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The Myth of the Flat-Earth Skeptics



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Anthropogenic global warming is an established scientific fact, and only the uneducated or financially interested fail to be morbidly concerned about it. Right? Wrong. A new study, snappily entitled ‘The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Culture Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate Change,’ finds that, far from being solely the preserve of unscientific flat-earthers, skepticism toward climate change is actually higher in the “scientifically literate and numerate subjects” studied, than in the “the least scientifically literate and numerate ones.” The abstract contains the following:

The conventional explanation for controversy over climate change emphasizes impediments to public understanding: Limited popular knowledge of science, the inability of ordinary citizens to assess technical information, and the resulting widespread use of unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. A large survey of U.S. adults (N = 1540) found little support for this account. On the whole, the most scientifically literate and numerate subjects were slightly less likely, not more, to see climate change as a serious threat than the least scientifically literate and numerate ones.

This is corroborated in the text:

The goal of this paper is to challenge this critique of the rationality of public opinion on climate change. Our motivation is in part to show how poorly supported the conventional picture of public dissen-sus is by empirical evidence: scientific examination does not bear out the premise that deficiencies in science education or defects in individual reasoning explain conflict over climate change.

Unfortunately, that is as far as the report goes. The conclusion of the authors is that — as with every shortcoming of President Obama — the problem is one of communication. Smart as the skeptics may be, the study suggests, their skepticism is the product the green movement’s failure to speak the truth in appropriate language. Still, given that global warming heretics have, in the past, been compared to holocaust deniers and Adolf Hitler, it makes a nice change just to have the word ‘literate’ within a country mile.

The full paper is available online



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