Snapshot on links, week to 10 June 2012


“You’ll never convince me…”

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5 June 2012:


“You’ll never convince me…”

“Argue all you like, you’re never going to convince me….” You can apply that quote to any number of topics, but why is it so true?

An article on Online Opinion (Australia) yesterday – a repost of one on PJ Media (US) by Tom Harris (Ottawa) on 30 May – picks up on research published on the Nature website on 27 May. That in itself is a good example of viral opinions – views you agree with being spread worldwide, often much faster than the 8 days this one’s taken.

The research was on the subject of climate change, and how divisions of opinion are formed & changed. It needn’t have been that subject – you see the same sides taken in local politics, and even across political spectrums internationally. Hierarchies in Middle East dictatorships can hold similar views to those in the US. Green groups have taken time to gain a foothold because they’ve had to overcome entrenched commercial positions. In the first example, the entrenched hold out newcomers. In the second, the newcomers must demonstrate a more profitable outcome.

I didn’t look to see who Tom Harris was before reading his article (an Ottawa-based mechanical engineer, he’s executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition). He wrote: “A person’s cultural & social worldview have more impact on determining their opinion on global warming than any other factor.”

That was a quicker way to the point than the Nature website’s story on its research, which suggested “that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare”.

The research won’t lessen the shouting at opponents in the climate change debate, mightn’t lead to any change at all. But I’ve been amused to see how position-taking along the lines of this research has shaken out in local politics in Auckland. When Len Brown was elected mayor of the new super-city in 2010, he didn’t do what many predecessors have done and try to ensure “his side” of politics would maintain control of the important committees, but told the new councillors to write down what committees & forums they wanted to be on. Membership wasn’t limited.

Left & right quickly sorted themselves according to their favoured topics so, as you would expect, the left is dominant on social topics and the right on economic. This is not always smart – sometimes what you’re least interested in can have a greater impact on outcomes than you’d realised.

Links: Nature Climate Change, The polarising impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks

PJ Media, Climate change: why do the facts fail to convince?

Online Opinion, Climate change: why do the facts fail to convince?

Climate Science Coalition

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Attribution: Compiled & story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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