How can so many people be so wrong?

There are quite a lot of authors who produce scientific articles in support of global warming. Yet they must know of the many holes in the theory. In particular, they must know how vanishingly small are the effects and changes that they document.  They spend their lives studying and writing about minutiae. Some, such as the litigious Stefan Rahmstorf, even plumb the depths of absurdity by writing about temperature changes in thousandths of one degree Celsius. Why do they do it?  What makes them think that the energies they put into their calculations are well deployed?  Do they ever think that they are wasting their precious time?

I think I know the answers to that.  For a start, it is not a conspiracy.  It is however something nearly as powerful. It is an intellectual fashion. It is a testimony to the power of a bandwagon effect.  People want to be "in" with the crowd. So their writing is largely a game.  They want to show that they are doing significant and important work and joining in with what is currently accepted as wise is by far the easiest way to do that.

But that is only part of the story.  Participation in a folly has to satisfy deeper psychological needs.  And my background in psychological research exposed me to a quite extraordinary example of that.  Let me tell the story of it:

Most psychologists are Leftists.  And in the immediate aftermath of WWII that posed a big problem:  In the context of his day, Hitler was a Leftist too. The name of his political party gave the first hint of that --  it was (translated) "The National Socialist German Worker's party" (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei).  Hitler's antisemitism was normal among the prewar Left and even his nationalism had a long history on the Left.  None other than Joseph Stalin referred in his propaganda to his war with Germany as "The Great Patriotic war" (Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́). And Theodore Roosevelt, founder of America's "Progressive" party, did a pretty good line in conquering other countries -- with his involvement in taking over Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

And nationalism even lingered on for a while in the post-war American Left.  JFK's "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" was essentially what Hitler also preached to Germans.

Just to show that Hitler actually won his elections by socialist appeals, note one of his election posters below:

It translates as:  The Marshall and the corporal fight alongside us for peace and equal rights", which is very much what the American Left preached during the Cold War. Here's another one:

It translates as "With Hitler against the armaments madness of the world".  Again that could have been a slogan of the American Left during the Cold War.  The Left to this day criticizes military spending.

So there you have the very great and embarrassing problem that faced the American Left after 1945.  They somehow had to dissociate themselves from the reviled Hitler. He had actually put their ideas into practice.  Ideally, they had to blame Hitler on conservatives, as unlikely as that was -- considering that the most relentless foe of Hitler had been the arch-Conservative Winston Churchill.  But they accomplished their task.  To most people today, Hitler is known as "right wing".

So you can see where I am going here.  The big lie that Hitler was a "Rightist" shows the way for the big lie of global warming.

How did the Left do it?  With the complicity of the whole American Left, including the media.  With so many people preaching the lie, it became accepted as fact.  In truth, Hitler was to the right of Russia only, in that he was less destructive of the existing society.  But that shred of truth was focused on. The American Left as a whole adopted the Soviet "line".

But psychologists helped too.  They were overwhelmingly Leftist so had a vested interest in the lie too.  They became the equivalent of today's global warming scientific establishment.  They in fact went to work straight after the war to work on the lie.  The fruit of their labours emerged in 1950, in the form of a book under the lead authorship of Marxist theoretician Theodor Adorno:  A book called "The authoritarian personality".  The book claimed that American conservatives were authoritarian, just like Hitler and that authoritarianism was not a political system but rather a form of personality maladjustment.  They might not be politically the same but Hitler and American conservatives were psychologically the same.

They made those claims while the greatest authoritarian regime of C20 loomed over the world of politics:  The Soviet Union.  The Soviets were unmistakably Leftists but they were allegedly not authoritarians at the personality level.  They were just noble idealists who accepted that "To make an omelette, you have got to crack eggs".

It was all immensely implausible but the story was greeted with  glad cries by virtually all psychologists.  The individual liberty orientation of conservatives was held to flow from a love of authority.  Black might as well have been white.

There were of course many attacks on such an absurd theory and every aspect of it eventually wound up on the wrong side of the research evidence.  The first half of Altemeyer's 1981 book gives a good run-down of all the critiques concerned.

But the critiques and refutations were like water off a duck's back.  They were ignored just as critiques of global warming are now mostly ignored.

And although it must hold the records for the most refuted theory in psychology, it still seems to be accepted by most psychologists today.  Uncritical mentions of it continue to emerge.

So you can see that if a theory SUITS people's needs it will be accepted regardless of the evidence. People believe what they want to believe.  And that is what is happening with global warming.  It gives people a feeling of significance and even heroism.  What achievement can beat "Saving the planet"?  Intellectual fads and fashions are one thing but nothing beats saving the planet.  So the theory has to be saved too.  And that is what the climate scientists are doing when they write in support of global warming.  They are desperately trying to save a wonderful theory -- a theory which gives all sorts of psychological rewards.  So the tiniest scrap of apparently supportive evidence is seized upon and publicized.

That is what we read in mainstream climate science today.


Adorno T. W., Frenkel-Brunswik E., Levinson D. J. and Sanford R. N. (950) The Authoritarian Personality. Harper, New York.

Altemeyer R. A. (1981) Right-wing Authoritarianism. University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg. 

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