Monday, May 2, 2011

Has anybody read Norgaard's "living in denial"?

I had no chance to read this book so far:

Kari Marie Norgaard, 2011: Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life, MIT Press: 2011. 288 pp.$ 25.00 / £18.25.

It has been reviewed in nature climate change by Mike Hulme: Anybody who can say something about this analysis?


Harry Dale Huffman said...

Having read the review, as an honest, competent scientist (perhaps the only one in the world today) I see no point in reading the book. The reviewer tells us early on, "she [Norgaard] explores the ways scientific evidence, personal experience, collective belief and cultural practice interact to lead to what she calls the social organization of climate change denial." As a physicist who failed Sociology 101 in college, and who believes that says more about sociology than it does about me, this is enough to tell me the book does not address the hard science -- because as a hard scientist (in physics) who has done my own dispassionate research of it, and made my own seminal contributions to correcting it, I know the climate "consensus" is incompetent, and that is the only reason I need to be a "denier" of it. I have no need for social reassurance (much less social theory) on the matter at all, I go solely by the definitive physical evidence, which has been ignored by almost everyone (read my blog).
If you want more, try these statements from the review:

"science alone cannot impose meaning on any physical phenomenon" [You can say this about mathematics, but not about science, which Norgaard obviously knows nothing about.]

"The meaning of a scientific fact is not for science to define." [The meaning of this sentence melts away as you read it. It tells me its author is an existentialist, who believes that each of us makes his/her own meaning. What she is really saying is, "We don't need no stinking science. We have our feelings (to keep us warm)."]

And finally this:

"Norgaard moves the analysis of denialism to another level. The problem of climate change is not really about climate change at all; rather '[climate change] provides a window into a wholly new and profound aspect of the experience of modern life'. When engaging with the idea of anthropogenic climate change, people find new contradictions emerging between knowledge, values and actions — and they also find that there are no easy ways of resolving them."

As a physicist, I will flunk that course every time, because it is garbage, and doesn't deserve any further attention. People cannot find contradictions between one expression of truth and another; what the world is seeing is contradictions between the "consensus" as received, unquestioned dogma on one hand, and the warnings of independent scientists like myself, against that dogma, on the other. It's a test, and the "consensus" and its followers are flunking badly.

Werner Krauss said...

Harry Dale Huffman, you are a good candidate for winning the 'one dimensional man' awards. Your post is really an excellent application. I reject everything I don't understand: bravo! I judge a book by its review: yep! I failed a course, and it was the course's fault: I really like your sense of humor!
Your post totally convinced me that I will never even get close to your own blog!

Roddy said...

Given that I like Hulme's style and thought process, and I was interested in the review, I would like to read the book.

And the exercise must be interesting of taking a small village, a minute social and political unit, and examining their interconnected views and feelings on an issue where they cannot possibly comprehend the impacts on them and theirs (generations ahead) and are by definition wholly powerless anyway given the chain necessary for any thought or action they might have or take to filter through to Chinese coal power stations (as it were).

I found this sentence puzzling: 'One paradox of Living in Denial is that it reveals a distinctive local culture that seems resilient to the narrated threat of climate change.' but I guess 'resilience' is a technical sociology term? Judging from how the paragraph went on. Why a paradox?

isaacschumann said...


You are a walking, talking example of physics arrogance. You have a book called 'The End of the Mystery'? Harry: 1 The mysteries of life: 0. You sir, win the internets.

Werner, looks like you should look for a new line of work, sociology is apparently total crap, a guy on the internet said so;)

The book sounds interesting, at least from the review, Mike Hulme is a thoughtful guy. I'd also be interested to hear someones opinions who has read it.

Stan said...

Based on the review, it appears that it would be far more informative and far more valuable to the world for someone to do the same type study of climate scientists. Instead of looking at how villagers process climate change messages, how about looking at the psychological and sociological aspects of how scientists deal with corruption, incompetence, confirmation bias, conflict of interest, group think, insular refusals to coordinate with experts from other fields, and intense political pressure. We could start with the long history of experts making predictions of calamity and examine whether hubris is a natural human trait. Examine Tetlock's work on the poor record of expert prediction and compare it to the superior performance of crowds (see Wisdom of Crowds).

What can history, psychology and sociology tell us about the long hubristic record of expert predictive failure and how might that study inform our understanding of the work of current climate scientists?

Anonymous said...

Kari Norgaard's psychologic analysis is available as a pdf. I presume the book is an expansion along the same line.

Anonymous said...

Stan gets it right.There is also a need need for studies on psychologists who base their analysis of denial on the assumption that CO2 theory is proven, and hence is undeniable.

Hans Erren said...

People like end-of-the-world prophecies, although history proves them wrong

I have observed that not the man who hopes when other dispair, but the man who despairs when others hope, is admired by a large class of persons as a sage.
John Stuart Mill

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley is a good antidote against "doomthink".

Stan said...

Hans Erren,

Julian Simon -- "You can always make news with doomsday predictions, but you can usually make money betting against them."

Anonymous said...

Let me just say that I actually read the book (unlike all the rest of the commenters here??) and did find it valuable. Focusing on people that are concerned but do not act, it provides helpful insights into why that is. Emotional norms, cultural norms, avoiding feelings of guilt, etc... Also makes clear that a lack of information on climate change is NOT the biggest challenge. It was an eye opener in that respect and I think you'll be pleased that you read it.