So lets kick off this site with an thought provoking question that is much broader than issues with energy but certainly applies, as I will discuss.
I was reading this interesting article which reviews some studies in human psychology that imply that we approach new information with all our inherent biases and either accept it if it fits our worldview, or find reasons to rationalize why we can reject it if it doesn’t. From the post:
In other words, people rejected the validity of a scientific source because its conclusion contradicted their deeply held views—and thus the relative risks inherent in each scenario. A hierarchal individualist finds it difficult to believe that the things he prizes … could lead to outcomes deleterious to society. Whereas egalitarian communitarians tend to think that the free market causes harm, that patriarchal families mess up kids, and that people can’t handle their guns. The study subjects weren’t “anti-science”—not in their own minds, anyway. It’s just that “science” was whatever they wanted it to be.
So it begs the question, is an open mind a myth? It is a relevant question as we struggle to understand why a large proportion of the public as well as the new congress don’t seem to value scientific conclusions (and many just flat out deny them). How do we change this? Apparently, for republicans, the news can’t come from scientists:
In one study, he and his colleagues packaged the basic science of climate change into fake newspaper articles bearing two very different headlines—”Scientific Panel Recommends Anti-Pollution Solution to Global Warming” and “Scientific Panel Recommends Nuclear Solution to Global Warming”—and then tested how citizens with different values responded. Sure enough, the latter framing made hierarchical individualists much more open to accepting the fact that humans are causing global warming. Kahan infers that the effect occurred because the science had been written into an alternative narrative that appealed to their pro-industry worldview.
You can follow the logic to its conclusion: Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue. Doing so is, effectively, to signal a détente in what Kahan has called a “culture war of fact.” In other words, paradoxically, you don’t lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance.
We aren’t business or religious leaders, but we’re still going to give it a shot here. Maybe someone will get something out of it.