As the war of words and policy on climate change rages on, magazines that cover general science are a common battleground. New Scientist, based in the United Kingdom, is one such publication, providing a perspective on science and society that differs from the United States.
An article entitled "Seeing Reason" was the cover story in the Dec. 3-9 issue of the magazine. The piece covered how human brains skew facts and how the brain might be corrected to think properly. As I suspected from this left-leaning journal, the article zeroed in on the populace's reluctance to accept the "settled fact" of human-induced climate change.
After beginning with examples of the general public's convoluted thinking displayed in the electoral victories of President-elect Trump and Brexit, the piece moved on to "truthiness." "In recent years, psychologists and political scientists have been revealing the shocking extent to which we're all susceptible to truthiness, and how that leads to [polarized] views on factual questions from the safety of vaccines to human-caused climate change," writes the author, Dan Jones.
The slant of the article comes from a perspective provided by psychologists. It seems "motivated reasoning" drives people to reject the "unambiguous" science of climate change, which "is happening and human activity is driving it. Yet despite this, and the risks it poses to our descendants, many people still deny it is happening."
Of course, "The major driver, especially in the US, is political ideology."
However, one Yale University researcher found that, "in contrast to liberals, among conservatives it is the most scientifically literate who are least likely to accept climate change."
Putting aside the fact that no one denies that climate changes, should we wonder why the most scientifically literate conservatives are least likely to accept manmade disastrous climate change? Could it be that those of us who have a more intimate knowledge of scientific research and practice are better able to sort out fact from fiction and form our own conclusions?
According to the article, no, not at all. Rather:
"This apparent paradox [of scientifically literate conservatives being least likely to accept climate change conclusions] comes down to motivated reasoning: the better you are at handling scientific information, the better you'll be at confirming your own bias and writing off inconvenient truths. In the case of climate-change deniers, studies suggest that motivation is often endorsement of free-market ideology, which fuels objections to the government regulation of business that is required to tackle climate change."
The conclusion of the studies is quite arguable. And, of course, motivation with respect to ideology and politics doesn't happen with leftist thinkers on the unambiguously settled science of climate change.
Is it possible that the hallowed, echo-chambered halls of academia are subject to their own biases, blinkered by leftist ideology and politics, and subject to elitist arrogance? Is that why there are so many studies that brand, as something akin to mentally deplorable, populist riffraff who don't reason like academics?
The article goes on to reveal the discovery of a personality trait that mitigates motivated reasoning. That trait is "scientific curiosity," a characteristic found in "people who seek out and consume scientific information for personal pleasure." Thankfully for resolute academics, unlike scientific literacy, "scientific curiosity is linked to greater acceptance of human-caused climate change, regardless of political orientation."
Could it be that those who are merely curious without an intimate comprehension of science and scientific practice are more easily influenced by "settled" scientific assertions and more inclined to demonstrate their understanding of science by going with the "consensus" views?
The article ends with a lament of the "dark money in politics" that supports "climate-denial groups," as if there is no dark money supporting leftist politics and its subsequent science.
Perhaps the bountiful bright shiny money of federal governments chases away the darkness by supporting leftist groupthink and its resulting indubitably beneficent policies. And maybe federal funding will help right the wrong-thinking of the great unwashed who vote for someone like Trump, dissociate themselves from the European Union, and don't put faith in the unassailable wisdom of their academic betters.
Anthony Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist and the author of "In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail." He is Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.