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Superstition, Confirmation Bias, and Climate Change

Posted on: August 3, 2018

Crying Meri | Violence against women in Papua New Guinea

Burn the Witch! - TV Tropes

THIS POST IS A STUDY OF SUPERSTITION IN CLIMATE SCIENCE 

RELATED POST ON THE STUDY OF CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS  [LINK]

[HOME PAGE OF THIS SITE]

The human instinct to identify cause and effect in nature and to manipulate natural forces for his benefit works over a wide spectrum from rational and scientific to religion, superstition, and witchcraft. Weather and climate are significant forces of nature to which man is constantly exposed and which he has overcome somewhat by adapting caves and building homes to shelter him from the weather. However, weather and climate extremes both short term weather change such as storms, temperature extremes, and precipitation extremes, and long term climate change to excessive dryness, excessive wetness, or long term transitions to warmer or colder temperatures are significant threats to man’s ability to survive and prosper. Yet, neither weather nor climate are stable and predictable but are subject to the random and chaotic whims of nature particularly so at brief time scales and small geographical extents[LINK]  

How Human Sacrifice Propped Up the Social Order - Scientific American

The dependence of man on weather increased sharply after the Neolithic Revolution because man changed from a mobile nomadic lifestyle to a sedentary one; but more importantly because it involved dependence on agriculture such that crop failure due to adverse weather can have a devastating life or death impact on settled farmers. Ancient superstitions involving human sacrifices and giving up your newborn or firstborn to the gods to ensure a good harvest can be understood in this contest.

Climate science holds that Human Caused Climate Change by way of fossil fuel emissions has destabilized the natural climate system such that it is now capable of unusual and extreme weather events. Once this hypothesis is fully accepted it triggers superstitious behavior in humans such that any and all odd and unusual aspects of weather that might otherwise have been accepted as the known irregular and volatile nature of weather, are instead attributed to climate change.

Such attribution serves to re-enforce the belief in the dangerous nature of climate change and the urgency of Climate Action to prevent the harm that it might otherwise cause. Yet, this superstition is actually presented by climate scientists as empirical evidence of human caused climate change in terms of what has come to be called “Event Attribution Science” (Munshi, 2017) (Trenberth, 2015) (Stott, 2016) (Hegerl, 2010). This aspect of human behavior, where an assumed theory of causation guides the interpretation of data in a way that re-enforces the theory of causation can be described in terms of superstition. Related post:  EVENT ATTRIBUTION SCIENCE

Superstition in humans as well as in other creatures is well documented in numerous works in the field of superstitious beliefs, superstitious behavior and the nature of superstition as an innate characteristic of humans and other creatures that derives from adaptive learning and survival (Skinner, 1948)(Timberlake, 1985)(Burnham, 1987) (Brewton, 1930) (Vyse, 2013) (Preece, 2000) (Otis, 1982) (Maller, 1933) (Beck, 2007).

A specific issue in the study of superstition is that of confirmation bias in the interpretation of data and events. For example, if one believes in the overarching power of luck in shaping our lives, and that one’s luck can be enhanced by visiting a certain shrine or wearing a special amulet, then such action will impose a confirmation bias such that unfavorable events will be overlooked and favorable events will be seen as empirical evidence of enhanced luck that can be attributed to the shrine or the amulet (Brugger, 1997) (Sterman, 2006) (MacCoun, 1998) (Tsang, 2004) (MacKay, 1841) (Tyszka, 2008) (Risen, 2016). It is this trickery of the brain that explains why superstition survives and why it plays a significant role in our lives even when what we do appears on the surface to be science. The Nickerson 1998 paper describes this phenomenon in some detail from a psychologist’s point of view with useful examples.

Nickerson, Raymond S. “Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises.” Review of general psychology2.2 (1998): 175. Confirmation bias, as the term is typically used in the psychological literature, connotes the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand. The author reviews evidence of such a bias in a variety of guises and gives examples of its operation in several practical contexts. Possible explanations are considered, and the question of its utility or dis-utility is discussed.

SORCERY KILLINGS IN MELANESIA: A relevant issue in the study of superstition in humans is the well documented phenomenon of sorcery accusations and sorcery killings in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). These events demonstrate the application of superstition in a real life setting in the chilling context of life and death. As well, they can be used as real world examples to demonstrate the correspondence between superstition and climate science. An extensive literature exists on these practices and on the role of sorcery in PNG highland culture (Lindenbaum, 2015) (Stephen, 1987) (Eves, 2013) (Urame, 2008).

Sorcery in this context has been described as “the deliberate use of magical rituals to injure, kill, or cause misfortune” (Eves, 2013) and this definition is further elaborated as a capacity to cause harm because of the ability to control extrinsic powers (Glick, 1973). This power of sorcery is believed to run in the family and so descendants of known sorcerers are readily suspected of practicing the art upon the slightest suspicion (Eves, 2013).

The issue of sorcery killings is complex (Urame, 2008). It cannot be generalized across Papua New Guinea because it exists in some societies and not in others; and varies greatly in form and severity in communities where it does exist. The situation is rendered even more complex because the practice evolves and changes over time such that in recent times there has been an emergence of young men as the primary accusers and executioners in sorcery killings.

The complex and changing situation in PNG with respect to sorcery accusations and sorcery killings contains a common logical structure in terms of the superstition that drives this practice. Sorcery related violence derives from a superstitious belief system that is common to most PNG communities. It is the belief that bad things don’t just happen by chance but that they have a cause (Beck, 2007) (Brewton, 1930); and that the cause is most likely to be the work of evil people in the community who can cause bad things by manipulating the spirits (Lindenbaum, 2015) (Urame, 2008). In this belief system, the more unusual the bad thing appears to be the more likely its evil cause (Vyse, 2013) (Urame, 2008).

Once a tragic event occurs and evil cause is suspected, a logical and well developed investigation procedure, not unlike Event Attribution Science, is activated, first to verify that it is a sorcery event, and second, if the event is verified to be a sorcery event, to identify the sorcerer that manipulated the forces of evil to cause the tragic event. The suspect event may be a sudden and unexpected death, an accidental death, a deathly sickness, a fire, death or loss of farm animals, or it may be a weather event such as temperature extremes, a drought, a flood, or a destructive storm. In all such cases, sorcery experts are brought in to study the situation for telltale signs of sorcery well known to them. Once it has been determined that the suspect event is a sorcery event, the investigation moves to the next stage – that of identifying the sorcerer.

Sorcerer identification, also known assorcery accusation”, follows a well-developed methodology based on well understood relationships developed over many generations (Urame, 2008) (Stephen, 1987). Sorcery tends to run in the family such that descendants of known sorcerers are more likely to be sorcerers than descendants of non-sorcerers. Another consideration is that sorcerers often use inanimate objects that are spiritually connected to the subject by physical or other means. For example, body hair, finger nails, and even feces that are thought to contain the spiritual signature of the subject may be used in casting the magical spell to cause harm to the selected subject. Even objects that were in close contact with the subject may be used for this purpose as for example, clothing or even a footprint carved into the mud by his or her bare feet. Therefore, possession of such items by persons in the community serves as evidence to identify them as potential sorcerers. Family members of the victim are also prime suspects because of the belief that “the blood of the relatives is hot” meaning that sorcery power is more effective when there is a blood connection (Urame, 2008). Other methods of identifying the sorcerer include past interpersonal history between the victim and members of the community that can reveal the motivation of the sorcerer in terms of prior confrontation, unresolved disputes, or interpersonal or inter-family stress.

Also relevant in identifying the sorcerer is the practical matter of making the accusation stick which requires the general approval of the community. This consideration creates a bias in the investigation that targets weaker members of the community less able to defend themselves and without much community support “such as old people and women” (Urame, 2008). The family connection at times results in a sorcery accusations against not just one individual but against an entire family thought to be a sorcery family.

Once the sorcery experts make their determination, “the science is settled” so to speak and it is not possible for “sorcery science deniers” to defend the accused. Once an accusation is made, no community member will come forward to defend the accused for fear of being accused of “protecting a sorcerer”, a crime that also carries the death penalty. The suspected sorcerer is seen as a present danger and a threat to the harmony and well-being of the community. Capital punishment is mandatory in this case for the greater good of the community.

THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

The methodology for identifying the sorcerer contains uncertainties and there is of course a chance that the identification may have been in error but it is not reasonable to demand 100% certainty and let a person go free when he or she could be a sorcerer with an acceptable degree of certainty. That risk to the community at large cannot be taken under these circumstances. The precautionary principle is thus invoked and immediate capital punishment is ordered. The judgement is defended and celebrated by the community because the accusers are considered defenders of the community who are providing protection from the powers of evil (Lindenbaum, 2015) (Urame, 2008).

In this context, it is necessary that capital punishment for sorcerers must be a horrific and painful event not only for the sorcerer to bear but also for the community to see, because these horrific events serve as a deterrent against sorcery in the community. This practice is facilitated by a culture of violence in Melanesia particularly in the highlands of PNG but also welcomed by the community as an assurance of protection from sorcery in the future. The torture and killing take various forms with the target of the killing being either an individual sorcerer or a family that has been identified as a family of sorcerers.

Some documented killings recorded by (Urame, 2008) are as follows: (1) tortured for hours with dismemberment and disembowelment, their house burnt down, and then put to death; (2) held at gunpoint, slowly tortured for hours, and eventually killed; (3) the accused was able to escape by running away from the community but his wife was captured and chopped into pieces with bush knives; (4) the accused, a mother, trying to run away with her baby in her arms, ducked a bush knife but the baby was taken from her and cut in half before putting the mother to death (Urame, 2008).

Yet, even after such exhibitions of heinous horror, the community remains pliant and compliant and thankful to the accusers and executioners for saving the community from sorcery. This relationship among the accused sorcerer family, the sorcery accusers, the executioners, and the community derives from a shared superstition about sorcery in which the sorcerer is evil and the cause of tragic evil events. In this context, the grotesque anti sorcery action taken by the accusers and executioners is a service rendered to the community for its continued protection from sorcery and therefore of its continued well-being. However horrific the procedure, it is a necessary evil for the best long term interests of interests of the community at large.

The parallels with the climate action principle of saving the planet whatever the economic destruction and human cost are chilling.

Entangled Minds: Witch burning

WITCH BURNINGS IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE

Another example of socially accepted violence carried out ostensibly on behalf of the community and rationalized by superstition is described by Dr. Sallie Baliunas (Baliunas, 2018). The issue arises in the context of bad weather and a culture of witch burning in medieval Europe.

The climate history of Europe records the so called Medieval Warm Period (MWP) that peaked in the period 900-1200 AD at about 0.6C warmer than the average for the millennium that preceded it. Soon thereafter, Europe plunged into a period of cooling that bottomed out in 1600-1800 AD at about 0.8C cooler than the high of the Medieval Warm Period. This cold period, known as the Little Ice Age (LIA), was a period of great hardship for Europeans.

Canals and rivers were frozen, growth of sea ice around Iceland closed down harbors and shipping, hailstorms and snowstorms were heavy and frequent, and road and water transport was made difficult or impossible. Agricultural failure and consequent starvation and death devastated Europe. The Scandinavian colonies in Greenland starved to death and disappeared (Matthews/Briffa, 2005) (Soon/Baliunas, 2003).

To the Europeans of the time used to relative warmth and agricultural wealth, these extreme weather events seemed abnormal, unusual and bizarre and therefore likely to have evil other-worldly causes and explanations. The human tendency to look for cause and effect relationships in extreme weather predicament and their usual solutions (Maller, 1933), drove the LIA Europeans to measures not unlike the sorcery killings of Melanesia.

Europeans of the time were mostly Christians but their version of religion carried with it superstitions and cultural norms that included sorcery and witchcraft (BenYehuda, 1980). Since the 13th century and through the ages since then, whenever Europeans faced hardship from extreme weather or disease epidemics or other natural calamities, they attributed their suffering to the forces of evil personified by witches – individuals thought to possess evil supernatural powers.

In this belief system, the danger and suffering the community faces from what is deemed to be “witch caused” unnatural events can be controlled and moderated by identifying the witch or witches responsible for these events in a “witch hunt” and trial, torturing them to extract a confession, and then burning them at the stake (Summers, 2014) (Behringer, 1995) (Monter, 2002) (Levack, 2015) (Behringer, 2004).

The specific case of the effort to take “climate action” against what is assumed to be unnatural witch-caused climate change, extreme weather, and agricultural collapse of the LIA proceeded by identifying the responsible witches and putting them to death at the stake is described by Christian Pfister and Sallie Baliunas (Pfister, 2006) (Baliunas, 2018) in terms of classic works on witch hunts and witch trials by Wolfgang Behringer and William Monter. (Soon/Baliunas, 2003, Climatic extremes, recurrent crises and witch hunts: strategies of European societies in coping with exogenous shocks in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries)

In addition to objective climatic data, subjective or social reactions can also serve as indicators in the assessment of climatic changes. Concerning the Little Ice Age the conception of witchcraft is of enormous importance. Weather-making counts among the traditional abilities of witches. During the late 14th and 15th centuries the traditional conception of witchcraft was transformed into the idea of a great conspiracy of witches, to explain “unnatural” climatic phenomena.

Because of their unpredictable and dangerous nature, particularly so with regard to their ability to generate hailstorms, the very idea of witches was the subject of controversial discussion around 1500. The beginnings of meteorology and its emphasis of “natural” reasons in relationship to the development of weather must be seen against the background of this demoniacal discussion.

The resurgence of witch hunts in the Little Ice Age revealed the susceptibility of society. Scapegoat reactions may be observed by the early 1560s even though climatologists, thus far, have been of the opinion that the cooling period did not begin until 1565. Despite attempts of containment, such as the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, extended witch-hunts took place at the various peaks of the Little Ice Age because a part of society held the witches directly responsible for the high frequency of climatic anomalies and the impacts thereof.

The enormous tensions created in society as a result of the persecution of witches demonstrate how dangerous it is to discuss climatic change under the aspects of morality.

WE PROPOSE IN THIS CONTEXT THAT THE INHERENT SUPERSTITIOUS NATURE OF HUMANS HAS BEEN USED IN THE CREATION OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS AND CLIMATE EMERGENCY OF OUR TIME IN WHICH FOSSIL FUELS, THE PRODUCERS OF FOSSIL FUELS, AND THE CAPITALIST ECONOMY THAT PROFITS FROM FOSSIL FUELS  ARE THE WITCHES THAT NEED TO BE BURNED TO FULFILL ACTIVISM NEEDS AGAINST FOSSIL FUELS. CLIMATE SCIENCE MAY HAVE SOME SCIENCE IN IT BUT IT IS BEST UNDERSTOOD AS ANTI FOSSIL FUEL ACTIVISM IN WHICH EXXON AND CAPITALISM ARE THE WITCHES. 

SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF SUPERSTITION AND CONFIRMATION BIAS IN CLIMATE SCIENCE ARE DESCRIBED IN RELATED POSTS. THEY ARE PARTICULARLY EVIDENT IN THE ATTRIBUTION OF BAD WEATHER OR CLIMATE EVENTS OR EVEN FOREST FIRES TO FOSSIL FUELS. OTHER AREAS OF CLIMATE SCIENCE WHERE SUPERSTITION IS EVIDENT ARE IN THE EXTREME FORM OF ATMOSPHERE BIAS IN THE UNDERSTANDING OF ALL CLIMATE AND GEOCHEMISTRY ANOMALIES. A SPECIFIC FORM OF THIS BIAS IS THE TENDENCY TO EXPLAIN OBSERVED CHANGES IN TERMS OF FOSSIL FUEL EMISSIONS. EXAMPLES ARE PROVIDED IN A LIST OF RELATED POSTS BELOW. 

RELATED POST: THE END OF THE WORLD:  [LINK]

 

SUPERSTITION AND CONFIRMATION BIAS IN CLIMATE SCIENCE

SOME EXAMPLES

A STATEMENT FROM NASA GISS AND JAMES HANSEN ON THE DANGER OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

Scientific reticence hinders communication with the public about the dangers of global warming. It is important that policy-makers recognize the potential influence of this phenomenon. Scientific reticence may be a consequence of the scientific method. Success in science depends on objective skepticism. Scientific reticence has its merits. However, in a case such as ice sheet instability and sea level rise, there is a danger of excessive reticence. [LINK TO SOURCE DOCUMENT]. TRANSLATION: ADHEFRENCE TO UNBIASED OBJECTIVE SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY INTERFERES WITH CLIMATE ACTIVISM.  

  1. DATA SELECTION BIAS:  There have been many Quaternary Interglacials in the past that humans had experienced in their caves but the Holocene is the first interglacial experienced by civilized humans because human civilization is a creation of the Holocene. A related post  describes a 10,000-year climate history of the Holocene from a literature review of proxy paleoclimate data [LINK]  where we find that the Holocene interglacial from the end of the Younger Dryas to the present has not been sustained period of warming, ice melt, and sea level rise  but chaotic cycles of about ten alternating periods of glacial retreat warming with sea level rise and glacial advance cooling with sea level decline at millennial and centennial time scales.
  2. The current period of warming and glacial retreat can only be understood in this context and not in isolation. The most significant and outrageous violation of the scientific method in the climate science of the fear of warming described as a creation of the industrial economy is that climate science has selected one of the ten Holocene climate cycles to explain in terms of the cause and effect phenomenon.
  3. If climate science can explain these Holocene temperature cycles as deterministic cause and effect phenomena, they must explain all of them and not just pick one of them to explain in that way because that kind of empirical research is subject to data selection bias, confirmation bias, and circular reasoning.
  4. The climate science of Anthropogenic Global Warming and Climate Change that has selected only the post LIA warming cycle to explain as a cause and effect phenomenon is rejected solely on that basis. Such objections to climate science based on an insistence on the scientific method cannot be described as science denial as eloquently clarified by James Hansen in the quote above. COP21: James Hansen, the father of climate change awareness, claims Paris  agreement is a 'fraud' | The Independent | The Independent
  1. RELATED POST:  AN EXCLUSIVE RELIANCE ON FOSSIL FUEL EMISSIONS OVERLOOKS NATURAL CARBON FLOWS. [LINK]  

  2. EVENT ATTRIBUTION SCIENCE:  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  
  3. THE INTERNAL VARIABILITY ISSUE IN CLIMATE SCIENCE THAT IS OVERLOOKED IN EVENT ATTRIBUTION SCIENCE:  [LINK]  
  4. THE AIRBORNE FRACTION ISSUE IN CLIMATE SCIENCE: [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  
  5. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION:  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]   [LINK]   
  6. ATMOSPHERE BIAS:  [LINK]   [LINK]  [LINK]  
  7. OCEAN HEAT CONTENT:  [LINK]  [LINK]  [LINK]  
  8. POLAR BEAR RESEARCH IN CLIMATE SCIENCE CONTAINS BOTH CONFIRMATION BIAS AND CIRCULAR REASONING. IT BEGINS WITH THE ASSUMPTION THAT CLIMATE CHANGE HAS MADE POLAR BEARS INTO AN ENDANGERED SPECIES WITH A LONG TERM DECLINE IN SUMMER SEA ICE EXTENT BECAUSE POLAR BEARS NEED SEA ICE TO HUNT FOR FOOD. THE RESEARCH THENUSES SOPHISTICATED WILDLIFE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY TO COMPARE POLAR BEAR SUB-POPULATIONS IN DIFFERENT REGIONS OF THE ARCTIC OVER AT BRIEF TIME SCALES OF 5 YEARS OR LESS AND THEN INTERPRETS ALL OBSERVED DIFFERENCES IN TERMS OF SEA ICE AND CLIMATE CHANGE. DETAILS IN A RELATED POST:  [LINK TO POLAR BEAR POST]
  9. WHEN DID AGW HUMAN CAUSED CLIMATE CHANGE START?

    Callendar 1938 [LINK] : It started in 1900 and warmed steadily from 1900 to 1938 with the warming driven by rising CO2 which in turn is attributable to fossil fuel emissions.  Hansen 1988 [LINK] : It started in 1950 because in the 30-year period 1950-1980 there is a strong measurable warming rate with 99% probability for human cause.  IPCC 2001: It started in 1750 when the Industrial Revolution kicked in and atmospheric CO2 began to rise.  IPCC 2015: It started in 1850 by when sufficient fossil fuel carbon had entered the atmosphere for a measurable response of temperature to CO2.  NASA 2020 [LINK] : It started in 1950 because from then the relationship between CO2 and temperature we see in the climate models closely matches the observational data.  Climate Scientist Peter Cox 2018 [LINK]  : It started in the 1970s because it is since then that we see a measurable responsiveness of surface temperature to atmospheric CO2 concentration according to the theory of the greenhouse effect of CO2.  WHAT WE SEE IN THIS LIST IS THE CONFIRMATION BIAS OF CIRCULAR REASONING IN WHICH THE DATA USED TO CONSTRUCT A HYPOTHESIS IS ALSO USED TO TEST THE HYPOTHESIS. 

  10. A THEORY THAT EXPLAINS SELECTED PHENOMENAAs described in a related post on this site, the current warming cycle (AGW) is just one of twelve centennial and millennial scale warming and cooling cycles of the Holocene interglacial [LINK] . The explanation that this particular Holocene warming cycle was human caused by way of fossil fuel emissions contains a data selection bias. If climate science can explain these Holocene temperature cycles as deterministic cause and effect phenomena, they should explain all of them and not just pick one of them to explain in that way because that kind of empirical research is subject to data selection bias, confirmation bias, and circular reasoning. The climate science of Anthropogenic Global Warming and Climate Change that has selected only the post LIA warming cycle to explain as a cause and effect phenomenon can be rejected solely on that basis. In another related post, a Keeling and Whorf paper makes the same argument and the authors propose a theory of the temperature cycles of the Holocene in terms of tidal cycle resonance dynamics[LINK] . 
  11. ABSENCE OF UNCERTAINTY AND DOUBT AND THE VILIFICATION OF CRITICS.  As described in the case of the sorcery killings of Melanesia, a principal feature of superstition is absolute certainty in their findings and conclusions in conjunction with fear and loathing of superstition deniers who are usually also killed because the community cannot take the chance that the deniers are sorcerers in dormant form. This pattern of vilification, hostility, and violence against those who raise doubt in sorcery science, methods, and findings is also found in climate science. In all other forms of science we will find at least one mention of uncertainty in the findings or conclusions section of the paper as for example “The details of the our hypothesis are complex. There is much about these forcings that we do not know” (Keeling and Whorf). However, this common feature of research papers is not found in climate science where absolute certainty of human cause and of the need for changing the energy infrastructure from fossil fuels to renewables to save the planet is assumed with a corresponding hostility towards deniers as in the sorcery killings of Melanesia. [LINK]

TO SUMMARIZE: IN CLIMATE SCIENCE AS IN SUPERSTITION, ONCE A HYPOTHESIS TAKES HOLD, EVERY ODDITY IS SEEN AS EVIDENCE THAT VERIFIES AND REINFORCES THE HYPOTHESIS. 

 

REFERENCES

Baliunas, S. (2018, 3). Burn climate witches. Retrieved from quadrant.org: https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/doomed-planet/2018/03/burn-climate-witches-burn/Beck, J. (2007). Superstition and belief as inevitable by-products of an adaptive learning strategy. Human Nature, 18.1 (2007): 35-46.Behringer, W. (1995). Weather, hunger and fear: Origins of the European Witch Hunts in Climate, Society and Mentality. German History, 13.1 (1995): 1.Behringer, W. (2004). Witches and witch-hunts. A global history. Polity,, 2004.BenYehuda, N. (1980). The European witch craze of the 14th to 17th centuries: A sociologist’s perspective. American Journal of Sociology, 86.1 (1980): 1-31.Brewton, B. (1930). THE NATURE OF SUPERSTITION. The Ohio Sociologist, 3.3 (1930): 6-12.Brugger, P. (1997). Testing vs. believing hypotheses: Magical ideation in the judgement of contingencies. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry , 2.4 (1997): 251-272.Burnham, J. (1987). How superstition won and science lost: Popularizing science and health in the United States. . New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.Eves, R. (2013). Sorcery and Witchcraft in Papua New Guinea: Problems in Definition. Canberra: ANU Australian National University.Glick, L. (1973). Sorcery and witchcraft. Anthropology in Papua New Guinea, (1973): 182-186.

Hegerl, G. (2010). Good practice guidance paper on detection and attribution related to anthropogenic climate change. Bern: IPCC.

Kerr, A. (2015). Tradition as Precedent: Articulating Animal Law Reform in China. J. Animal & Nat. Resource, L. 11 (2015): 71.

Levack, B. (2015). The witch-hunt in early modern Europe. London: Routledge, 2015.

Lindenbaum, S. (2015). Kuru sorcery: disease and danger in the New Guinea highlands. London: Routledge, 2015.

MacCoun, R. (1998). Biases in the interpretation and use of research results. Annual review of psychology, 49.1 (1998): 259-287.

MacKay, J. (1841). Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. London: Richard Bentley.

Maller, J. (1933). Sources of superstitious beliefs. The Journal of Educational Research, 26.5 (1933): 321-343.

Matthews/Briffa. (2005). Little Ice Age’: re‐evaluation of an evolving concept. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 87.1 (2005): 17-36.

Monter, W. (2002). Witch Trials in Continental Europe 1560–1660. Witchcraft and magic in Europe: The period of the witch trials, (2002): 3-52.

Munshi, J. (2017). Event Attribution. SSRN, https://ssrn.com/abstract=2929159.

Otis, L. (1982). Factors affecting extraordinary belief. The Journal of Social Psychology, 118.1 (1982): 77-85.

Pfister, C. (2006). Climatic extremes, recurrent crises and witch hunts: strategies of European societies in coping with exogenous shocks in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The Medieval History Journal, 10.1-2 (2006): 33-73.

Preece, P. (2000). Scepticism and gullibility: The superstitious and pseudo-scientific beliefs of secondary school students. International Journal of Science Education, 22.11 (2000): 1147-1156.

Risen, J. (2016). Believing what we do not believe: Acquiescence to superstitious beliefs and other powerful intuitions. Psychological Review , 123.2 (2016): 182.

Skinner, B. (1948). Superstition’in the pigeon. Journal of experimental psychology, 38.2 (1948): 168.

Soon/Baliunas. (2003). Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years. Climate Research, 23.2 (2003): 89-110.

Stephen, M. (1987). Sorcerer and witch in Melanesia. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1987.

Sterman, J. (2006). Learning from evidence in a complex world. American journal of public health, 96.3 (2006): 505-514.

Stott, P. (2016). Attribution of extreme weather and climate‐related events. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 7.1 (2016): 23-41.

Summers, M. (2014). The history of witchcraft and demonology. London: Routledge, 2014.

Timberlake, W. (1985). The basis of superstitious behavior: chance contingency, stimulus substitution, or appetitive behavior? Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior, 44.3 (1985): 279-299.

Trenberth, K. (2015). Attribution of climate extreme events. Nature Climate Change, 5.8 (2015): 725.

Tsang, E. (2004). Superstition and decision-making: Contradiction or complement? Academy of Management Perspectives, 18.4 (2004): 92-104.

Tyszka, T. (2008). Perception of randomness and predicting uncertain events. Thinking & Reasoning, 14.1 (2008): 83-110.

Urame, J. (2008). Sorcery, witchcraft and Christianity in Melanesia. Goroka, Papua New Guinea: Melanesian Institute.

Vyse, S. (2013). Believing in magic: The psychology of superstition-updated edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

WMO. (2017). FAQ. Retrieved from WMO: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/ccl/faq/faq_doc_en.html

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45 Responses to "Superstition, Confirmation Bias, and Climate Change"

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[…] Thus the ultimate form of circular reasoning is found in (Emanuel, 2005) in which a high level of confidence ex-ante in the truth of the proposition that AGW causes extreme tropical cyclone activity left the presentation of empirical evidence of that relationship as mere detail. The role of confirmation bias in research of this nature is discussed in a related post [CONFIRMATION BIAS] . […]

Fantastic. You have written a highly organized and insightful review on this disturbing idea.
The recent declarations by climate extremists blaming President Trump for hurricane Florence made me realize how unhinged and irrational the “climate consensus” truly is.
You gave given a great deal of thought to this and have well documented how dangerous yet pathetic climate extremism is.
Thank you.

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[…] Superstition, Confirmation Bias, and Climate Change […]

[…] Superstition, Confirmation Bias, and Climate Change […]

[…] Although a linear regression line through the curves in Figure 14 will show a rising trend, the actual pattern seen does not support that view. Rather, the the attribution of these events to human cause and the climate model predictions of drought in the South therefrom, appear to fit a pattern of circular reasoning and the so called “Texas sharpshooter fallacy” possibly by virtue of a strong confirmation bias in climate science that has shaped prior research in the so called “Event Attribution Science”. A related post at this site on confirmation bias is relevant in this regard  [LINK] […]

[…] RELATED POST: THE CLIMATE PHOBIA MENTAL ILLNESS DERIVES FROM OUR NATURAL TENDENCY TO SUPERSTITION AND CONFIRMATION BIAS [LINK] […]

[…] known property of human cognition called confirmation bias described more fully in a related post [LINK] […]

[…] RELATED POST: THE CLIMATE PHOBIA MENTAL ILLNESS DERIVES FROM OUR NATURAL TENDENCY TO SUPERSTITION AND CONFIRMATION BIAS [LINK] […]

[…] The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events. Extreme weather events happen anyway naturally without the use of fossil fuel emissions as seen in thousands of years of weather records kept by the Chinese government in the Fang-Zhi, ancient Egyptian records, in the Late Bronze Age Collapse, and in the meticulous weather records of the British colonial government in India where devastating extreme weather events on record include the Bengal droughts of 1770, 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897, and 1943, the Calcutta cyclone of 1737, and lastly the Bhola cyclone that occurred during a time of global cooling in 1970. Therefore, the occurrence of droughts, floods, extreme storms, and heatwaves in this period of warming does not establish a causal connection to fossil fuel emissions. It  must be shown that there are long term trends related to fossil fuel emissions or that a distinction can be made in the aggregate events in the post industrial era compared with a corresponding pre-industrial era. No such evidence exists. In fact all studies of long term trends have failed to find a trend imposed by the use of fossil fuels in the post industrial era. See for example, the trend in tropical cyclones presented in a related post [LINK] . The only evidence presented is in terms of what is called “Event Attribution Science” where individual events are examined in climate models to compare the probability of the event in a world with fossil fuel emissions with that in a world without fossil fuel emissions and then to use the ratio of these probabilities to make a determination that that particular event was or was not caused by fossil fuel emissions. This procedure is derived from the so called “Warsaw International Mechanism” (WIM) devised by the United Nations for the allocation of climate change impact compensation funding to poor countries deemed “vulnerable” to climate change impacts. The elevation of this procedure to empirical evidence by giving it a different name that includes the word “science” does not make it science because climate models are an expression of the theory and empirical evidence must be independent of theory to be free of circular reasoning and confirmation bias. Related Posts: [LINK] [LINK] […]

What a great post. However I’m left feeling a little “And……???”

It would perhaps help with a bit of an essay drawing all these points together. It’s like having all the squares of material, you need to sew them together to get a blanket. You and I know what you are saying, but many will not join the dots on their own.

Still a great post.

Great. You reported in a gorgeous way.

Another brilliant piece of work, on my favourite foibles of Human Nature:
Logical Fallacies, Confirmation Bias & Axiomatic thinking.
Thank you …

[…] tampering are acceptable and even necessary as long as it is for a noble cause [Related Post] [Related Post] . Famous precursors  of such science that may serve as a model for climate science are Rachel […]

[…] The claim that climate change has caused extreme weather and made tropical cyclones more destructive is without empirical evidence. The famous paper by MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel that climate change has increased the destructiveness of North Atlantic hurricanes contains gross methodological and statistical errors that one would expect to see only at the undergraduate level. The Emanuel paper is discussed in a related post [LINK] .  The failure of the case by climate scientists that climate change is making tropical cyclones more extreme is discussed in two related posts [LINK]  [LINK] . Evidence of tropical cyclones “in pre industrial times” (that is prior to AGW) that are worse than what we see today in post industrial times, is presented in a related post [LINK] . The attribution of extreme weather events to climate change after the fact with what is called “Event Attribution Science” is not science but a combination of circular reasoning and confirmation bias described in related posts [LINK] [LINK] . […]

[…] that will support the cause of the activist as described in this related post on confirmation bias [LINK] .  Also, the statement “So climate tipping points are too risky to bet against” in the […]

[…] the most salient of which is that post hoc attribution is likely to contain confirmation bias [LINK] particularly so when the scientists in question have a vested interest in a positive attribution in […]

[…] It is highly unlikely that these events are driven by fossil fuel emissions, that they can be moderated with climate action in the form of reducing or eliminating fossil fuel emissions; or that MHW will increase 25 fold by the year 2100 if we don’t take climate action. The attribution of these SST anomalies to AGW climate change appears to be arbitrary and a case of confirmation bias [LINK] […]

[…] attributions of this kind to AGW are likely driven by activism needs and confirmation bias [LINK] . They have no interpretation in terms of AGW climate change and they do not conform to the […]

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