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).
The 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:
I discuss this sort of cherry picking in my recent post Climate change is not simple:
“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.