How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

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Jeffrey Levine
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How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Jeffrey Levine » October 25th, 2017, 12:19 pm

I'm struggling for how to deal with the phenomenon of tribal epistemology from a rhetorical standpoint. I'm a scientist, and subscribe to the metaphysical belief that there is a single, external objective reality we all share. According to this view, two mutually incompatible subjective accounts of reality cannot both be correct... or rather, since objective reality is something that we can only approach, but never fully attain, you could say that if two accounts of reality are incompatible, one may be deemed to be more plausible and accurate than the other.

The specific aspect of objective reality at issue in my case is Anthropogenic Global Warming. I am apetroleum geologist (or, rather, I have been one), and many of my colleagues in the petroleum industry have rejected AGW as being at best unproved, if not a complete fabrication (a hoax). They are not, however, able to provide strong or valid (by my assessment) arguments to support this position. Their justification for their beliefs is riddled (in my assessment) with logical fallacies, especially cherry picking, straw man, red herring, and ad hominem. In contrast, the scientific justification for AGW is quite strong, being based on many, mutually supporting lines of evidence. This doesn't prove unequivocally that AGW is true. It just means that most of the major scientific problems with it have been resolved, and confidence in its validity is quite high. Of course, those who disagree with the conclusion also dispute the accuracy of the evidence and the validity of the arguments, creating an impasse.

In the context of tribal epistemology, this gets me nowhere. They still cling to a set of alternative facts, supported by a very small group of "alternative experts". You might think that their commitment to denial of AGW would be diminishing, but so far as I can tell, it's as strong as ever.

To me it seems quite obvious that petroleum geologists would be highly susceptible to cognitive bias regarding AGW, so it should come as no surprise IF this is actually the case. The effects are so profound, that (to my assessment) their capacity for rational dialog regarding scientific evidence and arguments has been completely destroyed... and this includes some highly educated, otherwise (seemingly) reasonable, rational people. Some have gone to absurd lengths to develop elaborate alternative narratives that account for: 1) AGW being false, 2) the world scientific community being wrong, and 3) petroleum geologist being uniquely qualified to recognize the truth of #1 & #2.

The question is, can motivated bias be proved, and is it valid to even raise the question? How do I raise the question of motivated bias in a rhetorically and epistemologically acceptable and valid manner. First of all, these people are very clever. They couch most of their arguments in the style of "plausible deniability". The more sophisticated, educated of them are rarely (or never) clear and direct in stating their position... And they often choose wording that would be completely defensible and reasonable, if you didn't know that the unspoken "elephant in the room" is AGW, and more specifically, their rejection of it. For example, they may [self-]righteously denounce the "politicization" of science, even though their own viewpoint is (in my view) rooted in political ideology. Thus, if you hint at a political foundation for their views, they will immediately pounce on you for politicizing science, which they would argue should be completely apolitical.

The other problem has to do with the issue of motivation. Recent psychological literature is loaded with documentation of the impact of motivated bias (preservation of self-esteem, cognitive dissonance avoidance, etc. etc.), but is it possible to actually invoke this argument as an explanation for their views. If you do so, they will howl that it's unacceptable to speculate about motivation, that they are being unfairly "labeled" and dismissed. etc. etc. I've seen this very argument raised on this web site (albeit not on this specific issue).... that it's off limits to speculate about someone's underlying motivations. And depending on how the forum rules are interpreted, it might even be specified that it's off limits to raise the question of motivation... that this is "bad form" and provocative.

And even if it weren't "against the rules", it also opens the question of "fundamental attribution error", where we may be susceptible to misinterpreting the motivations of others, even though in this case, circumstantial evidence makes at least the potential, if not the reality, of motivated bias very clear.

Is there a way around this problem? I'm not finding much help in the sources I've looked at so far.

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Alias » October 26th, 2017, 12:51 pm

How many people in the world today profess to believe in some supernatural entity, while also using the tools and services of science?
People are capable of holding two or more incompatible, or contradictory, even mutually exclusive views at the same time.
Can this be demonstrated? Yes, in a sincere debate, where questions were posed - and juxtaposed - to in such a way as to lead into the contradiction. However, clever people with highly compartmentalized interest-laden convictions learn to be very good at evading such direct confrontations. When faced with such questions, they deflect, trivialize, nit-pick and side-step very adroitly.
You can point up the factual contradictions more readily in a written statement or report.
Another possible approach is statistical. Have you tried that? Take the responses to a given question, then arrange the responses on a graph - of, say, amount of supporting factual data - and superimpose that graph on a graph of respondent's employment history, or proximity to fossil-fuel revenue.

It's a very interesting question. I'll have to come back later.

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Burning ghost » October 27th, 2017, 1:21 am

I think it helps if you look at this on a psychological level, both for the individual and the group dynamic.

I have observed, in myself and others, an inclination to pigeon-hole certain people by what they express. I think this has both a benefit and a disadvantage. It is beneficial in the sense that it instigates vibrant debate and a kind of "arms race" based on factual evidence and use of reason begins. Eventually if the evidence and reasoning are good enough then they will win. On the bad side there is certainly a case for psychological fixatedness at both extremes where each pole of the argument is simply too distanced from their opponents to establish any useful empathy for their view point/s (whether you agree with them or not.)

I am not quite sure that what you are referring to is a "problem". I think what you are referring to is the process of dealing with information. As long as there is debate and differing positions, we'll see new ideas come to the fore and then the stronger ideas will survive the test of evidence and reason.

When it comes to understanding statistics and error margins the vast majority of people won't understand and even if they did they would likely fish for counter evidence (of which there will be some within outlying errors.)

I find it best, if you really wish to get through to people, to present argumentation for and against in as balanced a manner as possible. Hold back some data and give equal weight on both sides to the problem. Discuss it and then bring your opponents around to at least accept part of your argument as a possibility. After this, and considerable effort on your part, you should probably only then begin to feed in extra evidence for your case, and if you can for other cases. When doing this try to coax your opponents into doing precisely what you are doing too.

After all this opinions do not simply change over night. Give some time and distance on the subject. Often if people see their error they are very unwilling to admit it publicly because they are merely human and will feel "shame", "guilt" or "stupidity", because we are perverse self-depreciating creatures.

If you follow this method you'll at least have flesh out the argument and presented counter arguments to various pieces of evidence you've previously never thought about. If your position is then stronger (which it will be if you're moving toward the 'correct' conclusion) you'll be better equipped to tackle such discussions in the future and present very solid reasoning.

All that then remains to do is continue and repeat the process so you're more and more certain of how to deal with this or that counter argument, or this or that persona (which is the most difficult thing to judge IMO.)

No matter what, if you feel you're getting nowhere and getting nothing out of the exchange it is highly likely the fault lies with you to some degree. The most difficult thing for objectivism to deal with is when they come into contact with those uninitiated in objective science and how to put it to use. You cannot really expect to make someone learn about statistics and scientific method, to learn how to read the data and interpret it. The whole idea of "I am not certain" really hurts peoples valuation of scientific data. They often, for some reason, expect science to give 100% unerring facts about the world and have very little understanding of how to read and calculate the meaning of probabilities for this or that topic.

On the political side of things there is the huge issue of conservativism and liberalism. The objectivism side of science is founded in a more conservative mind-set, yet science is a creative force and necessarily open to shifts in paradigms.

I often wonder if scientists are built for politics and whether or not a well educated scientist would do a good job of running a country or not. In politics what kind of qualities are we looking for in who represents the population? A very hard and complex question. Over all just keep pushing what you feel is best and hope you're right whilst keeping in mind there is a possibility (pretty much certainty tbh) that you're not wholly right and even if you are it's likely for all the wrong reasons. The last remark is the fatal flaw of the human disposition in exploring truth.

Our achievements and failures should be taken as dispassionately as possible. The simple truth is our mistakes and achievements may very well not be completely due to our decisions, choices and thoughts.
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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Alias » October 27th, 2017, 9:37 am

This is way more serious than 'dealing with information'. This is about life and death - mostly death.
telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/2053842/ ... rming.html
One of the signatories, Frank Nuttall, a professor of medicine, said he believed the Earth was becoming warmer, despite his signature.
"This issue is whether the major reason for this is from human activities. I consider that inconclusive at the present time," he said.
First, this is a doctor, not a climate scientist; he doesn't actually have the requisite information, or understanding of how the information fits together.
Second, he says the evidence is inconclusive. He signed up against doing anything to stop an existential threat, until.... what? when?
This guy might be just wishful thinking, but his opposition is counted, on the side of the mad coal-burners and pelican-killers;
it exactly counterbalances a scientist who knows what he's talking about and might be able to help save our sorry asses.
On the other hand, this guy http://www.accesstoenergy.com/ is clearly biased: a right-wing activist, anti-public school, pro-nuclear politician. (and incidentally, also not a climate scientist.)

You could do worse than check that list of 31,000 signatories for qualifications to assess the information, as well as conflict of interest:
see how many are directly employed, indirectly funded or politically associated with fossil fuel related industries and their lobbies.

-- Updated October 27th, 2017, 9:56 am to add the following --

Here they are - all American, incidentally, so you might also be able to check them for party affiliation. http://www.petitionproject.org/signers_by_last_name.php

Problem: the first four Google/Yahoo listings that come up, with almost any name you search, are uninformative obituaries.
The first random name I checked didn't come up with any kind of scientist, just a dead person.
The second has collaborated on one single medical research paper. No other professional information.
The third one is either an engineer or recently deceased; no obituary info.
The fourth is a plastics researcher.
Another doctor?
An asphalt engineer.
An elusive one, dead or alive.
An inventor of subterranean survey apparatus. Mining engineer?
Another obscure one.
Okay, maybe that list isn't very useful. Either it's stuffed with dead people or many of the signatories have pretty low profiles.
Unless there is a comprehensive registry of professional who can be remotely classified as scientists, it looks like a blind alley.

(At least, if I may paraphrase a real scientist, this will save some other damn fool wasting two hours. )

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Jeffrey Levine » October 30th, 2017, 8:17 pm

Thanks to everyone who has replied so far. I have a follow-up for Mr. Ghost, and apologize (as ever) for the length.

In your first paragraph, you refer to “each pole of the argument”. I understand what you’re saying, and it’s a meaningful description of the situation in some respects. On the other hand, I feel this expression essentially encapsulates and legitimizes the underlying nature of the dispute, which is illegitimate at its core from the standpoint of evidence.

There is a tendency in human nature to see complex issues as representing two diametrically opposed views… in other words, in “black and white” vs. “shades of gray”. In many (or most) instances, this is an example of the fallacy of “two-sidedness” or “false dichotomy”. I feel that many of my colleagues who reject AGW regard climate change as a “two-sided” issues…. And it IS so for them. But this is not a natural or realistic way of looking at an topic as complex as climate change. Human causation is but one of many factors [potentially] influencing earth’s climate. There’s nothing inherent about the climate that would imply there being just “two sides”. The notion of two-sidedness is a political/ideological dichotomy that arises NOT from an assessment of the evidence, but from the REJECTION (or DENIAL) of a specific conclusion… that human impact on present day climate change is highly likely.

You also stated:
I am not quite sure that what you are referring to is a "problem". I think what you are referring to is the process of dealing with information. As long as there is debate and differing positions, we'll see new ideas come to the fore and then the stronger ideas will survive the test of evidence and reason. […] Discuss it and then bring your opponents around to at least accept part of your argument as a possibility.
No… This is precisely “the problem”. If one (or both) participants in a debate relating to some aspect of objective reality is strongly influenced by cognitive bias, there is effectively no evidence or arguments that can be raised that will persuade them to accept—nor even to acknowledge—evidence to the contrary.
It might be beneficial to provide a specific example I’ve encountered in the course of addressing the issue of AGW with my professional colleagues in petroleum geology. For this example to make sense, I have to provide some relevant background information, which I’ve done here as succinctly as I can (for a discussion relating to epistemology and reasoning):
  1. As an outgrowth of the problem of “inductive reasoning”, Charles S. Peirce formalized the system of “abductive reasoning” which provides a basis to form logically [pseudo-]justified conclusions applicable in natural physical sciences where controlled experiments (which provide our best approximation of deductive reasoning) are not possible.
  2. When dealing with complex systems, especially in cases where there is a poverty of evidence, there may be more than one abductively-derived explanation for any given observed phenomenon.
  3. Two disciplines in the natural sciences where abductive reasoning is relied upon (essentially) exclusively are geology (That’s me!) and climatology (That’s right!).
  4. In an effort to provide a practical methodology of avoiding becoming fixated on one particular favored hypothesis to the exclusion of others, geologist T.C. Chamberlin proposed a semi-formalized system that he termed “multiple working hypotheses” (MWH).
  5. To apply MWH, one must formulate as many possible explanations as possible to account for the phenomenon in question. Then, gather as much relevant evidence as possible relating to this phenomenon. (In geology and climatology this will be almost entirely based on observation and measurement of naturally occurring phenomena, accompanied by construction of conceptual models (sometimes aided by computer simulation), utilizing the available evidence) Then, through a process of elimination, reject hypotheses that are inconsistent with available evidence. This may leave more than one plausible explanation remaining. (In the real world, “falsification” is not a pragmatic possibility. In most situations, we are dealing with “likelihoods”, which is a semi-quantitative assessment that might or might not lend itself to rigorous statistical evaluation. In many cases, it might also, or largely be based on “intuition”, which is notoriously subject to bias.)
  6. T.C. Chamberlin was on the faculty of the Department of Geology at the University of Wisconsin, eventually becoming president of the university.
  7. I have a colleague in petroleum geology who received his Ph.D. in geology at the University of Wisconsin, where he claims that the legacy of T.C. Chamberlin is still strongly felt. He claims to have been schooled and drilled extensively in Multiple Working Hypotheses.
  8. My colleague claims that it is through application of Multiple Working Hypotheses led him to doubt the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming. (Note that Chamberlin’s concern was that we rigorously critique OUR OWN favored hypothesis. In this case, my colleague is using MWH to critique someone else’s favored hypothesis. Not quite the same thing… but it all comes down to evidence in the end… or, at least, it’s supposed to. I would also question whether my colleague has any “doubt” about AGW. I’m pretty confident that HE is certain that it’s false.
  9. Thinking that MWH is supposed to be based on a compilation of evidence, it occurred to me to challenge my colleague to join with me in investigating some aspect of the evidence supporting AGW, and try to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to accept or reject this evidence as reliable and compelling. This would require us (as petroleum geologists) to delve at some depth into the literature of climate science to the extent that we could REALLY understand and critique it. (This is a step that most—if not ALL—of my colleagues who reject AGW find unnecessary. They already KNOW that the evidence is false. So why go to such effort?)
  10. To give my colleague a “sporting advantage” in this exercise, I allowed that HE could choose whichever particular line if evidence/reasoning he particularly disagreed with, or found problematic. His response was succinct: “I disagree with ALL of it.”
  11. At this point, I withdrew from the exercise. To my thinking, anyone who believed that ALL of the scientific evidence compiled by ALL of the scientists in ALL laboratories and ALL the universities in ALL the countries in the world was ALL wrong, would not be capable of completing the exercise that I envisioned. In other words. It would be a waste of time. For all of our efforts (which would have been substantial), we would have been no closer to mutual understanding.
So this leads me back to my original question. Would it be within bounds at that point to say, “You sir, despite your feigned, self-serving claims of adhering to Chamberlin’s system of Multiple Working Hypotheses, are a scientific fraud. You either KNOW what you’re doing and are devoid of honesty or ethical integrity, or you are so blinded by cognitive bias as to be rendered incompetent to assess anything related to the topic of AGW”?
Probably not. :?
But what CAN I say? :roll:
--------------------
The problem is that not only can I not answer the question of whether my colleague is a liar or merely incapacitated by cognitive bias, I’m not able to PROVE that he is cognitively biased at all, other than through circumstantial evidence.

Now “circumstantial evidence” (to the extent that the evidence itself is reliable) is essentially the foundation of abductive reasoning, which (as stated above) geologists rely on extensively. It’s just a manner of concluding the most likely explanation for an observed phenomenon, based on evidence, which must itself be judged for reliability. So am I any less justified at “abducing” that my colleague is suffering from cognitive bias than I am at abducing that plate tectonics is real? I don’t know.

Let’s say I have two alternative hypotheses to explain my colleague’s conclusion that ALL the evidence supporting AGW is false:
  1. My colleague is suffering from cognitive bias, and is unable to objectively judge whether it’s false or not or
  2. All of the evidence ACTUALLY IS objectively false.
On what basis am I justified in concluding one hypothesis or the other? And having done so, how can I present the basis for my conclusion in an acceptable way?

The thing is… I am so sincerely a skeptic on scientific issues, I feel cheated out of being skeptical about AGW… because it places me (superficially) in the same ‘box” as people who have no doubt that AGW is false.

Any further comments will be welcome.

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Alias » October 31st, 2017, 10:37 am

“each pole of the argument”. I understand what you’re saying, and it’s a meaningful description of the situation in some respects. On the other hand, I feel this expression essentially encapsulates and legitimizes the underlying nature of the dispute, which is illegitimate at its core from the standpoint of evidence.
Yes, that's it. No new ideas, no useful solutions, ever come out of an adversarial confrontation.
It tends, rather, to obfuscate both the facts and the subject at issue.
Uninvolved listeners get the impression of two opposing points of view, far from any conclusion on which one needs to form an opinion, let alone act.
The very same thing is said of the "evolution debate" - which is bogus on its very face. There is no scientific argument against evolution, only attacks. But those attacks are directed at little bits of the research, an approximated number here, a contentious personality there, a long-abandoned blind alley hither, an unsatisfied (if sometimes spurious) criterion yon, and refuting those attacks keeps the legitimate science on the defensive, making it appear, to the uninformed (or deliberately misinformed) layman that there are two equal opposing sides to an on-going debate.

Attempting to expose the bias and poor quality of information used by the opposing side might not be cost-effective, and proving corruption of data or partisanship of adherents is even more difficult. You could spend your whole time on it and never get to the facts. Perhaps you would be better to concentrate on the science itself.
- When citing a particular report, always state its point of origin (NASA, WMO, Cornell, UNEP, etc) and/or the qualifications of the author(s) of a paper or co-ordinator of a study
- Always state the duration and scope of the research projects whose conclusions you cite, as well as the size of the team, its sponsorship/ auspices, number and qualifications of contributors.
- and challenge the opposition to do likewise - every time.
The preponderance of evidence is so overwhelming that simply showing the quantity of data, reliability of the organizations and quality of the research ought to be convincing enough.

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Eduk » October 31st, 2017, 1:10 pm

I'm struggling for how to deal with the phenomenon of tribal epistemology from a rhetorical standpoint.
You can't.
To prove my point please tell me something which is false but which you believe in. I'll try to give some examples where you may have opinions which are not based on logic or evidence.
All alternative medicine
All religion
All conspiracy theories which are against the scientific consensus
Anything about quantum mechanics
Anything about relativity
Any strong support for any political party

-- Updated October 31st, 2017, 1:14 pm to add the following --

oh I forgot one
Anything that isn't to do with being a petroleum geologist. (I'm being a bit flippant but basically Dunning-Kruger effect).

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Burning ghost » October 31st, 2017, 11:41 pm

JF -

I really cannot think of much more to add to what I've already said without getting really deep into wholly different subject areas.

Regarding this:
If one (or both) participants in a debate relating to some aspect of objective reality is strongly influenced by cognitive bias, there is effectively no evidence or arguments that can be raised that will persuade them to accept—nor even to acknowledge—evidence to the contrary.


This is a cognitive bias. If you think that then what is there I can say to convince you otherwise? I wouldn't worry about getting caught up in convenient psychological terminology that covers the problem up rather than dealing with it.

Everyone has some capacity for reasoning. If the subject is very complex and influenced by different socio-political factors, more than the average subject, then it may very well be too difficult a problem for some to deal with. I am not sure why you think it's so important to get through to people rather than come to understand the "grey area" you mentioned.

I would add that you seemed kind of opposed to what I said and then (due to cognitive bias) proclaimed a counter-position that did nothing more than echo exactly what I had just said in a watered down way. Did you notice that or is it due to my cognitive bias?

You then said this:
No… This is precisely “the problem”. If one (or both) participants in a debate relating to some aspect of objective reality is strongly influenced by cognitive bias, there is effectively no evidence or arguments that can be raised that will persuade them to accept—nor even to acknowledge—evidence to the contrary.


I think the problem is you see it as a only a negative problem? One OR both? Most certainly both! We're just human idiots so don't worry about stupidity and misrepresentation of data. It is a given we'll all do it and accuse the other of doing the same too. I think it is fair to say that we have a less than precise understanding of the climate and how it functions. We can predict reasonably well over long period of time about certain cycles (such as seasonal changes.) The people who oppose the effect of humans on the climate do so with a good reason in this sense. They are skeptical about patterns we're completely unfamiliar with. We can model and predict and do nothing other than set margins of error. If there is a possibly of human extinction (or as near as) we better learn to think about tomorrow rather than focusing on the now. I don't really see how you can view this subject without political bias. I am more inclined to listen to people with scientific education who have young children (they have a reason to pay attention to the future climate where those with older or no children will not be so concerned - but again there is a case of me milking out my personal biases to suit my aims.)

Look what I said here:
I have observed, in myself and others, an inclination to pigeon-hole certain people by what they express. I think this has both a benefit and a disadvantage. It is beneficial in the sense that it instigates vibrant debate and a kind of "arms race" based on factual evidence and use of reason begins. Eventually if the evidence and reasoning are good enough then they will win. On the bad side there is certainly a case for psychological fixatedness at both extremes where each pole of the argument is simply too distanced from their opponents to establish any useful empathy for their view point/s (whether you agree with them or not.)

...

I find it best, if you really wish to get through to people, to present argumentation for and against in as balanced a manner as possible. Hold back some data and give equal weight on both sides to the problem. Discuss it and then bring your opponents around to at least accept part of your argument as a possibility. After this, and considerable effort on your part, you should probably only then begin to feed in extra evidence for your case, and if you can for other cases. When doing this try to coax your opponents into doing precisely what you are doing too.

...

If you follow this method you'll at least have flesh out the argument and presented counter arguments to various pieces of evidence you've previously never thought about. If your position is then stronger (which it will be if you're moving toward the 'correct' conclusion) you'll be better equipped to tackle such discussions in the future and present very solid reasoning.

...

I often wonder if scientists are built for politics and whether or not a well educated scientist would do a good job of running a country or not. In politics what kind of qualities are we looking for in who represents the population? A very hard and complex question. Over all just keep pushing what you feel is best and hope you're right whilst keeping in mind there is a possibility (pretty much certainty tbh) that you're not wholly right and even if you are it's likely for all the wrong reasons. The last remark is the fatal flaw of the human disposition in exploring truth.
Your reply to this:
In your first paragraph, you refer to “each pole of the argument”. I understand what you’re saying, and it’s a meaningful description of the situation in some respects. On the other hand, I feel this expression essentially encapsulates and legitimizes the underlying nature of the dispute, which is illegitimate at its core from the standpoint of evidence. (1)

There is a tendency in human nature to see complex issues as representing two diametrically opposed views… in other words, in “black and white” vs. “shades of gray”. In many (or most) instances, this is an example of the fallacy of “two-sidedness” or “false dichotomy”. I feel that many of my colleagues who reject AGW regard climate change as a “two-sided” issues (2)…. And it IS so for them. But this is not a natural or realistic way of looking at an topic as complex as climate change. Human causation is but one of many factors [potentially] influencing earth’s climate. There’s nothing inherent about the climate that would imply there being just “two sides”. The notion of two-sidedness is a political/ideological dichotomy that arises NOT from an assessment of the evidence, but from the REJECTION (or DENIAL) of a specific conclusion… that human impact on present day climate change is highly likely (3).
(1) I don't quite understand you or I have misinterpreted what you've said here? Are you saying that pointing out the advantages and disadvantages give too much weight to the view you disagree with or something else? At the end of the day "science" has nothing to say about how to interpret the information. The data is cold data. Humans add to it. I big problem is approaching a problem with preset ideas. When it comes to climate change the only people worth listening to are those who have no real opinion about the topic or political inclination (obviously pretty much anyone alive today has been exposed to this or that view since the theory first came about.) Climate change is bound to be prone to attack because it is an easy target/ We cannot simply say "Just wait 100 years and see!" We have a limited data set and really we should be looking at the problem as risk management (the risk being do X and maybe everyone dies, or suffer Y and if the problem is not so great then we've only suffered a little.)

(2) Because that is how you are presenting the problem. I doubt you'd find anyone who says the humans don't influence the environment. The question is about guessing how much we influence the environment and how worried we should be. The debate is political because the data brought to light by scientists suggests we should really take a more active view of the future of the world and our vulnerable position in the cosmos (for our children's sake if not our own.)

(3) Exactly. People are political animals. Scientific data is nothing but a string of numbers without human interpretation and human agenda. The political make-up of a person defines how they view the world and how they see said data.

I said I cannot really add anything much to what I've said. I will just reiterate what I;ve said already. If you are poles apart (which it sounds like you are to me), and you cannot get anything from the exchange, you're probably missing something. Give it some space and then try another approach, play devil's advocate, look for reasons that have les relation to human influence. If you still get nowhere simply take your position elsewhere where you find more useful discourse and hope you'll find something that will help you reapproach your college from a new direction.

The other day I was watching a lecture about behavioral evolution. Apparently there were two scientists with the same name who had deeply opposing views (adaptive vs heritage) and they were constantly invited to the same functions and had many heated debates from very opposing positions. Eventually they came to understand each other and realized they were both right and wrong in many different ways and have since become firm friends. So maybe throw out the whole political debate and enjoy exploring the different possibilities with each other? Come to some agreement where if either of you bring up the politically weighted subject of human effects on climate change, then stop the discussion. Eventually you may then come to understand each others scientific approach and thoughts in order to gain ground in reciprocal understanding regarding more sensitive politicized subject matter. Generally if you're constantly looking at your opponent as wrong you may very well be missing an opportunity to see with different eyes - that is a risky business though because you may just end up walking down a blind alley (if you're not willing to take a risk though I doubt you'll get too far.) To sum up only you can judge the situation we can only offer generalized advice on your situation and hopefully gain some knowledge for ourselves by attempting to offer some kind of "solution".
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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Greta » November 1st, 2017, 1:18 am

Jeffrey Levine wrote:I'm struggling for how to deal with the phenomenon of tribal epistemology from a rhetorical standpoint. I'm a scientist, and subscribe to the metaphysical belief that there is a single, external objective reality we all share. According to this view, two mutually incompatible subjective accounts of reality cannot both be correct... or rather, since objective reality is something that we can only approach, but never fully attain, you could say that if two accounts of reality are incompatible, one may be deemed to be more plausible and accurate than the other.
At first I was reminded of the tale of six blind men and the elephant. Each blind man comes to a different, yet incompletely correct, conclusion that the elephant was like a snake, rope, tree, wall or stick depending on whether they touched the elephant's trunk, tail, leg, body or tusk.

However, in your case of AGW, that is simply a matter of corruption; fossil fuel companies want more value out of their infrastructure before it is superseded so they choose scientists based on ideology. In what is being popularly termed a "post fact world" one can simply pit one's preferred experts against another's and "it's a draw" (thus policy paralysis on climate). In the arena of public opinion, controlled by billionaires with significant links to fossil fuel industries, giving 3% of sceptical scientists the same air time as the 97% is touted as giving "each side a fair hearing". More doubt, more policy paralysis, and while no policy is enacted it is BAU for fossil fuel companies - the desired result.

If that game of faux fairness is called out then denialists will distract and obfuscate; Trump's presidency makes clear that truth and evidence matter less in terms of public policy than do power, wealth and influence. During times of plenty, truthfulness and ethics proliferate and refine. When times get hard, though, might increasingly becomes right. As per the fairly well-accepted aphorism - "truth is the first casualty of war", and there is an economic war being enacted around climate.

It's one thing to get people to listen to reason, another to get those with vested interests to admit to selfishness.

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Burning ghost » November 1st, 2017, 1:35 am

I would also suggest looking at the situation in terms of Game Theory. The prisoners dilemma is helpful for viewing the possible mutual benefits of trust and the danger of blind trust. What it boils down to is a judgement of who to trust and where and when to risk trust in order to build a meaningful exchange.

Even now when I say these words I understand how obvious they are and how they may sound patronizing. It is up to me to trust your interpretation of what I am saying and hope you understand that what I am trying to say may be incomplete, too brief, or badly interpreted by yourself; rather than jumping to the immediate bias conclusion that I either, don't know what I'm talking about, have faulty information, or have no idea how to express myself in a meaningful manner to anyone.

note: I would be very willing to admit that I make mistakes in how I present questions, ideas, etc.,. I always struggle to find the middle ground through which I can express both the gist of my thinking and at the same time enable access to deeper more intricate questions. Don't apologise to me for long posts. The more you write the better you'll get a writing and the more feedback you'll get from serious readers. I am always struggling with making summations of complex ideas, and often I like to look at very obvious things and dissect them with pedantic rigor merely hoping to uncover something slightly different.

The gist is "You cannot take the humanity out of the science."
AKA badgerjelly

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Jeffrey Levine » November 7th, 2017, 3:17 am

I need to come back and read this again, when I'm less fatigued. Thanks for your ideas. JRL

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Re: How to raise the issue of motivation (motivated bias)

Post by Alias » November 8th, 2017, 12:46 am

The subject is already moot.
At 11:49 PM, you're still trying to figure out which timepiece to use and whether the 17-jewel Swiss watch is more or less reliable than the sundial, you have no hope of convincing anyone in time to do anything meaningful, even if they had the will, guts and political mandate - which they probably haven't.
Don't worry about it.
Worry about which fat spoiled toddler's fingers launch the nuclear holocaust.

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