Rearranging The Deckchairs

Frank O'Dwyer's blog

Rightworld and the Moralistic Fallacy

If you suspected that conservatives dismiss facts on global warming and other scientific topics depending on whether or not they threaten their values, you’re right. In a report on a series of surveys and experiments conducted over a nine month period and involving some 5,000 Americans, the following result appears:

In the experiment, subjects were supplied with one of two versions of a newspaper article reporting a study by a group of scientific experts. In both versions, the report was described as finding that the temperature of the earth is increasing, that humans are the source of this condition, and that this change in the earth’s climate could have disastrous environmental economic consequences. In one, however, the scientific report was described as calling for “increased antipollution regulation,” whereas in another it was described as calling for “revitalization of the nation’s nuclear power industry.”

image Those who received the newspaper story saying nuclear power was the solution were more inclined to believe that there was a problem, compared to those who received the newspaper story saying that anti-pollution regulations were the solution, and even compared to those who received no newspaper story at all:

individualists and hierarchs who received the “nuclear power” version were less inclined to dismiss the facts related by the described report—that the earth’s temperature was increasing, that humans were the cause, and that the consequences would be dire if global warming were not reversed—than were individualists and hierarchs who got the “antipollution” version, even though the factual information, and its source, were the same in both articles. Indeed, individualists and hierarchs who received the “antipollution” version of the news report were even more skeptical about these facts than were hierarchs and individualists in a control group that received no newspaper story—and thus no information relating to the scientific report that made these findings.

And the report concludes:

As a way of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups, individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values.

This is an example of the Moralistic Fallacy, i.e. “what ought to be, is”, and it seems to be commonplace in rightworld thinking. Since conservative values cannot change, then when the facts seemingly contradict them, the facts must change. Source: Kahan, Dan M., et al. (2007), ‘The Second National Risk and Culture Study: Making Sense of - and Making Progress In - The American Culture War of Fact’, SSRN eLibrary Technorati Tags: global warming, climate change, conservatives, rightworld