Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Should one lower one's cholesterol?

Irrational beliefs I hold about carbon emissions
I have two sets of beliefs about global warming...
Is this because I visited the ocean as a child, and received some mysterious emotional sense of its powers, a sense which I can no longer eradicate from my subconscious? Or am I more generally attracted to explanations which postulate some deeper but slightly hidden or indirect problem with status quo policies? (I could look for signs that I hold similar delusions elsewhere.)
I try to keep these beliefs from affecting my policy conclusions, but I am not altogether able to stop holding them. And even if my belief turns out to be true (which I expect someone to suggest in the comments), I am quite sure my procedural reason for holding it is an irrational one. Posted by Tyler Cowen on September 25, 2007 at 08:44 AM in Science Permalink Comments
What you are dancing around is the issue of trust. We can't be experts on everything, so we take a lot of what we believe based upon trust.
There are two types of trust. One is trust based upon authority. This is how ideologies function. These can be religious, political or economic. The data is ambiguous, so great weight is given to those who guide the movement. Some people are more predisposed to follow this type of model.
The other type of trust is based upon scientific evidence. The trust comes in when one has to evaluate the trustworthiness of those providing the evidence (and drawing the conclusions). There is little debate over the fact that the moon causes the tides although I'm not aware of individuals doing experiments on their own to validate this.
There is more difficulty when the evidence is still being developed or when it is based upon epidemiological studies. Should one lower one's cholesterol? Well there are plenty of fat old people around who don't have heart attacks.
There also seems to be a correlation between those who are strong adherents to an ideology and their unwillingness to accept scientific evidence that questions their core beliefs. The classic example these days is those who disbelieve evolution.
It appears that those who are doubtful about human caused climate change also fall into this class. Most of the strongest deniers have a belief in the benefits of the capitalist system. This is based upon growth and climate change implies that there may be a need to change this goal. In a finite world permanent growth is impossible. Then something else will have to replace capitalism. Rather than give up the economic ideology, question the science.
Unfortunately for the human race, mother nature doesn't read partisan screeds. Posted by: robertdfeinman at Sep 25, 2007 11:57:12 AM

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