It is dangerous to claim to psychologize dissidents
By Benoit Rittaud
Article published on May 18, 2023 in Transitions & Énergies with the following warning: “Following the publication last week of the article “The error in reasoning at the origin of climate change denial”, we received a response from Benoît Rittaud, president of the Association des Climato-Réalistes, which we are publishing. Because Transitions & Energies is for the pluralism of opinions and does not intend, in the fields of energy transition, to consider that there are acceptable ideas and others which are not. »
If the other does not agree, something is wrong in his head. Very popular in the USSR to intern dissidents, this technique still persists today, fortunately in a very softened form but which is nonetheless a very regrettable travesty of the science of the human soul. Thus from an article published in The Conversationunfortunately taken up by Transitions & Energies, which claims that climato-realism is reduced to “ intellectual comfort » and to « simplistic “.
First of all, the article absolutely does not define its object. To tell the truth, he obviously only has a very distant and stereotyped vision of it. Climate-realists are referred to interchangeably as ” those who view climate change as a conspiracy “, like the ” climate change deniers » or even like the « opponents of climate action “.
We can believe in the natural nature of climate change while wanting to act
However, a minimum of knowledge on the subject shows that these three categories are obviously distinct. We can dispute the existence of a climate crisis without seeing in the collective fear the result of a conspiracy, we can believe in the natural character of climate change while wanting to act on what is happening, and so on. And there are many other nuances between the climato-realists, embodied by serious names such as Judith Curry, Richard Lindzen, Steven Koonin or, as announced a few days ago, John Clauser (Nobel Prize in Physics 2022).
Inconsequential talk on social media is as inevitable with climate realism as it is with just about any subject. We can concentrate on it to make easy criticism, but for once there is a notion of psychology to invoke in this case, it is that of confirmation bias.
It is also quite strange that the author, who claims to smash simplism, himself believes he can reduce a phenomenon as complex as climato-realism to a single psychological cause, namely a binary way of thinking. He does not, however, give any specific tangible example of such thinking. Even Donald Trump’s tweets are not explained. However, they have the merit of being actually simplistic (like so many tweets from all sides), but since they are not quoted it is difficult to know if the simplism in question actually supports the point or not.
Portraying the other as a villain to convince himself that he is wrong
Things are not helped by the fact that the author confuses different simplisms, in particular two of them: psychological and scientific. The first is illustrated for example in conspiracy, which gives an easy and universal explanation to everything you want. Dissertation on the climate by explaining, as the author does, that ” powerful economic interests are at work », sending the « disinformation campaigns in five lines without any specific element is, for example, a classic way of flattering the conspiracy that generally accompanies climatic fear: portraying the other as a villain as a way of convincing oneself that he is wrong.
Scientific simplism, too, comes in different ways: being satisfied with too little data to conclude, taking the part for the whole… The author of course quotes the climato-realist beasts who use a cold wave to “demonstrate» the non-existence of global warming, but is careful not to cite the equally numerous symmetrical examples of heat waves abundantly used by the media as so many “signs» or «illustrations» warming…
A new Inquisition
In fact, one could rewrite almost the entire article by Jeremy Shapiro by reversing the target. “Psychology” would this time be invoked against climate alarmism, this would flatter the climate-realists, but the exercise in style would obviously not have much more intellectual value.
The only point that could not be rewritten by reversing the conclusion relates to the famous ” consensus “. Certainly, this one is not as clear as the author wants to believe, to the eminent names mentioned above are added many others who prefer to remain discreet seeing what has happened for those who dare to speak top (Peter Ridd of James Cook University, Stuart Kirk of HSBC, David Malpass of the World Bank, to name a few recent cases). But that does not change much anyway: even admitting the idea of an institutional science favorable to the IPCC, it is extremely dangerous to claim to psychologize dissidents on such a basis. Unless, of course, you want to turn the scientific institution into a new Inquisition.