He thought his beliefs about global warming were based on science. Science proved him wrong |310| by Alex Tsakiris | Mar 29 | Skepticism Please Share Share on Twitter Rich Archer from Buddha at the Gas Pump provides a demonstration of challenging beliefs on global warming. photo by: Khuroshvili Ilya As I was putting the final touches on this show, I was reminded of a story I heard on the terrific podcast and NPR radio show, This American Life. It featured a person who had grown up in a conservative, Christian family and then went off to college and discovered conflicts between what he was told coming up in the church, versus what he was learning in college. As he digs into the real history behind his religious beliefs he becomes both angry and driven to learn all he can about biblical scholarship; archaeology; Nag Hammadi Library…everything. He digs into it the data and gets his ducks lined up because he wants to go back and confront his family with “the truth.” When he returns for Thanksgiving he has his chance. It’s at the end of dinner with his uncle–a very pious, conservative, religious guy who prides himself on really knowing the Bible; and really knowing scripture. Well, he just lets [his uncle] have it, both barrels: conflicts in the Resurrection Story; James, brother of Jesus; contradictions with the Nag Hammadi Library. He has his uncle skating backwards in no time and he shows him no quarter. He buries him. At the end of dinner he’s feels a surge of victory. He’s like a prize fighter who’s knocked out his opponent. But hey, this is just the warm up. Christmas is coming up and his dad will be there. So, he goes back to studying and he lines up all of his books and facts. Then, he sits down at the end of Christmas dinner and he’s ready to let him have it. Bam! Both barrels. The whole thing. Finally, after he’s done, his dad pauses and looks at him, and says, “Gee, son. I’m sure you’re right. But you see, when I found the church I was at one of the lowest points in my life. In fact, I was considering suicide. But then I found all of these great people, and they loved me and cared about me. Next thing you know, I found your Mom. We fell in love. We got married. I’ve had this great life since joining the church.” At this point, everything changes for the son. His anger vanishes. He sees his dad, and his dad’s connection to these beliefs in a totally new light. It’s not about the data for his dad; it’s about everything else. The reason I bring up this story is that in today’s episode we have a pretty dramatic demonstration of whether data and evidence can change beliefs. The belief in question is whether 97% of climate scientists believe man-made global warming is a major concern. But this belief is just a backdrop for the larger story of why data alone often isn’t enough to change our beliefs — even if we think it will: Alex Tsakiris: I have to nail that down a little bit more, Rick. The position I’m taking is that the 90 or 97% consensus is completely false. That’s the position I’m taking. So if I am able to significantly undermine that fact–that data point–then you think your beliefs will change? Rick Archer: Yes. We’re not going to do it in the course of this conversation. We’re obviously going to do it in subsequent exchanges. Alex Tsakiris: Right. And I just have to share with folks, I’m going to lay my money on the fact that we will prove that conclusively, and your beliefs will not change at all. But that’s just my opinion based on the exchanges that we’ve had. We’ll see how it all turns out. (this next excerpt is from the follow-up interview) Alex Tsakiris: … now that you’ve conceded on the 97% consensus idea (after reviewing the data Rick agreed that the study by Dr. John Cook showing a 97% consensus among climate scientists was bunk), has that significantly changed your opinion on man-made global warming? Rick Archer: No, not significantly. Alex Tsakiris: Perfect.