Friday, December 11, 2009

climate change, peak oil, limits to growth - belief systems


The Oil Drum | Many of the issues discussed on this bandwidth are large, long term, and threatening. Consider the three primary society-wide topics of analysis and discourse: climate, energy and the economy. It is my belief these 3 are linked by an underlying cultural growth/debt imperative running into a planet with finite sources and sinks. But within each category you have, still, despite the same access to facts and considerable passage of time, widely disparate and strongly held opinions. E.g. climate change is largely anthropogenic/climate change is largely naturally forced; peak oil is past/ peak oil is decades away; the financial crisis is passed/ government handouts have made the financial peril even greater etc. If you find yourself in a debate about any of these issues you'll find apathy or you'll find cognitive biases underlying a polarized opinion.

This post will address some social and psychological reasons why the urgency of our resource situation may not be being addressed on an individual level and only at a snails pace on the governmental level. Among the phenomena we will explore are a) why we have beliefs and how they are changed, b) our propensity to believe in authority figures, c) our penchant for optimism, d) cognitive load theory, e) relative fitness, f) the recency effect, and several others.