Why Do Most American Conservatives Still Refuse To Believe In Climate Change?
97% of scientists agree that humans are causing global warming, yet belief in climate change continues to depend on political beliefs above all else.
It is no secret that belief in climate change in America is strongly divided along party lines, a fact we were reminded of in last week’s Republican leadership debates. The relationship was assessed in an experiment by Dan Kahan published in Advances in Political Psychology earlier this year, which demonstrated that there exists an extremely bizarre paradox that is as mind bending as it is troubling. Believe it or not, the more Republicans know about science, the less likely they are to believe in climate change.
The Ordinary Science Intelligence measure which runs across the bottom of the graphs above measures how likely someone is to answer tests of scientific knowledge and reasoning correctly. For example, someone with an average Ordinary Science Intelligence score has a 70% chance of giving the correct answer to the simple scientific question "electrons are smaller than atoms - true or false". Someone would have to be a full standard deviation below average (i.e. in the 16th percentile) to be more likely than not to get this question wrong.
When we test the whole population on their scientific understanding before asking them if they believe in climate change, we see precisely the trend that we’d expect. The more people know about science, the more likely they are to agree that humans are causing climate change. But when the sample is split based on political affiliation, a very different picture emerges. Among conservatives, paradoxically, scientific understanding is inversely correlated with belief in climate change; those conservatives in the top few percentiles of scientific understanding are the least likely to believe in climate change. This is despite the fact that in reality, the debate among scientists is effectively already over – 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.
As the graph above shows, a Democrat with an average level of scientific understanding has an 80% chance of believing in global warming, while the equivalent Republican has only a 20% chance. Astonishingly, this number falls even further as Republicans' scientific literacy increases.
These findings support a 2008 report by the PEW Research Centre which found that only 19% of university educated Republicans believed in human caused global warming compared to 31% of Republicans who didn’t attend university. Among Democrats, again, the opposite trend was true, 75% of university educated Democrats believed in global warming compared to only 52% of democrats who didn’t go to university.
Interestingly, we see the same shocking pattern among religious people who are asked if they believe in evolution - as their knowledge of science increases, their likelihood of believing in evolution actually falls:
The similarity in the trends of the graphs above suggests refusal to believe in climate change is practically religious in nature. Both disbelief in climate change and disbelief in evolution don't just stand fast in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, they grow stronger.
Why is this case? At its core, it seems the answer comes down to identity, confirmation bias and motivated reasoning. Humans are tribal. Asking whether you are left wing or right wing is like asking what football team you support. People tend to think of themselves as supporters of one team or another and rarely switch sides. We surround ourselves with people who share our views, we watch news and seek out evidence that fits our side’s agenda; and science notwithstanding, we conveniently ignore anything that doesn’t support our team and our way of life.
One explanation for why climate change has become such a partisan issue is that it is not the idea of climate change per se, that conflicts with conservative ideology, rather it is the most commonly proposed solutions to climate change: pollution taxes, emissions restrictions, and government intervention. A fascinating recent study examined what happens when solutions to climate change are framed in a way that doesn’t conflict with conservative ideology. When the researchers mentioned “how the United States could help stop climate change and profit from leading the world in green technology”, the likelihood that Republicans reported that they believed in climate change rocketed from 22% to 55%:
This data may explain the behavior of the candidates in the recent Republican leadership debates who shied away from discussing climate science, instead preferring to attack solutions to climate change with such words of wisdom as “America is not a planet” from Marco Rubio. No, America is not a planet and yes, of course we will have to unite around the world to fight climate change.
In last week’s debate, three Republican candidates: Rubio, Christie and Walker, at least accepted that climate change is real, which suggests the party may be in the midst of taking an important step forward, even though all the candidates stubbornly refused to agree on any action to prevent climate change. It may be a case of one step forward and two steps back.
For whatever reason, climate change has become a fiercely partisan issue in the United States. If we are ever to have a hope of minimizing its catastrophic consequences, we must first understand this, and second, find ways to move past this.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
Controversial physics theory says reality around us behaves like a computer neural network.
- Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
- The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
- The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
Vanchurin interview:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="539759cbfd8fcd5b6ebf14a3b597b3f9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bmyRy2-UhEE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Vanchurin on “Hidden Phenomena”:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18886ffd5e5840bb19d4494212f88d82"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2NDVdNwsHCo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Vitaly Vanchurin speaking at the 6th International FQXi Conference, "Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World." The Foundational Questions...
43% of people think they can get a sense of someone's personality by their picture.
If you've used a dating app, you'll know the importance of choosing good profile pics.
Quarantine rule breakers in 17th-century Italy partied all night – and some clergy condemned the feasting
17th-century outbreaks of plague in Italy reveal both tensions between religious and public health authorities.