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Friday
Apr032015

Pakistani Dr & Kentucky Farmer cause uprising of agitated reflection at Annenberg Center!

Gave talk yesterday at Annenberg Public Policy Center (where I will be a fellow next spring) on “Science Communication Measurement Problem.” 

Was a super great audience, brimming with knowledge, intelligence & curiosity.

Slides here.

I’ve given talks before on the Measurement Problem & its significance for science communication.  

But in this one for the first time I gave a pretty central place to the “Pakistani Dr” paradox—the apparently simultaneous belief & disbelief in one or another scientific proposition (human evolution, human-caused climate change).

Indeed, Everhart & Hameed’s Pakistani Dr only arrived after the “Measurement Problem” study was done, to try to help me answer the question a perceptive audience member asked after I gave a lecture at RMIT University last summer. . . .  The Dr’s helped a lot, but for sure I remain perplexed.

The audience members yesterday were aroused and agitated by him, and particularly by his buddy the Kentucky Farmer

There was the usual impulse to try to explain away the paradox—one’s involving either specifying the propositions believed/disbelieved in more fine-grained ways (“micro- vs. macro-evolution”; “scientists say that, but they are wrong”) or positing unrevealed attitudes (“he doesn’t really disbelieve evolution—he’s just saying that”; “FYATHYRIO” ; “hypocritical selfish bastard acting on basis of self-interest” etc.) that dissolve the apparent contradiction.

That's understandable. It’s everyone’s first instinct, and isn’t necessarily the wrong answer!  But as I tried to explain, I think we should resist the impulse to accept those “solutions” too readily, lest they preempt valid empirical inquiry into the range of plausible hypotheses.

Actually, as far as I could tell, everyone readily agreed with me when I raised that point.

I, of course, found myself engaged in a kind of “cheerleading” for my favorite conjecture—the “pragmatic dualism” position, I guess I’d call it (not b/c that is a very good label but b/c it’s as good as anything else I can think of for now).

On this account, the appearance of contradiction reflects a mistaken model of how “beliefs” figure in reasoning. 

The mistaken model is that “beliefs” are mental objects akin to factual or empirical propositions that can be identified exclusively with their states-of-affairs referents: “natural history of humans”  or “scientific theory of same originating in work of Darwin"; “global temperature  trends over last decade” and “impact of burning fossil fuels on the same.”

It makes sense to treat “facts” (essentially) that way for purposes of scientific inquiry, and “beliefs” about them as summaries of our assessment of the best available scientific evidence, I agree.

But “inside of people’s heads” it doesn’t make sense to think of “beliefs” being isolated proposition bits switched to either a “true” (“1”) or “false”(“0”) position.

Rather, “beliefs” in states of affairs are always parts of a bundles of intentional states that include not just assessments of such propositions but also affective reactions to them that reflect their significance and that incline one to particular courses of action (Damasio 2010; Lewandwosky 2000; Elga & Rayo 2014).

“Knowing that” is always part of a “knowing how”—for psychological purposes.

There is no way, on this account, to individuate a belief as a “mental object” abstracted from the action-enabling bundles of intentional states that they are part of.

Because beliefs can’t be individuated independently of the actions they enable, then there’s no necessary “contradiction” in both “believing” and “not believing” propositions about external states of affairs.  There would be a contradiction only if the kinds of things that a person is enabled to do by the bundles of intentional states that contain those opposing "beliefs" themselves interefered with one another.

Hameed’s Pakistani Dr is enabled to be a doctor—enabled to practice medicine and experience sense of identity as a part of a science-based profession—by believing in evolution.

He is also enabled to be a part of a certain religious community by disbelieving that particular account of the natural history of human beings.

What’s the problem, he keeps asking us?  I am both of those things—and there’s no tension, in the life I lead (in the society in which I live) in doing so.

Similarly for Kentucky Farmer.  He is enabled to be a certain kind of person—a “hierarchical individualist,” let’s say—by “disbelieving human-caused climate change.”  But he is also enabled to be a successful farmer by “believing in human-caused climate change”—by using, in fact, the best available information on how human activity is affecting the climate so that he can make sensible decisions about his farming practices (no-till farming, crop-rotation, use of genetically modified seeds, etc.) and about conducting his commercial operations (buying crop-failure insurance, etc.).

Big deal, he says. I do both of those things—and they fit together for me just fine.

I don’t know if this is right.  I’d like to figure out experiments for testing this & other plausible conjectures about “what’s going on in their heads.”

But one thing that I realized might be making people resist this account at the workshop wasn’t the implausibility of it.

On the contrary, it was the very likelihood that this might be exactly what is happening.

The objection, for some, I think, was less to the apparent “contradiction” in the Kentucky Farmer’s “beliefs” (he came in for the most critical attention at the workshop).  Rather it was to what he was being enabled to do by his particular “knowing that”/“knowing how” clusters on climate change.

People were distressed, in particular, by the absence in him of a bundle of action-enabling intentional states containing “belief in climate change” that was geared toward impelling him to demand a particular set of policies relating to the mitigation via putting restrictions on various sorts of commercial and market behavior in the US and other countries.

If Ky Farmer had "belief in human-caused climate change" within a cluster of intentional states that impelled him to demand that, I doubt these critics would have cared much if he, like the vast majority of people who have that bundle of intentional states, actually didn't know even the most rudimentary aspects of climate change science.

In other words, at least some people weren't really objecting to the "irrationality" of the Kentucky Farmer's beliefs. They just didn’t like the person that his “beliefs” were rationally enabling him to be.

They are entitled to feel that way!

But I do think it is useful to recognize that that's what the objection is.

Or in any case, it occurred to me that this might be one way to make sense of how others were making sense of the Kentucky Farmer and the Pakistani Dr.

I could be wrong about that.

As I said, I’m perplexed—and curious what others think (and of course for guidance to treatments of these issues by thoughtful people who have already investigatd them)!

References 

Elga A & Rayo, A. Fragmentation and information access. Working paper (2014). 

Damasio, A.R. Self comes to mind : constructing the conscious brain (Pantheon Books, New York, 2010). 

Lewandowsky, S. & Kirsner, K. Knowledge partitioning: Context-dependent use of expertise. Memory & Cognition 28, 295-305 (2000).

 

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Reader Comments (34)

@Dan,

Looking for references about "intentional states" I find mostly philosophical references.
I wonder. If I replaced "intentional state" with "a belief about something" would that significantly change your intended meaning?

I think the phrase "action-enabling intentional states" is key to understanding the latter part of the blog article. Yes?

And "action-enabling" seems to point to something similar to the "motivated" in the concept of "motivated reasoning"? Thus, while "action-enabling intentional states" do NOT necessarily lead to motivated reasoning but having some "action-enabling intentional states" is a necessary condition for motivated reasoning?

April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

...at least some people weren't really objecting to the "irrationality" of the Kentucky Farmer's beliefs. They just didn’t like the person that his “beliefs” were rationally enabling him to be.

To put I finer point on it I believe you could have said:
...at least some people weren't really objecting to the "irrationality" of the Kentucky Farmer's beliefs. They just didn’t like it that the Kentucky Farmer's (perhaps rational) “beliefs” were not rationally . . . "impelling him to demand a particular set of policies relating to the mitigation via putting restrictions on various sorts of commercial and market behavior in the US and other countries."

In other words welcome to the trap of the linear model of the relationship between knowledge and policy/action . The critical thinking error is to assume that there is a simple, linear relationship between scientific or other knowledge and preferred policy.

April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

@Corlandt--

"intentional state" is a term used in philosophy & psychology to refer to all forms of cognition that have a conscious object. "Beliefs" have objects-- whatever proposition is believed *in*. But so do many other kinds of mental states, including desires (which are *for* something) emotions (we get angry *at* people etc), etc.

The position I'm advancing here is that it's not useful to think of people's "beliefs" abstracted from packages of cognitive states that fit one or another kind of activity that people engage in. A belief *is* what it *does*

I don't think this view has any necessary connection to motivated reasoning; that is, I think one could view this as the right account of "beliefs" (and more to the point, see accounts that abstract beliefs from actoin-enabling ensembles of intentional states as founts of confusion) & not be committed to any view about how motivated reasoning fits in.

But of course, *I* am motivated to think about "beliefs" in this way to try to make sense of forms of information processing that feature motivated reasoning; I am wondering, in fact, whether the concept of motivated reasoning is product of mistaken assumption that the only *rational* thing to *do* with information is form accurate representations of facts, states of affairs etc

April 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"And "action-enabling" seems to point to something similar to the "motivated" in the concept of "motivated reasoning"?"

"Action-enabling" is to do with the political component of motivated reasoning. The connection is "Action" to "Policy" to "Politics".

Motivated reasoning is about consequences - it's a variety of the 'argumentum ad consequentiam': it can't be true because I don't like the implications. "If it's true it means my entire worldview is wrong, and I'm a fool." "If I admit it's true I'll lose my friends and my job, and become a social pariah among the people I like and respect."

The problem is that the scientific issue is being used to justify a partisan political programme that particular people are opposed to. It is observed that the people opposing the political programme are also the most likely to reject the science. The hypothesis is that they reject the scientific argument because it would have adverse political consequences for them. (An alternative is that the other side accept an invalid scientific argument only because it has political advantages for them.) Dan is saying that it is the political implications of the rejection of the science that get people upset with the Kentucky farmer. He rejects their politics.

Personally, I don't think the Kentucky farmer's views are at all paradoxical - it's just a case of disagreement over definitions. And I'm not convinced that there's anything paradoxical about the Pakistani doctors, since this is based on Dan's third-hand paraphrasing of what the Pakistani doctors actually said. (As near as I can tell, there were two participants in a survey of Muslim medical doctors who disbelieved in evolution but who considered the theory of evolution to be important in modern medicine. Well, I disbelieve in classical Newtonian mechanics but still think Newton's laws are important in the history and application of physics. There's no contradiction in that. Maybe Dan could find for us the transcript of what they actually said?)

I'm not ruling Dan's hypothesis out, and I'd not be uncomfortable with the conclusion if it was true - I'm just saying I see no evidence for it.

April 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Unless I missed it, I have seen no evidence that 'knowing disbelief' is a major effect that can present in a sizeable slice of the population, rather than a psychological condition limited to vanishingly small edge cases by the very specific developmental trajectory and conditions needed to maintain it. Indeed as is the case for the (real) religious Pakistani Dr who is sufficiently advanced in his trade as to be doing stem cell research or such, yet still has a literal interpretation of his religious scripts.

The only step I saw attempting this was the Kentucky farmer template. But the rather interesting principal paper you cite in the main post on him does not support this behavior at all (see Feb 6th Andy West comment at this post). And if you persist in attempting to massage it for such support, you also have to try and explain cousin Jacob and 'unknowing belief'.

Are there other steps trying to build from known condition to relative commonality in society?

April 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

@Andy--

Yes, we do disagree on the various sources of evidence that show that farmers who profess to "disbelieve in" AGW also express statements and engage in behavior that reflect the expectation that their commercial affairs will be affected by AGW and their intention to take action accordingly. There's more out there than the study you are referring to, but what it says, among other things, is that in Tx and Mississippi, only 19% of farmers agree that "climate change has been scientifically proven" but 60% agree that that they "expect producers in [their] area to make a significant change in the mix of crops they grow due to climate change."

I do agree with you, though, that how to understand this sort of evidence requires more specific study-- and that it might well be that the interpretation I'm advancing here & in other posts gets the mechanism wrong or even reflects a mistaken premise.

The phenomenon has also been studied to a limited extent in the case of evolution. Hameed's stuff is fantastic. But there are also studies out there that look at how US students who "disbelieve in" human evolution learn it & even incorporate it into other parts of their lives. See the readings list for Session No. 10 in Science of Science Communication Course.

Even there, though, I think the research is very thin -- and it's not by any means clear how to understand the phenomenon or the mechanisms for it. I have tried to be clear from the beginning that I just find this matter an interesting question that deserves study -- that I don't think it is the sort of thing where we should settle for any of the large number of plausible multually inconsistent "just so" accounts that people confidently reel off as "obvious" "explanations" as a substitute for additional evidence.

And you still haven't responded to my photographic evidence of Jacob actually attending the March for Climate in NYC. That's pretty damning for your case.

April 8, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"but what it says, among other things, is that in Tx and Mississippi, only 19% of farmers agree that "climate change has been scientifically proven" but 60% agree that that they "expect producers in [their] area to make a significant change in the mix of crops they grow due to climate change.""

Check the document Appendix Table 5.

The figures there show the three-way relationship between the variables "Climate change has been scientifically proven", "Human activities are causing climate change", and "Do you expect producers in your area to change the mix of crops they grow due to climate change?"

It turns out that of the subset who disagree with both "scientifically proven" and "human caused", only 9% also think "crop mix will change". The biggest group agreeing that "crop mix will change" are the 48% who think climate change has been "scientifically proven", but not that it is "human caused".

In other words, they are talking about natural climate change!

It's entirely consistent to believe that natural changes in climate will require farmers to change the mix of crops they grow, while not believing it to be human caused. There's no paradox.

For that matter, it's entirely possible to believe that natural climate change is probably true without believing it to have been scientifically proven to be true. So even the 9% aren't necessarily being silly.

And this is why I keep on hammering the point that subtle differences in wording and definition matter, and researchers have to understand the subtleties of the debate if they're not to mislead themselves with spurious results. "Climate change" is not a single well-defined, universally agreed position. Different people interpret it different ways, and even the same person can interpret it different ways at different times. It depends on context.

It's a cool study. The result is not exactly unexpected, but it does confirm that farmers are capable of making subtle distinctions in the climate debate, and understanding their implications in their own area of expertise.

April 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

On doublethink:

"The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."

-George Orwell
1984

April 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

@Dan,

Your link to Grist pulls up nothing but the fact that there are decadal scale changes that farmers have to, and indeed have always had to, adapt to, in addition to constantly upping the game to compete with each other and also cheaper agriculture abroad. It is exactly because of this history that farmers perceive that so far, nothing different is happening to the game on these timescales. It is the secretary for agriculture, not the farmers, who cites something 'new' and anthropogenic. And Vilsack's comments about extremes are in any case at odds with IPCC technical data. Increasing automation and massively improved breeding / genetic techniques covering 2 centuries and more, have led to over-supply for decades now (there is more food than people can eat, it is distribution and politics that leads to hunger) and lower margin. More farmers going out of business at any perturbation of market or climate has been an increasingly common feature of our society since long before Global Warming was thought of. Given that the vast majority of the entire population farmed before the industrial revolution, there's been plenty of folks to go bust and still leave others behind in the fields.

Your Wisconsin link only confirms that farmers are resistive to the idea of a (dominant) anthropogenic cause, while they continue to do what they have always done on decadal scales. Modern instrumental records do not go back so far, but paleo records show worse climate shifts on longer timescales, which Indian farming communities on south-east and south-west coasts plus the Mississippi valley variously did or didn't survive according to their adaptive ability over about a couple of millennia. They also and constantly attempted to track changes with improved agro-techniques and changing planting practice too. And the 1930s dust-bowl is not so far away either, which climate scientists do not claim is a CO2 effect, though farming practice of the era didn't help. I think it likely that this is still deep in the psyche of US farming communities.

This is all woolly and circumstancial stuff that does not speak for (or in fact against) your theory of 'knowing disbelief', which also is circular argument considering it is only dept of Ag who essentially press the anthropogenic angle. These links point only to a much more straightforward 'disbelief'. Whether that disbelief is justified is another matter, but there is no 'knowing disbelief' indicated. I don't think on the strength of this stuff you can use the Kentucky farmer template as a bridge from a known fringe effect to a more widespread and general effect in society.

Regarding the JAAE paper I agree with NiV regarding the definition of climate change. And it is also the case that the paper says ~90% of those who don't believe in human causation, think yields will be the same or better anyhow due to climate change. Even of those who DO believe in human causation, a huge ~74% ALSO believe that yields will be the same or better. See my previous comment to you on this paper for figures. Whatever farming practice changes these folks are planning, for BOTH camps it is not about climate change, it is about continuing to stay in business in a fierce market. Meanwhile, if they can have a government grant, I'm sure they will take one for whatever reason.

Haven't followed the student link as yet.

It's no good trying to (photo) frame Jacob, he won't go away. Try explaining him instead.

April 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

==> "There's no paradox."

There's a paradox for that 9%. I'm not aware of what prevalence Dan assigns to "knowing disbelief."

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I should say, though,that I don't find it the least bit surprising that people would hold contradictory (or sometimes even mutually exclusive) beliefs.

As an example, I think that some "skeptics" will alternately argue that they don't believe that there's such a thing as mean global SATs, or that mean global SATs have ever been non-fraudulently measured, yet still use the metrics that they don't think state anything meaningful and that are fraudulently doctored, to then argue that "global warming has paused"

I wonder how many of the farmers who think it is scientifically proven that the climate is warming due to natural causes can cite details of evidence to support their belief other than evidence provided by scientists they think are dishonestly perpetuating a hoax.

Of course, no doubt, we'd see similar inconsistent logic on the other side of the fence. In fact, some "skeptics" argue that "realists" hold contradictory beliefs if they believe that global warming is a real danger but don't believe it needs to be a high priority issue to confront (I happen to think the logic of that argument is flawed - but I don't doubt that there are other examples that aren't flawed).

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I would agree with the comments regarding the meaning of "climate change" (or "gobal warming") as it likely is understood by poll respondents. I had to train myself out of the habit of hearing"climate change" and thinking "anthropogenic/man-made global warming" (AGW). And even with AGW/man-made global warming the meaning that first comes to my mind is global warming from CO2 caused by the burning of fossil fuels and NOT global warming from other man-made causes such as land-use changes, destruction of rain forest, etc.

A Practical Test for Depth of Global Warming Literacy
I suggest that a well informed person who is following the climate change issue should be able to come up with several different meanings that might be invoked by the phrase "climate change" in the minds of others. Think of it as an advanced test of scientific -- social/political literacy on the subject.

Different conceptions/frameworks on climate change/global warming
o Man-made global warming
o Man-made global warming caused by CO2 increases
o Man-made global warming caused by all man-made greeenhouse gases
o Global warming from all causes
o Global warming from a secular/long term warming after the last ice- age
o Variation in rates of Global warming due to longer term (1 decade plus) natural variations/natural climate cycles
o Predictions of future warming in 50 or 100 years
o Predicted impacts of x degrees of global warming
o Predicted global warming from x levels of CO2
o Policy prescriptions or guidelines

NOTES:
1. This question is also somewhat a test of the dialectical fluidity and/or creativity of the thinker
2. Similar questions might also be asked about the phrase "climate denier" and "the consensus".

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

@Andy, Cortlandt, NiV:

I think this is of course exactly the wrong way to answer intresting questions. The currency of knowledge is evidence, not casuistry.

I've made it clear that my understandings of intriguing phenomena are conjectures in need of testing. You have reasonable alternative hypotheses. So make observations -- of the scientific rather than merely the rhetorical sort if you want the discussion to proceed.

April 9, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Dan,

It is not causistry to challenge evidence.

==>"I've made it clear that my understandings of intriguing phenomena are conjectures..."

Fine and dandy, if that warning is always given and also in context. What worries me is that you keep putting up the Kentucky Farmer template (e.g. per the above post, during the Annenberg visit) as though he does indeed exist as a generic template, which on current evidence is simply not the case. While you laudibly say you would like more tests for "what is going on inside their heads", this very framing (e.g. for the climate debate in which the Kentucky farmer is fingered) suggests there is something unusual and highly puzzling 'going on' for these farmers and folk of similar ilk only, which in turn has the implication of something 'not normal'. This edges far too close to saying that while a defined (essentially by worldview) portion of the population thinks 'normally' and predictably and not puzzlingly, this is not the case for another portion of society, whose views on climate change in this example you also happen to disagreee with. Now this *may* be the case, but I think it far more likely that the thoughts of *everyone* are understandable and utterly normal (absent clear extremeties / mental illness), and I also have confidence that the scientific method can uncover all such thoughts too. It does not seem at all likely to me that folks of different political or philosophical or religious stripe, actually think in fundamentally different ways. The explanation for what is going on is generic, or it is nothing. At any rate, you have agitated the Annenbergians with your tales of the Pakistani Dr and Kentucky Farmer; did you make it clear that they may simply not exist as generic templates for sections of society? (rather than vanishingly small edge cases). The Annenbergians may be still more agitated if they discover this later.

==>"So make observations -- of the scientific rather than merely the rhetorical sort if you want the discussion to proceed."

Sticking with the climate change example, your very own observations re polarization, added to other surveys, very usefully support a more universal hypothesis of what may be going on. One which doesn't need unusual constructs like 'knowing disbelief', or require that anyone is behaving in any way not normally, or has highly puzzling behavior for one group as compared to another. Given we are *all* subject to cultural bias and especially the emotional components that culture typically transmits, then who is influenced by what culture is not a matter of fundamentally different thought, but more of culture maps and cultural innoculation. To seek an answer to major social phenonema, you have to seek beyond the indiviudal and into social processes. You've seen this hypothesis before, link below; and in reply introduced me to the Kentucky farmer. You can see here why I don't think that works as a reply.

http://judithcurry.com/2015/01/30/climate-psychologys-consensus-bias

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

@Andy--

I'd rather do a study to answer empirical questions than engage in Talmudic re-interpretation of imperfect survey responses.

I respect those who disagree w/ me enough to try to figure out what I can observe that will give those who are interested in addressing complexity, rather than *arguing* it out of existence, evidence for treating one or another competing plausible conjecture as more or less likely than they otherwise would have regarded it.

Tell me what study you would do to pit the competing positions against each other. Then the discussion will be interesting enough for me to want to be a part of it.

April 9, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"There's a paradox for that 9%."

I already explained why there isn't.

"I wonder how many of the farmers who think it is scientifically proven that the climate is warming due to natural causes can cite details of evidence to support their belief other than evidence provided by scientists they think are dishonestly perpetuating a hoax."

It's a good question that we can't answer without survey data.

But I'd suggest that they'd probably cite archaeological evidence of natural climate changes (e.g. the periodic megadroughts in the US) that so far as I know is pretty mainstream in archaeological circles, at least. Archaeologists, so far as I know, are not in the habit of saying things like: "Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

"I think this is of course exactly the wrong way to answer intresting questions. The currency of knowledge is evidence, not casuistry."

Quite. Wikipedia defines it thus:

"Casuistry is reasoning used to resolve moral problems by extracting or extending theoretical rules from particular instances and applying these rules to new instances."

So to take individual cases such as the Kentucky farmer or the Pakistani doctor and extract theoretical rules from them is an application of casuistry. The problem is that there are usually a number of different theories that can fit the selected cases - the extrapolation to theory is ambiguous. It's an easy way to construct plausible-sounding support for a favoured hypothesis, but we need to look at the likelihood ratios. If several hypotheses all predict the same observed outcome, the likelihood ratio in favour of one over any of the others is near 1. There's no evidence for it.

In this case, the probability of the farmers showing a strong response to belief in natural climate change and virtually none to belief in human caused climate climate change is contrary to the predictions of the hypothesis that they are simultaneously holding contradictory positions. If they were holding contradictory positions, if the beliefs they held about a common subject in different mental frames were independent, the strong response to belief in natural climate change should not exist.

"I'd rather do a study to answer empirical questions than engage in Talmudic re-interpretation of imperfect survey responses."

Good! The Talmudic re-interpretation is only in response to the original Talmudic interpretation of those same imperfect survey responses, of course. The answer is surely to generate better survey responses.

Which is why I keep saying that you have to be very aware of the subtleties of the wording of questions, and why I propose, as I always have, that after administering the survey, that surveyors ask the subjects why they answered as they did, and how they interpreted the question. Then do another survey, rewording the questions to avoid the misinterpretations. Iterate until convergence. This should be standard routine!

If the surveyors had simply asked the farmers why they believed the crop mix would change while disbelieving in human-caused climate change, we wouldn't have to guess. They'd have said "because we believe in natural climate change" or "Because we don't want to be used as ammunition in your political campaign" or "because climate change is a communist plot" or whatever. As things stand, you have no data on which to formulate sensible hypotheses and questions, let alone distinguish between them.

"Tell me what study you would do to pit the competing positions against each other. Then the discussion will be interesting enough for me to want to be a part of it."

Start by asking subjects to explain their reasoning. As you've said yourself, it's not about whether they got the answer right or wrong, it's about whether they used a valid reasoning process to get there.

April 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Dan,

Well the piece at climate Etc is inspired by your own studies, which are linked, and most of the text largely echoes or counterpoints your own investigations, depending upon where we keep or part company regarding analysis of your results. Given also that this post is a tiny fraction of the writings you have devoted to the same studies, how could this expression apparently be Talmudic for me and yet not for you?

An independent angle to inform the above is also pulled from some US public surveys (4, I think), all details in Appendix 1. While I certainly wouldn’t claim that these surveys are anything like perfect, *all* surveys I have seen that include a priority list show this angle, albeit to a greater or lesser degree. Indeed I included several just to demonstrate this fact (plus the approx range), and the chief criteria for inclusion is only that they are recent surveys. This angle is the large shift in Dem / Lib support when CC / GW is ranked in priority lists (and the corresponding much smaller equivalent shift for Rep / Cons). You are at liberty to propose a different reason for this effect than I did, or indeed a different explanation than my wider conclusions from the overall post. But to say that something observed in all relevant survey data (from various organizations) is inadmissible because surveys are imperfect tools, would be exceptional. Because it is a little unfair on readers to pull magic numbers from a hat, I have included a little detail / context in Appendix 1, but given this is nevertheless only two pages long, and the extracted angle is both very simple and unambiguous, I do not think you can in good conscience label this Talmudic re-interpretation; I guess you haven’t read the Appendix.

Surveys are indispensable tools, despite the ambiguities they throw, and I note they’re at the heart of your own studies too. I saw almost identical text to one of your global warming questions, used in several public surveys by the normal orgs (Gallup, Pew etc.) Are responses to this okay for your work, but imperfect elsewhere?

A study to evaluate competing positions would indeed be very interesting. While I have no resources for such, not to mention little time due to the day job and also long-atrophied maths skills, I have been thinking in recent weeks whether there may already be data, as yet not employed to this purpose, from existing surveys / papers. A precursor to any such evaluation would be a good understanding of the positions. Does my Climate Etc. post correctly reflect your position (particularly the condensed summary of this within Appendix 2)? If not, what are my misunderstandings of your position?

April 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

A couple of data points not so far included:

The paper "U.S. Agricultural Producer Perceptions of Climate Change" as shown on Dan's slide is found at
http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/157312/2/jaae580.pdf

Appendix Table 5 is Incorrectly Labeled
Appendix Table 5 -- the numbers in the row/column intersections show numbers of answers, not percentages as indicated by the text.

Interpretation: To the question ‘‘Do you expect producers in your area to change the mix of crops they grow due to climate change?’’: 248 answered Yes; 763 answered No.
The reader has to calculate their own percentages.

Comment: Arg!# That took me at least 10 minutes to figure out how to read Table 5. One clue was the so-called summary presented in Table 2 in the main text. Table 2 breaks down response data by state but doesn't present an overall, all-state summary.

@Dan Per Dan's request I'm thinking about how I would refine/change/add to a survey similar to this one.

April 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

Cam across some comments recently that got me thinking about another example: "Lukewarmers" who say they're convinced that ACO2 warms the climate and argue that the climate is too complicated to model effectively, yet don't think that the possibility that models underestimate warming would merit mitigating ACO2 emissions.

April 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Appendix Table 5 -- the numbers in the row/column intersections show numbers of answers, not percentages as indicated by the text."

They're percentages. That's why the number in the 'yes' table plus the corresponding number in the 'no' table adds up to 100%. (i.e. 9+91 = 100, 13+87 = 100, etc.)

But it's the percentage of the subset with that combination of 'proven'/'human' beliefs, not percentages of the total.

The numbers in each category can be deduced approximately from Table 2 and appendix table 1.
Table 2 shows that the counts are:
"Climate Change has been Scientifically Proven"
Strongly disagree: 34 + 32+ 62 + 66 = 194
Disagree: 57 + 46 + 76 + 100 = 279
No opinion: 35 + 59 + 74 + 122 = 290
Agree: 31 + 65 + 53 + 79 = 228
Strongly agree: 9 + 13 + 16 + 21 = 59

So the number who disagree or strongly disagree is 473, no opinion 290, and agree or strongly agree 287.

Then appendix table 1 gives percentages of each of these who also belief in human causation. (Note each row adds up to 100%. Note also that the sample size N doesn't match.)
These are roughly:
. . . . . Disagree human/ no opinion human / agree human
Disagree proven: 260 / 132 / 80
No opinion proven: 46 / 139 / 107
Agree proven: 34 / 46 / 207

And then of the (approximately) 260 who disagree with both statements, something like 23/260 = 9% say crop mix is likely to change, and 237/260 = 91% say it won't. And so on.

The sample sizes change from table to table, so this reconstruction is only approximate. For example, there are actually 257 in this group, not 260 (see text at the bottom of page 707). But it gives a rough idea.

It would be nice if researchers published their original data as well as their processed summaries - it would make it a lot easier to check. But such failings seem to be pervasive in many branches of science. After all, why should they publish the data when we only want to find something wrong with it? :-)

Joshua,

"...yet don't think that the possibility that models underestimate warming would merit mitigating ACO2 emissions"

Again, that's not an inconsistency. The fact that models may underestimate warming in no way implies that mitigation is appropriate.

Scientists have built models (the Drake equation) to estimate the probability of imminent extraterrestrial invasion by hostile technologically-advanced super-intelligent aliens. They all agree that there are too many uncertainties and unknowns to model the problem effectively. There's no doubt that such an invasion would be an Extremely Bad Thing for all of humanity, and we don't know that the probability isn't close to 1.

Should we therefore bankrupt the planet building defences against extraterrestrial invasion? Is that what you would propose, using your reasoning?

The argument uses the logic of Pascal's Wager. It's easy to construct potential threats and dangers for which we have no evidence one way or the other, and then advocate action to prevent them on the basis of a Precautionary Principle. The flaw is that the presentation is usually constructed as a false dilemma - steering the conclusion towards the desired action by offering only two choices. But humanity faces billions of potential dangers that we can easily imagine, each with its own expensive solution, and we don't have the resources to take action against them all.

That's why we demand positive evidence for something before believing in it, and spending valuable resources on it. The absence of any solid evidence against it is not enough.

If you want an actual example of simultaneous belief/disbelief in different contexts, I've already offered the example of classical Newtonian mechanics, which every physicist uses as if it was absolute truth while knowing that it's actually completely wrong. Relativity and quantum mechanics are far more accurate models of reality.

Holding different contradictory beliefs in different contexts, and switching between them, is something humans are expert at and do all the time, usually without noticing. Probably the best-known example is 'willing suspension of disbelief' when reading a book or watching a movie. A mental state arises in which the fiction is temporarily regarded as 'true', and people reason about fictional events using the same machinery as they do real events. But scientists and mathematicians do it all the time, switching from one 'paradigm' to another, like picking up different tools from a mental toolbox to attack the problem. For one bit you treat them as rigid bodies, as it makes the mathematics easier. Then for another bit the distortions become important, and you treat them as continuous elastic bodies, using a different and incompatible theory. Then you switch from the continuous version to a discrete one when atomic interactions become important, like understanding diffusion. And so on.

There's nothing at all surprising about the idea of humans holding contradictory beliefs simultaneously - psychologists knew about it back in the 1930s, and it was recognised early on as a problem by Artificial Intelligence researchers - when trying to represent human-like knowledge and belief, they ran straight into the problem that they were not single-valued, they changed depending on the context. (See Minsky's work on frames.) How do you teach a computer to understand the mechanics of objects in their environment? Do you teach them rigid body mechanics? Or continuum mechanics? Or tell them about atomic forces? Because if they had to calculate actions on the basis of the forces between atoms, they could never figure out how to pick up a ball. But if you teach them only rigid body mechanics, they'll fall apart trying to carry a cup of coffee without spilling it. Absolute truth is not what is required of belief.

"All models are wrong, but some are useful."

There are plenty of easier examples to study than politically contentious issues like climate change, if Dan wants to. I expect there's also some pre-existing literature. I don't dismiss it as a possibility - it's possible for people to believe in some parts of the science and simultaneously reject its implications, or to disbelieve in what they earlier said they believed if you ask them a different way. But there are easier ways to explain the particular observations Dan is getting so excited about. I would argue that Dan needs to find some better, more convincing examples.

April 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

I'm going to apply a new approach here. I'll respond to this one comment and see if you can actually deal with that issue before I read the rest of your comment:

==> "Again, that's not an inconsistency. The fact that models may underestimate warming in no way implies that mitigation is appropriate."

It's inconsistent if they rule out the potential of mitigation being appropriate.

April 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Cortlandt:

I'll take a look at Appendix 5. I haven't looked at the article recently, and if I misread something I'm eager to learn that.

Do tell me if I'm wrong, but I don't think App. 5 has figured in anything I've said in discussing the findings of the article that create the puzzle that strikes me as worthy of further investigation.

The findings that are relevant (to what I've said) are the ones reported in Tables 3-4 & App 6, and discussed on p. 710 of the article. If you think what I've actually said reflects an error -- one of my own making or one originating in the authors' mischaracterization of their own data -- do tell me.

And tell me too if you think of designs, including better measures, that would yield evidence from which people who disagree or are simply uncertain what to make of existing evidence would agree helps to make one or another rival hypothesis more or less convincing than it was before. As I've indicated from the start, I'm unsure what is going on & eager to formulate both a comprehensive set of candidate mechanisms/explanations and empirical designs for assessing their relative strength.

I take it you see why I see it as pointless to try to resolve complex empirical issues like this by lawyerly textual exegesis relating to the precise wording of particular survey items -- which are always necessarily imperfect measures of some attitude that can't be directly observed. Or at least why I personally find that activity boring.

Those who want to know the answer and not just engage in polemical debating exercises recognize that advancing the discussion depends on improving existing measures and making additional valid observations. And then assessing how the results have refined the nature of the issues that warrant still additional investigation by the same means.

April 11, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Joshua,

"It's inconsistent if they rule out the potential of mitigation being appropriate."

It's illogical if they rule out mitigation being appropriate solely on the grounds that the models are insufficient. It's logical if they rule it out on the grounds that there are more potential threats than we can possibly respond to, resources are limited, and therefore have a policy of only taking expensive action to mitigate threats if there's reasonably solid evidence that the danger is real. It's ruled out until evidence has been produced, and then it will get ruled back in again.

Dan,

"Do tell me if I'm wrong, but I don't think App. 5 has figured in anything I've said in discussing the findings of the article that create the puzzle that strikes me as worthy of further investigation."

No, I don't think it has. I think it ought to have done, though.

"The findings that are relevant (to what I've said) are the ones reported in Table 4 & App 6, and discussed on p. 710 of the article."

What you said was "Tx and Mississippi, only 19% of farmers agree that "climate change has been scientifically proven" but 60% agree that that they "expect producers in [their] area to make a significant change in the mix of crops they grow due to climate change.""

The 19% I believe is found in table 2 where 18.2% and 18.9% "agree" and 5.4% and 5.7% "strongly agree". You really ought to add those numbers together (i.e. 23.6% and 24.6%). The 60% is found in table 3 part C where 59.8% and 59.5% are listed. That's fine.

The numbers you're citing can indeed be found in the article, but in seeing a contradiction or paradox in them you're evidently confusing the terms "climate change" with "human-caused climate change". It's entirely consistent to believe in climate change, and that it will result in farmers having to make changes, while not believing in human-caused climate change. The numbers in appendix table 6 indicate that there is a strong correlation between belief in climate change and the need for crop mix changes, but there is only a weak association with belief in human-caused climate change. This makes sense, since it's irrelevant to their effects what causes the change. But in seeing a paradox in their position, I imagine you are assuming they are simultaneously rejecting climate change while accepting its consequences.

See also in table 2 the answers to the question "I believe normal weather cycles explain most or all recent changes in climate" where the numbers agreeing are 59.2%+16.6% and 50.2%+21.2%. It seems clear to me that 70-75% believe in natural climate change, but not man-made climate change. Given this, it seems obvious and quite sensible that they would believe climate change will have consequences for them without necessarily being 'believers'. It requires no politically-motivated doublethink to explain.

April 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Incidentally, there's another number in there for you to think about.

In the bottom right hand corner of Appendix table 5, there's a group of people who affirm their belief in both human-caused climate change and that climate change has been scientifically proven. And yet only 46% believe it will result in farmers having to change the mix of crops they grow - 54% do not. They believe in the global warming theory but not in the impact.

How do the 54% justify this? Do you have a hypothesis?

April 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV

Your 54% is essentially Kentucky Farmer's cousin Jacob, with his 'unknowing belief', who I introduced to Dan in my 6th Feb comment at the original Kentucky Farmer post, and is also mentioned in this thread. The point being that both the 'unknowing belief' and the 'knowing disbelief' are false premises regarding this paper. But, if one *insists* on the 'knowing disbelief', one also has to explain the 'unknowing belief'.

April 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

@Dan,

In this case I wonder if you may have mis-interpreted the data. Upon reflection, part of my reaction stems from my impression that the Kentucky Farmer as you described him constituted a larger segment of the population. At minimum I think your description of Kentucky Farmer would be improved by noting that you are focusing on a small segment. As with the Pakistani Doctor I assume it's not the numbers but rather the strong exhibition of the phenomena that you find interesting. Also that less dramatic forms of the phenomenon probably are common.
That aside I suggest the data about "Extreme Weather" is not apropos.

Here I will demonstrate why I think the data shows that the "Kentucky Farmer" as you describe him is less than 10% of the segment of the farmer population that disbelieves in human-caused climate change and less than %5 of the entire farmer population. From a policy point of view that number seems negligible.

From the blog:

Similarly for Kentucky Farmer. He is enabled to be a certain kind of person—a “hierarchical individualist,” let’s say—by “disbelieving human-caused climate change.” But he is also enabled to be a successful farmer by “believing in human-caused climate change”—by using, in fact, the best available information on how human activity is affecting the climate ...

I suggest the answers about extreme weather (Appendix table 6) are misleading in this regard because the question is not about predictions of climate impacts but expected responses after the farmer has observed and directly experienced an increase in extreme weather events.

As I see the data that most closely corresponds to the "enabled to be a successful farmer by “believing in human-caused climate change” " are the answers to ‘‘Do you expect producers in your area to change the mix of crops they grow due to climate change?’’. Page 710 says:

Of the respondents who believe that climate change has not been scientifically proven, and humans are not responsible for it, 91% expected no change in the mix of crops grown in their area as a result of climate change ... (Appendix Table 5).

Thus only 9% of your disbelieving in human-caused climate change Kentucky farmers fit your description. The numbers seem rather small. In addition slightly less than half of the scientifically proven, human caused climate change believers expect a change in the mix of crops.

The Extreme Weather Question

...producers were asked about their perceptions on how farmers in their region might respond to extreme changes in weather ... indicated how likely the following actions were in response to more extreme weather events (page 702-703)

I interpret this question as asking "if you begin to experience more extreme weather events how do you expect you will respond?". This question is not so much about predictions or belief in climate science as it is about observations the farmer can make on his/her own. "I don't need a weatherman to tell me about yesterdays weather."

If the responses you noted to your presentation at the Annenburg Center are of interest then I would suggest a experiment where some are told that "Kentucky Farmer who disbelieves in climate change" is a significant population vs a rarer event. Alternatively, to first give the impression of a larger population, then state that the situation is rare and ask how that information changes the impression.

April 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

@cortlandt:

1. One for sure cannot tell from study of climate attitude of farmers what fraction of general population is a “kentucky farmer” or “pakistani dr.” To figure out what proportion is, one has to study populations in which people in question *use* (or could use) climate science to *do* something other than *be* a member of a cultural group membership in which is signified by expressing belief or disbelief in climate. Farmers are big population like that. But so are people living in SE Florida—where you can find skeptics acting & even saying they believe in climate change all the time in contexts that involve adaptation.

2. The study in question cannot be used to determine the fraction of farmers, in Ky or elsewhere, who are “ky farmers” or “Pakistani drs.” The survey measures were poorly designed, or at least poorly designed for enabling confindent inferences on that. But the inconsistent patterns I and the authors advert to, combined w/ lots of other evidence, much of which is behavioral (and documented in various sources, including journalistic ones; the vidoed “ky farmer” was one of the subjects covered in a journalists’ story on “skeptical” farmers who neverhtless self-conscviously accept & use climate science in their commercial decisionmaking) pose the empirical question that curious and reflective people who prefer using evidence rather than logic parsing of survey responses (no one who understands what survey respones measure would make that error!) to answer empirical questions find intriguing.

3. Your math (and that of others) is logic parsing.

a. The authors note that there are logical inconsistencies in the respones relating to “climate change is scienctitifically proven” & “climate change is human caused”: if one tries to treat the items as measuring belief I propositions rather than exprssing attitudes, one reaches the absurd concluson that “there is a nontrivial portion of crop producers who believe humans are causing climate change but who do not consider climate change scientifically proven” (p. 706). You are ignoring that with your “9%.” And ignoring and interpreting w/ determination of a professional sophist everything else that doesn’t fit what a position you are committed to protecting from evidence rather than testing with it.

b. Ordinary people (which no one who participates in discussions like this is; you have spent more time on thinking about climate change today than most people in the US do in a yr) simply respond “yay” or “boo” to questions about “belief” in climate change; to parse the precise wording is a mistake. One should combine the items into a scale that measures an affective orientation. Treating them as if they were statements that reflect conscious, elaborated, logical responses to arguments or evidence is a game played by people for whom the climate debate is a kind of game (both sides do this), not a meaningful way to figure out what people think.

c. As I indicated in the original post & in my last response to you, it is clear that there are many people who are selecting “skeptical” or “boo” responses on the “belief” questions & then, in answering questions about what it is they think farmers will *do* in rsponse to “climate change” evincing their expectation that they will adjust their behavior in serious ways:

Look at my original post, which accurately summarizes findings that are reported in the paper & that you haven't pointed out are belied by your math or anything else;

look at the Table 3 (C), look at text on p. 710, the part I keep quoting and you trying to explain away that notes that “nearly 60% of producers in Mississippi and Texas, states where scientific proof of climate change is typically not agreed to, believe there will be some change in crop mix resulting from climate change”); &

look at the Table 4 “Response of Farmers to More Extreme Weather Resulting from Climate Change” items—which in your impressively illogical logic-parsing approach to attitudes that aren’t amenable to logic parsing have concluded should be read as “more extreme weather not resulting from climate change”! despite the language on p. 710 of text explicitly stating that the items related actions in response "to extreme weather caused by climate change"—and the breakdowns in App 6 that show that on responses to those there is very little difference between those who say theh do & don’t believe “climate change has been scientifically proven.”

It’s plain, as the authors themselves note, that there are many farmers saying simultaneously “they don’t believe in climate” change and that they think it will affect their lives as farmers.

If you along w/ @NiV & @Andywest have convinced yourself there’s nothing interesting to explain-- your existing beliefs are safe & sound -- that’s fine!

I prefer to try to figure out what’s true based on what I see rather than expalain all I see based on what I already believe. You do your thing, which to me is boring, & I'll do mine.

4. And by all means keep ignoring the literature that shows that the same phenomeon exists, in US & elsewhere, relating to beliefs evolution. B/c aknowledging that the issue here is plausibly related to something more general than climate change beliefs will really increase the trouble you have to go to not to see complexity.

p.s. Easy to prove *I'm* wrong *about you* here: just come up w/ a study design that *could* prove *you* are wrong about Ky Farmers & Pakinstani Drs, including the ones who live in SE Fla.

April 12, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan -

If you want to provide examples of knowing disbelief related to climate change but don't want "skeptics" explaining why your examples are flawed, just illustrate the phenomenon with "realists." You won't hear a peep then from "skeptics."

Of course, you might get the same sorts of resistance from "realists" who have to defend their tribe also. Actually, it might be interesting to see whether you would get as much pushback as you do when you use "skeptics" to illustrate the phenomenon.

April 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Dan,

Your point about suggesting better research designs makes sense if by that you mean something along of lines of getting better data is preferable to "torturing" the proxies and indicators than we have. But I'm wondering about other meanings.
For instance, if I see a survey question which in my mind asks about responses to one type of climate change caused by climate change (in symbolic logic form: What would you do if you observed a type of X caused by X?) I would do well to try to design my own research to avoid the logical problem.
As a result of my efforts to design a survey that avoids the problems of the original survey I might come to understand the practical & pragmatic difficulties of improving upon the original question. Alternatively I might come up with a better design and in so doing both illustrate the problems or limitations of the original design while simultaneously suggesting a more mutually satisfactory way of answering the question that prompted the research in the first place.

But as far as suggesting an alternative study design I am concerned by your comment about using evidence rather than logic parsing and about understanding what survey responses measure.
(The quote is "using evidence rather than logic parsing of survey responses (no one who understands what survey responses measure would make that error!)" )

I re-read your blog post "Critical thinking about public opinion on climate change". Does that blog pretty well explain your "no one who understands what survey responses measure would make that error!" comment? Are there other online links you can refer us to?

If I understand you correctly you warn that answers to survey questions probably indicate (general?) attitudes rather than carefully considered, System 2 type of beliefs. Further, answers should be seen as, at best, as a type of approximate proxy, as having some level of correlation to other beliefs and actions. I would also assume that answers to single questions are far less reliable that a pattern of response to several, related questions.
Thus by "logic parsing" I'm thinking you mean an analysis that assumes System 2, logical thinking whereas the survey answers likely reflect more of a System 1 type of response.

Fair enough. But I don't see how it is logic parsing to question what I see as an over interpretation of the the data. The quote I'm thinking of is the following:
"using, in fact, the best available information on how human activity is affecting the climate so that he can make sensible decisions about his farming practices"
I seems to me that the bit about "human activity affecting climate" as opposed to just climate change is your interpretation -- an interpretation that it seems to me to requires logic parsing or an assumption.

I know you raised more issues in your response but I'd rather stop here -- I'm thinking the issues I've raised here are the most important.


But in the present case this presents a puzzle. It seems to me that farmers are an unusual group in that they are frequently engaged in observing and using knowledge and predictions about weather. They are not ordinary people in this regard. Thus I'm not sure how principles of interpretations of ordinary people applies to working farmers.
[I'm thinking about the statement: "Ordinary people (which no one who participates in discussions like this is; you have spent more time on thinking about climate change today than most people in the US do in a yr) simply respond “yay” or “boo” to questions about “belief” in climate change; to parse the precise wording is a mistake. One should combine the items into a scale that measures an affective orientation. Treating them as if they were statements that reflect conscious, elaborated, logical responses to arguments or evidence ...:]

April 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

"To figure out what proportion is, one has to study populations in which people in question *use* (or could use) climate science to *do* something other than *be* a member of a cultural group membership in which is signified by expressing belief or disbelief in climate."

How about offering them bets on what the climate will do next? Arctic summer ice completely gone by 2016 - 'bet' or 'no bet'? ;-)

You might even make a profit!

"(and documented in various sources, including journalistic ones; the vidoed “ky farmer” was one of the subjects covered in a journalists’ story on “skeptical” farmers who neverhtless self-conscviously accept & use climate science in their commercial decisionmaking)"

Again, are you talking about "climate change" or "human caused climate change"? The distinction is significant!

"pose the empirical question that curious and reflective people who prefer using evidence rather than logic parsing of survey responses"

But you've shown us no evidence! In the survey you present, most of the participants claim to believe in natural climate change caused by natural weather variability, which can of course result in changes to agricultural practice. It's not even surprising.

"(no one who understands what survey respones measure would make that error!)"

No one who understands what academic surveys on climate change opinion measure would make the error of thinking they were anything other than a reflection of the academic's own cultural identity! You were aware of just how bad a reputation for political bias this area has?

When the literal meaning of what they say doesn't fit your preconceptions, you assert that they can't really have meant what they said literally. Well, that's always possible. But what if they did?

One of the mechanisms by which people exhibit political bias is by selectively interpreting or parsing ambiguous statements they don't agree with to find a way of looking at it they can accept. The more strongly they feel, the more effort they put in and thus the more sophisticated their methods of rationalisation. The better they are at science, the more effectively they can do so.

"3. Your math (and that of others) is logic parsing."

Heaven forfend that we should use logic!

Or as the climate scientists would put it: "It won't be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically..."!

"one reaches the absurd concluson that “there is a nontrivial portion of crop producers who believe humans are causing climate change but who do not consider climate change scientifically proven”"

There's nothing absurd about that combination!

There are a significant number of scientists who believe hypotheses like supersymmetry, dark matter, inflation, string theory, and even that there is extraterrestrial life somewhere in the universe are very likely true, but do not consider them to be "scientifically proven". There are lots of religious people who believe their various Gods exist, but not that it is scientifically proven. People can believe things on grounds other than scientific proof, you know!

And as a matter of fact, even the IPCC - surely the ultimate authority on the climate mainstream! - say: "The approaches used in detection and attribution research described above cannot fully account for all uncertainties, and thus ultimately expert judgement is required to give a calibrated assessment of whether a specific cause is responsible for a given climate change." Which is to say, the experts believe it, but it cannot be scientifically proven. Is the IPCC consensus "absurd"?!

"...& then, in answering questions about what it is they think farmers will *do* in rsponse to “climate change”..."

Again, are you talking about "climate change" or "human caused climate change"?

"look at the Table 3 (C), look at text on p. 710, the part I keep quoting and you trying to explain away that notes that “nearly 60% of producers in Mississippi and Texas, states where scientific proof of climate change is typically not agreed to, believe there will be some change in crop mix resulting from climate change”); &"

Belief "true" is not equal to belief "proven"!

Most of them believe climate change is true (and natural), as demonstrated by their answers to the question: "I believe normal weather cycles explain most or all recent changes in climate", as well as the following one on El Nino. Less than 10% in Mississippi and Texas disagree!

"It’s plain, as the authors themselves note, that there are many farmers saying simultaneously “they don’t believe in climate” change and that they think it will affect their lives as farmers."

I don't care what the authors note! The evidence doesn't show anyone saying they "don't believe in climate change". It's not a question they even ask!

"If you along w/ @NiV & @Andywest have convinced yourself there’s nothing interesting to explain-- your existing beliefs are safe & sound -- that’s fine!"

And have you convinced yourself that there is?
:-)

"I prefer to try to figure out what’s true based on what I see rather than expalain all I see based on what I already believe."

So show me!

"p.s. Easy to prove *I'm* wrong *about you* here: just come up w/ a study design that *could* prove *you* are wrong about Ky Farmers & Pakinstani Drs, including the ones who live in SE Fla."

Yes. Try asking subjects why they answered as they did! Not hard to do.
:-)


---

Seriously - I give up. We've both obviously made our minds up, and are not about to change it. (And where would the fun be if we did?) It's been an entertaining argument, though, so thanks. :-)

April 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Dan,

==>"If you along w/ @NiV & @Andywest have convinced yourself there’s nothing interesting to explain-- your existing beliefs are safe & sound -- that’s fine!"

What beliefs would those be? I've been a passionate reader of evolutionary studies and promoter of the explanatory power of evolutionary principles, especially as regards cultural evolution, for decades. Yet on what I've seen so far from your studies covering evolution / creationism, I see no more evidence that 'knowing disbelief' is a widespread phenomenon with creationism, than it is with climate change and farmers. Your polarization graph in that domain needs only vanilla cultural bias, vanilla disbelief, not knowing disbelief. And the low gradient of the increase in belief in creationsim with literacy, is likely a symptom of an older culture that doesn't gain many new adherents or has many revelations left to offer those who seek deeper. This doesn't mean there won't be fringe cases of knowing disbelief, as your Pakistani Dr exhibits (and sometimes the elite in a culture can be more conflicted, may be a possibility there yet small numbers), but not as a widespread phenomenon. In this domain, my natural sympathies are on the same side of the polarization as you, yet my view remains consistent. I will however follow up the student link you sent when I get a moment.

NiV has pointed out much of what I'd say regarding details. E.g. that those in your favored states overwhelmingly view 'climate change' as a natural phenomenon, not to mention in the other states too. But if you're going to point out things the authors say, how about this from their conclusion: 'Our data suggest that not only is there relatively little acceptance of the existence of climate change, but also little belief that climate change will have negative effects on crop yields'. (The authors speak of climate change in the anthropogenic sense; full marks to them for stating conclusions that may be rather unpalatable to them).

Indeed the percentages of farmers believing there will be no adverse effects on crops are extremely high for non-human-caused and non-scientific-proof groups, and even very high for human-caused and scientific-proof groups. Given there are ambiguities and inconsistencies in the data, as you've acknowledged, this is a great parity-check regarding the overall flavor of what the paper finds, and one which the authors thought apt for their conclusion. Hence this is not about 'knowing disbelief', it is about vanilla disbelief and disengagment. Without a belief in any abnormally bad effects, what farmers do will be what they did anyhow, which throughout the entire of history has included changing practice for changing climate, as climate never stays still anyhow

If you think Joshua's suggestion will be helpful to your search for a relatively widespread 'knowing disbelief', then fantastic, go for it. Myself I can see nothing that suggests the condition for anything more than at most a small fringe of CAGW believers, exactly the same as for CAGW skeptics. My generic arguments in support of this position remain the same.

The effect *may* be something that can be widespread, I just haven't seen anything yet that suggests it is.

April 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

@Cortlandt-- been engaged but will get to last msg in due course.
@Andywest-- yes, they "little belief" in climate change, bit "belief in" all kinds of adjustments in behavior as a result of it -- along w/ confidence that they'll get by. I think that's what I understand to be the attitude of all the kentucky farmers, including the ones I see constantly in SE Florida. But I would not expect anyone to treat the evidence I have adverted to as reason to adjust their priors if they have different ones from mine. If I have am able to attain evidence of that sort, I will make it known (and make known in *what direction* I think priors shoudl be adjusted; it would not trouble me to be wrong-- indeed, I have been troubled much more about how to fit this in w/ other things I thought I knew that pretty much anything else I've done recently)

April 14, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

The U.S. Agricultural Producer Perceptions of Climate Change paper contains a significant error in that it:
a) Does not state the actual text of some of the questions it analyzes. Specifically it never specifically reveals the actual text of a series of questions about "extreme weather" leaving the reader to do some literary archaeology (logical parsing?) in order to attempt to reconstruct the actual experiment -- in this case the question asked in the survey.
b) The paper is inconsistent in it's descriptions and references to the "extreme weather" questions. The the question is variously described as "extreme changes in weather", "extreme weather events", and "extreme weather caused by climate change".

The Methods and Procedures: Data and Survey Description section of the paper describes these questions thus:
"Lastly, producers were asked about their perceptions on how farmers in their region might respond to extreme changes in weather (i.e. more frequent droughts, floods, frosts, etc.) ... "

In response to my quoting of part of the text above Dan wrote:

"... look at the Table 4 “Response of Farmers to More Extreme Weather Resulting from Climate Change” items—which in your impressively illogical logic-parsing approach to attitudes that aren't amenable to logic parsing have concluded should be read as “more extreme weather not resulting from climate change”! despite the language on p. 710 of text explicitly stating that the items related actions in response "to extreme weather caused by climate change" "

I did not write, conclude, or intend to imply that the extreme weather was not resulting from climate change! (I interpreted the question as asking about responses to hypothetical future changes in climate rather than responses based upon forecasts, climate predictions or current beliefs. Is that distinction important ...? ) But Dan's response is indicative of the kind of misunderstandings and differing interpretations about the meanings and implications of phrases such as "climate change" and "extreme weather" that are possible. A misunderstanding that was compounded by the paper itself. Page 710 cited by Dan refers to "extreme weather events" and 'extreme weather caused by climate change" in successive sentences. Pick your poison. In my case I quoted what appeared to me to be the most complete and authoritative reference to the question in the paper.

I would note that changes in weather of any kind are, by definition changes in climate. Thus "extreme weather caused by climate change" is an oxymoron if "extreme weather" is taken to mean "changes in extreme weather" which is how I suggest most people would "hear" the question. I wonder if these questions are intentionally posed in this way to force the respondent into a conscious or un-conscious double-bind? Anyway, for the sake of brevity I did not raise these puzzles in my prior comment. It's my theory that farmers would be significantly more likely than the general public to pick up on these differences.
More so than before I have to agree that we all are engaged in "logic parsing" -- but I put part of the blame on the misleading writing in the paper itself. I am more uncertain than before about what was asked about extreme (changes in) weather. I think all of us, Dan included, should be wary about concluding much of anything about this series of questions.

Proposed Research Questions
Create a survey where half asked question a) and half question b).
a) "Farmers in your region will respond to changes in extreme weather caused by climate change by diversifying crops/irrigate more" etc
b1) "If farmers in your region were to experience more frequent droughts, floods, frosts or other extremes in weather they will respond by by diversifying crops/irrigate more"
b2) "Compared to the weather and climate since 1970, in the next 10 years I expect my region will experience more frequent droughts, floods, frosts or other extremes in weather.

Version b) is written to reduce "cultural cognition" and rhetoric associated with the politicization of the issue as well as to clearly distinguish phenomena observed by the farmer in his/her region from predictions made by others.
If only one version has used then use version b.

ASIDE: The paper illustrates what I see as poor quality writing and/or low standards of science reporting combined perhaps by poor quality peer review. High quality reports of surveys should contain the actual text of survey questions in the paper itself or a appendix. This paper did neither. To compound this lack the text of the paper then describes the survey question in three different ways by my count. The science community is justified in considering such papers as not of first rate quality.
On this one issue I think I out performed the peer review process, illustrating the value of having a persons with a diversity of political/ideological leanings on the social science team.

April 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

@Cortlandt: I agree w/ you 100% that failure to produce the wording of items, both in the text and in a readily accessible instrument reproduced in full as an appendix, undermines the inferences that casn be drawn from studies, and that researchers, reviewers, and journal editors who don't get that don't know what it means to make valid inferences from the responses to such items. In this case, I am take at face value the authors' description of the items here as relating to climate-change impacts, but you are right that their failure to include the item wording in the paper makes the study even less firm as a basis for drawing inferences. And as I've indicated, I don't think it it does much more than augment the sources that pose w/o answering intriguing questions here.

Your items are good, and I appreciate your formulating them.

I agree that disentangling responses that reflect identity from those that reflect knowledge is the key. I've tried that, as you know, in formulating "climate science literacy" assessments for the general public. I want to refine, extend and improve the items I was using in that work.

For farmers, the disentanglment issue is simultaneously more & less straightforward.

It is more b/c farmers, unlike most members of the public, clearly have have a *use* for climate science distinct from the identity-enabling one. So it should be easier to extract it if it is there.

It is less straightforward, though, b/c the setting in which the knowledgde is used is one that might resist being reliably summoned in survey or experimental measures. The Pakinstai Dr says he "knows" evolution is true "at work" & that it is false "at home." A survey takes place in neither location; maybe w/ skill in can be made to elicit the knowledge that exists in either-- maybe.

But since we know *where* farmers *use* both identity knowledge & farming-enabling knowlege,we should try, if we can, to observe them & what they konw in those locations.

Likely you see at least dimly where I'm going; I do, but only dimly (it looks like a large field w/ corn or some such growing in it...)

I think it is admirable that you would find responses to the items you have proposed to be probative. I would like to give you something that both you & I would find stronger evidence still -- b/c in fact, I think it would be reasonable to wonder what even respnses to those items consistent with being a Kentucky Farmer really signify, a point I've happily conceded already, as I'm sure you can tell.

April 16, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

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