Saturday, October 1, 2011

Speaking to Motive

Ursula Goodenough asks: "What motivates a [climate change] denier?" And she basically received a number of different answers. One motivation from the deniers/skeptics that wrote in and a number of attributions of motive from people who weren't themselves deniers, instead being people who worried about climate change.

Goodenough posted six on the various attributions that climate change "worriers" attached to the skeptics. One matched the motive that skeptics themselves gave. The other five covered a variety of different bases, but didn't really line up with what the skeptics themselves claimed, and more than one was a thinly veiled expression of contempt.

I suspect that if you ran the experiment the other way, you'd see a similar pattern, with skeptics attributing motives to worriers that were largely unrelated to the motives that worriers claim.

Any wagers that worriers who believe in the other five motives think that someone is lying? (And vice versa?) And that causes a problem, because people tend to behave as if the motives that they have attributed to others are accurate, and then expect those people to admit to them. This is why we never get anywhere. We attribute motives to other people and then demand accountability for those motives as a condition of dialog.

No wonder no-one's talking.

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