Why? Why are the Pediatricians, and the Global Warmists, So Confused About the Science?
We stipulate that we have proved in post 1 that Pediatric practice is delusional about the actual state of the scientific literature.
The question we must next address is, why?
Global Warmism is a similar delusion , and has been for decades, although its now been somewhat outed by two decades of no warming and the dump of a bunch of emails showing insiders conspiring to “hide the decline” and to persecute dissenters. These communities have other things in common: both have featured an essentially religious intolerance of dissent as heresy and other religious aspects (See eg Crichton’s Caltech Lecture) as well as ad hominem attacks and actions to persecute or remove from the academic community dissenters, and in both cases calls for laws against dissent.
A third example bearing some resemblance, within the very technical heart of physics, is given by the reception of the discovery of quasi-crystals, as shown in this interview with their discoverer (10 minute video). Note even this third example features a religious style intolerance of dissent, including purging a scientist for refusing to recant the rational interpretation of a photograph he could point to and had published.
In each of these scientific cases, and in the number of historical cases discussed by Crichton in the above link, the scientific literature process worked to the extent that it did result in the truth being discovered and published. Thus in each of these cases any competent scientist could eventually read the technical literature and come to the conclusion that it overwhelmingly favored the correct (yet unpopular) hypothesis, if he was open minded and not somehow possessed by crowd psychology, presuming he looked at both sides of the debate and read and understood the articles seeking the answers to physical questions. (This is my subjective opinion, but I wouldn’t consider someone a competent scientist and open minded/not posessed if he or she failed this test.)
However, in each of these cases, the beliefs, or at least statements and actions, of the substantial majority of pediatricians in the first case or scientists in the relevant field in the second, are oblivious to the rational interpretation of the scientific literature.
This raises the questions:
(1) How can they be so confused?
(2) How can we model and understand the actual decision processes and dynamics being represented in these examples?
(3) What else in the world is this confused? What am I confused about?
(4) What can be done to avoid this kind of state of confusion in the future? Preferably to fix the world, but if not at least so rational individuals can detect it? (I speak as someone who previously vaccinated my kids.) Proposed answers to this we will leave to later posts.
Our normal expectation that these collections of individuals have determined their beliefs and practices by a logical, scientific process, is empirically proven wrong. Instead the observed facts are explained much better by the model espoused by Gustav Le Bon in his 1895 book The Crowd, the first work on group psychology, and arguably the most insightful. Although largely forgotten today, this work has had extraordinary influence. By their own accounts it was on Theodore Roosevelt’s bedside table, and dogeared by Mussolini. Lenin and Stalin took from it, and “Hitler’s indebtedness to Le Bon bordered on plagiarism” in the words of historian and Hitler-biographer Robert G. L. Waite. Sigmund Freud wrote a book discussing Le Bon, which we will quote from below, and Edward Bernays, the father of modern public relations, acknowledged his deep debt, as Goebbels did of Bernays’ reflected insights. So this wouldn’t be the first predictive power displayed by Le Bon’s model: every one of the above luminaries was very happy with their practical applications of Le Bon.
I will suggest that the Vaccinists, as I will call them, and the Global Warmists (incidentally, I believe I may have been among the first to employ the term Global Warmist), are psychological crowds in the sense of Le Bon and discuss the characteristics they obtain from this. Then I will briefly discuss dynamics and forces causing Le Bon crowd-like behavior from more modern perspectives.
Le Bon described the common features of crowds, and also tried to list a few subtypes of crowds. The Vaccinists and the Global Warmists each seem to surround and reflect an influential subcrowd of the type that Le Bon called a caste. “The CASTE represents the highest degree of organisation to which the crowd is susceptible… the caste is composed of individuals of the same profession, and in consequence similarly educated and of much the same social status.”
In the words of Gustav Le Bon:
“Under certain circumstances, and only under those circumstances, an agglomeration of men presents new characteristics very different from those of the individuals composing it. The sentiments and ideas of all the persons in the gathering take one and the same direction, and their conscious personality vanishes. A collective mind is formed, doubtless transitory, but presenting very clearly defined characteristics. The gathering has thus become what, in the absence of a better expression, I will call an organised crowd, or, if the term is considered preferable, a psychological crowd. It forms a single being, and is subject to the Law of the Mental Unity of Crowds…
The most striking peculiarity presented by a psychological crowd is the following: Whoever be the individuals that compose it, however like or unlike be their mode of life, their occupations, their character, or their intelligence, the fact that they have been transformed into a crowd puts them in possession of a sort of collective mind which makes them feel, think, and act in a manner quite different from that in which each individual of them would feel, think, and act were he in a state of isolation.”…
“Juries are seen to deliver verdicts of which each individual juror would disapprove, … parliamentary assemblies adopt laws and measures of which each of their members would disapprove in his own person. Taken separately, the men of the Convention were enlightened citizens of peaceful habits. United in a crowd, they did not hesitate to give their adhesion to the most savage proposals, to guillotine individuals most clearly innocent, and, contrary to their interests, to renounce their inviolability and to decimate themselves.”…
“It is not necessary that a crowd should be numerous for the faculty of seeing what is taking place before its eyes to be destroyed and for the real facts to be replaced with hallucinations unrelated to them….
“To return to the faculty of observation possessed by crowds, our conclusion is that their collective observations are as erroneous as possible, and that most often they merely represent the illusion of an individual who, by a process of contagion, has suggestioned his fellows.”…
After describing numerous documented examples where crowds of witnesses were bizarrely wrong, Le Bon continues:
“The events with regard to which there exists the most doubt are certainly those which have been observed by the greatest number of persons. To say that a fact has been simultaneously verified by thousands of witnesses is to say, as a rule, that the real fact is very different from the accepted account of it.”…
“By the mere fact that an individual forms part of a crowd, his intellectual standard is immediately and considerably lowered….
“The inferior reasoning of crowds is based, just as is the reasoning of a high order, on the association of ideas, but between the ideas associated by crowds there are only apparent bonds of analogy or succession. The mode of reasoning of crowds resembles that of the Esquimaux who, knowing from experience that ice, a transparent body, melts in the mouth, concludes that glass, also a transparent body, should also melt in the mouth…
The characteristics of the reasoning of crowds are the association of dissimilar things possessing a merely apparent connection between each other, and the immediate generalization of particular cases. It is arguments of this kind that are always presented to crowds by those who know how to manage them. They are the only arguments by which crowds are to be influenced. A chain of logical argumentation is totally incomprehensible to crowds…”
“Crowds being only capable of thinking in images are only impressed by images. It is only images that terrify or attract them and become motives of action….
“It would be superfluous to add that the powerlessness of crowds to reason aright prevents them displaying any trace of the critical spirit, prevents them, that is, from being capable of discerning truth from error, or of forming a precise judgement on any matter.”…
“How is the imagination of crowds to be impressed?… the feat is never to be achieved by attempting to work upon the intelligence or reasoning faculty, that is to say, by way of demonstration. It was not by means of cunning rhetoric that Antony succeeded in making the populace rise against the murderers of Caesar; it was by reading his will to the multitude and pointing to his corpse…
“appearances have always played a much more important part than reality in history, where the unreal is always of greater moment than the real”…
It is not,then, the facts in themselves that strike the popular imagination, but the way in which they take place and are brought under notice. It is necessary that by their condensation, if I may thus express myself, they should produce a startling image which fills and besets the mind. To know the art of impressing the imagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them…
We have shown that crowds do not reason, that they accept or reject ideas as a whole, that they tolerate neither discussion nore contradiction, and that the suggestions brought to bear on them invade the entire field of their understanding and tend at once to transform themselves into acts…
When these convictions [of crowds] are closely examined,…, it is apparent that they always assume a particular form which I can not better define than giving it the name of a religious sentiment…
Intolerance and fanatacism are the necessary accompaniments of the religious sentiment. They are inevitably displayed by those who believe themselves in the possession of the secret of earthly or eternal happiness. These two characteristics are to be found in all men grouped together when they are inspired by a conviction of any kind. The Jacobins of the Reign of Terror were at bottom as religious as the Catholics of the Inquisition, and their cruel ardour proceeded from the same source. The convictions of crowds assume those characteristics of blind submission, fierce intolerance, and the need of violent propaganda which are inherent in the religious sentiment, and it is for this reason that it may be said that all their beliefs have a religous form.
Whether the feelings exhibited by a crowd be good or bad, they present the double character of being very simple and very exaggerated… a throng knows neither doubt nor uncertainty.
Experience alone can fix in the minds of crowds truths become necessary and destroy illusions grown dangerous– Experience is only effective on the condition that it be frequently repeated.
I see in both Vaccinism and Global Warmism, the science captured by a series of images painting a stirring vision, but with logical holes that the crowd simply is blind to. I see in the religious intolerance against skeptics in global warmism and vaccinism as well as in persecutions, the religious position Le Bon described. I see in two decades of no warming, experience that is maybe finally changing the minds of global warmists.
Why do crowds adopt crowd think?
We will look at this question from a few perspectives.
- What changes occur in individuals that lead to different behavior?
- What system effects lead to the behaviors?
- Why was this evolutionarily useful?
Before addressing the first, Le Bon reminds us:
it is necessary in the first place to call to mind the truth established by modern psychology, that unconscious phenomena play an altogether preponderating part not only in organic life, but also in operations of the intelligence. The conscious life of the mind is of small importance in comparison with its unconscious life. The most subtle analyst, the most acute observer, is scarcely successful in discovering more than a very small number of the unconscious motives that determine his conduct. Our conscious acts are the outcome of an unconscious substratum created in the mind in the main by hereditary influences. This substratum consists of the innumerable common characteristics handed down from generation to generation, which constitute the genius of a race. Behind the avowed causes of our acts there undoubtedly lie secret causes that we do not avow, but behind these secret causes there are many others more secret still, of which we ourselves are ignorant. The greater part of our daily actions are the result of hidden motives which escape our observation.”
Psychophysics experiments back this up, for example the work of Gur and Sackheim demonstrating that people’s galvanic skin response knows things about the world not revealed to the consciousness. Trivers argued that this provides evidence our conscious is merely the salesman of our self who can deal with the outside world better if he is kept in the dark about some matters.
Also the conformity experiments of Solomon Asch showed that crowd effects reach to effect many people’s visual perception.
Le Bon describes 3 changes that happen to the individuals in crowds:
First, “the individual forming part of a group acquires, solely from numerical considerations, a sentiment of invincible power which allows him to yield to instincts which, had he been alone, he would perforce have kept under restraint.”
Freud interprets this, in his commentary, as “[he] throws off repressions of his unconscious instincts.”
Second, per Le Bon: “Contagion… must be classed among those phenomena of a hypnotic order. In a group every sentiment and act is contagious, and contagious to such a degree that an individual readily sacrifices his personal interest to collective interest. This is an aptitude very contrary to his nature, and of which a man is scarcely capable, except when he makes a part of a group.”
Third: Suggestibility …
Such also is approximately the state of the individual forming part of a psychological group. He is no longer conscious of his acts. In his case, as in the case of the hypnotised subject, at the same time that certain faculties are destroyed, others may be brought to a high degree of exaltation. Under the influence of a suggestion, he will undertake the accomplishment of certain acts with irresistable impetuousity. This impetuousity is the more irresistable in the case of groups than in that of the hypnotised subject, from the fact that, the suggestion being the same for all the individuals of the group, it gains in strength by reciprocity.
We see, then, that the disappearance of the conscious personality, the predominance of the unconscious personality, the turning by means of suggestion and contagion of feelings and ideas in an identical direction, the tendency to immediately transform the suggested ideas into acts; these we see are the principal characteristics of the individual forming part of a group. He is no longer himself but has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will.”
Freud says of this last “I have quoted this passage so fully in order to make it quite clear that Le Bon explains the condition of an individual in a group as being actually hypnotic, and does not merely make a comparison between the two states. We have no intention of raising any objection at this point”.
Freud says of the whole picture: ” let us now … turn to the group mind, as it has been outlined by Le Bon. It shows not a single feature which a psycho-analyst would find any difficulty in placing or deriving from its source. Le Bon himself shows us the way by pointing to its similarity with the mental life of primitive people and of children.”
Why do crowds adopt crowd think?
(1) An evolutionary adaptation: crowds can be readily put into unified action, which may allow progress and certainly facilitates war. Le Bon felt much progress came from this.
(2) A part of or by-product of the religious impulse, why ever we have that.
(3) Most individuals can’t think for themselves, or don’t want to, plus its expensive, took me months of reading the vaccine literature, or even those who want to and can, in a world of division of labor can’t possibly think everything through for themselves. I was capable of thinking through vaccines for myself, but never did while I previously vaccinated my children. So one false but confident or enthusiastic opinion can propagate a long way.
(4) The few who reason out the correct answer, can do little to convince others who aren’t open to rational argumentation, they are just mirroring the consensus. As Le Bon put it “The individualities in the crowd who might possess a personality sufficiently strong to resist the suggestion are too few in number to struggle against the current. At the utmost, they may be able to attempt a diversion by means of different suggestions.”
(Do you think my article in post 1 will change anything? Not according to Le Bon, rational argumentation will never successfully persuade a crowd.)
(5) Moreover, given the religious intolerance, thinking for yourself can be dangerous or harmful.
(6) Perception is likely a race process within the brain/mind, where different interpretations of perceptual data recruit support and suppress alternatives. If someone hands you an interpretation of data, even basic perceptual data like vision of an image, that gives their interpretation a big head start. This may explain the bizarre visual hallucinations of crowds that Le Bon documents, and/or the crowd-perceptual hallucinations reported by Asch?
(7) Likewise, a big part of perception of the crowd may be a race as well. In addition to the tendency of individuals to be suggestible, and the desire to conform, there is simple laziness or inability to form an independent opinion. But if almost everybody is trusting, if the wrong answer is appealing because of the right images, it may win out, and the few individuals who actually have thought through to the right answer can do nothing to stem the tide.
(8) Milgram authority experiment => blindly accept authority, which leads again to propagation of erroneous ideas.
(9) Then of course there’s the possibility that the crowd will be deliberately manipulated by people or interests, as has been demonstrated by Teddy Roosevelt, Hitler, Mussolini, etc, as mentioned above. Al Gore? This of course has been happening since before Mark Anthony read Caesar’s will, but since the publication of Le Bon provided a guide book, seems to have become a lot more common.