Politics over science

There's a report on a survey in the NYT just recently ("The More Education Republicans Have, the Less They Tend to Believe in Climate Change"), though the survey itself ("College-Educated Republicans Most Skeptical of Global Warming") is reported in 2015. h/t PH.

The NYT chooses to highlight the answer to Percent saying they worry about climate change “a great deal” but that wouldn't be the question I'd choose: what if Republicans are generally happy-go-lucky people, whereas Democrats are worry-warts? The NYT avers that This relationship persists even when pollsters pose different kinds of questions about climate change, and that's sorta true, though just-by-chance they happen to have picked the question with most divergence. The divergence, as you'll see from the pix, is that more educated Repubs tend to believe in GW less than their less educated fellows, whereas the reverse is true for Dems. That's not what you expect if you think that the problem with GW "skeptics" is lack of knowledge; sadly, experience teaches us that isn't actually the problem.

Before you get too carried away, notice that they diverge on other issues too; for example, "Trust and confidence in mass media": Dems agree more with this the more educated they are, with about 80% agreeing; Repubs go the other way, and end with about 10% agreeing. And on this one, the Repubs are clearly correct, as you'd be mad to trust the mass media.

Anyway, let's look at a somewhat better question also in the survey, "GW is mainly caused by natural changes". Demoplebs go for that 35%, Collocrats 13%. Whereas Replebs are 54%, and Collegicans are 66%. Which indeed has the same pattern. Which is explained by, errm, what? I'm not sure the NYT's explanation - people get their ideas on GW from elites - is particularly explanatory.

There's another article, which may or may not include the same poll, I can't quite tell (but is probably this one instead), When Don’t the Highly Educated Believe in Evolution? The Bible Believers Effect (Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.2, March/April 2015). That includes another explanation that I quite like, which oddly enough is from Chris Mooney and they've translated it from GW to Bible and I'll translate it back: "Compared to less well educated,  more highly educated better understand arguments used to deny and are, therefore, better able to justify their beliefs in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary". I quite like that, at least in part because it fits in with my prejudices. It isn't too difficult, with a little education and or reading, to learn enough about GW to upset the easy explanations you'll find on popular websites or in the meeja. Indeed, I suspect, it is easy enough to come up with arguments that people who "believe" in GW will find hard to refute, or even understand. None of them stand up to proper scrutiny, of course, but I suspect that it's enough to (a) give a feeling of intellectual superiority; (b) make it plain that the "believers" are often just believing: they don't actually know (as discussed before, this is inevitable; you are going to rely on scientific authority; perhaps disingenuously people have a tendency to under-emphasise this). Being surrounded by idiots who believe something strongly but who obviously don't understand the reasons why is quite likely a force towards believing the reverse.

Pic: early viewers of this post will have got a disturbing image from 2015 Christmas Head. But then I remembered I wanted to put this lovely B+W pic somewhere, and this is a good post for it.


What Are ‘Theoretical Reasons’? - CH on protectionism


crandles said...

This isn't exactly new, it stretches back well before this 2015 survey.

eg https://www.academia.edu/10366212/What_people_know

references Hamilton 2008 to suggest a 2006 date for when this had been tested.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

" The divergence, as you'll see from the pix, is that more educated Repubs tend to believe in GW less than their less educated fellows,"

This has led to a crisis of falling explanations in the Congress


Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Once more the blogger.com mystery glitch- the comment field won't post https, and returns a 404 if www. is substituted

William Connolley said...

CR: yes, I mostly realised that, what seemed odd to me was that I hadn't blogged it before. Nor did I find anyone else doing so.

RS: https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/11/wind-turbines-to-blame-for-congressmans.html works for me. I wonder what's up with your... browser?

crandles said...

>Nor did I find anyone else doing so.


from Oct 15 reffing other posts in June 15, August 13 and Apr 13

Hank Roberts said...

Well, there's one example of the idiot mob ejecting an educated person. Would that there were more.
But then every lynch mob or small town would be an educational institution, which they ain't.


PS for Russell -- something in Firefox's popup blocker or uBlock -- one of those sanity-preserving extensions -- blocks VVattsup. Disabling all extensions and rebooting makes it appear and also allows Google's stupid highway sign picture verification tool to allow posting.
Just goes to show you can be too safe.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

WC , it appears Blogger has a Safari 11.01 issue

William Connolley said...

I fear that I am obliged to suggest that you have a Safari issue, in the sense that you're using it...

Hank Roberts said...

Welllll, I wish you'd reopen the "Why do science in Antarctica" thread.

Remember when Antarctica wasn't expected to change for a thousand years?

Remember when Mauri Pelto at RC wrote that ice is plastic under pressure, so openings in glaciers close up every winter?

Remember when .... ah, there was so much there.

I think the rate of change in our understanding ought to be studied by someone. It's changing rather rapidly, isn't it?


William Connolley said...


Hank Roberts said...

> ... headed for an ice apocalypse?

Well, yeah, seeing a scary question used as a headline has to be reassuring, for those who find Betteridge reliable.

Is any other area in science changing as fast as science in Antarctica?
Are they funding anything, or just expressing thoughts and prayers?

I guess the next IPCC Report will give us a new data point.


""On the observational side, I see the things they are talking about," says David Holland, a physical-climate scientist at New York University. "There's a lot of observation and modelling to go, but they are adjusting people's thinking in a very scientific way."

For DeConto, the new model results underscore the choice that humanity is facing. If he and Pollard have the physics correct, this process of ice-shelf disintegration, followed by ice-cliff collapse, will be nearly impossible to stop once it gets under way.

Nature 531, 562 (31 March 2016)

Phil Hays said...

"as you'd be mad to trust the mass media."

“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” -- James Madison

William Connolley said...

> James Madison

It is a good quote. But why would you tie it to the mass media? Most of them are obviously unsuitable; of the rest, all are to various degrees subtly unsuitable. You're better off with blogs.

> the next IPCC Report will give us a new data point

It will provide the next convenient summary, of course; but it will be out of date by the time it arrives. The papers it will rely on already exist. The problem is to pluck some sense from the reporting on same.

Phil Hays said...

Blogs, eh?




A tiny sample of the amusement from blogs.

If the mass media isn't mostly trustworthy, we are doomed to farce or tragedy. Perhaps this is so. Brexit, Trump.

Hank Roberts said...

> The papers it will rely on already exist. The problem is to
> pluck some sense from the reporting on same.

That's why I was asking you. So far you've called them about right, haven't you?
Why do science in Antarctica, eh?

Hank Roberts said...

called them
plucked them, I meant to say

Hank Roberts said...

Tangentially, Mt. Agung began the monitoring that led to the nuclear winter scenario.

The Effects on the Atmosphere of a Major Nuclear Exchange
1985 - ‎Science
Actual sampling of the amount of dust and gases from volcanic eruptions reaching the stratosphere began following the eruption of Agung Volcano ....
Maybe the volcano god is going to save us from our global warming ....

... in the case of sulphur dioxide, Mt Agung is particularly important.

By the 1963 eruption, atmospheric monitoring had developed to the point where vast amounts of sulphur dioxide could be detected being injected into the stratosphere from this volcano.
... during its sporadic eruptions, Agung has been one of the most prominent injectors of volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

Phil Hays said...

So how is the media doing?


William Connolley said...

> So how is the media doing?

Assuming you mean stuff like "that would raise taxes for millions of middle-class families", then the table at the end of https://www.cato.org/blog/senate-tax-bill-middle-receives-largest-cuts says "not very well".

Hank Roberts said...

Possibly useful:

"English has no word for "the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors". Yet it is a well-known phenomenon in the world of punditry, debate, and public affairs. On Twitter, we call it "derp"...."


Hank Roberts said...

Do you count this as politics? The site is notorious for outliars.


(citing John Christy)

Phil Hays said...

Over the long term, the Senate Republican tax plan raises taxes on the middle class. The tax cuts for the wealthy don't end. The rich have to wait a few years for their full tax cuts.

Short term is where sales pitch for the plan has focused.

The mainstream media explains this. The CATO blog?

William Connolley said...


rconnor said...

CBO and Tax Policy Center reports for starters.

William Connolley said...

I don't understand you. You can be bothered to comment, but you can't be bothered to link to things that you know what they are, but I don't. It's like you don't actually believe what you're saying, and need to preserve ambiguity. Why?

Phil Hays said...

Why the tax bill is good for Democrats.


rconnor said...

To highlight that while lecturing others to seek out unbiased information, perhaps you should have read the CBO report on the tax bill before reading (and referencing) CATO's blog post.

William Connolley said...

Maybe Not Libertarian, But There Are Some Things to Like in This Tax Reform

Phil Hays said...

Anything written before today on the Republican tax bill is likely obsolete. Of the $1.6T over 10 years tax cut, about a third is likely to change today before the Senate votes on it today. Don't you love thoughtful debate on important subjects?






Your source is damning with faint praise. And not just praise. "Many aspects of either bill are awful" is a fine summary of this process, the current state of the tax bill, and the likely end product.

William Connolley said...

> damning with faint praise

Well of course. Anyone who thinks this is a *good* bill is mad. But no-one expected a good bill.

Phil Hays said...

Your source worries about "It also means a more progressive income tax code than it already is."


Points out that is not correct, beyond the first couple of years.

In 2027, the largest decrease in individual income taxes goes to the $1,000,000 and over per year income bracket. Those earning $10,00 or less will pay 6.6% more. Those earning $10,000 to $20,000 will go from a net rebate of payroll taxes (thanks to Ronald Reagan) to paying net taxes. Those earning $20,000 to $30,000 will pay 25.5% more. And so on.

Phil Hays said...

"But no-one expected a good bill."

So then you agree with the mass media that this is not a good bill.

I guess the mass media is doing better than some think.

William Connolley said...

I agree that this isn't a good bill. But as I think can be implied from my previous, I think "not a good bill" is such a bland assessment that you get no points for it. Think of it in terms of weather forecasting, for which "tomorrow will be the same as today" is a known good non-trivial prediction, which any other prediction has to beat. If your assessment is no better than "not a good bill" all you've done is wasted a bit of people's attention span.

William Connolley said...

https://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonynitti/2017/12/02/winners-and-losers-of-the-senate-tax-bill/ looks like a decent analysis.

Phil Hays said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Hays said...


Losers, the whole USA.


Social Security has a tax dedicated to funding it. Want to bet that the tax isn't cut? It is true that the tax will not be sufficient in the future as people have been living longer and the ongoing retirement of the "baby boom". Cutting Medicare (health care for the 65 and older) will probably "fix" that living longer problem.

Losers, everyone when they get old. Except the 1%, of course.

(fixed typo)

Phil Hays said...

Oh, and here is a rant for a carbon tax.


I thought you might be interested.

William Connolley said...

Carbon tax is always interesting. However that piece begins "raises taxes on the middle class and will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit"; the second half of that is true, the former dubious. That's only true when the (personal) tax cuts expire in 2027; and of course the intention is not to expire them; they only sunset then because the "budget-balancing" rules require that.

As I've said before, I don't think it is reasonable to call an unpriced externality a subsidy. This becomes especially obvious in the para "So just gasoline for personal vehicles alone (not counting trucks, airplanes, ships, etc.) is being subsidized to the tune of ~$100 billion per year in the US. Last year, with 159,000 EVs sold countrywide, the EV tax credit cost the US about $1.2 billion dollars. If you’re looking for a cost to cut, perhaps the one which is ~100 times larger should be looked at first." Which doesn't make sense. The "subsidy" to "gasoline" might be $100b in unpriced externality; but this isn't a cost you can cut; you don't cut this "subsidy" by stopping giving money to people, which is that the EV subsidy is. Instead you have to raise taxes on what you funny people call gasoline; which is rather different.

Connecting deaths through pollution to GW is dodgy.

Then they advocate a carbon tax, which is good, but suggest setting it at about $600 / tonne, since that's the cost of removal from the air. That is silly and counter-productive.

William Connolley said...

> http://rabett.blogspot.com/2017/11/us-universities-might-as-well-close-now.html

Unfortunately I don't understand the tuition remission thing. I did ask Eli to explain, but neither he nor any other commentator there could be bothered.

Phil Hays said...

Tuition remission:


William Connolley said...

Oh. How weird. Most UK doctoral students earn nothing like $30k; I certainly didn't. And waived tuition fees *is* essentially income. This is what comes from using loopholes; sooner or later someone notices and closes them. However, closing them suddenly is probably a bad idea.

Phil Hays said...

Did you pay income tax on waived tuition fees?

William Connolley said...

AFAIK we here don't have the concept. As I understand it from the first hit, you're "waived fees" are essentially a substitute for not being paid enough as a lab assistant; but as I said, no-one here gets anything like that money for being a lab assistant. It sounds somewhat as though you have an expanded Phd class, who act as cheap labour while nominally doing a doctorate? Again, I'm not sure that class exists here in the same way; though it is ages since my doctorate.

Hank Roberts said...


Friday, December 1, 2017
Pruitt 'guaranteeing' debate on climate science soon

Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter

The conservative Heritage Foundation might have just previewed the Trump administration's arguments against climate science.

U.S. EPA appears to be close to unveiling its program to question mainstream research on global warming, referred to as a "red team" exercise, and several candidates for that role cast doubt on the extent of climate change at the Heritage Foundation yesterday.

One theme they expressed is that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels should no longer be considered a pollutant but instead an essential ingredient in maintaining a global population boom. They described potentially catastrophic impacts of human-caused warming as "alarmism."

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt could announce the red team within weeks, according to Bob Murray, a key ally of the administration and the CEO of Murray Energy Corp. The coal boss said in an interview at yesterday's event that he has been personally pushing Pruitt to challenge the endangerment finding, the scientific underpinning for past and future regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
Roy Spencer, a climate scientist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, said researchers who could be selected for the red team have met a few times in recent weeks in different cities. He said more government research needs to be conducted on the natural causes of climate change. That could be done if congressional budget appropriators divert a portion of the research funding for human-caused climate change toward research on natural causes.

"There are chaotic variations internal to the climate system, and that is something that has been totally swept under the rug," Spencer said. "The red team could look at all kinds of things, but if I'm part of the red team, that would probably be the top thing I would emphasize."...
Scientific consensuses are often wrong, said William Happer, an emeritus physics professor at Princeton University and a contender to become Trump's science adviser. He criticized the "preening virtue signaling" of environmental groups and compared the attitude of those who craft climate policy to lawmakers who were swept up in the temperance movement before Prohibition was enacted.
Richard Lindzen, a retired meteorology professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, blamed "climate alarmism" on educated elites who don't want to admit their limited understanding of science. He said fossil fuels will benefit humans and that reduced Arctic sea ice will open the Northwest Passage.

After a lunch from Chick-fil-A, Murray shared the Heritage stage with Bud Brigham, who founded several successful hydraulic fracturing companies....


Hank Roberts said...


Hank Roberts said...

Well, we found out that Rand Paul is consistent with his 'ibertarian values -- he externalizes even his lawn mowing litter.
Even though all you have to do is mow in the other direction to shoot the grass clippings onto your own property where you can be responsible for them. Too bad coal plant emissions aren't that easy to control..

"... an acquaintance of both said they stood in their yards roughly a decade ago shouting at each other over the grass clippings that Paul’s lawn mower had shot onto Rene Boucher’s property.

“ ‘I ask him, I tell him and he won’t pay attention,’ ” the acquaintance, Bill Goodwin, recalls Boucher saying after the argument...."