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Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face

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Tag: human nature

091110-082

 

America’s tradition of anti-intellectualism puts a low premium on careful thinking, allowing the substitution of slogans for analysis. The current presidential campaign should be evidence enough of how true this is.
But there is another reason for resistance to careful thinking; it can be difficult and distressing, especially if it leads to conclusions that are uncomfortable or contrary to our current beliefs.

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Now would be an excellent time to ponder for a moment or two just how many more problems we want to create, how many more options we want to take off the table, and how many burdens we want to inflict on ourselves by continuing to roll down the same highway without full discussions and disclosures about all of the energy considerations we need to focus on. That won’t always be a happy tale to tell, and it won’t always flatter key players, but it will get more of us thinking and planning and preparing for a different but not necessarily “worse” future.

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Scientists say there’s a tension in the brain between responding to new information and resisting overwhelming amounts of conflicting data—and the latter can prevent opinion change.
Altering opinion depends on using different psychological methods tailored to different types of belief.… ‘There’s not much convincing people,’ even when the beliefs in question are purely false, says psychiatrist Philip Corlett of Yale University School of Medicine.

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The management of uncertainty is served by resistance to change insofar as change (by its very nature) upsets existing realities and is fraught with epistemic insecurity. *

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The researchers found that being intolerant of ambiguity is associated with such conservative characteristics as unwavering certainty and strong loyalty to particular people and positions.
Conservatives don’t feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions. They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white.…

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Shaping our identity in large part by the groups we align ourselves with for emotional, psychological, cultural, and political reasons are powerful anchors—individually and collectively. All of us are much more inclined to seek out information and assurances which bolster who we believe ourselves to be rather than contemplate facts or assessments casting doubt about our choices and conclusions.

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The essential problem is not just that we are tapping the wrong energy sources (though we are), or that we are wasteful and inefficient (though we are), but that we are overpowered, and we are overpowering nature – Richard Heinberg, from the Introduction to ENERGY

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I ended last week’s post with this observation: “We could do so much worse than taking some time now to find just enough courage to acknowledge that we face some fact-based challenges in the years to come.

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As cognitive dissonance theory would predict, people tend to avoid information that is dissonant with their current beliefs and seek consonant information, especially when they are already committed to a particular position [citations in original pdf]

I’ll conclude this portion of the series with some unedited comments about President Obama by anonymous readers of the American Thinker article discussed in prior posts. It’s a remarkable but unfortunately not uncommon sampling of what passes for reasoned responses—at least for those having any relevance at all to the article about our future energy supply and its dismissive treatment of any concerns about fossil fuel production—from a too-large segment of the far Right on almost any issue dividing Left from Right. That’s not to say those on the Left don’t contribute their share of discord, but from my very unscientific observations over a numbers of years, the personal attacks are far fewer; and one finds more substantiation of the positions taken.

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Confirmation bias is the tendency of individuals to pay attention to or believe information that confirms the personal values and beliefs they already hold, rather than allowing their beliefs to be changed by new information.
It’s a powerful force that many researchers have suggested plays a key role in the persistence of phenomena such as climate doubt. With an overwhelming abundance of evidence pointing to the existence of anthropogenic climate change, for instance, many scientists have questioned why skepticism continues to be pervasive in society. Sociologists have suggested that the reason has to do with the fact that it’s difficult to change an individual’s worldview simply by presenting new information. Confirmation bias, rather, leads people to seek out evidence — however small or poorly supported — that supports their existing personal beliefs. [1]

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