Dan Kahan at Yale Law School has found that people’s views on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage predict their position on climate science too. This, he argues, is because social conservatives tend to be pro-business and resist the idea that it is damaging the planet.
I’ve noticed that acquaintances who smugly declared back in school that the moon landing was a hoax tend to belong to the same school of thought as people who think vaccines are a scam, evolution is controversial, crystals have energy and that global warming was a story dredged up hippies.
Another not-so-surprising finding that explains the phenomenon that is Deepak Chopra.
… instigators of denialist movements have more serious psychological problems than most of their followers. “They display all the features of paranoid personality disorder“, he says, including anger, intolerance of criticism, and what psychiatrists call a grandiose sense of their own importance. “Ultimately, their denialism is a mental health problem. That is why these movements all have the same features, especially the underlying conspiracy theory.”
Denialism has already killed. AIDS denial has killed an estimated 330,000 South Africans. Tobacco denial delayed action to prevent smoking-related deaths. Vaccine denial has given a new lease of life to killer diseases like measles and polio. Meanwhile, climate change denial delays action to prevent warming. The backlash against efforts to fight the flu pandemic could discourage preparations for the next, potentially a more deadly one.
If science is the best way to understand the world and its dangers, and acting on that understanding requires popular support, then denial movements threaten us all.
Also, watch this wonderful TED talk by Michael Specter.