Road Blocks to Sensible Discussion

Human Beliefs That Prevent Reasonable Debate

Before we start to get into the nitty gritties to various aspects of the climate change, it will be helpful to have some understanding of human belief systems e.g. how people think about things and how they behave when their core beliefs are disputed.

Sometimes it’s just not possible for two people or groups on opposite sides of an argument to get together and come up with a solution. Every individual to a more or less degree may not or will not compromise because of their inherent beliefs, often even when the opponent’s view is true or provable. They just don’t want to listen.

Beliefs

All humans have  beliefs which are basically concepts that we hold to be true. They might be  based on science or faith or both. We start to develop them from birth and use them to “see” the world and make sense of where we belong.

It’s against these that we judge everything happening around us. They also shape our thoughts and help us mentally cope with issues that are too big for us to comprehend in full e.g. religion, an afterlife, the universe and so on.

But there’s a downside.  Strong beliefs can cause bias and a strong desire to defend or even promote what we believe in. Some will even tell a little (or big) lie, exaggerate or engage in selective arguments to convince others.

Beliefs can and often are linked to emotions. Control of emotions is deep seated and not controlled intellectually so if someone threatens one of our beliefs we can often react negatively. It’s how heated arguments can develop even over the most simplest of things.  Intellect does not control the emotions but emotions can sometimes overrule intellect.

In some cases the belief in something is so strong that it’s felt to be necessary to change the “wrong” beliefs of others, even if that means using force – for their own good.

These sorts of behaviours  can come into play at any level of a given society from individuals to groups e.g. political parties or neighbourly disputes and can be a real stumbling block when it comes to sitting down and having a rational debate about an issue.

I’ll deal with a few further below and how they relate to climate change.

Tribalism

Whether we are consciously aware of it or not we are all affected to some degree by tribalism.  It’s imprinted in our DNA from about 2 million years ago when the beginnings of mankind first started walking around on two legs. Your best chance of survival then was to “belong” to a group. Even today we still feel the pull of tribalism, the most common being that of family.

Basically tribalism can be anything where everyone in the group has some kind of shared relationship, values or beliefs. We mostly don’t have tribes as such anymore.  Today it’s more subtle expressing itself as belonging to a country, a city, suburb or neighbourhood, a religion, a political party or a sports club for example.

Most of us have an inherent compulsion to defend our “tribe” in some form and to some degree. This can lead to a sinister side of tribalism – gang members, cults and causes. Too often there is a biased “us” and “them” attitude and a tendency to reject “outside” views.  In prehistoric times it meant treating strangers with suspicion or hostility.

To varying degrees people who “belong” to a group will defend their views, sometimes quite heatedly or even violently. Classic examples are the football riots we sometimes see on TV when the rioters side loses a match.

With climate change there are two “sides” of belief (believers and non-believers) which can attract the more ardent about the issue. A quick glance on an internet discussion forum or panel on TV can show how advocates on each side reacting negatively when an opponent questions what they hold to be true. And unfortunately each side will often treat opposing views with suspicion instead of considering if it has merit.

The Herd Instinct

Most of us usually don’t want to stick our necks out. Nor do we normally want to shoulder the responsibility for other people. Have you ever joined any kind of club? How many people do you see sticking their hands up when it comes time to change Committee Members?  There are some who do it as a kind of duty but it’s unusual to find someone who willingly becomes the leader year after year after year.

When I was a soldier I was taught in a Leadership Course that born natural leaders are extremely rare.  Few people actually aspire to be leaders. Many end up being a leader by circumstance. Nearly all are shaped by their own life history and character or maybe in pursuit of status or money rather than any innate characteristic.  They become good or bad leaders. Bottom line is that people generally want to be led – to let someone else carry the responsibility.

So how does this relate to climate change?

I would hazard that at some primal level we are happy enough to just listen to our leaders and for them to run things.  Consider how many people actually regularly attend Local Council meetings?

Apart from politics, today we are being led by numerous doyens of our respective allegedly scientific societies that AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming is a fact and that we must do something about it to save the planet and thus our way of life. There are highly educated people – scientists, meteorologists – all sorts of people.  And not just a few either.  There’s hundreds if not thousands of them.  And there’s been some pretty convincing computer modelling.  Even governments around the world are accepting it. TV programs constantly tell us it’s a problem …

So it must be true – right? …

I mean who in their right mind would go against that!

So we start to ignore those people bleating from the sidelines that some or all of it is untrue. There’s got to be something wrong with them right?

Except that our leaders each have their own beliefs and all too often, depending on the strength of those beliefs that if you go looking for something, you’ll inevitably find it.  Consider too that historically the doyens of the day have been wrong before. And they could be wrong again at least on some of the issue of climate change.

And we should not summarily disregard an opposing viewpoint.

Resistance to Change

Another human trait I learned about during my military career was that humans dislike change. Once someone has made their mind up it’s often very  hard to shift them.  This can apply not only to individuals but also to groups e.g. a political party.  If an individual or group have been actively  supporting (say) the alarmist side of climate change, then to change their view can result in loss of face.

In political parties, their opponents will castigate them for “back flipping” and the fallout could be loss of confidence in a “wobbly” government.

First Impressions

First impressions are powerful. Whenever we meet, see or learn something new your first impression is going to be the one most likely to stick.  It can sometimes be hard to shift even if it can be proved wrong later.

In my case I watched Senator Al Gores video, “An Inconvenient Truth”. I was instantly a convert to the alarmist cause and was delighted to be able to find and watch his supplemental video.

It wasn’t until many years later that I found out by chance surfing on the internet that the video was found to be full of untruths by a High Court Judge in London. That’s when I started to question things. I wondered that if this fellow of such renown could be so wrong, could there be others?

I know of other people who simply laid the fault at Senator Gore’s door but not the alarmist cause itself. Sometimes we should think a little deeper than just at surface level.  Too often we are seeing both parties of the Australian Government sticking to obviously failed policies, because the loss of face would be too much to bear.

Apocalypse

Mankind has forever been fascinated by the prospect of Armageddon – apocalypse – catastrophilia – the end of the world as we know it.  The Four Horsemen and the Apocalypse is carried in the New Testament of the Bible.

The human psyche is understandably drawn to any subject that threatens our continued existence attracts continued existence.

It must be said that the issue of Climate Change certainly catches more than its share of space in the public domain.  Books and movies attract blockbuster crowds even today. At some level it is essentially about causing changes to the Earth that threatens the way we live.

Doomsday pronouncements are nothing new. As recently as 1972 a 170-page book titled, “Blueprint for Survival” was published by respected environmentalists of the day propounding a comparable imminent catastrophe. It sold highly and in the opening pages listed 38 of Britain’s most honoured scientists, economists and environmentalists who endorsed it plus 18 Professors, two Nobel Laureats and seven Fellows of the Royal Society. Pretty impressive stuff. Doomsday was going to be sometime after the year 2000. By that time hydrocarbon fuel sources and a whole host of metals would be exhausted. There would also be extensive deserts.

Kind of sound familiar?

The cause? It was not global warming.  It was all about over-population.

Conclusion

It’s not hard to see how people and even governments (after all they are made up of individual people) can be emotionally attached when it comes to the issue of AGW.  Unfortunately it can get in the way of intellectual debate.

Politicians are the LAST people who should be making decisions on climate change and making policies such as Carbon Trading because of the potentially False God of AGW. They are not only prone to their own individual beliefs but also those of the shrillest advocates in their electorates.

It’s my belief that the only way that the issue can be solved  at least in Australia, is for a Royal Commission to be held where evidence has to be presented under oath, and only the actual facts are considered under proper Rules of Evidence.