The Church of Climate Change

One of my themes is how belief warps how people process information. The old line about how the fanatic only sees that which confirms his fanaticism is obviously true. Fans of Manchester United will believe anything horrible about fans of Liverpool. At the same time, they will never believe anything bad about the boys on their team. Fans of Tom Brady think he is innocent, while fans of the New Jersey teams think he is in some way responsible for killing Kennedy.

In public affairs, it works the same. Republicans think Democrats are secretly plotting to make Karl Marx our new god and Democrats think Republicans want to bring back slavery. This week the MYTimes went after Marco Rubio and every conservative is rushing to his defense. A week ago many of them thought he was  bum due to his open borders fanaticism.

It also has another manifestation. If you are convinced some event is inevitable, then all signs point to that inevitability. Read Zero Hedge for a week or two and you see what I mean. They are convinced the apocalypse is upon us and every news event is spun into the sign that the end is near. Some variation of “the coming zombie apocalypse in three charts” is a daily staple.

I think that’s at the heart of the Global Warming cult. “Cult” is the right word at this point, since the people passionate about it have deranged themselves to the point where those outside suspect sinister things about the movement. I have liberal friends who send me thousand word e-mails filled with links and graphs claiming that any day now the tipping point will be reached and we’re doomed. They are so sure that Gaia is angry and ready to punish us, it is axiomatic.

What this means is the looming disaster is a certainty in the minds of the adherents, beyond dispute in the same way no sane person disputes gravity or the laws of motion. It is a fixed thing now and forever, like arithmetic. If the data  shows that maybe Gaia is not all that angry, it is assumed to be wrong. It has to be. So they go back and refine the data and massage it so that it is “corrected” to comport with what they know must be true.

NOAA faking their data is not deception in the way in which we normally think of it. They’re simply correcting what they believe must be a mistake. Imagine measuring a stone falling to earth and the results show it falls at rates well outside standard gravity. We know objects near earth accelerate toward the earth at 9.80665 m/s. That’s axiomatic. Any measure outside that must be due to human error.

That’s what’s happening with the constant fiddling with temperature data. Everyone knows that the earth’s climate is warming. The data coming in from various instruments must fit into the the accepted model or those instruments are defective. It has to be, otherwise the very foundation of reality is in doubt. More important, the very identity of the people in the field is in doubt.

The assumption is that data disproving the belief will somehow shake them out of their faith, but it does not work like that for most people. Look at the number of people who can walk into a natural history museum and still believe in young earth creationism. Glaciers could cover North America and the AGW people will say the planet is overheating. It’s why they have started saying climate change rather than global warming. It’s not a conscious effort to deceive; they are simply adapting to dis-confirmation.

Think of it this way. If you are a climate researcher today, you not only have the pressure to produce proof of global warming, you are surrounded by colleagues who believe deeply in the issue. Even if you know the data contradicts the prevailing “consensus” on the issue, it would take herculean will to publish it and face the wrath of your friends and colleagues. When you already are inclined to agree with them, the default assumption will be to dismiss the contradictory data and “correct” it.

There is an old idea called Social Comparison Theory that tries to explain why we tend to emulate those around us. The short version is that humans constantly compare themselves to others around them as a form of self-evaluation. If everyone else thinks pink flamingos on the lawn is gauche, then you are unlikely to install them on your lawn. This applies to opinions, styles, religion, etc.

It’s not hard to see how this is a great evolutionary adaptation. Cooperation scales very well. Two people working in tandem will beat two people working independently. Ten people working as a team will beat two people working in tandem. There are no examples of high status males, for example, whose lives prove the customs of their society nugatory. Rather, status is based on confirming that which society holds dear.

One of the things I find fascinating about third century Rome is how the Empire lost transcendent purpose. Everything was aimed at keeping the band together, so to speak. It’s argued that the Empire bankrupted itself trying to preserve the empire. In this period is when all sorts of odd cults and mystics popped up throughout the Empire. Sol Invictus and, of course, Christianity got going strong during this period as well.

In this post-Christian Era in the West, I think we’re seeing something similar. Oddball mass movements like climate change and its implicit millenarianism are only possible when no dominant ideology exists. The field is clear for people who no longer believe in anything to fall for everything. The Romans carried on a long time after they no longer had a reason to carry on, but eventually something replaced the old gods. Something will come along to be the dominant faith of the West, but I doubt it is climate change.

17 thoughts on “The Church of Climate Change

  1. “humans constantly compare themselves to others around them as a form of self-evaluation. If everyone else thinks pink flamingos on the lawn is gauche, then you are unlikely to install them on your lawn. This applies to opinions, styles, religion, etc.”
    This is exactly what happened with acceptance of homosexuality. Due to dominance of the media, people were convinced that they were the only ones that were still disgusted by it, so they changed their opinions. Next was transsexuals. You could see it happen in real time, but by the time of the introduction of “Kaitlyn” Jenner, everyone knew what was expected, and tried to be the first one to defend “it” (Kaitlyn)

  2. Pingback: QQQ - Maggie's Farm

  3. You are correct. Most people will not change their minds because that requires some effort, such as simply understanding the issue because that requires work and using whatever cognitive powers they possess.

    In Black Swan Nassim Taleb describes two conditions: 1) the narrative fallacy and 2) naive empiricism. The first involves tidy stories over truths, and the last (most importantly) the natural tendency to look for examples as evidence to confirm our theories. If the facts get in the way, so be it.

  4. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia!” Thanks for the reminder, James B.

    The whole point of Zman’s post was most human beings, most of the time, don’t change their minds due to evidence. That was really at the heart of the piece, with global warming being an illustration of the principle.

    When I wrote “global warming” above, I really meant “climate change.” In fact, I’m certain that I never wrote “global warming.” Emmanuel Goldstein and those traitors in the Brotherhood must have altered my comment using some kind of illegal Eastasian software! Not that Eastasian software is superior to that coded by patriotic Oceaneans, whose hearts and minds have been liberated by Ingsoc, no sir!

  5. This is all I’m going to say about this load of crap. Instead of arguing that it’s “I think that’s at the heart of the Global Warming cult” Read it instead as “I think that’s at the heart of the Global Warming Denying cult.” Where all the evidence is summary dismiss because humans can’t possibly be effecting the weather. Because that is what this enter post boils down to.

    Here is a real easy way to prove that Global Warming Theory is baseless, use data, use facts. Don’t just declare it’s a cult and build a straw-man because you willfully disbelieve what the actual theory is and what the evidence is.

  6. I listen to the BBC World Service a lot. They had a piece about some expedition that was studying the Arctic sea ice. While conceding that the area covered by ice had grown in recent years, they were quite adamant that it was “thinner” than in the past. You can’t make this stuff up. Next thing they will be saying that it’s made out of ice that has a higher melting temperature or something (apologies to K. Vonnegut).

    To avoid the NOAA effect, I wonder if there is any way to introduce blind or double blind testing into this mess. Send researchers out to measure the ice thickness but tell them that they are looking for evidence or particulate pollution in their ice cores.

    Abandoning a belief system is tough. Starting with Saul/Paul, I think a lot of converts have likened it to getting hit by a bolt of lightning.

    9.8m/s^2?!? Isn’t Systeme International a lunatic plot or something?

  7. Sorry. Here’s the missing link:

    Frostbite Ends Bancroft-Arnesen Trek
    “MINNEAPOLIS — A North Pole expedition meant to bring attention to global warming was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite. The explorers, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, on Saturday called off what was intended to be a 530-mile trek across the Arctic Ocean after Arnesen suffered frostbite in three of her toes, and extreme cold temperatures drained the batteries in some of their electronic equipment.

    “Ann said losing toes and going forward at all costs was never part of the journey,” said Ann Atwood, who helped organize the expedition….”

  8. It is said that love of money is the root of all evil. I say that love of theory is the root of all folly.

  9. Does anyone still remember the two lunatic lesbian hikers who were going to walk to the North Pole, but instead got frostbite and nearly froze to death?
    They were expecting palm trees and parrots, I suppose, but got surprised.

    Try this on your average Climate Change/née Global Warming devotee:
    Ask them: For how long has the ‘glacier’ has been melting?
    Usually they’ll say 100 to 200 years, or simply refuse to answer.
    Then tell them it’s been melting for about 20,000 years.
    Long before fossil fuels, SUVs, and the industrial revolution.
    When they don’t believe you show them this little video of the Laurentide Ice Sheet:
    When they still don’t believe you send them to the government’s own
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory to get a the fully detailed maps of the glacial retreat:
    Ask them: What explains the first 19,800 years of melting?
    Believers will simply say ‘ the scientists all agree’,
    or just ignore what they’re seeing with their own eyes.

    In the end, the Zman is correct.
    It will all have no effect, no evidence will make any difference.
    Climate Change/née Global Warming is the new ‘One-True-Faith’.


    “Trust me, Wilbur. People are very gullible. They’ll believe anything they see in print.”― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

    “No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”
    ― H.L. Mencken, Gist of Mencken

    The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from which alone men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are living.
    G. K. Chesterton
    “W: Nobody’s so gullible as scientists. All the phony mediums say so.
    Can’t quite see why.
    J: Oh, yes, it would be so. They think they know, you see.
    That’s always dangerous.”
    ― Agatha Christie, Destination Unknown

  10. I’ve been through the global cooling, hole in the ozone phase, the global warming, climate change phase, I’m waiting for the ‘global staying the same within the parameters of historical data’ phase.

  11. I am reminded of the story of the people who set out to prove the existence of global warming by swimming in the seas near the north pole. They were rescued suffering from frostbite, but undettered one of their supporters/apologists announced this was merely proof of how volatile the climate was because what should have been warm was inexplicably cold.

    A good cult can explain away anything, and the warmologists have all the best explanations.

  12. 2013 was especially hard for believers, to recap, they saw snow in Cairo Egypt for the first time in over 100 years, some famous scientist was trapped in heavy ice while trying to document it’s very same disappearance, several nuclear powered ice breakers couldn’t reach him, and on top of that, they recorded the coldest temperature ever on earth in Antarctica at -135.8F (-94.7C).

    I remember sending to some people this picture of a confused camel sitting in snow and getting “yeah but still” replies back…

    To quote Richard Fernandez again:

    “Someone asked me whether years of freezing weather would dispel a belief in global warming. I said “no”. When people find out that the mother-ship doesn’t arrive on the scheduled date, they just wait some more.”

Comments are closed.