The Conversation – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 20 Sep 2020 05:17:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.15 Trump’s appeals to white anxiety are not ‘dog whistles’ – they’re racism https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/appeals-anxiety-whistles.html https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/appeals-anxiety-whistles.html#respond Sun, 20 Sep 2020 04:01:05 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193348 By Bethany Albertson | –

President Donald Trump’s rhetoric is often referred to as “dog whistle politics.”

In politician speak, a dog whistle is language that conveys a particular meaning to a group of potential supporters. The targeted group hears the “whistle” because of its shared cultural reference, but others cannot.

In 2018, The Washington Post wrote that “perhaps no one has sent more dog whistles than President Trump.”

When Trump this year planned a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma – the site of one of the worst acts of racial terror in U.S. history – on the Black holiday of Juneteenth, the media called the rally a “racist dog whistle.” That suggests that white nationalists would view the timing as an overture, while others would miss the date’s racism. Journalists have also referred to Trump calling COVID-19 “the China virus” as a dog whistle.

Dog whistles

If so, Trump wouldn’t be the first politician to do dog whistle politics. My political psychology research has found that George W. Bush used religious dog whistles quite effectively.

When Bush said during his 2003 State of the Union address that the American people had a “wonder-working power,” it probably sounded like a nice turn of phrase to most Americans. But evangelical Christians heard a line from the hymn “Power in the Blood” and understood that the president was one of them.

In a 2004 presidential debate, Bush said he wouldn’t nominate a Supreme Court justice who agreed with the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which ruled that a formerly enslaved man had no right to citizenship. Dred Scott is broadly viewed as a travesty of racial justice.

But Christian conservatives see in the decision parallels with Roe v. Wade – the Supreme Court case that protects abortion rights – because in their view, both reflect judicial overreach and human rights violations. So what evangelicals heard in Bush’s Dred Scott comment was that he, like them, opposed Roe v. Wade.

True dog whistles rely on there being an “outgroup” that can’t hear the politician’s coded message. They are so specifically targeted that there’s no need to deny their coded meaning because no one outside the intended audience even hears them.

Coded speech

This is why the term “dog whistle” does not accurately describe Donald Trump’s rhetoric. When Trump talks about “rapists” from Mexico, “shithole countries” in Africa and white supremacists as “very fine people,” the racial connotation isn’t hidden – it is obvious.

“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists,” said Sen. Kamala Harris in a tweet about Trump’s planned Tulsa rally. “[H]e’s throwing them a welcome home party.”

As language and culture change over time, dog whistles evolve, too.

In the 1980s and 1990s concepts like “law and order” and “inner city” – phrases well used by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – might have functioned as political dog whistles. Appealing to white suburbanites’ perception of cities as crime-ridden places overrun with Black and Latino people, they therefore signaled their intent to use the law against people of color to protect white people. Plausibly, 30 years ago, the racial meaning of the phrases might have evaded other listeners.

Today news coverage shows that Americans broadly understand the racial connotations when Donald Trump talks about “restoring law and order” and protecting “the suburbs.” Such phrases are no longer dog whistles, though they are still referred to as such.

Incorrectly characterizing Trump’s racist rhetoric – like calling lies “alternative facts” – obscures the serious problems in this administration’s politics. It suggests that most Trump supporters are missing his appeals to white fear and resentment, not ignoring or endorsing them.

Saying the quiet part out loud

But Trump’s racism is not lost on voters.

One 2020 poll by The Washington Post/Ipsos found that eight in 10 Black Americans think Donald Trump is racist. Another, from Yahoo!/YouGov, found that 86% of Democrats and 56% of independents think Donald Trump is racist.

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Meanwhile, only 13% of Republicans consider Trump racist. His supporters usually say he’s just a plain-spoken leader who tells it like it is. This turns the dog whistle notion on its head: It’s the outgroup that’s picking up on the hidden message in Trump’s rhetoric, while the ostensible target group takes his words literally.

Trump says the quiet part out loud. There is both honesty and danger in that.The Conversation

Bethany Albertson, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured illustration: hafteh7 via Pixabay.

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How Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped shape the modern era of women’s rights – even before she went on the Supreme Court https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/ginsburg-before-supreme.html https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/ginsburg-before-supreme.html#respond Sat, 19 Sep 2020 04:04:01 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193332 By Jonathan Entin | –

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, the Supreme Court announced.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement that “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.”

Even before her appointment, she had reshaped American law. When he nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, President Bill Clinton compared her legal work on behalf of women to the epochal work of Thurgood Marshall on behalf of African-Americans.

Embed from Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 10: Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Rehnquist (R) administers the oath of office to newly-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (L) as U.S. President Bill Clinton looks on 10 August 1993. Ginsburg is the 107th Supreme Court justice and the second woman to serve on the high court. (KORT DUCE/AFP via Getty Images).

The comparison was entirely appropriate: As Marshall oversaw the legal strategy that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that outlawed segregated schools, Ginsburg coordinated a similar effort against sex discrimination.

Decades before she joined the court, Ginsburg’s work as an attorney in the 1970s fundamentally changed the Supreme Court’s approach to women’s rights, and the modern skepticism about sex-based policies stems in no small way from her lawyering. Ginsburg’s work helped to change the way we all think about women – and men, for that matter.

Embed from Getty Images
Portrait of Ruth Ginsburg, filed 1977.

I’m a legal scholar who studies social reform movements and I served as a law clerk to Ginsburg when she was an appeals court judge. In my opinion – as remarkable as Marshall’s work on behalf of African-Americans was – in some ways Ginsburg faced more daunting prospects when she started.

Starting at zero

When Marshall began challenging segregation in the 1930s, the Supreme Court had rejected some forms of racial discrimination even though it had upheld segregation.

When Ginsburg started her work in the 1960s, the Supreme Court had never invalidated any type of sex-based rule. Worse, it had rejected every challenge to laws that treated women worse than men.

For instance, in 1873, the court allowed Illinois authorities to ban Myra Bradwell from becoming a lawyer because she was a woman. Justice Joseph P. Bradley, widely viewed as a progressive, wrote that women were too fragile to be lawyers: “The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfil the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

And in 1908, the court upheld an Oregon law that limited the number of hours that women – but not men – could work. The opinion relied heavily on a famous brief submitted by Louis Brandeis to support the notion that women needed protection to avoid harming their reproductive function.

As late as 1961, the court upheld a Florida law that for all practical purposes kept women from serving on juries because they were “the center of the home and family life” and therefore need not incur the burden of jury service.

Challenging paternalistic notions

Ginsburg followed Marshall’s approach to promote women’s rights – despite some important differences between segregation and gender discrimination.

Segregation rested on the racist notion that Black people were less than fully human and deserved to be treated like animals. Gender discrimination reflected paternalistic notions of female frailty. Those notions placed women on a pedestal – but also denied them opportunities.

Either way, though, Black Americans and women got the short end of the stick.

Ginsburg started with a seemingly inconsequential case. Reed v. Reed challenged an Idaho law requiring probate courts to appoint men to administer estates, even if there were a qualified woman who could perform that task.

Sally and Cecil Reed, the long-divorced parents of a teenage son who committed suicide while in his father’s custody, both applied to administer the boy’s tiny estate.

The probate judge appointed the father as required by state law. Sally Reed appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg did not argue the case, but wrote the brief that persuaded a unanimous court in 1971 to invalidate the state’s preference for males. As the court’s decision stated, that preference was “the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.”

Two years later, Ginsburg won in her first appearance before the Supreme Court. She appeared on behalf of Air Force Lt. Sharron Frontiero. Frontiero was required by federal law to prove that her husband, Joseph, was dependent on her for at least half his economic support in order to qualify for housing, medical and dental benefits.

If Joseph Frontiero had been the soldier, the couple would have automatically qualified for those benefits. Ginsburg argued that sex-based classifications such as the one Sharron Frontiero challenged should be treated the same as the now-discredited race-based policies.

By an 8–1 vote, the court in Frontiero v. Richardson agreed that this sex-based rule was unconstitutional. But the justices could not agree on the legal test to use for evaluating the constitutionality of sex-based policies.

Strategy: Represent men

In 1974, Ginsburg suffered her only loss in the Supreme Court, in a case that she entered at the last minute.

Mel Kahn, a Florida widower, asked for the property tax exemption that state law allowed only to widows. The Florida courts ruled against him.

Ginsburg, working with the national ACLU, stepped in after the local affiliate brought the case to the Supreme Court. But a closely divided court upheld the exemption as compensation for women who had suffered economic discrimination over the years.

Despite the unfavorable result, the Kahn case showed an important aspect of Ginsburg’s approach: her willingness to work on behalf of men challenging gender discrimination. She reasoned that rigid attitudes about sex roles could harm everyone and that the all-male Supreme Court might more easily get the point in cases involving male plaintiffs.

She turned out to be correct, just not in the Kahn case.

Ginsburg represented widower Stephen Wiesenfeld in challenging a Social Security Act provision that provided parental benefits only to widows with minor children.

Wiesenfeld’s wife had died in childbirth, so he was denied benefits even though he faced all of the challenges of single parenthood that a mother would have faced. The Supreme Court gave Wiesenfeld and Ginsburg a win in 1975, unanimously ruling that sex-based distinction unconstitutional.

And two years later, Ginsburg successfully represented Leon Goldfarb in his challenge to another sex-based provision of the Social Security Act: Widows automatically received survivor’s benefits on the death of their husbands. But widowers could receive such benefits only if the men could prove that they were financially dependent on their wives’ earnings.

Ginsburg also wrote an influential brief in Craig v. Boren, the 1976 case that established the current standard for evaluating the constitutionality of sex-based laws.

Like Wiesenfeld and Goldfarb, the challengers in the Craig case were men. Their claim seemed trivial: They objected to an Oklahoma law that allowed women to buy low-alcohol beer at age 18 but required men to be 21 to buy the same product.

But this deceptively simple case illustrated the vices of sex stereotypes: Aggressive men (and boys) drink and drive, women (and girls) are demure passengers. And those stereotypes affected everyone’s behavior, including the enforcement decisions of police officers.

Under the standard delineated by the justices in the Boren case, such a law can be justified only if it is substantially related to an important governmental interest.

Among the few laws that satisfied this test was a California law that punished sex with an underage female but not with an underage male as a way to reduce the risk of teen pregnancy.

These are only some of the Supreme Court cases in which Ginsburg played a prominent part as a lawyer. She handled many lower-court cases as well. She had plenty of help along the way, but everyone recognized her as the key strategist.

In the century before Ginsburg won the Reed case, the Supreme Court never met a gender classification that it didn’t like. Since then, sex-based policies usually have been struck down.

I believe President Clinton was absolutely right in comparing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s efforts to those of Thurgood Marshall, and in appointing her to the Supreme Court.The Conversation

Jonathan Entin, Professor Emeritus of Law and Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg | NYT News

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Climate Emergency feedback Loop: Trees are growing faster, dying younger – and will soon store less carbon https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/climate-emergency-feedback.html https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/climate-emergency-feedback.html#respond Fri, 18 Sep 2020 04:02:23 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193320 By Roel Brienen and Emanuel Gloor | –

As the world warms and the atmosphere becomes increasingly fertilised with carbon dioxide, trees are growing ever faster. But they’re also dying younger – and overall, the world’s forests may be losing their ability to store carbon. That’s the key finding of our new study, published in the journal Nature Communications.

In a world without humans, forests would exist in equilibrium, taking roughly as much carbon out of the atmosphere as they lose. However, humans have disturbed this equilibrium by burning fossil fuels. As a result, atmospheric CO₂ levels have increased leading to an increase in temperature and fertilising plant growth. These changes have stimulated tree growth over the past decades, even in intact, “old-growth” forests that have not experienced recent human disturbances. This in turn has allowed forests to take up more carbon than they release resulting in large net accumulation – what’s often called the “carbon sink”.

Earth scientists like us often wonder how long forests can continue to be a sink. The extra CO₂ will benefit trees everywhere, and temperature increases will help them grow in colder regions. So you could expect forests to continue soaking up much of our carbon emissions – and that is exactly what most earth system models predict.

Dead tree trunk on forest floor, large fungi growing on one side.
Dead trees, like this one in Peru, release carbon back into the atmosphere when they rot away.
Roel Brienen, Author provided

However, possible changes in tree lifespan may throw a spanner in the works. A few years back when studying old-growth Amazon forests, we noted that initial growth increases were followed by increases in tree mortality. We hypothesised that this could be due to faster growth reducing how long trees live for. If true, this means predictions that the carbon sink will continue may have been overly optimistic, as they did not take into account the trade-offs between growth and longevity. Our new findings provide evidence for this hypothesis.

To study the relationship between tree growth and longevity, we used tree ring records. The width of each ring tells us how fast the tree grew, while counting rings provides information on age and allows us to estimate its maximum lifespan. We analysed more than 210,000 individual tree ring records belonging to more than 80 different species from across the globe. This large undertaking has been possible thanks to decades of work by dendrochronologists (tree ring specialists) from across the world, who made their data publicly available.

Scientists in hard hats measure trees.
Tree core sampling and inventory fieldwork by the government of Quebec, which contributed large datasets from the region.
Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Author provided

The hare and the tortoise

Our analysis shows that trees that grow fast, die young. It has been known for a long time that faster growing species live shorter. A balsa tree, for example, grows quickly to 20 metres or more but will live for only a few decades, while some bristlecone pine trees have been growing slowly and steadily for nearly 5,000 years.

We found that this is not only true when comparing different species, but also within trees of the same species. It was a surprise to find that this trade-off occurs in nearly all types of trees and ecosystems, from closed-canopy tropical forests to the hardy trees that brave the Arctic regions. A slow growing beech tree may be expected to live several decades longer than its fast-growing relatives. It is very much like the story of the hare and the tortoise – slow but steadily growing trees are the ones that live longest.

Dead pine tree, mountain in background.
Dead Whitebark Pine in Lassen National Park, California.
Steve Voelker, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, New York, Author provided

In order to study the implications of this we compared how much carbon would be accumulated under two tree simulation models. One simulation included this “grow-fast, die-young” trade-off, and the other used a model in which trees lived equally long, regardless of their growth rates. We found that trees growing faster and dying younger initially caused the overall level of biomass to increase, but it also increased tree mortality several decades later.

Therefore, eventually the forest starts to lose biomass again and return to the same level as in the beginning, but with faster growing and shorter-lived trees. Our models indicate that faster growth results in faster tree death, without real long-term increases in carbon storage. Some researchers predicted this long ago, and our results support their prediction.

These model predictions are not only consistent with observed changes in forests dynamics in the Amazon but also with a recent study reporting an increase in tree death across the globe.

Why do rock stars die young?

An intriguing question is why the fast-growing trees, the “rock stars” of the forest, live much shorter lives. We don’t yet have a conclusive answer, but we have looked at some potential mechanisms. For example, it could be that higher temperatures and other environmental variations that stimulate faster growth, also reduce tree lifespans. However, we find that reductions in lifespan are the result of faster growth itself.

One simple hypothesis is that trees die once they reach a certain maximum potential size, and the faster a tree reaches this size the younger it dies. Other possible explanations are that fast growing trees simply make cheaper wood (in terms of energy expenditure), and invest fewer resources in fighting off diseases and insect attacks, or are more vulnerable to drought. Whatever the cause, this mechanism needs to be built into scientific models if we want to make realistic predictions of the future carbon sink and thus how much CO₂ will be in the atmosphere.The Conversation

Roel Brienen, NERC Research Fellow, University of Leeds and Emanuel Gloor, Professor in Biogeochemical Cycles, University of Leeds

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Demons of the deep state: how evangelicals and conspiracy theories combine in Trump’s America https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/evangelicals-conspiracy-theories.html https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/evangelicals-conspiracy-theories.html#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2020 04:01:06 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193200 By S Jonathon O’Donnell | –

Are demons active forces in American life and politics? That is what a large number of evangelicals in the US believe and are increasingly vocal about.

Since the 1980s, growing numbers of evangelicals have given the fight against demons a key role in their spirituality and their politics. Known as “spiritual warfare”, this views demons as central actors in world politics and everyday life. While often seen as fringe, belief in spiritual warfare is common across denominational lines, including among evangelicals close to Donald Trump such as Robert Jeffress and the president’s spiritual advisor, Paula White.

A key idea in spiritual warfare is that demons don’t only attack people, as in depictions of demonic possession, but also take control of places and institutions, such as journalism, academia, and both municipal and federal bureaucracies. By doing so, demons are framed as advancing social projects that spiritual warriors see as opposing God’s plans. These include advances in reproductive and LGBTQ rights and tolerance for non-Christian religions (especially Islam).

In a recent article published in the journal Religion, I explore how these ideas about demons combine with the wider Christian nationalism shown to be prevalent among Trump’s support base. Through a survey of conservative evangelical literature, articles, and television and radio broadcasts released between 2016 and 2018, I analyse how their authors used discourses of spiritual warfare to navigate the changing political reality, and Trump’s victory and presidency in particular.

The evangelicals whose works I analyse vary in their attitudes to Trump, from ardent advocates to reluctant supporters. Yet even the reluctant supporters interpret his presidency in terms of spiritual warfare, framing Trump’s victory as a divine intervention against a demonic status quo.

Trump’s alleged battle against the “deep state” here adopts cosmic meaning, as not only the US government but undocumented immigrants and Black and LGBTQ people are cast as agents of demonic forces.

Divine intervention

The deep state has become a watchword of the Trump era, a term used by his supporters to depict Trump as an outsider fighting a corrupted political system. The deep state is central to the conspiracy movement QAnon, which depicts Trump as at war with a “deep state cabal” of devil-worshipping cannibal paedophiles.

QAnon has many overlaps with spiritual warfare and its practitioners. It uses similar ideas of religious revival and donning the “armour of God” against unseen foes.

Not all spiritual warriors engage with QAnon. But even for those that don’t, the deep state has come to represent broader ideas of demonic control, as demons are imagined as a “deeper state” working behind the scenes. Demons become the source of economic and environmental regulations and of social welfare programmes. The deregulatory ambitions that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called Trump’s “deconstruction of the administrative state” become imagined as a project of national exorcism.

For many spiritual warriors this project began on election night 2016. Trump’s improbable victory stoked narratives of divine intervention. Comparing the red electoral map of Republican victory to “the blood of Jesus” washing away America’s sins, one evangelical framed the election as overthrowing “Jezebel”, a demonic spirit often depicted as behind reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

Banning abortion is central to conservative evangelical politics. Spiritual warriors often go further, framing support for abortion and same-sex marriage as both causing and caused by demonic control. They portray evil spirits and sinful humans as creating reinforcing systems of beliefs, behaviours and policy agendas. The deep state has become a key representation of these systems.

This spiritual war against the deep state can be understood as part of post-truth politics. While sometimes seen as a politics which delegitimises truth itself, post-truth can also be understood as a destabilisation of mainstream narratives about society. One that allows new narratives to be pushed.

In spiritual warfare, this new narrative is one where God is retaking control of the US from demonic forces. One where God’s truth is being reasserted over competing truths, which are reframed as demonic lies. Spiritual warfare here becomes a struggle over competing narratives about what America is, or should be. Dismantling the deep state is part of this struggle. But it is not the only one.

The demons at work

Spiritual warfare has also come to frame evangelical reactions to ongoing protests. Demonic opposition to Trump has been positioned by spiritual warriors as being behind events from the 2017 Women’s March to the 2020 protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Stances on immigrants and refugees are also included.

In one book, turned into a part-biopic, part-propaganda film called The Trump Prophecy by the conservative evangelical Liberty University, victory over demons is paralleled with the mass expulsion of undocumented migrants. Others have framed the central American migrant caravans as carriers of diabolic “witchcraft”.

Conspiratorial claims that both the protests and migrant caravans were funded by the investor/philanthropist George Soros or the deep state close the circle. They cast demonised groups – such as “nasty” women, Black protesters, refugees and undocumented migrants – not just as agents of corrupt deep state forces but avatars of the demonic deeper state behind them.

Spiritual warriors are often keen to separate the demons they battle from the people they claim to be saving from them. But today such deliverance from evil has been shown to never just be about the spiritual salvation of individuals, if it ever was. It has profound and lasting material consequences for both those individuals and the nation.

By imagining demons behind social welfare, economic and environmental regulations, or legal protections for marginalised groups, spiritual warriors frame the dismantling of these systems as ridding the US of demons. More than this, they frame the people and groups they see as benefiting from those systems as agents of evil incarnate. Only after such people are removed can there be a national rebirth.The Conversation

S Jonathon O’Donnell, Postdoctoral Fellow in American Studies, University College Dublin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured Illustration: Florence Cathedral, Kotroz/Shutterstock.

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For anyone wavering about Voting: The US presidential election might be closer than the polls suggest https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/wavering-presidential-election.html https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/wavering-presidential-election.html#respond Wed, 16 Sep 2020 04:02:04 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193183 By Simon Jackman | –

With less than two months until the US presidential election, Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads incumbent Donald Trump in the bulk of opinion polls.

But poll-based election forecasts have proved problematic before. The polls were widely maligned after the 2016 election because Trump won the election when the majority of the polling said he would not.

What went wrong with the polls in 2016? And is polling to be believed this time around, or like in 2016, are the polls substantially underestimating Trump’s support?

Swing states decide US presidential elections

US presidential elections are two-stage, state-by-state contests.

States are allocated delegates roughly proportional to their populations, with 538 delegates in total. The votes of Americans then decide who wins the delegates in the Electoral College.

In almost all states, the candidate who has the highest vote total takes all the delegates for that state. The candidate who wins a majority (270 or more) of the Electoral College wins the election.

For the fifth time in American history, the 2016 election produced a mismatch between the national popular vote and the Electoral College outcome. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, won nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump, yet still lost the election.

Trump won states efficiently, by razor-thin margins in some cases, converting 46% of all votes cast into 56.5% of the Electoral College. Conversely, Clinton’s huge popular vote tally was concentrated in big states such as California and New York.

For this reason, election analysts focus less on national polls and more on polls from “swing states”.

These are states that have swung between the parties in recent presidential elections (for example, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina), or could be on the verge of swinging (Arizona, Texas, Georgia and Minnesota).

These states — even as few as two or three of them — will decide the 2020 election.

State polls currently point to a Biden win

As part of a large research project at the United States Studies Centre, we have compiled data from polling averages in all the swing states going back to 120 days before the election and compared them to the same time periods in 2016. Our goal was to provide a key point of reference to more correctly read the polls in 2020.

The charts for all swing states can be found here.

Our research shows Biden currently has poll leads in several states that went for Barack Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 and then swung to Trump in 2016, such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These five states are worth 90 Electoral College votes.

Biden also leads the polls in consistently Republican-voting Arizona (11 electoral votes).

So, if we take recent polls in these states at face value, then Trump would lose 101 of the Electoral College votes he won in 2016 and be soundly defeated.

Why did state polls perform poorly in 2016?

But state polls were heavily criticised in 2016 for underestimating Trump’s support, as these charts in our research highlight.

The final poll averages in 2016 underestimated Trump’s margin over Clinton by more than five points in several swing states: North Carolina (5.3), Iowa (5.7), Minnesota (5.7), Ohio (6.9) and Wisconsin (7.2). This is calculated by taking the difference between the official election result and the average of the polls on election eve.

A review of 2016 polling by the American Association of Public Opinion Research examined a number of hypotheses about the bias of state-level polls in 2016.

Two predominant factors made the difference:

1. An unusually large number of late-deciders strongly favoured Trump

The number of “undecideds” in 2016 was more than double that in prior elections. Of these, a disproportionate number voted for Trump.

But 2020 polling to date reveals far fewer undecided voters, suggesting this source of poll error will not be as large in this year’s election.



United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

2. Changes in voter turnout

In 2016, Trump successfully mobilised white voters who are becoming a smaller portion of the American electorate and ordinarily have low rates of voter turnout. These were largely non-urban voters and those with lower levels of education.

This year will likely see high levels of engagement from both sides — and potentially a surge in turnout unseen in decades — which could further undermine the accuracy of election polls.



United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

Re-interpreting the 2020 polls

The latest state poll averages imply Biden will handily win the election with an Electoral College victory of 334 to 204.

But if the 2020 polls are as wrong as they were in 2016, then Biden’s current poll leads in New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin are misleading. If Biden loses these three states, the Electoral College result will be 305-233, still a comfortable Biden win.



United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

In recent weeks, however, we have seen Biden’s poll leads in Pennsylvania and Florida be smaller than the corresponding poll error in those states from 2016.

If Trump wins these two large states (in addition to New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin), and the other 2016 results are replicated elsewhere, then he will narrowly win the election with 282 Electoral College votes.

Given the statistical range of poll errors seen in 2016 — and assuming they reoccur in 2020 — current polling implies Trump has roughly a one in three chance of winning re-election.

What other factors will come into play?

The COVID-19 pandemic and controversies around the administration of the election could further jeopardise the validity of 2020 polling. Official statistics already show many voters are attempting to make use of voting by mail or in-person, early voting.

Access to these alternative forms of voting varies tremendously across the United States, so the political consequences are difficult to anticipate.

Trump and his Republican supporters have raised doubts about the validity and security of vote by mail. A recent opinion poll showed Democrats are much more likely to rely on vote by mail compared to Republicans (72% to 22%).

Unsurprisingly, Democrats and other groups are bringing numerous lawsuits to help ensure vote by mail remains a widely available method of voting.

It is quite likely the courts will be asked to rule on the validity of the results after the election, on the basis mail ballots have been either improperly included or excluded in official tallies.

So, will it be closer than expected?

On the one hand, this year’s election seems to have historically low levels of undecided voters, a factor that should make polls more accurate. But offsetting this is tremendous uncertainty about turnout and whose votes will be cast and counted.

All this suggests considerable caution be exercised in relying on the polls to forecast the election. These forecasts are almost surely overconfident.

The other main takeaway: Trump’s chances of re-election are likely higher than suggested by the polling we have seen to date.


The charts in this piece were initially created by Zoe Meers, formerly a data visualisation analyst at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.The Conversation

Simon Jackman, Chief Executive Officer, US Studies Centre, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured Photo: H/t Wikimedia.

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Earth may Pass dangerous 1.5℃ (2.7° F.) Heating Limit for First time by 2024 https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/dangerous-5%e2%84%83-heating.html Tue, 15 Sep 2020 04:02:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193168 By Pep Canadell and Rob Jackson | –

The Paris climate agreement seeks to limit global warming to 1.5℃ this century. A new report by the World Meteorological Organisation warns this limit may be exceeded by 2024 – and the risk is growing.

This first overshoot beyond 1.5℃ would be temporary, likely aided by a major climate anomaly such as an El Niño weather pattern. However, it casts new doubt on whether Earth’s climate can be permanently stabilised at 1.5℃ warming.

This finding is among those just published in a report titled United in Science. We contributed to the report, which was prepared by six leading science agencies, including the Global Carbon Project.

The report also found while greenhouse gas emissions declined slightly in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they remained very high – which meant atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have continued to rise.

Woman holds a sign at a climate protest
The world may exceed the 1.5℃ warming threshold sooner than we expected.
Erik Anderson/AAP

Greenhouse gases rise as CO₂ emissions slow

Concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄) and nitrous oxide (N₂O), have all increased over the past decade. Current concentrations in the atmosphere are, respectively, 147%, 259% and 123% of those present before the industrial era began in 1750.

Concentrations measured at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory and at Australia’s Cape Grim station in Tasmania show concentrations continued to increase in 2019 and 2020. In particular, CO₂ concentrations reached 414.38 and 410.04 parts per million in July this year, respectively, at each station.

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄) and nitrous oxide (N₂0) from WMO Global Atmosphere Watch.

Growth in CO₂ emissions from fossil fuel use slowed to around 1% per year in the past decade, down from 3% during the 2000s. An unprecedented decline is expected in 2020, due to the COVID-19 economic slowdown. Daily CO₂ fossil fuel emissions declined by 17% in early April at the peak of global confinement policies, compared with the previous year. But by early June they had recovered to a 5% decline.

We estimate a decline for 2020 of about 4-7% compared to 2019 levels, depending on how the pandemic plays out.

Although emissions will fall slightly, atmospheric CO₂ concentrations will still reach another record high this year. This is because we’re still adding large amounts of CO₂ to the atmosphere.

Global daily fossil CO₂ emissions to June 2020. Updated from Le Quéré et al. 2020, Nature Climate Change.

Warmest five years on record

The global average surface temperature from 2016 to 2020 will be among the warmest of any equivalent period on record, and about 0.24℃ warmer than the previous five years.

This five-year period is on the way to creating a new temperature record across much of the world, including Australia, southern Africa, much of Europe, the Middle East and northern Asia, areas of South America and parts of the United States.

Sea levels rose by 3.2 millimetres per year on average over the past 27 years. The growth is accelerating – sea level rose 4.8 millimetres annually over the past five years, compared to 4.1 millimetres annually for the five years before that.

The past five years have also seen many extreme events. These include record-breaking heatwaves in Europe, Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, major bushfires in Australia and elsewhere, prolonged drought in southern Africa and three North Atlantic hurricanes in 2017.

Left: Global average temperature anomalies (relative to pre-industrial) from 1854 to 2020 for five data sets. UK-MetOffice. Right: Average sea level for the period from 1993 to July 16, 2020. European Space Agency and Copernicus Marine Service.

1 in 4 chance of exceeding 1.5°C warming

Our report predicts a continuing warming trend. There is a high probability that, everywhere on the planet, average temperatures in the next five years will be above the 1981-2010 average. Arctic warming is expected to be more than twice that the global average.

There’s a one-in-four chance the global annual average temperature will exceed 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels for at least one year over the next five years. The chance is relatively small, but still significant and growing. If a major climate anomaly, such as a strong El Niño, occurs in that period, the 1.5℃ threshold is more likely to be crossed. El Niño events generally bring warmer global temperatures.

Under the Paris Agreement, crossing the 1.5℃ threshold is measured over a 30-year average, not just one year. But every year above 1.5℃ warming would take us closer to exceeding the limit.

Global average model prediction of near surface air temperature relative to 1981–2010. Black line = observations, green = modelled, blue = forecast. Probability of global temperature exceeding 1.5℃ for a single month or year shown in brown insert and right axis. UK Met Office.

Arctic Ocean sea-ice disappearing

Satellite records between 1979 and 2019 show sea ice in the Arctic summer declined at about 13% per decade, and this year reached its lowest July levels on record.

In Antarctica, summer sea ice reached its lowest and second-lowest extent in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and 2018 was also the second-lowest winter extent.

Most simulations show that by 2050, the Arctic Ocean will practically be free of sea ice for the first time. The fate of Antarctic sea ice is less certain.

A polar bear on an ice floe
Summer sea ice in the Arctic is expected to virtually disappear by 2050.
Zaruba Ondrej/AP

Urgent action can change trends

Human activities emitted 42 billion tonnes of CO₂ in 2019 alone. Under the Paris Agreement, nations committed to reducing emissions by 2030.

But our report shows a shortfall of about 15 billion tonnes of CO₂ between these commitments, and pathways consistent with limiting warming to well below 2℃ (the less ambitious end of the Paris target). The gap increases to 32 billion tonnes for the more ambitious 1.5℃ goal.

Our report models a range of climate outcomes based on various socioeconomic and policy scenarios. It shows if emission reductions are large and sustained, we can still meet the Paris goals and avoid the most severe damage to the natural world, the economy and people. But worryingly, we also have time to make it far worse.

The Conversation


Pep Canadell, Chief research scientist, Climate Science Centre, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere; and Executive Director, Global Carbon Project, CSIRO and Rob Jackson, Chair, Department of Earth System Science, and Chair of the Global Carbon Project, Stanford University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Attacking even the Study of Slavery History, Trump is Running for President of White Nationalists https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/attacking-president-nationalists.html Mon, 14 Sep 2020 04:01:13 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193152 By Henry Giroux | –

In what appears to be a blatant appeal to the white supremacists in his base, President Donald Trump has made clear his attempt to both defend and rewrite the history of racial injustice in the United States while eliminating the institutions that make visible its historical roots.

As Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, recently pointed out:

“Not in generations has a sitting president so overtly declared himself the candidate of white America.”

Trump has defended Confederate symbols and monuments and refused to criticize those right-wing groups that appropriate them in the interests of legitimizing racial bigotry and hatred.

He has attacked The New York Times’ 1619 Project, in use in California public schools, as being anti-American. The project analyzes the history and legacy of American slavery. Trump wants it investigated by the Department of Education and has threatened to defund schools that include the project in their teaching.

As the presidential election gets closer, Trump is desperate to reassert his white supremacist and white nationalist views, even though they’ve never been hidden during his presidency.

After all, his white supremacist ideology is the cornerstone of his appeal to the reactionary and bigoted elements of his base.

That explains why he’s issued an order to rid the federal government of programs engaged in racial sensitivity training, which he labels as “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”

It explains why he’s condemned NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag.

‘Organized forgetting’

Some would argue that Trump’s latest investment in the logic of white supremacy and historical amnesia is a product of his ignorance of history.

But there’s more at work here than Trump’s power-drunk ignorance of the past. And it’s more dangerous and sinister than what’s often found in authoritarian regimes — it’s a racialized politics of organized forgetting.

At the heart of Trump’s attack on racial injustice is an attempt to replace historical consciousness with historical amnesia.

This purging of history is endemic to totalitarian regimes. In these dark times, history is once again being rewritten in the interests of tyrants and oppressive groups that do everything they can to cleanse it of elements of resistance and truth.

Trump’s rewriting of history and his attacks on forms of education that address racial injustices are happening at a moment when ignorance is aligning itself with the forces of bigotry.

Trump’s condemnations are malicious in their disdain of criticism and their attempts to undermine the value of historical consciousness. He attempts to render invisible the historical understanding of critical social issues that lie on the side of social and economic justice.

When the calls and struggles for racial justice are labelled as unpatriotic or dismissed as un-American, the abyss of fascist politics is not far away. But to misread or deny history denigrates those who have fought the battles of the past and risked their lives for the promises of a substantive democracy.

The danger of ignorance

As the great American essayist James Baldwin stated perceptively in his 1972 book No Name in the Street:

“Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

Trump’s ignorance floods the Twitter landscape daily. He denies climate change along with the dangers that it poses to humanity, discredits scientific evidence in the face of a massive pandemic, claims that systemic racism doesn’t exist in the United States and mangles history with his ignorance of the past.

Implicit in Baldwin’s warning is that the greatest threat to democratic societies is a collective ignorance that legitimizes forms of organized forgetting, social amnesia and the death of civic literacy.

Under the Trump regime, historical amnesia is used as a weapon of miseducation, politics and power. Trump wants to erase the struggles of those who fought for justice in the past because they offer dangerous memories and lessons to the protesters marching in the streets today.

Efforts to erase the progress of the past, including emancipation, is a centrepiece of authoritarian societies. These efforts cause public memory to wither and the threads of authoritarianism to take root and become normalized. They’re often accompanied by a broader attack on critical education, civic literacy, investigative journalists and the critical media.

But Trump’s defence of white supremacy, obvious in his attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement — which he labels as a threat to white Americans and a “symbol of hate” — is particularly dangerous.

As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson recently wrote:

“All of this is nothing less than undisguised white supremacy. Trump wants white voters to fear the Black Lives Matter movement. He wants them to see it not as a demand for justice and fairness but as a mortal threat to white privilege.”

Four years of nods to fascism

While some critics eschew the comparison of Trump with authoritarian regimes, it’s crucial to recognize the four years of alarming actions by this administration that echo the horrors of a fascist past.

Rejecting a comparison to fascism makes it easier to believe that we have nothing to learn from history and to take comfort in the assumption that it cannot surface once again.

But no democracy can survive without an informed and educated citizenry. Historical amnesia provides the conditions for the truth to disappear, conspiracy theories to proliferate and education to be stripped of its critical function.

What should every Canadian learn from Trump’s manipulation of racist fears as a political strategy? One crucial issue is that democracy cannot function without an informed citizenry; it demands constant attention, and must be reborn with each generation.

No democracy can survive the assault if it’s left unchallenged.

Fortunately, across the globe, people in the streets, in classrooms and in the media are taking a stand. Success from their efforts cannot come fast enough.The Conversation

Henry Giroux, Chaired professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

‘1619 Project’ Creator Says Trump Can’t Stop Schools from Teaching True History | TMZ

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Secular Shift: In Iran’s Islamic Republic, do only 40% even Consider themselves Muslims? https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/republic-consider-themselves.html Sun, 13 Sep 2020 04:01:11 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193133 By Pooyan Tamimi Arab and Ammar Maleki | –

Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a defining event that changed how we think about the relationship between religion and modernity. Ayatollah Khomeini’s mass mobilisation of Islam showed that modernisation by no means implies a linear process of religious decline.

Reliable large-scale data on Iranians’ post-revolutionary religious beliefs, however, has always been lacking. Over the years, research and waves of protests and crackdowns indicated massive disappointment among Iranians with their political system. This steadily turned into a deeply felt disillusionment with institutional religion.

In June 2020, our research institute, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN (GAMAAN), conducted an online survey with the collaboration of Ladan Boroumand, co-founder of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran.

The results verify Iranian society’s unprecedented secularisation.

Reaching Iranians online

Iran’s census claims that 99.5% of the population are Muslim, a figure that hides the state’s active hostility toward irreligiosity, conversion and unrecognised religious minorities.

Iranians live with an ever-present fear of retribution for speaking against the state. In Iran, one cannot simply call people or knock on doors seeking answers to politically sensitive questions. That’s why the anonymity of digital surveys offers an opportunity to capture what Iranians really think about religion.

Since the revolution, literacy rates have risen sharply and the urban population has grown substantially. Levels of internet penetration in Iran are comparable to those in Italy, with around 60 million users and the number grows relentlessly: 70% of adults are members of at least one social media platform.

For our survey on religious belief in Iran, we targeted diverse digital channels after analysing which groups showed lower participation rates in our previous large-scale surveys. The link to the survey was shared by Kurdish, Arab, Sufi and other networks. And our research assistant successfully convinced Shia pro-regime channels to spread it among their followers, too. We reached mass audiences by sharing the survey on Instagram pages and Telegram channels, some of which had a few million followers.

After cleaning our data, we were left with a sample of almost 40,000 Iranians living in Iran. The sample was weighted and balanced to the target population of literate Iranians aged above 19, using five demographic variables and voting behaviour in the 2017 presidential elections.

A secular and diverse Iran

Our results reveal dramatic changes in Iranian religiosity, with an increase in secularisation and a diversity of faiths and beliefs. Compared with Iran’s 99.5% census figure, we found that only 40% identified as Muslim.

In contrast with state propaganda that portrays Iran as a Shia nation, only 32% explicitly identified as such, while 5% said they were Sunni Muslim and 3% Sufi Muslim. Another 9% said they were atheists, along with 7% who prefer the label of spirituality. Among the other selected religions, 8% said they were Zoroastrians – which we interpret as a reflection of Persian nationalism and a desire for an alternative to Islam, rather than strict adherence to the Zoroastrian faith – while 1.5% said they were Christian.

GAMAAN Religion in Iran 2020 – identifications.

Most Iranians, 78%, believe in God, but only 37% believe in life after death and only 30% believe in heaven and hell. In line with other anthropological research, a quarter of our respondents said they believed in jinns or genies. Around 20% said they did not believe in any of the options, including God.

GAMAAN Religion in Iran 2020 – beliefs.

These numbers demonstrate that a general process of secularisation, known to encourage religious diversity, is taking place in Iran. An overwhelming majority, 90%, described themselves as hailing from believing or practising religious families. Yet 47% reported losing their religion in their lifetime, and 6% said they changed from one religious orientation to another. Younger people reported higher levels of irreligiosity and conversion to Christianity than older respondents.

GAMAAN religion in Iran 2020 – changing orientations.

A third said they occasionally drank alcohol in a country that legally enforces temperance. Over 60% said they did not perform the obligatory Muslim daily prayers, synchronous with a 2020 state-backed poll in which 60% reported not observing the fast during Ramadan (the majority due to being “sick”). In comparison, in a comprehensive survey conducted in 1975 before the Islamic Revolution, over 80% said they always prayed and observed the fast.

Religion and legislation

We found that societal secularisation was also linked to a critical view of the religious governance system: 68% agreed that religious prescriptions should be excluded from legislation, even if believers hold a parliamentary majority, and 72% opposed the law mandating all women wear the hijab, the Islamic veil.

GAMAAN Religion in Iran 2020 – hijab.

Iranians also harbour illiberal secularist opinions regarding religious diversity: 43% said that no religions should have the right to proselytise in public. However, 41% believed that every religion should be able to manifest in public.

Four decades ago, the Islamic Revolution taught sociologists that European-style secularisation is not followed universally around the world. The subsequent secularisation of Iran confirmed by our survey demonstrates that Europe is not exceptional either, but rather part of complex, global interactions between religious and secular forces.

Other research on population growth, whose decline has been linked to higher levels of secularisation, also suggests a decline in religiosity in Iran. In 2020, Iran recorded its lowest population growth, below 1%.

Greater access to the world via the internet, but also through interactions with the global Iranian diaspora in the past 50 years, has generated new communities and forms of religious experience inside the country. A future disentangling of state power and religious authority would likely exacerbate these societal transformations. Iran as we think we know it is changing, in fundamental ways.The Conversation

Pooyan Tamimi Arab, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Utrecht University and Ammar Maleki, Assistant Professor, Public Law and Governance, Tilburg University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured Photo: h/t Wikimedia Commons.

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Why in the World would Evangelical Christians deny the Human-Caused Climate Emergency? https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/evangelical-christians-emergency.html Sat, 12 Sep 2020 04:01:58 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193112 By Adrian Bardon | –

U.S. Christians, especially evangelical Christians, identify as environmentalists at very low rates compared to the general population. According to a Pew Research Center poll from May 2020, while 62% of religiously unaffiliated U.S. adults agree that the Earth is warming primarily due to human action, only 35% of U.S. Protestants do – including just 24% of white evangelical Protestants.

Politically powerful Christian interest groups publicly dispute the climate science consensus. A coalition of major evangelical groups, including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, launched a movement opposing what they describe as “the false worldview” of environmentalism, which supposedly is “striving to put America, and the world, under its destructive control.”

Studies show that belief in miracles and an afterlife is associated with lower estimates of the risks posed by climate change. This raises the question: Does religion itself predispose people against climate science?

Surveys of people around the world, as well as social science research on denial, suggest the answer to this question is more nuanced than a simple yes or no.

Where religion and science can’t be reconciled

An automatic resistance to science would seem to make sense for some religious believers.

There are several ways that core aspects of modern scientific knowledge tend to undermine literalist or fundamentalist readings of religious texts. In particular, evolution by natural selection, the central concept underlying the biological sciences, is utterly incompatible with most creationist faith traditions.

Religion offers the comforts of a measure of control and reassurance via an omnipotent deity that can be placated by ritual. In contrast, the scientist’s naturalistic universe offers neither an intrinsic moral order nor a final reward, which can be unsettling for the devout and in conflict with their faith.

Because of these mismatches, one might expect those with a strong religious affiliation to be reflexively suspicious of scientific findings. Indeed, in a large international survey, 64% of those who described religion as an “important part” of their life said they would side with their religious teachings in a disagreement between science and their religion. Other studies find that, for the faithful, religion and science are at odds as ultimate explanations for natural phenomena.

Climate science denial may stem more from politics than religion

Social scientist Dan Kahan rejects the idea of an automatic link between religiosity and any anti-science bias. He argues that religiosity only incidentally tracks science denial because some scientific findings have become “culturally antagonistic” to some identity groups.

According to Kahan’s data, identification as a political conservative, and as white, is much more predictive of rejecting the climate consensus than overall religiosity. He argues that anti-science bias has to do with threats to values that define one’s cultural identity. There are all kinds of topic areas wherein people judge expert qualifications based on whether the “expert” confirms or contradicts the subject’s cherished view.

Social scientist Donald Braman agrees that science denial is context dependent. He points out that while conservative white males are more likely to be skeptics on global warming, different demographic groups disagree with experts on other particular topics.

For example, where a conservative person invested in the social and economic status quo might feel threatened by evidence for global warming, liberal egalitarians might be threatened by evidence, say, that nuclear waste could be safely stored underground.

As I explain in my book, “The Truth About Denial”, there’s ample evidence for a universal human tendency toward motivated reasoning when faced with facts that threaten one’s ideological worldview. The motivated reasoner begins with a conclusion to which he or she is committed, and assesses evidence or expertise according to whether it supports that conclusion.

White American evangelicals trend very strongly toward political conservatism. They also exhibit the strongest correlation, among any faith group, between religiosity and either climate science denial or a general anti-science bias.

Meanwhile, African-American Protestants, who are theologically aligned with evangelical Protestants but politically aligned with progressives, show some of the highest levels of climate concern.

North America is the only high-income region where people who follow a religion are substantially more likely to say they favor their religious teachings over science when disagreements arise. This finding is driven mainly by politically conservative U.S. religious denominations – including conservative Catholics.

A major new study looking at data from 60 countries showed that, while religiosity in the U.S. is correlated with more negative attitudes about science, you don’t see this kind of association in many other countries. Elsewhere, religiosity is sometimes even correlated with disproportionately positive attitudes about science.

And the U.S. is generally an outlier in terms of attitudes toward human-caused global warming: Fewer Americans accept the climate science consensus than residents of most other countries.

All this would suggest that climate science resistance has more to do with cultural identity politics than religiosity.

Which comes first?

But the available evidence cuts both ways. A landmark study from the 1980s suggested that fundamentalist religious traditions are associated with a commitment to human dominion over nature, and that this attitude may explain anti-environmentalist positions.

Even after controlling for political ideology, those committed to an “end-times theology” – like U.S. evangelicals – still show a greater tendency to oppose the scientific consensus on environmental issues.

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Perhaps some specific theologies bias the believer against the idea that human beings could be responsible for the end of humanity. This bias could show up as an automatic rejection of environmental science.

We are left with something of a “chicken and egg” problem: Do certain religious communities adopt politically conservative positions on climate change because of their religious tradition? Or do people adopt a religious tradition that stresses human dominion over nature because they were raised in a politically conservative community? The direction of causation here may be difficult to resolve.

It wouldn’t be surprising to find either religious dogmatism or political conservatism linked with anti-science attitudes – each tends to favor the status quo. Fundamentalist religious traditions are defined by their fixed doctrines. Political conservatives by definition favor the preservation of the traditional social and economic order.

Consider that perhaps the single essential aspect of the scientific method is that it has no respect for cultural traditions or received views. (Think of Galileo’s findings on the motion of the Earth, or Darwin on evolution.) Some would argue that scientific inquiry’s “constant onslaught on old orthodoxies” is the reason both conservatives and frequent churchgoers report a decreasing overall trust in science which continues to this day.

Even if politics and culture rather than religion itself may be driving climate science denial, religious communities – as some religious leaders, including the Roman Catholic Pope, have recognized – bear a responsibility to exercise some self-awareness and concern for well-being rather than blindly denying the overwhelming consensus on a civilization-ending threat like human-caused global warming.The Conversation

Adrian Bardon, Professor of Philosophy, Wake Forest University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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