Climate and Psych 101: Science Denial’s History of Projection

March 13, 2022


Projection: the mental process by which people attribute to others what is in their own minds.
At a social level, racismsexismxenophobiahomophobia, and other malignant “othering” mindsets have been attributed at least partly to projection. There is research evidence, for example, that men with notably homophobic attitudes have higher-than-average same-sex arousal, of which they are unaware.


Above, from 2009. (only 2 minutes)

Thomas Sowell is an economist and columnist, a “Senior Fellow” at Stanford University’s (big deal “conservative think tank”) Hoover Institution. Still around but so far as I know retired at age 91.

Future psychologists will marvel at how the behavior of right wing science deniers tracked remarkably true to fundamental principles of “defense mechanisms”, for example, Projection – during this critical moment in history. Careful listeners will hear echoes of the attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci and today’s epidemiological science, related to Covid 19.
My dealings with deniers are always a walk-thru of Psych 101.


Sigmund Freud proposed the idea of defense mechanisms as part of his psychoanalytic theory. A defense mechanism is an unconscious strategy people use to defend the ego against uncomfortable personal characteristics that would cause anxiety if they recognized them consciously.

Listening to the discussion above, you see two apparently educated members of the conservative elite constructing a narrative that they know will be palatable to the wealthy foundations (Koch, Scaife et al) who fund them, thus generating more funding for themselves. Their narrative accuses climate scientists of creating the entire evidentiary base of climate science to do exactly that.

With hindsight all the more glaring.

History will not be kind.

3 Responses to “Climate and Psych 101: Science Denial’s History of Projection”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    On a political blog I frequent conservative/maga talking points prompt the acronym EAIAC:

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    Hallelujah! And thank you. I hope this is the first of many about the reasons for climate denying delayalism. Without acknowledging & understanding the psychological roots we can’t possibly heal the disease behind the problem, without at least beginning that we will never effectively advance actions to prevent ecological cataclysm.

  3. mboli Says:

    Sowell is indeed a full-on denier. Here is a column from 2002:

    The campaign to stampede the federal government into drastic action to counter “global warming” has never let honesty cramp its style. The most recent ploy has been the release of a study from the Environmental Protection Agency that concluded that human actions were responsible for rising temperatures and that government restrictions on those actions were necessary to prevent various disastrous scenarios from unfolding.
    This is by no means the first time that a supposedly “scientific” report turned out to be a political report wrapping itself in the mantle of science.

    Sowell concludes that column by saying warming would bring benefits we won’t experience because it mostly isn’t happening.

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