Why Does More Scientific Literacy Seem to Make Liberals More Accepting of Nuclear Power?

By Chris Mooney | June 24, 2011 1:47 pm

In my last post about the Kahan et al paper, I gave you the headline finding–scientific literacy and numeracy, if anything, seems to worsen climate denial, especially among those already opposed to climate action (hierarchical-individualists/conservatives).

But there’s another intriguing finding in the study. In fact, I would go so far as to call it an anomaly in need of explanation.

You see, it turns out that the pattern on nuclear power is different than the pattern on climate change in the study (see Figure 4). On nuclear power, the egalitarian-communitarians (liberals) generally start out thinking it’s more risky, and the hierarchical-individualists (conservatives) generally start out thinking it’s more safe–when you ask them the question posed in the study anyway (“How much risk do you believe nuclear power poses to human health, safety, or prosperity?”).

The starting positions are just what you would expect: egalitarian-communitarians (liberals) are suspicious of unregulated industry and worried about harm to, basically, everybody, especially the weakest in society. So when they hear about corporations doing risky things (like, say, nuclear power) they get their buttons pushed. The hierarchical-individualists (conservatives) are the opposite–individualists in particular celebrate private industry and the free market, so you would expect them to support nuclear power.

However, unlike in the case of conservatives and climate change, with increasing scientific literacy and numeracy, egalitarian-communitarians (liberals) *do not* move further in the direction where you would presume their initial biases would take them–i.e., towards perceiving more risk. Instead, with more education and numeracy, both groups grow less convinced that nuclear power is risky.

The end result is that they still end up becoming more polarized, because the hierarchical-individualists (conservatives) move farther in the direction of their initial convictions, while the egalitarian-communitarians (liberals) move less far in the direction that is counter to their initial convictions. Still, directionally, the movement is the opposite of the movement you see on climate change.

Now, I have my theories to explain this…but I want to hear what others think is going on, behind the data. Go to the study and check out Figure 4.

I will add that this is not the first time Kahan et al have found something like this. In their prior study “Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus,” they found similar polarization over climate change across the two cultural groups. But when they tested whether the groups agreed that according to “most” scientific experts, the deep geological sequestration of nuclear waste was safe (e.g., the Yucca Mountain issue), they found considerably less cultural polarization than over climate change:

Being simultaneously hierarchical and individualistic predicts a 12.6 percentage-point increase (± 9.2) in the likelihood of perceiving “most expert scientists agree” that “[r]adioactive wastes from nuclear power can be safely disposed of in deep underground storage facilities,” and a 14.8 percentage-point decrease (± 9.2) in the likelihood of perceiving that “most disagree.” The difference in the predicted likelihood of perceiving that scientists are “divided” is not statistically (or practically) significant. Although clearly less dramatic in magnitude than the differences observed for perceptions of scientific opinion on climate change and concealed carry laws, the effects of cultural out-looks on perceptions of scientific opinion for nuclear waste disposal evidence a practically meaningful level of disagreement and conform to the hypothesized impact of holding either hierarchic and individua-listic or egalitarian and communitarian worldviews.

So either the nuclear issue is different somehow, or the groups are different somehow…or both.

Comments (37)

  1. Eric

    “the egalitarian-communitarians (liberals)… and the hierarchical-individualists (conservatives) ”

    Huh? How are “conservatives” any more “hierarchical” than “liberals?” You can find plenty of authoritariansim on both sides.

    Also, Isn’t the academic-scientific community a hierarchy of sorts? Are people characterized as “hierachichal” for not agreeing with the plan as proposed by the intellectual elite?

  2. ken roberts

    The nuclear issue is different in that (from what i’ve seen) it hasn’t received as much press in the past decade as global warming has. Al Gore didn’t win an Oscar for what was popularly known as a “nuclear waste disposal” movie. I haven’t seen it brought up in debates, discussions about international treaties, or on the Daily Show/Colbert Report nearly as frequently as global warming.

  3. Depends on how you define “liberal,” Chris. If you think libs are more accepting … err, how narrow is the definition? Read a mag like Counterpunch, and you’ll “learn” that EPA has stopped testing Pacific winds for nuclear radiation because it’s part of a conspiracy to pretend that Fukushima “isn’t all that bad.”

    Also, I have a methodological issue/question about Kanen: Is it “legit” to lump egalitarian and communitarian together? After all, like Jonathan Swift who loved his fellow man but hated mankind, the two aren’t the same. Also, how closely does egalitarian/communitarian track with “liberal” and hierarchical/authoritarian track with “conservative”? Lamaistic monastic communities are communal but authoritarian, and have mixes of egalitarian and hierarchical elements.

    I understand these are all shorthand, but, were the figures blown up in size, I’m sure there’d be plenty of fractal swirls and eddies on all these “straight lines.”

    And, perhaps that relates to your last paragraph.

  4. Chris

    As previously discussed, it has nothing to do with the facts per se, or Cartesian Reason. Thought information plays a role, what maters most is their underlying world views and how information plays into that. What also maters are the manipulated variables, l;ike the trustworthiness of the source of the information, which is also shaped by the worldviews, not just the facts

  5. Nullius in Verba

    #1,

    The egalitarian-hierarchical axis isn’t the libertarian-authoritarian axis. Judging from the questions, I’d say it has more to do with the equality-of-outcome versus equality-of-opportunity debate. What they call “hierarchists” are those who think differences in outcome are acceptable, and greater wealth/power reflect positive attributes like productivity and talent.

  6. Chris Mooney

    the axes are hierarch-egalitarian and individualist-communitarian. they make up a grid. everybody is located somewhere on the grid.

  7. Eric

    @ Chris:

    “The cultural cognition hypothesis holds that individuals are motivated by a variety of psychological processes to form beliefs about putatively dangerous activities that match their cultural evaluations of them. Persons who subscribe to relatively individualistic values, for example, tend to value commerce and industry and are inclined to disbelieve that such activities pose serious environmental risks. Persons who subscribe to relatively egalitarian and communitarian values, in contrast, readily credit claims of environmental risks, consistent with their moral suspicion of commerce and industry as sources of inequality and symbols of excessive self-seeking.”

    Ok, that’s nice, I understand the individualist-social argument. How does “hierarchical” fit in as a co-descriptor to individualist?

  8. Chris Mooney

    No the political compass appears to be doing something different. It pits authoritarian (hierarchy) against libertarian (individualist).

  9. Chris Mooney

    This is from the paper:

    “The cultural cognition theory also generates a testable prediction. This theory posits that persons who subscribe to a “hierarchical, individualistic” worldview—one that simultaneously ties authority to conspicuous social rankings and eschews collective interference with the decisions made by individuals possessed of such authority—can be expected to be skeptical of claims of environmental and technologi-cal risks. Such people, according to the theory, intuitively perceive that widespread acceptance of such claims would license restrictions on commerce and industry, forms of behavior that Hierarchical Indivi-dualists value. In contrast, persons who hold an “egalitarian, communitarian” worldview—one that favors less regimented forms of social organization and greater collective attention to securing individual needs—tend to be morally suspicious of commerce and industry, which they see as the source of unjust disparities in wealth and power. They therefore find it congenial, the theory posits, to see those forms of behavior as dangerous and thus worthy of restriction. On this view, then, we should expect Egalitarian Communitarians to be more concerned than Hierarchical Individualists with climate change risks.”

  10. Eric

    re: 11. My main issue is with the definition of a “hierarchical, individualist” worldview as described above. It doesn’t seem to accurately describe the american political right, as I see it. Maybe my sample is too small, or I haven’t done my homework. I think their resistance to environmentalism defines an individualist, and anti-hierarchical attitude. If you go to a tea party rally, you’ll hear plenty of anti-government rhetoric.

  11. Johnny

    The difference is because nuclear fears and climate fears are proxy’s based on very different risks.

    Nuclear risk is the fear of man as it is unknown in nature. Climate Change is the fear of nature.

    Nuclear risks fall into three neat categories, waste, accident and war. Liberals fear the waste and the accidents, as is with Senator Reid’s blocking of Yucca Mountain. Conservatives fear the proliferation of arms via nuclear energy, as with Iran and Pakistan.

    These are very different fears, and both are dissuaded through examination of historical evidence. Accidents are rare. Waste is manageable. Proliferation isn’t as easy as it looks. Both groups move in the same direction, but for entirely separate reasons.

    Its not the same with Climate Science.

    For liberals, its the same fear, the fear of ecological disaster. For conservatives, who fear man more than nature, there’s no overt actor. There is no direct human enemy leading an open campaign to destroy the planet through emissions.

    For conservatives, the fear doesn’t resonate. Climate Change is something that happened before without catastrophe and without man.

    Even worse, it triggers the “charlatan alarm”. Studies have suggested that people have an innate beilief that certain macro laws of nature, such as the sun rising and setting, are simply outside their control. Those who try to convince them otherwise set off the “charlatan alarm” response of disregarding the entire content of the message.

    Conversely, the wealth redistribution and authoritarian solutions are fears that resonate with conservatives. To paraphrase a blogger who’s name i forget, its “Liberal Scientists providing information to Liberal Journalists who publish it to support Liberal Politicians who vote for Progressive Solutions that they’d be infavor of even if there wasn’t a problem.”

  12. Chris Mooney

    Johnny–makes a lot of sense, except perhaps the charlatan alarm part. It is certainly not good to “disregard the entire content of the message.”

    I also don’t think progressives would be in favor of cap and trade if they didn’t think there was a problem to begin with. That seems very dubious to me. Surely they would find other fish to fry.

  13. Johnny

    @14 Chris Mooney

    I also don’t think progressives would be in favor of cap and trade if they didn’t think there was a problem to begin with. That seems very dubious to me. Surely they would find other fish to fry.

    Surely not.

    Progressives are in favor of energy taxes to raise revenue. European governments raise significant sums in the name of carbon taxes, where gas is more than twice as expensive. The climate is just a good excuse.

    There are plenty of “other fish to fry”. Devoting the climate change budget to clean water would save millions of lives. Basic medicines is another great choice. The difference between those and climate change, is that people are more likely to accept a punitive tax gas tax than a punitive tax on medicine or water.

    A carbon fuel tax is the perfect tax, because its a tax on everything, at every level, both material and energy. Everyone wants to fry it because its the biggest fish, or in other words, the most money.

    —-

    Another very significant difference is that the “Nuclear Science Education” is supposed to reduce the fear, “Climate Science Education” is supposed to increase the fear.

    In both instances, “X Science Education” reduced the conservative’s fears. In both instances, “X Science Education” moved the liberal in the direction the “X Science Education” intended to move the liberal.

  14. Well, it’s a stretch, probably, to unilaterally claim that previous sudden climate change happened without catastrophe. It may have happened without *human* catastrophe, but that’s different.

    That said, I totally agree on a carbon tax.

    OTOH, cap-and-trade probably would have benefited Big Biz a lot … note how many utilities lined up behind it? Yet, the GOP, and the tea party movement, opposed that, too. So, I disagree with you there, Johnny. AGW denialism is about more than a fear of redistribution, at least among the more educated. Among the political class of the GOP, in some cases, it’s fear of not getting re-elected. In others, it’s not even fear; as I said on Chris’ climate-change post, it’s about American exceptionalism, salvific technologism, fundamentalist Christianity or some combo of the above. As I noted there, 1 and 3 have a certain degree of linkage. If you believe Jesus is going to bail you out, or, like Michael Shermer, that technology is going to bail you out, it’s easier to act like this isn’t a problem.

  15. Drew

    Chris, do you know if there is any similar research out there that might cover climate change (instead of nuclear power) and use religious/biblical arguments (instead of scientific). I was thinking specifically of religious arguments for the protection of the planet from emissions/warming… Of which there have been some over the years.

  16. Matt

    Europe is generally considered more liberal than the U.S. and it is going anti-nuclear. But then they are also anti genetically modified food (frankenfood) and where the Luddites originated.

  17. Johnny

    @Matt #18

    Actually Matt, you’ll notice that there is a big difference between what European officials say about nuclear, and what they do about nuclear.

    Merkel in Germany has announced plans to close their nuclear industry, but everyone knows she’s going to switch positions after the election.

    France is 100% pro-nuclear.

    Britain just approved 8 new nuclear plants to be built.

    Europe is anything but anti-nuclear, even post Fukishima.

  18. Mikio

    @Eric –

    Try replacing the words in the vertical axis scale “hierarchy-egalitarianism” with “inequality-equality” and then maybe you’ll see how conservatives are more hierarchical than liberals. Also you may see how favoring hierarchy (inequality) fits just fine with the individualism side of the horizontal scale.

    For instance, American conservatism advocates maintaining (or even increasing) inequality/hierarchy/authority in regards to (in no particular order) the wealthy, CEOs & management, God & Christianity, Pentagon & military, police & law enforcement, heterosexuals over homosexuals, industry & profit over animals/environment and a couple other areas too sensitive and potentially argument inducing that I’d rather not mention them.

    This “inequality-equality” renaming may help clarify the descriptions in the Kahan et al paper:

    “…persons who subscribe to a ‘hierarchical, individualistic’ worldview—one that simultaneously ties authority to conspicuous social rankings and eschews collective interference with the decisions made by individuals possessed of such authority…”

    “…persons who hold an ‘egalitarian, communitarian’ worldview—one that favors less regimented forms of social organization and greater collective attention to securing individual needs…”

  19. JMW

    Okay, having looked at the comments, so far only Johnny has attempted to answer Chris’ question.

    So I’ll take a stab at it.

    Assuming the validity of the hierarchical-individualists/egalitarian-communitarians axes, and assuming that the “increasing scientific literacy and numeracy” doesn’t just mean in this instance general education but also specific education on the issues confronting energy generation and use…

    …it will become obvious, I think, to anyone learning more about science in general and energy generation in particular that it is impossible to generate energy without having some kind of impact on the environment. The typical analysis of nuclear energy, vis-a-vis other forms of generating energy is that overall its risks are lower and its benefits are higher.

    Therefore, in a conscious or unconscious cost-benefit analysis, the egalitarian-communitarians will learn the impact burning fossil fuels has on the environment, or the impact wind turbines have on people, or the costs that a solar plant puts on an environment (because once its in operation it would be pretty clean, but trucking all the building materials out the site of the plant would be pretty cost and risk-intensive), etc., etc., etc.

    Thus, they’ll conclude that nuclear is probably the best of a bad lot…

  20. Nullius in Verba

    #20,

    Yes. Although it would be more accurate to say opportunity-equality versus outcome-equality.

  21. Mikio

    @SocraticGadfly –
    Depends on how you define “liberal,” Chris. If you think libs are more accepting … err, how narrow is the definition?

    He didn’t say liberals in general are more accepting of nuclear power. He (and those who conducted the study) said the more scientifically literate and numerate liberals are more accepting of it.

    Is it “legit” to lump egalitarian and communitarian together? … the two aren’t the same.

    No one said they’re the same. That’s why they’re on two different axes.

    Also, how closely does egalitarian/communitarian track with “liberal” and hierarchical/authoritarian track with “conservative”?

    See my previous post to Eric for a possible answer.

    @david ropeik –
    As previously discussed, it has nothing to do with the facts per se… what maters most is their underlying world views

    Actually, facts have everything to do with it. This study’s results by Kahan et al (which support findings in similar studies blogged about here, too, by CM I’ve noticed) show liberals and conservatives having completely opposite reactions to facts countering their false beliefs. That is, the studies have thus far shown that facts are able to make liberals change course away from their false beliefs towards reality whereas for conservatives, facts only tend to make them cling harder to their false beliefs and go further in the wrong direction away from reality.

    This particular study found that the more scientifically literate and numerate liberals were (and who had presumably consumed more of the facts about nuclear energy), the less they overestimated its risks. Conversely, the more scientifically literate and numerate conservatives were and who presumably had consumed more of the facts about climate change, the more they must’ve rejected those facts, probably chalking them up to “liberal media lies” and “greedy, lying, socialist climatologists” because these conservatives showed even deeper underestimation of the risks of climate change than their less scientifically literate and numerate conservative brethren.

    @Nullius in Verba
    Yes. Although it would be more accurate to say opportunity-equality versus outcome-equality.

    No, it wouldn’t. That’s the false belief of every conservative. Where’s the equal opportunity conservatives are offering homosexuals whom they want to deny the right to marry each other? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives are offering non-Christians? (think “Ground Zero” Muslim cultural center) It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives offer low-skilled workers whose minimum wage they want to abolish? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives offer unions whose very existence they want to abolish? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives have for victims of the military and police? The concept doesn’t even compute in the conservative cranium. The military and police are always right the way conservatives see it. Where’s the EO conservatives offer for wildlife and the environment to thrive and not be sacrificed for profit? It doesn’t exist. You’re completely wrong. Like a typical conservative.

    @Johnny –
    Progressives are in favor of energy taxes to raise revenue. European governments raise significant sums in the name of carbon taxes, where gas is more than twice as expensive. The climate is just a good excuse.

    A good excuse? Prove you’re not dogmatic. Actually, this challenge goes to any AGW deniers/doubters who happen to be reading this. Name the source that could convince you tomorrow that AGW is real and a serious enough problem it requires gov’t action. I can answer the flipside of this challenge easily: a reversal of the relevant scientific consensus — i.e. the 97% of active climatologists.* Your turn. Go.

    * http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

  22. Mikio

    @SocraticGadfly –

    Depends on how you define “liberal,” Chris. If you think libs are more accepting … err, how narrow is the definition?

    He didn’t say liberals in general are more accepting of nuclear power. He (and those who conducted the study) said the more scientifically literate and numerate liberals are more accepting of it.

    Is it “legit” to lump egalitarian and communitarian together? … the two aren’t the same.

    No one said they’re the same. That’s why they’re on two different axes.

    Also, how closely does egalitarian/communitarian track with “liberal” and hierarchical/authoritarian track with “conservative”?

    See my previous post to Eric for a possible answer.

    @david ropeik –

    As previously discussed, it has nothing to do with the facts per se… what maters most is their underlying world views

    Actually, facts have everything to do with it. This study’s results by Kahan et al (which support findings in similar studies blogged about here, too, by CM I’ve noticed) show liberals and conservatives having completely opposite reactions to facts countering their false beliefs. That is, the studies have thus far shown that facts are able to make liberals change course away from their false belief towards reality whereas for conservatives, facts only tend to make them cling harder to their false belief and go further in the wrong direction away from reality.

    This particular study found that the more scientifically literate and numerate liberals were (and who had presumably consumed more of the facts about nuclear energy), the less they overestimated its risks. Conversely, the more scientifically literate and numerate conservatives were and who presumably had consumed more of the facts about climate change, the more they obviously rejected those facts, probably chalking them up to “liberal media lies” and “greedy, lying, Marxist climatologists” because these conservatives showed even deeper underestimation of the risks of climate change than their less scientifically literate conservative brethren.

  23. Mikio

    @Nullius in Verba
    Yes. Although it would be more accurate to say opportunity-equality versus outcome-equality.

    No, it wouldn’t. That’s the false belief of every conservative I’ve ever encountered. Where’s the equal opportunity conservatives are offering homosexuals whom they want to deny the right to marry each other? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives are offering non-Christians? (think “Ground Zero” Muslim cultural center) It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives offer low-skilled workers whose minimum wage they want to abolish? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives offer unions whose very existence they want to abolish? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives have for victims of the military and police? The concept doesn’t even compute in the conservative cranium. The military and police are always right. Where’s the EO conservatives offer for wildlife and the environment to thrive and not be sacrificed for profit? It doesn’t exist. You’re completely wrong on this, like a typical conservative (or conservative-leaning libertarian).

    @Johnny –
    Progressives are in favor of energy taxes to raise revenue. European governments raise significant sums in the name of carbon taxes, where gas is more than twice as expensive. The climate is just a good excuse.

    A good excuse? Prove you’re not dogmatic. Actually, this challenge goes to any AGW deniers/doubters who happen to be reading this. Name the source that could convince you tomorrow that AGW is real and a serious enough problem it requires gov’t action. I can answer the flipside of this challenge easily: a reversal of the relevant scientific consensus — i.e. the 97% of active climatologists.* Your turn. Go.

    * http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf
    * http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

  24. Mikio

    @Nullius in Verba –

    Yes. Although it would be more accurate to say opportunity-equality versus outcome-equality.

    No, it wouldn’t. That’s the false belief of every conservative I’ve ever encountered. Where’s the equal opportunity conservatives are offering homosexuals whom they want to deny the right to marry each other? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives are offering non-Christians? (think “Ground Zero” Muslim cultural center) It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives offer low-skilled workers whose minimum wage they want to abolish? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives offer unions whose very existence they want to abolish? It doesn’t exist. Where’s the EO conservatives have for victims of the military and police? The concept doesn’t even compute in the conservative cranium. The military and police are always right. Where’s the EO conservatives offer for wildlife and the environment to thrive and not be sacrificed for profit? It doesn’t exist. You’re completely wrong on this, like a typical conservative (or conservative-leaning libertarian).

  25. Mikio

    @Johnny –

    Progressives are in favor of energy taxes to raise revenue. European governments raise significant sums in the name of carbon taxes, where gas is more than twice as expensive. The climate is just a good excuse.

    A “good excuse,” huh? Prove you’re not dogmatic. Actually, this challenge goes to any AGW deniers/doubters who happen to be reading this. Name the source that could convince you tomorrow that AGW is real and a serious enough problem it requires gov’t action. I can answer the flipside of this challenge easily: a reversal of the relevant scientific consensus — i.e. the 97% of active climatologists.* Your turn. Go.

    * http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf
    * http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

  26. Nullius in Verba

    “Conversely, the more scientifically literate and numerate conservatives were and who presumably had consumed more of the facts about climate change, the more they must’ve rejected those facts, probably chalking them up to “liberal media lies” and “greedy, lying, socialist climatologists””

    If you don’t know, you could always ask.

    The difference could be explained by conservative beliefs being evidence-based and liberal beliefs being expert-based. The more educated the liberal, the more they know and go with what the experts say. The more educated the conservative, the more they know and go with what the evidence says.

    Literate and numerate conservatives who are sceptical of climate science are quite open about their reasons – they say there’s inadequate/exaggerated evidence. (We can argue about whether they’re right on another occasion; that’s what they say.) The other stuff only enters the picture when liberals ask how come all the experts on TV say otherwise.

    Chris has highlighted a very interesting distinguishing case. It’s not that education makes people strengthen their partisan beliefs, because liberals believe less in the dangers of nuclear. Education weakens their partisan belief. It’s not that conservatives generally have unscientific false beliefs contrary to reality because on nuclear they have more correct beliefs that get even closer to reality with education. It has to be something else.

    That’s the scientific method in action, and I’ll tell you I’m very impressed that Chris picked up on it.

  27. Mikio

    @Nullius in Verba –

    That you AGW deniers/doubters see nothing wrong whatsoever about thinking you as laymen understand climatology better than climatologists is part of the Bizarro World mentality you all share that’s so impenetrable.

    And it’s that very bizarro mentality evident in this study’s results which none of you commenting in this thread have even noticed. It’s completely dissing conservatives but you have no clue because you just see “increased scientific literacy of conservatives aligning with increased denial of climate change” and accept that as a compliment when it’s not meant as a compliment. The baseline FACT presented by the study that climate change is real simply bounces off of your skull as usual as you go on with your cherry picking.

  28. Nullius in Verba

    #24,

    Apart from the question of homosexual marriage, which is for completely different reasons, those are all good examples of outcome-equality thinking.

    You have picked a series of examples of measures taken to enforce outcome-equality, at the expense often of the very people they’re trying to help, and noted that conservatives oppose them. Well, yes – that’s the point. You’re trying to force an equality of outcome, irrespective of the merits. It’s both unjust and economically inefficient.

    #26,

    Whatever makes you think I’m a “layman”?!

    You’ll note: you just used an expertise-based argument!

  29. Mikio

    @Nullius in Verba –

    I don’t even know how to respond to that last post of yours. It’s a multi-layered onion of wrongness. I think I’ll just let it remain unpeeled in all its glory.

  30. Nullius in Verba

    You mean, you know it’s wrong, you just can’t think of any specific reason why? :)

    Well, I’m quite happy to leave things there. It was diverging off-topic anyway.

  31. Johnny

    @Miko & Nullius

    I can give an easy example to prove my earlier theory, which is that liberals will always move in the direction the “education” is designed to move them, even when the “education” is false.

    The Autism / Vaccination link is the perfect example.

    Liberal parents, who viewed “education” warning them of the link, were far more likely than conservative parents to believe the “education” and not vaccinate their children. This is because the “don’t trust big busines pharma” was a fear that resonated with them.

    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/01/why-the-prius-driving-composting.html

  32. @ Johnny … many conservatives are anti-vaxxer, too, but for diff reasons than some left-liberals are.

    @ Mikio … I wasn’t entirely clear. I meant that they’re not the same in the sense it’s arguable that the axis-tracking maybe isn’t what it’s made out to be. And, per your answer to Eric, I’m not sure all American conservatives fall on that plotting with 100 percent accuracy.

    On left-liberals, nuke power, and accept vs. reject … I’d say that, oh, editors at Counterpunch or Truthout are science-literate and numerate, but still are strong rejectors of nuke power. That’s why, to a degree, beyond other concerns about axis plotting, some of this comes off like a Procrustean bed, Cartesian style.

    IF one understand that it’s a “convenient shorthand,” all well and good, tho.

    That said, the “onion” is a great answer to Nullius.

  33. Mikio

    Well, apparently those extra posts of mine returned from their mischievous romp into the ether. Sorry ‘bout that, everybody. From now on when I hit the Submit button and my post vanishes completely from the page, I’ll just be patient and assume it’ll show up eventually.

    @Nullius in Verba — Actually, that’s not what I meant, but yeah, let’s just leave it at that.

    @Johnny — First of all, that link provides only anecdotal support for your smaller claim that anti-vaccinators are liberals. The interviewer, the interviewee, and a guy the interviewee mentioned. No poll cited. No study cited. Womp waaa.

    Second, your larger claim (involving your usage of rubber glove quotes around the word education to make clear you’re not calling it that) is hardly proven by showing only one example, even hypothetically allowing that example established as true. One data point doesn’t even indicate a trend, much less prove it.

    @SocraticGadfly — I hadn’t seen the diagram in question before, but after looking at it for awhile it seemed to me to break down into roughly four standard sociopolitical groups:
    Upper right quadrant (hierarchy-communitarian) – social conservatism
    Lower right quadrant (egalitarian-communitarian) – liberalism
    Lower left quadrant (egalitarian-individualist) – libertarianism
    Upper left quadrant (hierarchy-individualist) – economic conservatism

    Then, seeing this picture only strengthened that initial assessment (look at the one about halfway down with the four gentlemen on it)… http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/cultural-cognition-and-scientific-consensus/

    Now, I have one dispute with the diagram in that I don’t see how favoring egalitarianism correlates with considering technology as more high-risk, while favoring hierarchy correlates with considering technology as more low-risk. Industry, sure, I suppose — but technology? Hmm. So that strikes me as one Procrustean bed (I had to look it up – interesting phrase) aspect to it. But the rest of it seems alright.

    As for my post to Eric, I listed what I see as traits of American conservatism, not traits that all American conservatives necessarily possess. The concept is simpler while people are more complex. At least, that’s how I see it. Someone doesn’t have to possess all the traits or agree with all the stances of conservatism to be reasonably considered a conservative. And by “possess” a trait, obviously there are shades of gray there, too. So right, of course not all American conservatives match that list with 100% accuracy. Just mapping out a generalization, which, as I see it, there’s nothing wrong with doing that as long as it applies to a solid majority.

  34. Mikio

    Edit to avoid misinterpretation:

    @Johnny — First of all, that link provides only anecdotal support for your smaller claim that anti-vaccinators are liberals given by the interviewer, the interviewee, and a guy the interviewee mentioned.

  35. TTT

    Climate Change is something that happened before without catastrophe and without man

    Because modern human civilization did not exist to be disrupted or destroyed during past climate change. People tend not to buy infant carseats before they have babies–do you think it is because they do not know that cars can crash? Would you attempt to “reason” with them by pointing out that before they had a baby their baby had never died?

    This is one of many self-defeating non-sequiturs that denialists employ. Not only does it say nothing, it’s also irritatingly arrogant because it presumes that the original complainer over climate change actually *doesn’t have* the most basic first-year education on this topic. It is precisely because we are aware of the impact that climate change can have on living systems that we dislike the thought of what it will have on ours.

    The difference could be explained by conservative beliefs being evidence-based and liberal beliefs being expert-based. The more educated the liberal, the more they know and go with what the experts say. The more educated the conservative, the more they know and go with what the evidence says.

    Balderdash. Conservatives erect one cult of personality after another around every lying crank autodidact who makes up a conspiracy theory and waves a PhD around, whether it was Iben Browning or Chris Monckton or Bjorn Lomborg. There sure isn’t any evidence that the polar bear could discern the threat of climate change in time to deliberately “evolve backwards” to avoid it, yet Lomborg’s fake seal of approval is all it took to convince certain people. There is certainly no “evidence” that any of the thoughtcrimes described in the Climategate email actually took place, and little more than the presumed expertise of the HARRY-README author to justify taking him seriously.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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