The Mind of the Denier

July 13, 2010

Former White House attorney John Dean discusses research on the authoritarian mind, and in doing so, sheds light on the impenetrable, hermetically sealed logic loop that is climate denialism.

It happens that I came across another piece tonight from the Boston Globe, How Facts Backfire, that also discusses how science uncovers disquieting truths about democracy, media, and the mind.

“In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. “

5 Responses to “The Mind of the Denier”

  1. Scott Mandia Says:


    Although one study does not a rule make, I blogged on Schwartz, et al. (2007) in a post titled:
    Truth is in the Bias of the Beholder which appears to fit with your post here.

  2. Timothy Chase Says:

    Oddly enough I had found the book online earlier this week. I forget which blog suggested it — but definitely the sort of thing I am interested in.

    As suggested simply in the talk itself, for the authoritarian type personality it would seem that what they take to be most important is the authority itself. Politics and ideology come before science and evaluation before identification. Scientific claims are simply another weapon of ideology. Oddly Marxist in this regard:

    … don’t wrangle with us so long as you apply… the standard of your bourgeois notions of freedom, culture, law, etc. Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will, whose essential character and direction are determined by the economic conditions of existence of your class…. The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical, and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination.

    Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man’s ideas, views and conceptions, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life?

    What else does the history of ideas prove than that intellectual production changes its character to the extent that material production is changed? The ruling ideas of each age have always been the ideas of its ruling class.

    “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx

    The idea that your fundamental relationship is between you and reality would appear to be utterly alien to them.

  3. Scott Mandia Says:

    Christopher Monckton and other deniers get far more press coverage than they deserve. Journalistic false balance has caused the public to be confused on climate change – the greatest threat to humanity this century. Worse, these deniers have used mainstream media to attack climate science and the scientists who pursue the truth. Let us now turn the tables.

    Monckton has been exposed by Dr. John Abraham and instead of hiding his tail and whimpering away, Monckton has gone on the offensive by attacking Dr. Abraham and asking his followers to essentially “email bomb” Dr. Abraham’s university president. We need to alert the media to this story.

    I have assembled a list of 57 media contacts in the hopes that my readers will follow my lead and send letters asking for an investigation of Monckton and his attack on Abraham. I have placed mailto links that will make it easy to send letters to several contacts at once with a single click.

    In the thread comments, please suggest other contacts in the US and from abroad. This blog thread can then be used in the future to alert the media to denialist activity.

  4. auldblackjack Says:

    “Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds.”

    Reading this put me in mind of something I heard on a video over at the T.E.D. site.

    While the entire video is interesting, the relevant portion begins @ 5:45 …… convincing argument that decision making is biologically determined to be driven by emotion and not reason.

  5. […] learned about this video from the Climate Crocks posting, The Mind of the Denier, part of a series of videos which challenge another group of deniers, the global warming deniers, […]

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