Jan 082011

Via Bishop Hill, I see that Nature magazine has taken to reporting utterly ludicrous “science” in its attempt to justify more utterly ludicrous science climate change alarmism.

Apparently we are supposed to believe that “dire climate warnings” are counterproductive because they undermine people’s belief that the world is fair and just. (Is that belief really sufficiently widespread to be undermine-able?)

The “evidence” for this is the following:

Half of the volunteers were asked to unscramble sentences such as “Somehow justice will always prevail”, whereas the others were given sentences such as “Often, justice will not prevail”. This activity primed them to have either a strong or weak belief in a just world. The participants then completed a survey that measured their scepticism over climate change, asking questions such as “How solid is the evidence that the earth is warming?” and requiring participants to rate their answers on a six-point scale, in which six was not at all solid and one very solid.

Next, participants watched two short global-warming warning videos created by the Environmental Defense Fund, a charity based in New York that campaigns on green issues…

Feinberg and Willer found that participants primed to have a stronger belief in a just world reported levels of scepticism that were 29% higher, and a willingness to reduce their carbon footprint that was 21% lower, than those primed to see the world as an unjust place. Their findings are reported in Psychological Science.

I freely admit I have no training whatsoever in psychology, but even I am canny enough to emit a Flat What in response to reading this.

Is this really what passes for scientific experiment in the field of psychology? An opinion-gathering exercise centred on a premise even the stupidest of volunteers could figure out over the course of participation?

I mean, say what you will about climate data computer models, but at least the data don’t know they’re being manipulated, or on what basis. But put any vaguely aware Western human in an experiment where the concepts of justice and climate change are juxtaposed, and that person is going to have a pretty good idea what is being investigated. And will adjust his or her behaviour or views accordingly.

The “scientists” didn’t even bother to acquire any basic survey data, e.g. “Tick the sentence that most closely matches your beliefs: The world is a fair and just place / The world is not a fair and just place”, just to get an idea of what sort of weight this concept holds in the population generally.

And it’s not even a question of whether the world has these attributes, as actually both fairness and justice are ethical ideals, the understanding and practice of which are primarily the reserve of human beings. The whole experiment pre-supposes a belief in choice ethics outwith the human experience, a world not pertaining to humans that somehow possesses actualised morality. Fate, if you will, or some force external to humans that has an awareness of choice.

As they would say on the internets, LOL WUT.

Perhaps some psychologists out there can explain to me how this experiment is in any way scientific or valid. I welcome correction.

But until then: comrades, if I were you I would cancel my subscription to Psychological Science.