Cognitive Dissonance Alert: Mooney Edition

It’s been a while, but this isn’t my typical venting session about how Mooney continues to not get it about the impracticality of his “war on science” crusade.

In the last week Mooney has had a piece released on Mother Jones called “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science.”  It discusses a phenomena called motivated reasoning – rationalizing of previously established feelings or beliefs are bolstered by selective selection of scientific data.  Not an especially new idea, but it’s new to Mooney.

Where the cognitive dissonance comes in is the latest salvo in the increasingly overheated ground of media coverage over climate change issues.  Matt Nisbet at American University has just released a report reviewing the following issues:

  • the financial resources and spending of environmental groups and their opponents;
  • the planning efforts and investment strategies of major foundations;
  • the patterns in news attention and media portrayals of climate change;
  • the factors shaping the recent decline in public concern and belief in climate change;
  • the factors influencing how scientists and environmentalists interpret and make sense of climate change politics.

While not intended (if I read Nisbet correctly) primarily to answer these questions once and for all, it’s all too easy for folks to read it that way.  That likely motivated Joe Romm in breaking the press embargo on the report and start criticizing the interpretations of the evidence Nisbet gathered.  Mooney seems likely to pile on, if for no other reason than he sees it as contradicting the reason most people listen to him in the first place – his “war on science” meme.

While I, as you might expect, don’t agree, that’s not the point here.  Given this piece on ‘motivated reasoning’ is fresh on Mooney’s mind, it would be nice to see it factor into his response.  But I don’t expect it to.  What he’s done in the past when faced with inconvenient evidence is to downplay or dismiss it.  Which makes me wonder why it took him this long to write this piece, since he’s acted it out a lot.

Independent of Mooney’s apparent inability to apply individual bits of his work to areas where they may take purchase, the report is likely to get drowned out by the arguing over evidence on side points to have its main goals considered by the target audiences.  Which is kind of like why there’s no serious discussion of policies to lower emissions.  There are plenty of good reasons to do so independent of climate change, but that’s all anyone seems to talk about.


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