that wasn’t edited out I don’t know).

    *typically a title given to them rather than self adopted

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