JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Infamous Milgram experiments repeated: Only a few will stand up against authority

The Milgram Experiment. Image Wikimedia.

The chilling Milgram experiments have been replicated, and yet again, 9 out of 10 are willing to inflict electric shocks and pain on another person. In these infamous experiments the power of a white lab coat was enough to get more than half the participants (26 out of 40) to deliver a fatal shock (the participants didn’t realize the shock was faked, and the victim an actor).

This willingness to obey authority is both a great strength of humanity when authority is worthy and yet leads to the darkest abyss when it is not.

By nature, we are largely empathetic creatures: most people really don’t want to cause pain, they get quite upset themselves in the process. Yet many people will override this inbuilt ethical wiring if a person in a position of authority insist they do. It’s time we talked about ways to train people to resist. There is hope as outlined below in a different study from last year.

Conducting the Milgram experiment in Poland, psychologists show people still obey

Press Release: The title is direct, “Would you deliver an electric shock in 2015?” and the answer, according to the [...]

Psychoterratica — environmentally induced mental distress

With every baseless scare come the inevitable victims:  those who are gullible, through no fault of their own, like children, graduates of eco-science degrees, and people who think the ABC gives them impartial information.

Psychoterratica:  or earth related (terra) mental health (psyche) states or conditions.

© 2013 Glenn Albrecht.

GlennAlbrect did a Ted talk, if you can bear to watch it, tell us the best quotes: I spot a “Tipping point of the brain”. He’s a philosopher. If only he understood the philosophy called science, he might be useful.

We live in the richest, safest era of human life on Earth. For a hundred thousand years everyone was afraid of dysentry, snakes, and the marauding tribe next door. They all starved periodically and buried their children often. They said prayers to pagan gods they hoped would save them. Now 1 – 2 billion lucky sods have escaped that dreadful fear, and live a life rich beyond the wildest dreams of the neolithic grinder. Some that won the lottery worry instead that burning coal in Queensland will melt arctic ice and create homeless polar bears. Or they think there are climate death squads.

Apparently the ABC is [...]

Dismal: The polarization of climate debate depresses believers: The solution they all miss

It’s “depressing”, “hopeless” and “dismal”

The climate debate is more polarised than ever. David Roberts at Vox is very honest about the challenges believers face to solve the deep partisan political divide. But despite all the grants and funding to solve this problem, the experts miss the obvious. I explain below why polarization will solve itself. Indeed, all their best efforts to reduce polarization in the climate debate are creating the polarization. It takes a sustained effort and millions of dollars to keep a false belief alive.

Now Dunlap and McCright (along with Oklahoma State’s Jerrod Yarosh) have updated their study, giving us a fresh look at public opinion on climate change at the end of the Obama era.

The findings are dismal, if not very surprising: Polarization only accelerated after 2008, the gap between the parties is wider than ever, and the trend shows no sign of stopping.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) scores politicians. It tracks the voting records of members of Congress. Way back in 1970 both sides of politics wanted to approve environmental legislation about equally.

(Dunlap et al, Environment)

Public opinion has a similar trend. Here are Gallup poll results since 1997. (The [...]

What you don’t know about the climate (Half page advert in The Australian)

Here’s the full copy of a half page advert in The Australian. In a normal world, this would be discussed at conferences, and reported by science reporters in magazines like New Scientist or Scientific American, or on shows like Catalyst. Instead, private citizens have to fork out thousands to pay for an advert. — Jo

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT CLIMATE

The climate cooled for 37 years during the period 1940 to 1976. Books were written expressing alarm. Lowell Ponte’s 1975 book warns: “Global cooling presents humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for 110,000 years. Your stake in the decisions we make concerning it is of ultimate importance: the survival of ourselves, our children, our species.”

We now have a new climate alarm and similar statements are being made. Climate models used by authorities forecast that CO2 emissions will cause dangerous global warming, now referred to as Climate Change.

Sources: Various, as described in the “State of the Climate in 2012” in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society1, August 2013.

PSYCHOLOGY, BIAS ERRORS AND CLIMATE

Recent findings in the area of psychology, “Psychology and Economics” by [...]

How many children died because peer reviewed data was buried and results cherry-picked?

This example below shows the dangers of cherry picked and buried data. It shows how great news and joy can be reported from rancid results, and the only protection against this is open access. When the taxpayer funds research that is not fully and transparently public, and immediately available, the people are funding PR rather than science. “Peer review” does little to stop this, little to clean up the mess after it happens, and the truth can take years to  be set free.

Ten percent of teenagers taking an anti-depressant harmed themselves or attempted suicide. This was ten times the rate of the teens on the placebo. The results of this clinical trial were published in 2001, but those alarming statistics were not reported. The drug went on to be widely used. A new reanalysis of the data, reported in the BMJ, revealed the dark and hidden dangers. The company that funded the research, Glaxo Smith Kline, has already faced record fines of $4.2 billion. The Journal of the Ameri­can Academy of Child and Adoles­cent Psychiatry won’t retract the paper.

There are many ways to hide data. In this case, the results of the trial include 80,000 records which were [...]

Australian Psychology Society uses biases and fallacies to accuse skeptics of bias and fallacies

If psychologists want to be taken seriously, and want psychology to be called “a science”, they need to elect a director who knows what science is.

Executive Director: Professor Lyn Littlefield OAM FAPS

The Climate Study group in Australia published a half page advert in The Australian last week – Psychology and Climate Alarm: how fear and anxiety trump evidence.  In reply, Prof Lyn Littlefield, Executive Director of the Australian Psychology Society wrote a letter to The Australian protesting — claiming that the Climate Study Group are the ones suffering from the confirmation bias they accuse climate scientists of.

“The advertisement, ‘Psychology and the New Climate Storm’  misuses psychology-based arguments to add credibility to myths and misinformation about climate change. In doing so, the authors illustrate aptly the very error bias (confirmation bias) they are erroneously attributing to the climate science community.”

It’s the “the pot calling the kettle black”, exclaims Littlefield. But since her arguments are entirely fallacies, this is the kettle calling the pot calling the kettle black.  The Climate Study Group mentioned many scientific observations, and in reply Lyn Littlefield can’t find an error in any of them, she can only cite “the consensus”. [...]

Psychology and Climate Alarm: how fear and anxiety trump evidence

Across the West, there is a layer of smart-but-busy intellects who have not been involved in the climate debate. For one reason or another they’ve been too busy setting up IPO’s, doing research projects, or directing companies in perhaps technology, mining or banking, and generally being productive. It is excellent to see some of this caliber adding their brain-power and resources to the public arena. Especially so in Australia, where the debate is almost entirely bare-bones-volunteers versus billion-dollar-institutions, and where the culture of philanthropy is not well developed compared to the US.

This unusual advert was placed in The Australian today. In a normal world, investigative journalists would have already interviewed and discussed views like these, but in the hyperbolic, politicized and religious world of climate-alarm it was simpler for productive people to just get on with it, talk to their peers and make it happen.

Click to enlarge, or read the text below.

Psychology and The New Climate Alarm

Lowell Ponte’s 1975 book warns:

“Global cooling presents humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for 110,000 years. Your stake in the decisions we make concerning it is [...]

Climate Death Squads funded by Big Oil strike people with lightning! How’s that for an ideated conspiracy?

Big Oil knows no bounds. Not only can it derail governments, and thwart the  UN, World Bank, and IMF but now it may be sending out climate death squads to assassinate Arctic Ice Experts. These expert hit squads apparently push people down stairs, run them off the road, and strike them down with lightning. Lightning! (That is one mother of aTesla Coil.) James Bond could learn something. Q, where are you?

Prof Wadhams at Cambridge has been the go-to man for Arctic scare stories across the UK (h/t Delingpole). In 2012, Wadhams predicted Arctic Sea Ice was set to collapse in just four years. Last year, after years of a relentlessly surviving Arctic, even some alarmists threw Wadham under the bus, (so to speak) as being too “extremist”. But now he’s topped that.

You see, in January 2013  there were four leading Arctic experts in the UK, now there is one, and he is very very worried.

No, seriously, you can’t make this up. Let’s try to imagine how much more profitable Big Oil would be if every single  Arctic climate expert in the World was dead. (Count the zeros…)

The utter futility of it all escapes Wadhams. After a [...]

Cheaters have been around since the Age of Amoeba

UPDATE: This is generating some good discussion, which is what I wanted to help me explain why this is relevant. It’s a study about amoeba, but reveals something I think about biological “laws” of all cooperative societies and genetics. It’s very relevant to the nature-nurture debate, and to national politics and policies. UPDATE #2: The cheating referred to in this post is defined as “social cheating” meaning to take some advantage over and above contributions to the social group. The amoeba are a simple “model system” that may help us learn more about the factors that influence the balance of “cheaters” versus “cooperators” in any social species.

See the critics and my replies at #7 and #16. Give it your best shot. :- )  Jo

You might think that corruption in science has only been around for 20 or 30 years. But I say this problem has been around since the Age of Amoeba.

The day after cells evolved to cooperate, some of them learnt to cheat. The battle of the cooperators versus the cheaters hasn’t stopped since and humans are the most socially evolved cooperators on the planet, (which just means we have more socially [...]

Facebook study: Climate Believers have more “friends” (Skeptics think for themselves)

Many psychologists are looking at “political ideology” as a predictor of belief in the theory of man-made climate disasters, but I’m convinced it’s the more basic element of personality types that matters more. A new study shows (no surprise) that climate believers are more networked in the Facebook world.

In the press release, the researcher, Juha Itkonen, calls these Facebook connections “friends” as if the terms facebook-friend and friend are interchangeable. Mark Zuckerberg would be happy.  Extroverts on Facebook might also agree, but I’d bet the introvert types would not. Sometimes fewer relationships means deeper ones.

Perhaps extroverts are more likely to be group-thinkers, and introverts are more likely to have some inbuilt immunity to mob thought? No doubt it will be reported with the usual shallow semi-narcissistic flare “climate deniers have fewer friends”. So sharpen your pencils, smile, and remind everyone that skeptics have better things to do than spend all day on social media, that Facebook friends are not always real friends, and that having fewer deeper friends would suit people who are deeper thinkers.

 

Climate change attitudes are reflected on social networks

11 May 2015 Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki)

People who believe [...]