Why Facts Don’t Unify Us

Sep 3, 2016

By Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein

According to the Pew Research Center, the nation is more polarized than at any time in recent history. While some of the issues dividing us boil down to ideology and preference, there is at least one on which hard science should have a strong say — climate change. But do numbers and figures change people’s opinions?

Apparently, they do — they result in a deeper divide.

In a recent experiment, described in a paper released on Friday on the Social Science Research Network, we and our colleagues Sebastian Bobadilla-Suarez and Stephanie Lazzaro asked more than 300 Americans several climate-related questions, such as whether they believed that man-made climate change was occurring and whether the United States was right to support the recent Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the basis of their answers, we divided participants into three groups: strong believers in man-made climate change, moderate believers and weak believers.


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One comment on “Why Facts Don’t Unify Us”

  • @OP – In a recent experiment, described in a paper released on Friday on the Social Science Research Network,

    The article shows the ramblings of social scientists who really don’t know much about climate change!

    On the basis of their answers, we divided participants into three groups: strong believers in man-made climate change, moderate believers and weak believers.

    Next we informed participants that many scientists have said that by the year 2100, the average temperature in the United States will rise at least 6 degrees Fahrenheit, and asked them for their own estimates of likely temperature rise by 2100.

    Given that most of the world’s science gives temperature predictions in Kelvin or degrees Celsius, the participants are being asked to form opinions based on a claim from social scientists in the non-scientific Fahrenheit scale, which amateurs would find difficult to convert to the figures on scientific papers. !

    The overall average was 5.6 degrees Fahrenheit. As expected, there were significant differences among the three groups: 6.3 degrees for strong believers in man-made climate change, 5.9 degrees for moderate believers and 3.6 degrees for weak believers.

    Whatever wild guesses were offered, they were very unlikely to relate to any “facts”!
    I would be classified as a “don’t know” in response to that question.

    Why Facts Don’t Unify Us

    Scientific estimates are not “facts”!
    I would be very sceptical about any study of “facts” which is actually devoid of any “facts” in its calculations.

    Science Research Network, we and our colleagues Sebastian Bobadilla-Suarez and Stephanie Lazzaro asked more than 300 Americans several climate-related questions, such as whether they believed that man-made climate change was occurring

    I am also sceptical about studies on global warming,

    by the year 2100, the average temperature in the United States will rise at least 6 degrees Fahrenheit,

    . . . . . . which quote temperature changes in selected local areas (such as the USA), unless they are specific climate models with full seasonal weather characteristics in context for named dates.
    (You will note, that the east coast of Canada and the USA is at present subject to increased COOLING, from the increased flow of icebergs as the Greenland glaciers break up due to global warming!)

    There are likely to be massive variations across an area the size of the USA, many of which will be unrelated directly to global warming!

    Do I trust a consensus of climate scientists to get predictions roughly right? (given that they actually state error bars, probabilities, and mention possible feed-back effects in the research)

    Probably subject to scrutiny!

    Would I trust figures plucked out of the air by social scientists who show a lack of comprehension of the issues and measurement techniques, to venture an opinion based on their claims?

    Probably not!

    The likelihood of any global predicted temperature, (over a minimum rise) is largely dependent political decisions yet to be made and yet to be put in place, plus any triggered feed-back effects.

    Basically, they are asking the wrong questions.

    They should have stated the (97%+) scientific consensus, variable outcomes from political decisions, and asked for opinions on which sources can be trusted!



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