How we fool ourselves. Part III: Social biases

Reposted from Dr. Judith Curry’s Climate Etc.

Posted on April 25, 2021 by curryja | 

by Judith Curry

“Is the road to scientific hell paved with good intentions?” – political psychologist Philip Tetlock (1994)

Part I in this series addressed logical fallacies. Part II addressed biases associated with a consensus building process. Part II addresses the role of social conflicts and biases.

Additional biases are triggered by social conflict between an individual’s responsibility for responsible conduct of research, and the larger ethical issues associated with the well-being of the public and the environment. Further, social biases are triggered by careerist goals, loyalty to one’s colleagues and institutional loyalties.

Scientists have the responsibility of adhering to the principles of ethical research and professional standards. But what happens when other responsibilities get in the way of these professional standards?  These might include responsibilities to their conscience, their colleagues, institutions, the public and/or the environment.  One can imagine many different conflicts across this range of responsibilities that that can bias the scientific process.  As an example, scientists that have been heavily involved with the IPCC may be concerned with preserving the importance of the IPCC and its consensus, which has become central to their professional success, funding and influence.  

Arguably the most important of these are conflicts between the responsible conduct of research and larger ethical issues associated with the well-being of the public and the environment. Fuller and Mosher’s book Climategate: The CruTape Letters argued that ‘noble cause corruption’ was a primary motivation behind the Climategate deceits.  Noble cause corruption is when the ends of protecting the climate (noble) justify the means of sabotaging your scientific opponents (ignoble). 

Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia claims that the most common and problematic bias in science is ‘motivated reasoning’. People that have a ‘dog in the fight’ (reputational, financial, ideological, political) interpret observations to fit a particular idea that supports their particular ‘dog.’   The term ‘motivated reasoning’ is usually reserved for political motivations, but preserving their reputation or funding is also a strong motivator among scientists. 

The embedding of political values into science occurs when value statements or ideological claims are wrongly treated as objective truth. Scientists have a range of attitudes about the environment; the problem occurs because there is the presumption that one set of attitudes is right and those who disagree are in denial. This results in conversion of a widely shared political ideology about climate change into ‘reality.’

Confirmation bias can become even stronger when people confront questions that trigger moral emotions and concerns about group identity. People’s beliefs become more extreme when they’re surrounded by like-minded colleagues. They come to assume that their opinions are not only the norm but also the truth – creating what social psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls a ‘tribal-moral community’ with its own sacred values about what’s worth studying and what’s taboo. Such biases can lead to widely-accepted claims that reflect the scientific community’s blind spots more than they reflect justified scientific conclusions.

Psychologists Cusiman and Lombrozo found that people facing a dilemma between believing an impartial assessment of the evidence and believing what would better fulfill a moral obligation, people often believe in line with the latter. Cuisman and Lombrozo found that morally good beliefs demand less evidence than morally bad beliefs. They also found that people sometimes treat the moral value of a belief as an independent justification for belief. 

Motivated biases become particularly problematic once these biases are institutionalized, with advocacy statements made by professional societies, editorials written by journal editors, and public statements by the IPCC leadership. 

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Rory Forbes
April 25, 2021 6:27 pm

Such biases can lead to widely-accepted claims that reflect the scientific community’s blind spots more than they reflect justified scientific conclusions.

Such biases are far more common in the social sciences, so it doesn’t surprise me that these conclusions are offered by one of their own. After all, it’s psychologists who have pandered to all this “gender” confusion, and people like Naomi Oreskes who offer “consensus” as valid science.

Any scientist willing to prostitute himself on the grounds of these “social” prerogatives is no scientist … or at least any science that subordinates logic and evidence for apparent morality or politically correct ideology is not science.

commieBob
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 25, 2021 6:42 pm

Such biases are far more common in the social sciences …

There’s no evidence that’s actually true.

… for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.

John Ioannidis

Most published research findings are false. It’s called the replication crisis. In bio-med, the one field where replication is routinely attempted, as many as 90% of published findings are wrong. In a dismaying number of cases, scientists can’t even reproduce their own experimental results. There’s no good reason to believe that any other scientific field fares better.

I strongly suggest that everyone at least scans Ioannidis’ work linked above. When the implications sink in, a strong drink might be in order. 🙂

Rory Forbes
Reply to  commieBob
April 25, 2021 8:34 pm

There’s no evidence that’s actually true.

Yes it is. Psychology is famous for pulling “theories” out of their fundamental orifice, often with absolutely no rational connection to reality. They cause great harm and human misery before they’re found out and forced to withdraw their idiocy. That will happen with the “gender” issue, but after thousands are damaged by their nonsense. Economics might even be worse and sociology is often just invented out of whole cloth.

Last edited 17 days ago by Rory Forbes
Greg
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 26, 2021 12:00 am

It’s easy to hit on soft sciences and imagine that “proper” science does not work that way. Sadly it does, as CommieBob points out.

It really is that bad.

That is why no one called out climate scientists when ClimateGate emails were released. NO FIELD of science wanted to stand up and denounce Mann and his clique of climate frauds for fear of the spotlight being turned on them and their own field.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Greg
April 26, 2021 11:42 am

I understand what you’re both saying: all science is being corrupted by politics and financial interests. That’s largely because of what Eisenhower warned us to guard against. However, the “soft sciences” have been over stepping the bounds of the method from the start, simply because of it’s easy connection to politics … and people’s fears. They just invent stuff and them make it sound sciency. Feynman called it “Cargo Cult Science”.

Now everyone’s doing it. “Scientists say” got its validation from TV advertising. Now “peer review” suddenly validates bad science.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 26, 2021 4:59 am

The problem with the social sciences is that human behavior is near infinitely complex- like all organic structures. And since the Earth and its climate is another level of complexity – orders of magnitude more complex- no wonder they can’t “settle” climate “science”- even if they’re honest and talented. At least if they admitted the difficulty and only SUGGEST concepts/theories, then they’d be doing decent work- rather than claiming too much.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 26, 2021 10:48 am

The problem with the social sciences is that human behavior is near infinitely complex

That doesn’t seem to stop social sciences from adhering rigidly to ideas they invent out of whole cloth, then support as if it was “settled science”. The list of their hare brained ideas is depressing. Today, apparently, in both the ‘soft’ and hard sciences, dominating the narrative to collect funding or support some political cause, is their real interest. This is why I keep going back to people like Feynman.

Steve Z
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 26, 2021 8:55 am

At which end of the digestive tract is their “fundamental orifice” located?

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Steve Z
April 26, 2021 10:40 am

The “fundament” is generally considered to be ‘the bottom’.

observa
Reply to  commieBob
April 26, 2021 3:57 am

What are you talking about as Marxism is everywhere in the social sciences where weak minds are bamboozled with the drivel from biased computer modelling-
Melbourne schoolboys are slammed as ‘oppressors’ in front of class (msn.com)
The fact that second rate medical researchers have jumped on the bandwagon to gain prestige and notoriety with statistical packages is simply something Eisenhower warned us about after WWII.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  commieBob
April 26, 2021 4:55 am

“There’s no good reason to believe that any other scientific field fares better.”

I suspect REAL sciences like physics and chemistry fare very well indeed.

commieBob
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 26, 2021 5:26 am

Based on what evidence? Replication is not even attempted for the vast majority of physics experiments. Physics also has the problem that it has badly stagnated.

Given little actual progress and too many scientists desperate to get published, of course the predictable thing has happened. The problems that Ioannidis has so eloquently documented exist for all branches of science.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  commieBob
April 26, 2021 6:09 am

well, at least if the are replicated- they should be easier to replicate because it’s a more controled environment more focused on few variables than human behavior

TonyG
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 26, 2021 10:12 am

You might want to read “The Trouble with Physics” (Lee Smolin)

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  TonyG
April 26, 2021 10:21 am

I just watched him an interview – one of the Closer to the Truth series:

“Lee Smolin – What is a Theory of Everything?”

Rick C
Reply to  commieBob
April 26, 2021 9:23 am

CB: In general I agree with you in terms of academic published research. However, there is a great deal of sound repeatable. replicable science going on in the private sector. Just look at your cell phone, laptop, automobile or any of thousands of products that people buy because they are useful and reliable. This stuff exists because someone applied the scientific method and engineering principles to solve problems. Some academic research does make the jump into useful products or knowledge that benefits society, but it seems to be a tiny fraction.

Patrick B
Reply to  commieBob
April 26, 2021 4:34 pm

I work with a lot of biomedical startups. Often the first $500K or so is spent on some basic confirming experiments to see if the inventor’s claims can be preliminarily confirmed. Only then do we raise the first four million or so needed to get the company off the ground.

n.n
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 25, 2021 7:32 pm

There are positive and negative secular incentives in every discipline. However, the social sciences are indeed the most contagious (e.g. sympathetic, empathetic – lust, fear, etc.), and thereby viable platforms to exploit for securing capital and control, and human sacrifice.

Last edited 17 days ago by n.n
Rory Forbes
Reply to  n.n
April 25, 2021 8:42 pm

Humans have proven to be a gullible species, easily persuaded to become emotionally attached to concepts that can do them the most harm. Look how many fools still believe socialism is a solution to anything. We respond to appeals to emotion, ignorance, fear and greed so easily it’s a wonder anyone has a mind of his own.

n.n
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 25, 2021 11:47 pm

A conflation of sex and gender (e.g. sexual orientation) to accommodate special interests, then a Rainbow of inclusive exclusion because the politically congruent (“=”) band consider that others in the transgender spectrum are impure and less qualified. It’s a Pro-Choice, Pro-Choice, Pro-Choice, Pro-Choice, selective, opportunistic, relativistic religion.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  n.n
April 26, 2021 12:04 am

“Sexual orientation” really has little to do with it. The entire acronym LGBTQetc … is a pointless mixture of concepts. There is no “transgender spectrum” because the entire idea is an absurdity. A biological male has no way to understand what being female is like. “Doctors” who pander to such delusions should be struck off. Using their language validates their ideology … because they have created their own language quite distinct from traditional meanings. That’s how Marxism starts eating away at our culture.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 27, 2021 10:31 am

You should hear my wife rant about these gender-confused males who want to claim they are actually female. Something about “not until they have a period once a month…” I stay quiet. Mrs. Hawkins didn’t raise no fools.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
April 27, 2021 12:44 pm

Mrs. Hawkins is quite right. These are guys who are looking with envy at what they believe is an easier, less competitive ride than to become a man.

I have always considered myself ill used by society. As long as I can remember I have known I should have been a multi-millionaire.

commieBob
April 25, 2021 6:27 pm

Immediately under Judith’s byline is a quote from Philip Tetlock.

Tetlock spent decades testing the accuracy of expert predictions. He discovered, and proved convincingly, that expert predictions are no more accurate than those that would be generated by a dart-throwing chimp.

Given their crummy track record at predicting the outcome of situations involving chaotic systems such as humanity or the climate, you’d think the experts would pull in their horns. But no, experts continue to bloviate with great confidence. In fact expert over-confidence is a huge problem. It’s like Dunning-Kruger on steroids.

While I’m on a rant …

There are two kinds of experts. One kind can demonstrate practiced behavior. Those would be airline pilots, concert pianists, and engineers. The other type is called expert because they have studied something a lot. They are good at parroting what they have learned. Everything else they utter is BS.

Do not let anyone conflate the two kinds of expert. If someone says, you have to believe climate experts because they are experts just like airline pilots, call them on it. Climate experts are the kind of expert with no proven abilities other than parroting what they have learned.

n.n
Reply to  commieBob
April 25, 2021 7:36 pm

Science is, with cause, a limited frame of reference philosophy and practice, a near-frame logical domain.

Drake
Reply to  commieBob
April 25, 2021 8:12 pm

An expert is one who learns more and more about less and less until he/she/it knows absolutely everything about nothing!

Rory Forbes
Reply to  commieBob
April 25, 2021 8:49 pm

According to Richard Feynman:

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. When someone says ‘science teaches such and such’, he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach it; experience teaches it”. Our biggest lesson from science is that we must doubt the experts.

n.n
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 25, 2021 11:54 pm

The corollary is that skepticism is an enlightened state of mind. Show me the evidence. Replicate it. State the assumptions/assertions, a frame of reference.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  n.n
April 26, 2021 12:08 am

Exactly so. There’s a beautiful detachment to the scientific method that supersedes the need to invest emotional energy into the mix.

TonyG
Reply to  Rory Forbes
April 26, 2021 10:16 am

“Our biggest lesson from science is that we must doubt the experts.”

Yet now they’re using “science” to mean we have to hang on every word from the experts as gospel.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  TonyG
April 26, 2021 10:31 am

Yet now they’re using “science” to mean we have to hang on every word from the experts as gospel.

Why is it that my first mental picture was of Dr. Fauci pontificating?

Appeal to authority is possibly the favorite fallacy used by Fascists. It goes like a hand in glove fit with the bandwagon effect.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  commieBob
April 26, 2021 5:35 am

My understanding is that the word “expert” was derived from two words, “ex” meaning “former” and “spurt” meaning “one time shot”.

commieBob
Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
April 26, 2021 6:10 am

spurt = a drip under pressure

waza
April 25, 2021 6:43 pm

Judith is too nice.
IMO Judith is trying to say that peoples’ biases will impact their decision making but these people are inherently good people.
I would say that many of these people are NOT good people and there is no bias issue, they are just looking out for themselves and don’t give a sh*t about anyone else.

The above applies to many aspects of life.

n.n
Reply to  waza
April 25, 2021 7:41 pm

There is one natural fitness function: reproduction. Then there are diverse behavioral protocols based on articles of faith or axiom, including: individual dignity, intrinsic value, and inordinate worth, which each of the great religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Progressivism, etc. remark upon. Some follow a moral (i.e. universal frame) philosophy and others an ethical (i.e. relativistic), ostensibly secular, framework.

Last edited 17 days ago by n.n
RelPerm
Reply to  n.n
April 25, 2021 8:20 pm

Thank goodness those who belong to the CAGW religion elect to give up reproduction. We don’t want too many Greta’s and AOC’s running around, do we?

Chaswarnertoo
Reply to  RelPerm
April 26, 2021 12:57 am

They need encouraging to achieve Darwin awards.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  RelPerm
April 26, 2021 9:51 am

I listen to AOC speak on tv and after she is done, I think to myself, “What did she just say?”

I’m sorry, but she just does not make any sense to me when I listen to her. It’s just word salad that apparently makes sense to her, but not to me.

When you say “idiocracy”, AOC is the first person that comes to my mind. She is a perfect example of a member of an Idocracy. She makes no sense, but thinks she has all the answers.

Smart Rock
Reply to  waza
April 25, 2021 9:57 pm

IMO Judith is trying to say that peoples’ biases will impact their decision making but these people are inherently good people”

I read it as that she was saying they are “good” within their own moral frame of reference. She did not appear to be implying that they were “good” in her own view, or in any sort of objective moral framework.

n.n
April 25, 2021 7:28 pm

the larger ethical issues associated with the well-being of the public and the environment

Religion. Ethics is morality’s secular cousin, where mortal gods and goddesses (e.g. experts) create a malleable or politically congruent religious framework, and where that fails, the consensus breaks down, and a legacy of force is sustained (e.g. democratic/dictatorial duality).

Insufficiently Sensitive
April 25, 2021 7:36 pm

As an example, scientists that have been heavily involved with the IPCC may be concerned with preserving the importance of the IPCC and its consensus, which has become central to their professional success, funding and influence. 

This is the place where science ends and peer pressure (an entirely different entity) starts. The scientific method, rigorously applied, has always borne potential charges of heresy against those SCIENTISTS who stick with their evidence, analyses and conclusions. Those whose ‘heavy involvements’ bulldoze them across the line into political activism are poseurs, not scientists.

n.n
Reply to  Insufficiently Sensitive
April 25, 2021 7:44 pm

Secular lucre, force, and egoism per chance narcissism.

H. D. Hoese
April 25, 2021 8:03 pm

I would offer that within the marine sciences where I have, ugh, 6 decades of experience, that there has been a loss of independence. The old publish or perish is often blamed, and certainly journals are lauding besides impact factors, searches offered for most read or most cited. Obviously, bandwagons might be predicted whether cause or effect. I came back across this recently searching for a lost article, found it, but wondered if it was less evident because it had not been cited very much, although it seemed a viable work. There are review attempts and other search methods, but the literature on some subjects is horrendous and too often redundant.

RockyJ
April 25, 2021 9:07 pm

In the public sector, such as universities, measures of individual capability are fuzzy. Consequently looking good becomes more career enhancing than performance.
The “climate scientists” I have encountered at an individual level in NZ universities show many of the traits I have associated with impression management. These include excellent public speaking skills, highly persuasive styles and total conviction in the rightness of their opinions.

Chaswarnertoo
Reply to  RockyJ
April 26, 2021 12:58 am

AKA sociopaths.

Leo Smith
April 25, 2021 9:50 pm

Nobody ever got sacked for supporting ‘ClimateChange™

Bruce Cobb
April 26, 2021 2:27 am

There is something particularly odious, immoral, and even evil about being part of the Big Clime Syndicate. Eventually, there should be punishment involved for all the harm they have caused.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
April 26, 2021 5:05 am

I predict the pendulum will swing very soon- once the public realizes the total costs of the new climate religion.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 26, 2021 10:07 am

Yes, I heard yesterday that gasoline prices have already icreased by a dollar a gallon in some places, and Biden is barely getting started.

That means poor people are paying a dollar more per gallon than they were under Trump.

That means everyone is paying more for a gallon of gasoline. Those in the transportation and retail businesses will be passing those extra costs onto their customers, many of whom are poor people who can least afford price increases in the economy for what they use.

For every 80 cent rise in the cost of a gallon of gasoline, the U.S. GDP is diminished by one percent. That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money that the government won’t be able to tax because it won’t have been booked as profits by businesses because the economic activity is diminished by increased gasoline taxes.

Democrats don’t seem to understand that if you unlease the economy through low taxes and low regulations, that the revenues to the government will increase because the economic activity increases. When they raise taxes, they reduce the taxes taken in, and on top of that, they raise the tax rates, further diminishing economic activity.

It’s a vicious cycle that causes the economy to spiral downward. That is the direction Joe Biden has us headed in right now.

Biden is well on the way to raising the prices of everything we buy. It’s economic insanity. It’s typical for deluded Democrats. All they can think of is raising taxes to give themselves spending money to buy votes. The economy and its health is not really their priority.

M Courtney
April 26, 2021 2:51 am

It’s worth remembering that the AGW “consensus” is an extremist position.

The evidence for that is the refusal to debate with people who disagree with the “consensus”. Moderates will listen to those they believe are wrong and then confront the errors they find. That has been the case since the Enlightenment.
But extremists will refuse to even countenance the possibility that other views could ever be valid and thus seek to destroy the heretics.

Extremists are unable to self-correct. They are off the deep-end. It’s a matter of faith when you reach the point of no debate.

Ever since the “consensus” leaders refused to debate with those who disagree, AGW has not been subject to the rules of reason but rather of faith.

Interesting point, if you’ve ever wondered why the 1st commandment comes before the 6th look at what happens when you form a new faith. Far more than one person gets dead.

Lurker Pete
April 26, 2021 3:40 am

There’s something fundamentally deeper going on regarding human psychology that cannot simply be pidgeon holed into one or two boxes and pinnned on ‘science’.

The ‘Academy of Ideas’ Youtube channel has done a series on Mass Psychosis, the 3rd video in the series (only 16 mins) The Manufacturing of a Mass Psychosis – Can Sanity Return to an Insane World? delves into how totalitarianism (in many guises) evolves, and how it may be countered.

It explains a lot of what has been going on in many aspects of modern life, it fits perfectly as a frame for ‘AGW climate science’ and the difficulties we face countering the narrative. I highly recomend it, it is well worth 16 mins of your time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdzW-S8MwbI

Bob Ernest
April 26, 2021 4:24 am

“Part I in this series addressed logical fallacies. Part II addressed biases associated with a consensus building process. Part II addresses the role of social conflicts and biases.“

Looks like The second Part II is supposed to be Part III.

george1st:)
April 26, 2021 5:16 am

Kumbaya .
come with us and drink the Kool aid

Bruce Cobb
April 26, 2021 6:42 am

Whatever spin you want to put on it, the technical term is “lying”.

Olen
April 26, 2021 7:27 am

It is not easy being stupid and finding yourself in with like minded people who got there the same way buying into a chain of thought that is destructive. Yet as the article says, people do it.

ResourceGuy
April 26, 2021 7:52 am

The FANG stocks thank you but accept no liability.

Steve Z
April 26, 2021 9:00 am

Most of science is based on observations which are interpreted using mathematics, which is usually considered to be an abstract subject not prone to personal biases. Which is why some activists are trying to teach school kids that math is somehow racist.

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