How The Deniers Win: Question Motives

Updated 06/17/2013 11:16am EDT (see tail end of story)

James Gilbert has the goods over at The Conversation:

Climate sceptics have won, Martin Wolf lamented in the Financial Times, despite near-universal scientific consensus against them. The sheer longevity of this “debate” indicates deniers attract disproportionate attention – partly due to one of their main lines of attack: scientific bias.

Attacks on scientists’ financial and political motivation are increasing. We hear them not only from committed deniers, but also from commentators in mainstream media. Evenpoliticians and US presidential candidates are unafraid to label climate science a “hoax”.

Now, a new study in press at the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology has shown that the public is particularly sensitive to financial bias when placing trust.

Brent Strickland of Yale University and Hugo Mercier of the National Centre for Scientific Research in France asked non-scientists to evaluate scientific studies. Participants decided whether they believed the results of experiments, given what experimenters expected to find, their financial motivation and whether the methods were sound. The results showed that mentioning financial bias reduced people’s belief in findings, even if the methods were flawless.

via I bet it’s biased: one easy step to squash expert opinions.

Update: A robust Twitter conversation erupted in response to Gilbert’s post. Katie Mack, aka @AstroKatie, assembled and annotated in a nice Storify, a bit of which is here:

  1. Rosemary gets us to the point…
  2. @AstroKatie @james_gilbert OK, can see this. So what’s the solution or set of solutions?


  3. Solution: Teach the scientific method?
  4. @RoseGWhite @james_gilbert I might suggest: WAY more popular-level communication of scientific method (instead of just scientific results).


  5. james_gilbert

    James [email protected]_gilbert
    @AstroKatie @RoseGWhite Agree. There are “camps” of scientists, yes. But science itself is not a camp; it is a process – the best we have.

For more, go straight to Katie Mack’s Storify amalgamation of the Twitter exchanges amongst her, Gilbert, and others.

Video: Erick Erickson shoots down the data by saying scientists too can have ulterior motives … and then moves on. NB: Lou Dobbs (also in video) is no relation.

One response

  1. The mystery of disinterest in climate change lies not in the public’s failure to understand the scientific method, but rather in the scientific community’s failure to
    understand game theory.

    Climate change represents the classical prisoner’s dilmena. It is in no one’s best interest to compromise their economy for the sake of climate unless everyone does
    it. Otherwise you’ve only made yourself poorer before facing the inevitable. In the absence of a universal enforcer no adaptations occur, and one ring to rule them all comes with it’s own horrible cost. In short, the ‘cure’ is worse than the disease.

    “Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises.” Sebastian d’Anconia, Atlas Shrugged.

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