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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination--Tribalism

In a nutshell, indoctrination is all about creating an "us verses them" mindset create imaginary ingroups and outgroups. Facts are irrelevant. The following podcast made it clear to me how and why indoctrination works.

Go here for the transcript of a podcast titled Tribal Psychology on the You are Not so Smart (a celebration of self-delusion) website. I suspect that the grammatical errors in the transcript may be the result of having been transcribed by a computer program instead of a person. A bunch of money quotes:
In the 1970s, a psychologist named Henri Tajfel develop something called social identity theory which basically said that when we define ourselves, we do so in large part by asserting our loyalty to the groups to which we belong. Tajfel developed this theory when in his research he discovered it didn’t take very much for humans to organize themselves into groups, and once they did, they immediately began to act like assholes to people who were in groups that they were not. Tajfel’s experiments showed that humans can enter into us-versus-them thinking in seconds, and they will do so over just about anything.

After many experiments built on these foundations, social psychologists found that there is simply no salient, shared quality around which opposing groups will not form. And once they do form people in those groups immediately begin exhibiting tribal favoritism, tribal signaling, tribal bias, and so on. And that’s why this is called the minimal group paradigm. Humans not only instinctively form groups, they will form them over anything — no matter how arbitrary or minimal or meaningless.

One of the amazing takeaways from this work is that the origin of opposing tribes and groups and parties and any clustering that leads to partisanship is often something random and out of the individual member’s control, where they were born, the religions they inherited, the schools they attended, the food they eat or don’t eat. And these starting conditions are like specks of dirt around which forms cultural pearls.

...we have a psychological need for both inclusion and exclusion. So, we need to feel that we are part of something, but we also need to feel that not anybody can be part of if it in order for us to feel important ourselves. We need to feel like we’re included in some group, and that there are outsiders. There are some people that don’t get in. So there’s something that makes you special, and the underlying idea behind social identity is really self-esteem based. So we need to be part of groups to enhance our own self-esteem, to feel good about ourselves as individuals. We have to feel that we’re being accepted by group, and that group has status. And as long as that group has status, we feel good about ourselves. When the status of that group is threatened, we start feeling bad, and then we have to do things to improve the status of a group. That’s why there’s a conflict between groups, we start fighting a lot harder, because the conflict between groups is really a fight for your own self-esteem and sense of worth.

And the research in both psychology and neuroscience says that because our identities have so much to do with group loyalty, thinking in terms of us versus them is an essential property of the human brain, and if activated if stimulated, we can’t help ourselves but to think in a tribal way.

He looked across many different examples of conflict and genocide, and he thought the differences that people claimed as the source of their hatred seemed arbitrary, rooted in meaningless categorical differences, not world-defining, ideological differences.

...if you made people into nothing more than a group A and Group B, or even strip that out — make people just Group Red and Group Blue. And then add one small meaningless difference at a time, like one group whereas hats, and the other doesn’t. At what point would people start showing animosity for the other — for them — when would they show favoritism for their group and bias for their outgroup? If he could find that point he thought it would establish a baseline for prejudice and discrimination. But what he discovered was that there is no baseline. Any noticeable difference of any kind will reliably stimulate the behavior that flows from tribal psychology.

This was a shocking finding for Tajfel, and he repeated this experiment in a number of different ways, and he found the same thing every time.

...and still knowing they were randomly assorted, people exhibited favoritism toward their imaginary ingroup and bias toward their imaginary outgroup.

The power of modern media and modern social media has allowed humans to signal their tribal loyalties on a scale that has never ever been possible, and this one thing might just be what is driving polarization.

Since we tend to form tribes very easily, and often around differences that are arbitrary, and since we usually are more motivated by tribal psychology than anything else, what is happening is that more and more issues are simply leaving the realm of compromise and debate, of evidence and rational analysis, and becoming mutated by politicization, by tribal signaling, and once an issue becomes politicized, it just leaves the realm of facts and figures — it just becomes another way to tell us from them.

There is just this natural thing that’s driving people to discriminate against their outgroup, regardless of content — even when it is a meaningless group. Which means that technically it’s possible for people to not disagree about anything, and still discriminate against the people that they are in competition with. That’s what I started with when I started my research — was that assumption — it should be possible for people to agree on stuff and still not like each other just based on identity alone, and I actually did find evidence for that.

...the desire to be correct becomes far less-important than the desire to be a good member of your tribe.

Basically, to think like a Bayesian, is to imagine your beliefs as a percentage of confidence instead of simply true or false. So instead of saying, “I believe my Hamster is alive and well,” you would say, “I am 70 percent sure that my hamster is alive and well based on the evidence available to me at this time.” If we were motivated by the pursuit of accuracy above all else, Bayesian reasoning would be how we updated all of our beliefs, but we aren’t, and it isn’t.

...if individuals are members of groups who have become polarized about a particular issue, and that polarization puts the group’s opinions at odds with scientific consensus, people will almost always go with what their group believes over what the preponderance of the evidence suggests.

...the evidence is clear that humans value being a good member of their tribe much more than they value being correct.

We are unaware of how unaware we are, yet we proceed with confidence in the false assumption that we are fully aware of our motivations and the sources of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. In fact, much of the time, if not most of the time, the true source of those things, the true motivations behind our behaviors, is often invisible or unknowable, or in the case of tribal psychology something we’d rather not believe about ourselves. None of us wants to think that we are simply parroting the perspectives of elites or going along with the attitudes of our tribes, but the work of Dan Kahan and Lillanna Mason and many others suggests that for many issues that is exactly what is happening.

...literally any evidence-based issue can become politicized.

Nobody was arguing about that one, even though it came just a couple of years before. The difference is that people learned about the HBV vaccine from their doctors. It wasn’t politicized. The HPV vaccine, however, they learned about probably by watching MSNBC and Fox News, where that message was it’s us versus them again. That occurred because the manufacturer took a very unorthodox route to try to introduce the vaccine.

Now people who are gladly allowing their children to get the HBV vaccine are opposed, completely opposed, to the nearly identically administered HPV vaccine. Now, it seems nonsensical, but again, being a good member of your tribe is more important than holding correct views, and Kahan says that the very same thing can happen to anything. Dark matter, volcanoes, Net Neutrality, self-driving cars. So, it’s in our best interest to keep every single scientific concept as neutral and bipartisan as possible, because once evidence is polluted by tribal loyalty, people can’t help but be wrong and stay wrong, even if 98 percent of scientists are telling them they should change their minds.

...there was a moment during the debates, the presidential debates, when Hillary Clinton said something about ingroup bias. And I think it was Mike Pence who said something like, “How dare you accuse us of being biased,” and just blew my mind. Obviously she wasn’t saying that Republicans are biased, what she was saying is every single human being has this in them. It’s not it’s not offensive to say it, it shouldn’t be offensive to say; it’s just natural psychology.

A research study that we did recently showed that people who are high in science curiosity aren’t as polarized on these issues, and they don’t display this really kind of perverse effect of becoming even more active more and more consistent with their their groups position...

If your group has it right on what scientific consensus is then just count yourself lucky, because you don’t understand what the scientist does in his or her own terms. It just happens to be that your intermediary groups managed to get you the right answer despite the assault that they’re under, and all groups have embarrassing instances where the message they’ve got from their intermediaries is false. And I think a little humility in recognizing that might well be something that can help us to to try to solve these problems. really need some empathy here because people can’t change their minds when they are trapped in tribes that believe one way or the other. They can’t accept the evidence even when they want to, even when they know in their hearts that they are incorrect.
The podcast suggests two ways out of this evolutionary trap:

Bayesian thinking
Ranking high in science curiosity

Assuming any given individual has the cognitive firepower to do those things, the motivation to do them is still largely lacking. Few people in the comment fields below websites like GTM and CleanTechnica are searching for truth. Most are simply participating in the reinforcement of tribal ideology and assisting their perceived tribe to oust those who they perceive to be members of other tribes who have infiltrated what they perceive to be their tribal boundary.

All the same, it's important to be putting facts out there for those still looking for them. 

This article will be added to the list found at Breaking the Anti-nuclear Indoctrination Cycle.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination--the "Electric vehicles will store excess electricity from wind and solar" argument

My old Leaf, my new Bolt, and a Tesla Model S

From a comment field under a GTM article:

I just bought my second generation electric car because my old car battery has finally reached the point that I can't reliably do my commute without hitting a fast charger. That would have happened sooner had the utility been sharing it.
Anonymous anti-nuclear indoctrination victim:
Actually, no:

"Intelligent use of vehicle to grid (V2G) technology can improve the battery life of electric vehicles according to a new study from the University of Warwick, potentially disproving a key criticism levelled at the technology."

Please try to keep up.

This is a typical case of a tale growing larger with each retelling. He/she was quoting from an article in Clean Energy News titled V2G found to improve the lifetime of electric vehicle batteries about a study published in Science Direct Energy titled On the possibility of extending the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries through optimal V2G facilitated by an integrated vehicle and smart-grid system.

He/she never read past the click-bait headline and certainly didn't read the study. It's no secret that one can optimize battery life by not letting it sit idle for long periods at high states of charge and by avoiding certain temperature regimes when charging or discharging it. But there are operational trade-offs associated with doing that.

When I first bought my Nissan Leaf (6.5 years ago) I charged it only to 80% to extend its battery life. However, after a few incidents where I wish I had that extra 20%, I stopped doing it. And as battery capacity fades over the years, the last thing you want to do is further reduce your range by reducing the charge on your car.

Another option (other than not fully charging your car) would be to bleed electricity from your battery to lower the state of charge when it's going to sit idle for most of a day by turning on the heater (and hope you won't regret doing that when you don't have enough range one day). But you paid to charge the battery and dumping its energy to the air to extend its life would be a losing proposition. Ideally, you would instead use that electricity to save money by displacing grid electricity.

Using the above ideas, the study concluded that it would not be feasible to use electric cars for energy arbitrage at the household level. However, it hypothesized that it might be feasible for large commercial buildings to use employees' electric cars in a "smart car parking lot" to buy and sell energy on the grid (sell when demand and price is high, buy when they are lower).

Criteria needed to match this study's results:

Friday, February 23, 2018

I've decided on the Chevy Bolt

Tesla Model 3

I wrote an article last year titled Which Electric Car Would you buy, Bolt, 2018 Leaf, Model 3, Model S, or Model X? and received some really excellent advice in the comment field. It's decision time because I'll soon be commuting to a location just out of round-trip range of my 2011 Leaf and I don't want to hit a fast charger as part of that commute.

The Tesla Model 3 is (in theory) the Bolt's only competitor, but I couldn't get my hands on one of those in time for this commute if I wanted to, which isn't a problem because I wouldn't buy one if available (for the same price as a Bolt).


Tesla may yet go the way of the DeLorean (popularized in the movie Back to the Future).

Friday, February 16, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination--the "Nuclear is a mature industry" argument

Back in the day, Senator Bernie Sanders was using Grist Magazine to lobby against government assistance for nuclear energy on the grounds that it's a mature industry. I might agree with him if it really were a mature industry and if renewables really could carry the day without it. But it isn't, and renewables can't. Always irritates me to watch ignorant politicians screw with my children's futures.

By Rob Shenk from Great Falls, VA, USA - F-22 Raptor, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Sopwith Camel

Nuclear energy has been around for about half of a century. Aircraft technology has been around for about a century. By Senator Sander’s reasoning, a Sopwith Camel is the equivalent of an F-22 Raptor. There would be no F-22 raptor without government funding.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination--The "Nuclear power stations will be disabled by a lack of water, warming water, rising sea levels, storms, and on and on" arguments

In their zeal to attack nuclear energy, the anti-nuclear crowd reached argument overkill (or one of its many synonyms) long ago. As is the case with climate skeptics, for every anti-nuclear argument put to rest, like in a game of whack-a-mole, another springs forth to replace it. Use of nuclear power is untenable because of:
  • High water
  • Low water
  • NRC water temperature limits
  • EPA water temperature limits
  • Increasing air temperatures
  • Water availability
  • ...and on, and on
Anti-nuclearists typically promote intermittent (weather dependent, non-dispatchable) wind and solar, rarely defending the dispatchable energy sources normally considered to be renewable (hydro, geothermal, biomass, biogas). Even Jacobson's flawed study relied heavily on hydro. Without adequate hydro, his energy strategy became a two-legged stool.

High water

Some comments by an anti-nuclear indoctrination victim recently seen on Twitter who, like most of the others, has also been convinced that 100% wind, solar, and hydro is the goal instead of 100% decarbonization:

"Always wondered how we are going to cope with the existing nuclear plants on the coast as Sea levels rise and storms become more intense. How do you see that playing out?"

Figure 1: Storm Damaged Turbines Flickr Creative Commons via Western Area Power

Don't see it as a problem. Dikes can be very effective. Ask the Dutch. As for storms, see Figure 1.
"The dutch recognize that dykes will not protect them from the rising Sea levels. It says so in the article. They are to the expects. You should not ignore there conclusion. There is going to be a huge problem with existing nuclear stations on the coasts n in land as they are on the Banks of rivers. Miami is a good eg. You can't dykes Florida."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination

From a comment under one of my articles:  
"It's pretty obvious that tons of people have gotten duped on nuclear energy. Do you (or anyone else) have an idea why that is?"
 My reply:
Start by listing all of your favorite nuclear war apocalypse science-fiction novels and movies.
  • Conflate nuclear weapons with nuclear power stations.
  • Terrorize the public with false claims like "Nuclear power stations are nuclear bombs just waiting to go off"--Helen Caldicott
  • Capitalize on that fear by claiming your organization is trying to protect you from those nuclear power stations.
  • Pour gas on this misinformation with a for-profit, sensationalist-driven, innumerate, lay press.
  • Let it cook for a generation or so before the arrival of the internet to shine a light on the misinformation.
VoilĂ ! A generation of indoctrinated aging hippies and a new generation that may yet be informed given enough effort.
From a comment under an Environmental Progress article:
They are lying to us!
The question is why? Presumably environmentalists at Greenpeace are good people who want the best for us and for nature. But why then do they lie about nuclear energy, scaring us half to death? (Or *actually* to death, if you consider the people killed in Fukushima as a result of the panic!)
My reply:
The question is why?

Indoctrination. Most think they're telling the truth at this point. They are indoctrination victims (Google synonym of victim). Those that realize the truth are ousted from the organization or just leave (think atheist evolutionary biologist in a creationist church). And then there is the comfort and anxiety relief (endorphin dumps) provided by being a member of a tribe. Human nature ...
Michael has explained how the snowball got rolling. It's been rolling downhill for a long time but there may be an inflection point ahead.

This post will serve as a place-holder for articles I've already written and for more I'll be writing that critique various anti-nuclear energy arguments. I hope that people will bookmark this article to copy and paste links from the list below as part of a rebuttal to these arguments when seen in comment fields, blogs, or our for-profit, sensationalist-driven, innumerate, lay press. They're not in any particular order.

Also, note that I sometimes sprinkle my posts with random nature photos I've taken over the years as a reminder that the sixth extinction event was recognized by science before climate change reared its ugly head.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination--The "80% renewables" argument

I highly recommend this excellent presentation by Jesse Jenkins explaining why (assuming it's possible) an 80% wind and solar grid is not likely a good idea. From a Tweet by Joris van Dorp:

I first encountered this argument in an article last year by the anti-nuclear David Roberts writing for Vox. My response:
Above, Dave puts a pair of sentences back-to-back to give you the impression that the dispute is over using nuclear to decarbonize that last 10 to 20 percent. But that isn't really what the dispute comes down to. The idea that the world can reduce emissions 80% with renewables for electrical and especially for all energy use is an untested hypothesis, let alone getting to 100%. The dispute is over how much nuclear and how much wind and solar is going to be needed from start to finish.
Take a few minutes to digest the following two graphics where I tried to summarize the gist of Jenkins' presentation with markups of his original material (keeping in mind that these are my interpretations of his presentation).
Figure 1

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Breaking The Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination -- Uranium Mine Tailings Argument

Above is a photo I took of a Toucan while I was in the Brazilian Cerrado. Not a birder, have no idea which species it is. I'm including because it brings me pleasure and as a reminder of why I blog about the environment.

Below is a collection of quotes from comments under a pro-nuclear article at Grist:
The "waste" problem from nuclear power isn't the "spent" fuel, it's the tailings piles from uranium mining ...Uranium tailings piles are even more toxic than coal or tar sands tailings piles, and they all leach into the environment ... The argument against coal ash is a more general environmental issue similar to some of the issues raised against nuclear. (mountains of radioactive tailings.) ...During early years of operation, mine tailings at this site were discharged onto a flat, low-lying area adjacent to the processing facility... 
Back in the day, long before the internet came along, uranium mine tailings were used (along with everything else they could think of) as an anti-nuclear argument. Many people are now indoctrinated with that misinformation and the internet is still full of articles echoing it, as indoctrination victims of indoctrination victims continue to carry the torch. That's how indoctrination works and why beliefs like creationism endure.

Bottom line?
  • Everything in your car, phone, and computer came from mines.
  • Uranium mining accounts for a tiny fraction of a single percent of all mining (1).
  • Uranium mining is no worse for the environment than the mining of any other metal (5).
  • Uranium is a heavy metal with similar toxicity to the (75 pounds of) lead found in in your car battery (3).
  • Uranium mine tailings are about as radioactive as your granite countertop, and less radioactive than the original ore (2) (5).
  • Old mine sites of all kinds are being cleaned up and returned either to a natural state or to a state safe to use for other purposes (4).
  • Environmental regulations now exist to prevent the repeat of environmentally damaging mining practices regardless of what is being mined (6).