Extreme confirmation bias in action

How’s this for an egregious example of confirmation bias. This morning the local blog Whale oil presents this graphic to “prove” his assertions that current climate science is a “hoax’ and those who accept the science are either fools or worse (see Chart of the Day – Proof of global warming).

guide_2505022cThe chart is taken from well-known climate denying journalist Christopher Booker’s Telegraph article Look at the graph to see the evidence of global warming. Trouble is, one has to do a lot of ignoring of facts to produce such charts. In fact he has taken only two data points (and drawn a vague sort of line between them). Isn’t Booker’s little chart somewhat misleading when you see what he ignores in the total data set:

compare_datasets_new

Global near-surface temperatures from 1850 to 2012 from Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit HadCRUT4, NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC

I discuss this sort of cherry picking in my recent post :

“There’s a lot of noise in that graph but it does sort of support the conclusion that global temperatures have increased in the last 100 years. Mind you, if you want to create a contrary impression you can easily take a short time period – say around 1950, 1960 – 1980, 1985 – 1995 – or even the last 16 years. Cherry picking is a great thing – if your aim is to support a predetermined conclusion, and avoid (or even hide) evidence to the contrary.’

I know, I’m hardly likely to change this blogger’s position. He is operating under the completely human process of confirmation denial. Will Storr, in his recently published book The Heretics describes confirmation bias this way:

“When confronted by a new fact, we first feel an instantaneous, emotional hunch. It is a raw instinct for whether the fact is right or wrong and it pulls us helplessly in the direction of an opinion. Then we look for evidence that supports our hunch. The moment we find some, we think ‘Aha!’ and happily conclude that we are, indeed, correct. The thinking then ceases.

Psychologists know this as the ‘makes sense stopping rule’. We ignore anything that runs counter to our hunch, grab for the first thing that matches, think, Yep that makes sense, and then we rest, satisfied by the peerless powers of our fantastic wisdom. Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of confirmation bias is the fact that we mistake the process of searching for favourable evidence as a fair survey of both sides of the argument.”

You see this psychological phenomena again and again in internet articles and comments on climate change. But what is becoming clearer and clearer is that the prejudice underlying this particular confirmation bias is an extreme right-wing political position of the sort promoted by Chris Monckton and his “Agenda 21″ myth.

Perhaps the fact that these extreme distortions and misrepresentation of current climate change science is becoming so obviously associated with this sort of politics is one reason more and more people are refusing to subscribe to the “climate change hoax” myth.

Similar articles

About these ads

33 responses to “Extreme confirmation bias in action

  1. He reminds me very much of Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, otherwise known as Comical Ali, proudly declaring that the Iraqi forces were “pounding” and “chasing” the US forces, but unlike Comical Ali, Slater’s idiotic ranting is dangerous and destructive.

    The tragic outcome of the denialist’s work is that our leaders are ignoring the warning signs. We are experiencing a drought that is slamming our pastoral industries; a drought that is everything we have been told to expect from climate change, yet has anyone in government or the relevant industries even mentioned it in passing? We may still have time to prepare ourselves for a very different and very hostile future, but not if we allow the toxic ramblings of people like Cameron Slater to be given credence.

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on It makes perfect sense and commented:
    A well written post in response to the ramblings of one Cameron Slater (Whale Oil). Cameron’s frantic denial of the reality that surrounds him reminds me of Comical Ali from the Iraq war, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfAeMtcURg0

    Unfortunately it is people like Slater that have paralysed our politicians because it’s easier to do nothing when the public are deceived and confused.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Which countries’ economies are flourishing and which are totally screwed? Ask a Thai gogo-bar girl « Snouts in the Trough

  4. Pingback: In the 4pm Daily Blog Bulletin « The Daily Blog

  5. Everyday, the energy of a million Hiroshima bombs enters our atmosphere.
    Billions of tonnes of carbon pollution pour into it, like an open sewer.
    Over the world, millions are suffering from the devastating effects of climate change. People can’t even grow food anymore.

    Hundreds of thousands of Polar Bears drown every day. Seal levels are rising, causing people to drown in Pacific Islands

    Temperatures are getting higher and higher. We haven’t seen temperatures this high in 10 million years.

    What do these fat white deniers do?

    Deny it all.

    That’s what deniers do

    Like

  6. Climate change is the biggest moral crisis of our time.
    Have you taken the pledge yet?

    Like

  7. It’s really basic stuff even deniers can understand

    Bill Nye the Science Guy

    Like

  8. Grassroots:

    All good stuff

    Take action now!

    Like

  9. This film exposes the shocking connection between tobacco and the climate denial movement

    Like

  10. Kids can see it. Wht can’t we?

    Like

  11. There must be some special club where science deniers are taught that creating sock puppets is somehow a winning idea. It’s not.
    Mentioning NASA, however?
    Now that’s a winning idea.
    I mention it all the time.
    Every chance I get, in fact. :)
    No,seriously. I do.
    Love to mention NASA.
    It’s NASA this and NASA that and NASA’s got this official website with a dedicated section on climate change with all the hows/whys/wherefore etc.
    (Just google NASA and “climate change” and it pops right up)
    NASA, NASA…and yep you guessed it….NASA.
    Just love to say it.

    NASA is to climate deniers as, well, NASA is to moonlanding deniers.
    One global scientific conspiracy theory (climate denialism) ends up sounding a lot like any other scientific conspiracy theory (moonlanding denialism) because they run into the same basic, painfully obvious logistical problems.

    Former NASA Climate Change Deniers – May 9th, 2012

    Like

  12. I have just had a very amusing exchange with the lovely Cameron Slater which you might enjoy reading. My apologies for the length of this post, but I have edited as much as I can.

    On Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 11:20 AM, David Thompson wrote:
    Cameron, I’m going to ask you a straight question that puzzles me about climate change sceptics because for all your faults you seem like a straight up guy.

    When climate change first hit public attention with Gore’s film I often debated with sceptics, and at that stage many of the arguments I encountered challenged me enough to make me stop and reassess my position, especially when faced with the more technical arguments which, because my degrees are all in the social sciences/commerce, were well outside my expertise. I’m the sort of guy who will admit he is wrong when faced with a good argument because that’s how you learn stuff, so I was willing to listen to the rational and well argued dissenting voices – and because climate change really has nothing good about it for a petrol head like me, I actually wanted to be wrong.

    That was 6 or 7 years ago, and now it seems that the arguments against AGW are either the same ones that keep on being countered and debunked like “the hottest year was in 1998″, straw men, silly (scientists only agree because it’s lucrative), based on flawed, incomplete or cherry picked data, presented by people who are really not credible experts etc. On the other side of the ledger there is an enormous amount of research, using very high quality data and analysis supporting the argument that climate change is happening and it’s our fault.
    But at the end of the day, I’m a simple man and I like Occkham’s razor.

    1. We are burning a huge amount of carbon which is why the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere has risen dramatically over the last 150 odd years to damn near 400 ppm.
    2. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere determines the rate at which heat is retained
    3. Mean temperatures are rising rapidly pretty much everywhere, and where they’re not (parts of Antarctica) there is a rational explanation.
    4. Temperatures have always changed, but the factors that caused prior increases are not happening now.
    Therefore, the rising temperature is most likely to be caused by human beings dumping carbon in the atmosphere.

    So my question Cameron, are you beginning to suspect that you might be wrong?

    On 12/03/2013 11:34 a.m., he replied:
    It’s Occam’s Razor…you’d be more believable if you could get simple facts correct.

    1. Whoopy…it has been higher
    2. I fail to see how CO2 which makes up 0.039 per cent of the atmosphere is even remotely responsible for anything. if you believe that it is then you probably take homeopathic remedies.
    3. Mean temperatures are not rising rapidly…the graphs that they show fractions of a degree over time are rising rapidly, but put into a proper earth age timeline show nothing of the sort…we are still far lower in temperature than the those experienced by the Roman Empire while they put all of the known world to the sword.
    4. False premise…just like we are seeing more hurricanes etc…400 years ago there was no method of determining whether or a not a hurricane blew through some remote location, indeed even 50 years ago we didn’t know of such events unless someone was there and reported it. Now we have satellites remotely monitoring every square metre of the earth, so of course we have more reported storms and cyclones etc.

    On Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 11:51 AM, I replied:
    Jeez Cameron, you had me worried for a second, I’m one of those boring fucks who hate being wrong and you can’t imagine my relief when I realised it was just how I spelt Occam’s name (and I stand corrected mate, my bad).

    I responded to each of his points in a rational and polite manner including using my motorcycle in an analogy before finishing with this:

    “I hope that has cleared things up for you mate, as you no doubt now appreciate the sceptical position you have taken until now is really no longer tenable and I’m sure you’re smart enough not to want to keep on backing a losing horse. I realise admitting you’re wrong sucks, but sometimes you just gotta do it because the alternative is to look like a dick, and most people will respect you even more for being smart enough and honest enough to do that.”

    On 13/03/2013 12:02 p.m. came this gem:

    1. No need, it will be TL;DR and funded by vested interestins who need alarmism to continue.
    2. Why aren;t you riding a push bike, hypocritical much?
    3. Yawn…still fuck all really, and human civilisation flourishes in warmth and chokes in cold, but you guys all seem to want us to freeze…btw hows that global warming feeling in the UK at the moment?
    4. You can’t prove they are increasing, all you can prove is that reportage of them is increasing, in fact i think there is a peer reviewed paper on that…and another one on the fact that they aren’t increasing. Temperatures aren’t increasing…it is just that your world view is so incredibly filled with people who are chicken littles.

    My final reply to this was:

    “Thanks for that Cameron, you have very clearly demonstrated the reason you hold the views you do which has have given me an excellent example to demonstrate the type of people denialists are, they way you guys think, the extent of your knowledge and your attitude to expanding your perspective in order to gain a better understanding of the complex issues that surround us. Once again Cameron, you have been fantastic and given me exactly what I was looking for.

    Keep up the good work, you are a legend.”

    The man is a gibbering idiot, yet sadly people listen to him

    Like

  13. Yes, scratch a little bit and it is clear that Slater starts with a political position and it’s confirmation bias from then on in. In his case an extreme bias – peddling a temperature graph with two data points on it!

    I think the fact that these days the extreme right wing agenda that almost inevitably gets exposed when the climate change question is discussed is great as it helps show that the so-called science controversy is just a cover for the politics.

    That’s why I am looking forward so much to Mad Monckton’s visit (starting April fools day) because he is currently exposing his extreme political position very well.

    Like

  14. Slater more than just shows his political position, he shows his complete refusal to even consider anything that might be contrary to his position. The guy is demonstrably ignorant and lacks either the ability or the will to change that.

    WHY DO PEOPLE TAKE HIM SERIOUSLY ABOUT ANYTHING?

    Like

  15. You seem upset David. There is no need to shout.

    Like

  16. Nah, not shouting but I don’t know the internet way to express speaking between gritted teeth whilst rolling eyes, so I used caps.

    Like

  17. Cameron is not the sharpest pencil in the box. His blog has all the usual shopworn tropes.

    Like

  18. I am a big fan of NASA too
    I have a complete collection of Airfix models of all the space ships and the space shuttles.

    I also have a collection of badges, and I hold NASA parties where we dress up as astronauts and play “floating in space”.

    I put silver foil over the furniture to make it more realistic, and put black paper on all the windows with “earth pictures” on them.

    We go “beep” everytime someone says something.

    Like

  19. yes I did know that Cedric, but I haven’t managed to fit it into my NASA themed parties yet.

    Do you have any suggestions?

    Maybe we could have some satellites on the ceiling, or some boring guy in the kitchen lecturing us about global warming.

    Think I’ll stick with the silver foil and floating games, thanks anyway

    Like

  20. Talking about boring guys lecturing us on global warming – quite a few people here n New Zealand are preparing to silver foil hats which they will wear on April 1st and for a while thereafter.

    Like

  21. yes I did know that Cedric…

    That’s good. Very good.
    Let’s talk about NASA some more.
    So you know that on the NASA website, it says…

    “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”

    You knew that, right?

    Like

  22. Yes I knew that, Cedric

    (* yawns *)

    Like

  23. Yes I knew that right. Actually I know that right. I try to weave the climate change narrative into my NASA parties, but you know, when the girls start to lose their astronaut suits and the “floating games” get a bit more horizontal, we all get a bit bored of the climate change gig.

    Know what I mean?

    Like

  24. Talking about boring guys lecturing us on global warming – quite a few people here n New Zealand are preparing to silver foil hats which they will wear on April 1st and for a while thereafter.

    Are you going along Ken? Could be quite a hoot!
    Remind him of his chickening out debating with Peter Hadfield. Remind him of the letter from House of Lords disowning him heck read it out to the meeting etc plenty of scope for entertainment, cheap at 20 dollars too.
    I’d go if I was closer than 120km to somewhere that happened to be on Mad M’s itinerary.

    Like

  25. Yes I knew that right.

    That’s good. That’s very good.
    Let’s talk about NASA some more.
    You slipped up last round.
    I just love talking about NASA. It makes climate deniers like you look so very stupid. You’ve got nothing in comparision.
    A yawn or two and some tinfoil but…
    (shrug)
    Once you’ve got NASA and every single scientific community on the planet on your side, the rest is easy.

    NASA put this up on their website too…

    “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” (2006)
    - American Association for the Advancement of Science

    You knew that, right?

    Like

  26. Remind him of the letter from House of Lords disowning him…

    I (heart) that letter.

    “…you are not and have never been a Member of the House of Lords…”

    Like

  27. I (heart) that letter.

    then let’s have the full text

    http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-information-office/2011/letter-to-viscount-monckton-20110715.pdf

    By the way our friend Andy getting burned in comments of this den of hard left marxists:

    http://thestandard.org.nz/english-in-denial-on-climate-change/

    Like

  28. By the way our friend Andy getting burned in comments of this den of hard left marxists…

    Oh, that’s going to leave a mark! Nice delivery there by One Tāne Huna.

    Like

  29. That’s good. That’s very good.
    Let’s talk about NASA some more.
    You slipped up last round.
    I just love talking about NASA. It makes climate deniers like you look so very stupid.

    What do you mean, “I slipped up last round”? Huh?

    Climate deniers like me? Huh?

    Please explain.

    Like

  30. I am a big fan of NASA too
    I have a complete collection of Airfix models of all the space ships and the space shuttles.
    I also have a collection of badges, and I hold NASA parties where we dress up as astronauts and play “floating in space”.
    I put silver foil over the furniture to make it more realistic, and put black paper on all the windows with “earth pictures” on them.
    We go “beep” everytime someone says something.
    yes I did know that Cedric, but I haven’t managed to fit it into my NASA themed parties yet.
    Do you have any suggestions?
    Maybe we could have some satellites on the ceiling, or some boring guy in the kitchen lecturing us about global warming.
    Think I’ll stick with the silver foil and floating games, thanks anyway
    Yes I knew that, Cedric
    (* yawns *)
    Yes I knew that right. Actually I know that right. I try to weave the climate change narrative into my NASA parties, but you know, when the girls start to lose their astronaut suits and the “floating games” get a bit more horizontal, we all get a bit bored of the climate change gig.
    Know what I mean?

    You may not be a climate denier but you sure sound like one.
    (shrug)
    Try not to be so stupid in future.

    Like

Leave a Reply: please be polite to other commenters & no ad hominems.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s