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Thursday, 15 November 2007


that was great, thank you.
but, unfortunately, another thing i have to bite my lip about . . . just like my views and thoughts on the middle-east.
most americans give too much credit to mainstream media, and spend zero time trying to think things trough for themselves. i am totally going to read bjorn's book.

I just found this on Dilbert's Blog. He looks at the world from the same kind of vantage point that I do but has the advantage of being very witty. He summarises the case very succinctly:

Recently I saw the best case of cognitive dissonance I have ever seen. It was on Bill Maher's show, Real Time, which I love. Bill was interviewing Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg, who has a book about global warming, called "Cool It." The economist made the following points clearly and succinctly:

1. Global warming is real, and people are a major cause.

2. When considering the problems that global warming will cause, we shouldn't ignore the benefits of global warming, such as fewer deaths from cold.

3. The oceans rose a foot in the last hundred years, and the world adapted, so the additional rise from global warming might not be as big a problem as people assume.

4. Developing economical fossil fuel alternatives is the only rational solution to global warming because countries such as China and India will use the cheapest fuel, period. If only the developed countries who can afford alternatives change their ways, it’s not enough to make a dent in the problem.

The Danish economist’s argument doesn't fall into the established views about global warming. He wasn't denying it is happening, or denying humans are a major cause. But he also wasn’t saying we should drive hybrid cars, since he thinks it won’t be enough to help. He thinks we need to make solar (or other alternatives) more economical. That’s the magic bullet. His views don’t map to either popular camp on this issue, and it created a fascinating cognitive dissonance in Bill Maher (a fan of hybrid cars) and his panelists. Here are their reactions after the interview:

Rob Thomas said the interview "...confused the shit out of me." (Yet the economist was completely clear and communicated well.)

Salman Rushdie said, jokingly, that what he heard was "There's no connection between smoking and lung cancer." By that he meant the author was denying that fossil fuels contribute to global warming. (The economist said exactly the opposite, and clearly.)

Bill Maher said, "...20 years later, this guy is going to say, 'You know what? Yeah, there is global warming." (The economist already said exactly that during the interview. In fact, his entire book is based on global warming being true and hastened by fossil fuels.)

You can see the full transcript for yourself here. The interview is about 60% into the show.

Bill Maher is a brilliant guy, whether you agree with his views or not. Salman Rushdie is brilliant too. I don’t know about Rob Thomas, but he looks bright enough. Why couldn’t these three people hear anything the economist was saying? It looks to me like a classic case of cognitive dissonance . They literally couldn’t recognize that the economist was on their side because he suggested considering both the positive and negative effects of global warming.

I know I harp on this topic too much. But I do think that understanding cognitive dissonance, especially when it happens to you, is the only way to understand the world.

You can see this phenomenon on this blog on a regular basis. If I say Iran has a legitimate economic reason for building nuclear reactors, because experts agree Iran is running out of oil, it will be interpreted as anti-semetic. If I say the evidence for evolution that is available to me personally, as a non-expert, looks sketchy, it is interpreted as an argument for creationism.

In summary, if you ever plan to use the phrase “on the other hand,” be sure to wear your Kevlar underpants.

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