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To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done

To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done

I met a climate crisis denier today. It came out of nowhere. I was getting my camera repaired, and I was chatting with the repairman afterward.

Just before I left, he dropped into our conversation that he didn’t believe in manmade climate change. After all, the earth managed to produce an Ice Age all by itself. Volcanoes can mess up the climate. Humans can’t.

I can imagine for people like him, people like me are infuriating. We want to make up a bunch of regulations to fix what he believes is an imaginary problem.

For me, by denying a very real problem, people like him are causing suffering — and even death — for millions, if not billions, of people.

One of the reasons I haven’t had kids — and I want kids — is because I’m terrified of what kind of world I would bring them into as the climate gets more extreme and unstable.

In the moment, I simply said I thought that just because the earth’s climate can change on its own, that doesn’t mean that people can’t also harm the planet. We’ve certainly wiped out entire species of animals all by ourselves.

Yes, he conceded. People can do major damage to wildlife. He just didn’t think we were powerful enough to mess up the entire climate.

That’s his hunch. But it’s certainly not what the science says.

One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve become trained in science myself (in sociology, a social science) and gone on to teach it to college students is how little people actually believe in science.

Take Donald Trump and his latest idea to handle the opioid epidemic with the death penalty. My own instinct would be to deal with by providing services to addicts. But which one is more effective?

Until we look at scientific evidence, we don’t know. Each of us has an idea of what feels true, but who knows? That’s what studies are for.

In this case, studies have shown that the link between severe penalties and crime deterrence is quite weak, while evidence-based treatment programs for addiction can be much more effective.

For whatever reason, scientific studies simply aren’t convincing to an awful lot of people. I got into it with a Facebook troll the other day about whether or not racism still exists. (Spoiler alert: It does.)

I cited research and evidence. He dismissed it. He told me to “Look outside.” Obama was president once, he said, so racism is gone.

He was, in essence, telling me that he doesn’t find scientific studies credible. He believes what he sees with his own eyes (in this case, one single black president on TV).

It’s hard to see climate change with your own eyes. I feel a vague sense that our weather has gotten warmer and weirder in recent years, but I cannot say for sure. I mean, I saw Al Gore’s movie, but what do real scientists say?

97 percent of them agree that humans are causing climate change, according to a 2013 survey of over 10,300 of them.

While I haven’t examined their data myself, I understand enough about how science is done that I believe in scientists. If the experts who have devoted their careers to understanding climate science conclude that there is a manmade climate crisis, I believe them.

More Americans need a solid understanding of and belief in science. Otherwise we end up bickering over our gut hunches without any way to be certain who’s right and who’s wrong.

 

Film in the Anthropocene

Film is of course the art form of Industrial Civilization and its mass culture, whether as a simple historical fact, a manifestation of technical possibility, or in the various ideologies it is adept at expressing.

But it is also the art form of the Anthropocene.  I am overstating the case somewhat, but not entirely, when I note that the prevailing message of film is the power of belief and trust.  This is most visible in the nearly inevitable Hollywood Plot whereby evil, prejudice, self-doubt, or malevolent aliens are overcome, at the plot’s climax, by a leap of belief or trust that transcends the odds.  This is true whether we are talking about Westerns, “Star Wars,” “Rocky,” “Pocahontas,” “Toy Story”—or “A Wrinkle in Time,” which I saw earlier today (don’t ask).  Never mind the odds or probable limits.  Believe.  Trust.  Take my hand.  Look me in the eyes.  Close your eyes.  Jump.  What film doesn’t contain this moment?  The force is always with the film’s hero if only he or she will surrender fussy sensibility and give in to it.

It is easy enough to make a connection between the narrative of belief in yourself against the odds in the context of competitive capitalism, especially as it increasingly becomes a game of roulette in the financialized casino capitalism of today.  But the story of self-overcoming through belief in oneself is more broadly suited to the Liberal life-plan of self-creation.  You can be whoever you want—as long as you dream big: that’s the narrative line of almost every “age appropriate” (a phrase I use in both of its senses) movie or TV show produced for my children.  The meta-myth of Liberalism is that there are no limits, that ideas and ideals can create reality, that any obstacle can be overcome by human ingeniousness–if, that is, we don’t lose faith and fall victim to the sensible or moderate law of averages that are so often represented by the foil if not the antagonist.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

People Ignore Facts That Contradict Their False Beliefs

People Ignore Facts That Contradict Their False Beliefs

People Ignore Facts That Contradict Their False Beliefs

The more people there are who ignore facts that contradict their beliefs, the likelier a dictatorship will emerge within a given country. Here is how aristocracies, throughout the Ages, have controlled the masses, by taking advantage of this widespread tendency people have, to ignore contrary facts:

What social scientists call “confirmation bias” and have repeatedly found to be rampant,* is causing the public to be easily manipulated, and has thus destroyed democracy by replacing news-reporting, by propaganda — ‘news’ that’s false — in a culture where lies which pump the agendas of the powerful (including lies pumped by the billionaire owners of top ‘news’media and of the media they own) are almost never punished (and are often not even denied to be true). Thus, lies by those powerful liars almost always succeed at enslaving the minds of the millions, to believe what the top economic-and-power class want those millions of people to believe — no matter how false it might happen actually to be.

Recently, a particularly stark example of this came to my attention. On 15 September 2017, an article that I wrote for the Strategic Culture Foundation, and which was titled by a true statement that I had only recently discovered to be true, was republished at a news-site that I consider one of the best around, “Signs of the Times” or “SOTT” for short, and a reader-comment there, simply rejected that title-statement and the entire article, because it contradicted what the person believes. This commenter entirely ignored the evidence that I had provided in the article, which proved the statement to be true.

No matter how irrefutable the evidence is, most people reject anything which contradicts their deeply entrenched false beliefs, and this reader-comment crystallized for me, this phenomenon of “confirmation bias” — the phenomenon of ignoring evidence that contradicts what one believes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

6 Giant Corporations Control The Media, And Americans Consume 10 Hours Of ‘Programming’ A Day

6 Giant Corporations Control The Media, And Americans Consume 10 Hours Of ‘Programming’ A Day

Faces - Public DomainIf you allow someone to pump hours of “programming” into your mind every single day, it is inevitable that it is eventually going to have a major impact on how you view the world.  In America today, the average person consumes approximately 10 hours of information, news and entertainment a day, and there are 6 giant media corporations that overwhelmingly dominate that market.  In fact, it has been estimated that somewhere around 90 percent of the “programming” that we constantly feed our minds comes from them, and of course they are ultimately controlled by the elite of the world.  So is there any hope for our country as long as the vast majority of the population is continually plugging themselves into this enormous “propaganda matrix”?

Just think about your own behavior.  Even as you are reading this article the television might be playing in the background or you may have some music on.  Many of us have gotten to the point where we are literally addicted to media.  In fact, there are people out there that become physically uncomfortable if everything is turned off and they have to deal with complete silence.

It has been said that if you put garbage in, you are going to get garbage out.  It is the things that we do consistently that define who we are, and so if you are feeding your mind with hours of “programming” from the big media corporations each day, that is going to have a dramatic affect on who you eventually become.

These monolithic corporations really do set the agenda for what society focuses on.  For example, when you engage in conversation with your family, friends or co-workers, what do you talk about?  If you are like most people, you might talk about something currently in the news, a television show that you watched last night or some major sporting event that is taking place.

Virtually all of that news and entertainment is controlled by the elite by virtue of their ownership of these giant media corporations.

I want to share some numbers with you that may be hard to believe.  They come directly out of Nielsen’s “Total Audience Report“, and they show how much news and entertainment the average American consumes through various methods each day…

Peak Oil: We All Do This, But…. Pt 1

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Confirmation bias is the tendency of individuals to pay attention to or believe information that confirms the personal values and beliefs they already hold, rather than allowing their beliefs to be changed by new information.
It’s a powerful force that many researchers have suggested plays a key role in the persistence of phenomena such as climate doubt. With an overwhelming abundance of evidence pointing to the existence of anthropogenic climate change, for instance, many scientists have questioned why skepticism continues to be pervasive in society. Sociologists have suggested that the reason has to do with the fact that it’s difficult to change an individual’s worldview simply by presenting new information. Confirmation bias, rather, leads people to seek out evidence — however small or poorly supported — that supports their existing personal beliefs. [1]

Seems to be a simple enough explanation….We can all [present company included] insist that we’re always objective and always looking at all sides of important issues, but … not really. Human nature is what it is. This is true for conservatives and progressives—denials and finger-pointing duly noted.

For the great majority of issues, questions, and concerns that pop up on our daily radar screens, this psychological short-cut is certainly handy, and rarely a cause of any great trouble in our lives. It’s a different story for matters whose scope and impact extends beyond today in our own little worlds.

Climate change is certainly one such issue, as was explored in Chelsea Harvey’s above-referenced Washington Post article about a study which examined the spread of misinformation online. Any number of contentious political/economic/cultural topics likewise fall under that widening umbrella. The report’s lead author offered one of the main conclusions validating the impact of confirmation bias as it relates to the spread of climate change denial:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Convenient Beliefs

BALTMORE – “Stocks still not finding bottom” warned a headline at Investor’s Business Daily. On Thursday, the Dow ended down 255 points – or 1.6%. The index is down by almost 9% since the start of the year.

“These developments, if they prove persistent, could weigh on the outlook for economic activity…” proffered a nervous-looking Janet Yellen in her testimony on Capitol Hill. She was signaling to investors.

Yellen_cartoon_02.27.2015Smoke signals…

“Don’t worry about us,” she may as well have said. “If we can get away with a big U-turn, we’re not going to raise rates anymore.”

On Tuesday, Maersk Group, the world’s largest container shipping company, said it was suffering a “massive deterioration” in its business.

“It is worse than 2008,” its CEO, Nils Andersen, told the Financial Times. But this is not even near the bottom for the world economy. Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass warns that the other shoe is a big one… and it hasn’t dropped yet.

The MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, the world's biggest container ship, arrives at the harbour of Rotterdam August 16, 2013. The 55,000 tonne ship, named after the son of the founder of the oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, has a length of 400 meters and cost $185 million. A.P. Moller-Maersk raised its annual profit forecast for the business on Friday, helped by tighter cost controls and lower fuel prices. Maersk shares jumped 6 percent to their highest in 1-1/2 years as investors welcomed a near-doubling of second-quarter earnings at container arm Maersk Line, which generates nearly half of group revenue and is helping counter weakness in the company's oil business. REUTERS/Michael Kooren (NETHERLANDS - Tags: MARITIME TRANSPORT BUSINESS) - RTX12NIUA Maersk container ship…the line is feeling the pinch – the Baltic Dry Index has collapsed to just 291 points (from approx. 11,800 at the 2008 peak) and container shipping rates have declined sharply as well.  Photo credit: Michael Kooren / Reuters

China’s economy is heavily dependent on capital investment. It puts its money into building factories, highways, offices, apartment blocks, railroads, ports, and airports. What do all these projects require? Rebar!

Concrete is reinforced with steel bars. As the pace of building slows, the price of rebar goes down. In 2008, a ton of rebar cost about 5,500 renminbi ($836). Now, it costs barely 2,000 renminbi ($304) – the lowest price in at least 15 years.

Steel rebar futures, weeklyShanghai steel rebar futures, weekly in RMB – click to enlarge.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Church of Economism and Its Discontents

The Church of Economism and Its Discontents 

Two centuries of explosive economic growth have radically altered our material and ideological worlds. With human activity now the major driver of geological change, the industrial era has come to be called the Anthropocene. This inquiry instead adopts the term Econocene, underscoring its ideological foundation: economism. The concept of economism, the reduction of all social relations to market logic, often appears in critiques of political movements and neoliberal economics. Our concern here is with economism as a widely held system of faith. This modern “religion” is essential for the maintenance of the global market economy, for justifying personal decisions, and for explaining and rationalizing the cosmos we have created. This uncritical economic creed has colonized other disciplines, including ecology, as ecologists increasingly rely on economistic logic to rationalize the protection of ecosystems. More broadly, economism often works syncretically with the world’s religions even though it violates so many of their basic tenets. A Great Transition is needed to replace economism with an equally powerful and pervasive belief system that embraces the values of solidarity, sustainability, and well-being for all.

Today’s World
Environmental scientists are recognizing that Earth’s geological history has moved into a new phase, as human activity now has a significant impact on the Earth system itself. The term for this era, the Anthropocene, is not yet official, but it has stirred critical discussion about the present and future, human and planetary. Although it identifies humans as the key driver of environmental change, the term Anthropocene suggests that the sheer number of humans alone is driving this change. Some contend that Technocene would be more apt since the development of fossil fuel technology has been critical to the acceleration of local and global change. Let me join this discussion from a social science perspective and offer a new term for consideration: Econocene.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Collaboration and changing beliefs are two keys for a degrowth economy

Collaboration and changing beliefs are two keys for a degrowth economy

Brazil is an amazing country, full of natural richness and blessed with many beauties. It has, however, a terrible sin on his shoulders: the thought that everything has to be done in a different, shorter, and faster way – in a way that takes advantage of everything. This is also why Brazil is currently undergoing a huge economic and political crisis, particularly reflected by the lack of confidence of our people in our government. At the same time, this is precisely what makes people overthink their values, and so a silent revolution is happening.

I work with the Transition Town Movement in Brazil from the moment it has started in our country. Being one of the people who brought it here, I feel like a witness of how its seeds are growing and how we start thinking about another way of living that is more sustainable and resilient.

In the early times of the movement we talked a lot about peak oil and climate change and about how we can degrow our consumption and stop climate change. Today, however, with the passing of the years and the growth of the movement, we feel that one of the biggest contributions of the movement to our society is incentivizing cooperation between people and encouraging creativity to find solutions to these problems.

This collaboration is even creating new ways of doing business in Brazil, the “collaborative economy” or “reconomy” where growth and consumption are not the highest priority, but the pursuit of a meaningful and much happier life. In the light of this, there are suddenly many beautiful business proposals around where collaboration and not consumption is the key to this new way of living. Some of these innovative business ideas I would like to share with you here.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Who’s In Your Head?

Who’s In Your Head?

When you reflect on your life, do you sometimes lament the choices you’ve made, directions you took or didn’t take, and wonder what could have been? You may find that you’ve achieved success in one or more areas of life, yet feel like you have fallen short in others. You might ask if your life is really going as planned? But do you ever ask yourself if the plan was even really yours to begin with? If it wasn’t yours, what got in the way of living the life you wanted to live?

Have you stopped to think about what you believe and how it has impacted who you are and what you have become? If you take a minute to reflect on the path you’ve taken so far, can you say it was aligned with what you really wanted for yourself?

If you weren’t listening to your own heart-felt desires and aspirations, what were you listening to? Whose voice was in your head that made you choose a certain direction in life? Was it your parents, caretakers, family, religion, other authority figures, friends, peers, media and entertainment personalities, advertisers, the Internet?

cowboys and indians

Belief systems impact every aspect of our lives from our definition of right and wrong, good and bad, to what we do for a living, our idea of a perfect relationship, how we raise our kids, what we eat, how we spend our money and in countless other ways. Our beliefs forge a path for us, whether we know it or not, because they influence how we feel, our actions and the directions we take in life.

Regardless of where they came from, it’s important to ask yourself if you truly agree with the beliefs you have adopted and how they’ve served you. Are they liberating and empowering or limiting and fear-based?

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BBC – Future – How to debunk falsehoods

BBC – Future – How to debunk falsehoods.

We all resist changing our beliefs about the world, but what happens when some of those beliefs are based on misinformation? Is there a right way to correct someone when they believe something that’s wrong?

Stephen Lewandowsky and John Cook set out to review the science on this topic, and even carried out a few experiments of their own. This effort led to their “Debunker’s Handbook“, which gives practical, evidence-based techniques for correcting misinformation about, say, climate change or evolution. Yet the findings apply to any situation where you find the facts are falling on deaf ears.

The first thing their review turned up is the importance of “backfire effects” – when telling people that they are wrong only strengthens their belief. In one experiment, for example, researchers gave people newspaper corrections that contradicted their views and politics, on topics ranging from tax reform to the existence of weapons of mass destruction. The corrections were not only ignored – they entrenched people’s pre-existing positions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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