Who do you trust: the liar or the hypocrite?
Some people like to accuse those are worried about climate change of being “hypocrites”. Why? Because we still fly around in planes, drive cars and so on.
What’s the argument? Could it be this?
“If even those folks who claim there’s a problem aren’t willing to do anything about it, it must not really be a problem.”
That argument is invalid. Say we have a married couple who both smoke. The husband says “we should quit smoking.” But he keeps smoking. Does this mean that it’s okay to smoke?
Or suppose he says “you should quit smoking”, but keeps on smoking himself. That’s would be infuriating. But it doesn’t make the statement less true.
Indeed, our civilization is addicted to burning carbon. It’s a lot like being addicted to nicotine. Addiction leads people to say one thing and do another. You know you should change your behavior—but you don’t have the will power. Or you do for a while… but then you lapse.
I see this in myself. I try to stop taking airplane flights, but like most successful scientists I get lots of invitations to conferences, with free flights to fun places. It’s hard to resist. It’s like offering cigarettes to someone who is trying to quit. I can resist nine times and cave in on the tenth! I can “relapse” for months and then come to my senses.
In fact the accusation of hypocrisy is not about the facts of climate change. It’s about choosing a social group:
“The people who want you to take climate change seriously are hypocrites. Don’t be a sucker. Don’t let them boss you around. Join us instead.”
This takes advantage of a psychological fact: most of us prefer liars to hypocrites. A lie is forgivable. But hypocrisy—someone publicly saying you should do something when they don’t themselves—is not.
There are studies about this:
• Association for Psychological Science, We dislike hypocrites because they deceive us, 30 January 2017.
The title of this article is wrong. Liars also deceive us. We hate hypocrites for other reasons.
We’re averse to hypocrites because their disavowal of bad behavior sends a false signal, misleading us into thinking they’re virtuous when they’re not, according to new findings in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research shows that people dislike hypocrites more than those who openly admit to engaging in a behavior that they disapprove of.
“People dislike hypocrites because they unfairly use condemnation to gain reputational benefits and appear virtuous at the expense of those who they are condemning–when these reputational benefits are in fact undeserved,” explains psychological scientist Jillian Jordan of Yale University, first author on the research.
Intuitively, it seems that we might dislike hypocrites because their word is inconsistent with their behavior, because they lack the self-control to behave according to their own morals, or because they deliberately engage in behaviors that they know to be morally wrong. All of these explanations seem plausible, but the new findings suggest that it’s the misrepresentation of their moral character that really raises our ire.
In an online study with 619 participants, Jordan and Yale colleagues Roseanna Sommers, Paul Bloom, and David G. Rand presented each participant with four scenarios about characters engaging in possible moral transgressions: a member of a track team using performance-enhancing drugs, a student cheating on a take-home chemistry exam, an employee failing to meet a deadline on a team project, and a member of a hiking club who engaged in infidelity.
In each scenario, participants read about a conversation involving moral condemnation of a transgression. The researchers varied whether the condemnation came from a “target character” (who subjects would later evaluate) or somebody else, as well as whether the scenario provided direct information about the target character’s own moral behavior. Participants then evaluated how trustworthy and likeable the target character was, as well as the likelihood that the target character would engage in the transgression.
The results showed that participants viewed the target more positively when he or she condemned the bad behavior in the scenario, but only when they had no information about how the character actually behaved. This suggests that we tend to interpret condemnation as a signal of moral behavior in the absence of direct information.
A second online study showed that condemning bad behavior conveyed a greater reputational boost for the character than directly stating that he or she didn’t engage in the behavior.
“Condemnation can act as a stronger signal of one’s own moral goodness than a direct statement of moral behavior,” the researchers write.
And additional data suggest that people dislike hypocrites even more than they dislike liars. In a third online study, participants had a lower opinion of a character who illegally downloaded music when he or she condemned the behavior than when he or she directly denied engaging in it.
I believe the accusation of hypocrisy is trying to set up a binary choice:
“Whose side are you on? Those hypocrites who say climate change is a problem and try to get you to make sacrifices, while they don’t? Or us liars, who say there’s no problem and your behavior is fine?”
Of course, being liars, they leave out the word “liars”.
One way out is to realize it’s not a binary choice.
There’s a third position: the honest hypocrite.
Perhaps the most critical piece of evidence for the theory of hypocrisy as false signaling is that people disliked hypocrites more than so-called “honest hypocrites.” In a fourth online study, the researchers tested perceptions of “honest hypocrites,” who—like traditional hypocrites—condemn behaviors that they engage in, but who also admit that they sometimes commit those behaviors.
“The extent to which people forgive honest hypocrites was striking to us,” says Jordan. “These honest hypocrites are seen as no worse than people who commit the same transgressions but keep their mouths shut and refrain from judging others for doing the same — suggesting that the entirety of our dislike for hypocrites can be attributed to the fact that they falsely signal their virtue.”
There’s also a fourth position: the non-liar, non-hypocrite. That’s even better. But sometimes, when we need to take collective action, we should listen to the honest hypocrite, who tells us that we should all take action, but admits he’s not doing it yet.
And now, here’s a great example of someone trying take advantage of our hatred of hypocrites. Pay careful attention to how she cleverly tries to manipulate you! By the end you’ll feel different than when you started. If she were trying to get you to smoke, by the end you’d light up a cigarette and feel proud of yourself.
The Hypocrisy of Climate Change Advocates
So according to all the hysterical people, President-elect Donald Trump has appointed the most climate denier cabinet ever. As cabinet confirmation hearings get underway, expect to hear the charge “climate denier!” a lot.
For those of you who don’t know what a climate denier is, it means you either challenge, question or flat-out reject the idea that the planet is warming due to human activity. In the scientific world and in the world of international liberal groupthink (but I repeat myself), this is blasphemy. Should you remotely doubt the dubious models, unrealized dire predictions, changing goal posts or flawed data related to climate science, you are not just stupid according to these folks, but you are on par with those who deny the Holocaust.
Even people who believe in manmade climate change (or AGW, anthropogenic global warming) have been excommunicated from the climate tribe for raising any concern about climate science. Last month, Roger Pielke, Jr. wrote a revealing op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about how he became a target of the climate junta for saying there was no connection between weather disasters and climate change. Although Pielke believes in AGW and even supports a carbon tax to mitigate its impact, his scrutiny made him a target of powerful folks in Congress, the media and even the White House.
The first time I was called a climate denier was a few years ago, after I started writing about agricultural biotechnology or GMOs. The charge was an attempt to undermine my credibility on supporting genetic engineering: the line of attack was, if you don’t believe the science and consensus about man-made global warming, you are a scientific illiterate who has no business speaking in defense of other scientific issues like biotechnology. This was often dished out by climate change pushers who also oppose GMOs because they are anti-capitalist, anti-corporate ideologues (Bernie Sanders could be the poster child for this).
As I did more research on climate change, I learned one important thing: being a climate change believer means never having to say you’re sorry, or at least never making any major sacrifice to your lifestyle that would mitigate the pending doom you are so preoccupied with (but, sea ice!). You can go along with climate change dogma and do virtually nothing about it except recycle your newspapers while self-righteously calling the other side names. From the Pope to the president to the smug suburban mom, climate adherents live in glass houses that function thanks to evil stuff like oil and gas while throwing rocks at us so-called deniers.
So who are the real deniers: those who are reasonably skeptical about climate change or those who give lots of lip service to it while living a lifestyle totally inimical to every tenet of the climate change creed?
To that end, you might be a climate change denier if:
You are the Holy Father of the largest denomination of the Christian faith who calls climate change “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” and that coal, oil and gas must be replaced “without delay” yet lives a palatial lifestyle powered by fossil fuels.
You are the president of the United States who tried to ban fracking on public land because it emits greenhouse gases but then takes credit for cutting “dependence on foreign oil by more than half” thanks to fracking.
You are a presidential candidate whose primary message is blasting big corporations from Exxon to Monsanto for destroying the planet but then demands a private jet to make meaningless campaign appearances on behalf of the woman who beat you so you can keep getting attention for yourself.
You are a movie star who works in one of the most energy-intensive and frivolous industries but now earns fame by leading protests against fracking and demands the country live on 100 percent renewables by 2050 then jets your family off from Manhattan to Australia on a jumbo jet to take pictures of the Great Barrier Reef.
You are Robert Kennedy, Jr.
You drive a Tesla but don’t know the electricity comes from a grid supported by fossil fuels.
You are a legislator who pushes solar panels and wind turbines without having the slightest clue how much energy and materials — like steel, concrete, diesel fuel, fiberglass and plastic — are needed to manufacture them.
You are Leonardo DiCaprio.
You are a suburban mom who looks down at other moms who don’t care/know/believe in climate change but you spend the day driving your privileged kids around in a pricy SUV and have two air-conditioners in your 6,000 square-foot house,
You oppose nuclear energy and/or genetically engineered crops.
You eat meat because meat production allegedly emits about 14.5 percent of greenhouse gases or some made-up number according to the United Nations.
You eat any sort of food because agriculture uses all kinds of climate polluting energy not to mention the big carbon footprint to process, package, ship and deliver that food to your local Whole Foods.
You are John Kerry.
So if you live off the grid, never fly in an airplane and don’t eat, then you can call me a denier. For the rest of you, please zip it. You deny climate change by your actions because you contribute daily to the very greenhouse gases you contend are destroying the planet. I’d rather be a denier than a hypocrite any day.