Here is a portion of an entry written by Scott Adams on how people may have individual differences on the amount of cognitive dissonance that they can handle.
Recently I saw the best case of cognitive dissonance I have ever seen. It was on Bill Maher’s show, Real Time, which I love. Bill was interviewing Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg, who has a book about global warming, called “Cool It.” The economist made the following points clearly and succinctly:
1. Global warming is real, and people are a major cause.
2. When considering the problems that global warming will cause, we shouldn’t ignore the benefits of global warming, such as fewer deaths from cold.
3. The oceans rose a foot in the last hundred years, and the world adapted, so the additional rise from global warming might not be as big a problem as people assume.
4. Developing economical fossil fuel alternatives is the only rational solution to global warming because countries such as China and India will use the cheapest fuel, period. If only the developed countries who can afford alternatives change their ways, it’s not enough to make a dent in the problem.
The Danish economist’s argument doesn’t fall into the established views about global warming. He wasn’t denying it is happening, or denying humans are a major cause. But he also wasn’t saying we should drive hybrid cars, since he thinks it won’t be enough to help. He thinks we need to make solar (or other alternatives) more economical. That’s the magic bullet. His views don’t map to either popular camp on this issue, and it created a fascinating cognitive dissonance in Bill Maher (a fan of hybrid cars) and his panelists. Here are their reactions after the interview:
Rob Thomas said the interview “…confused the shit out of me.” (Yet the economist was completely clear and communicated well.)
Salman Rushdie said, jokingly, that what he heard was “There’s no connection between smoking and lung cancer.” By that he meant the author was denying that fossil fuels contribute to global warming. (The economist said exactly the opposite, and clearly.)
Bill Maher said, “…20 years later, this guy is going to say, ‘You know what? Yeah, there is global warming.” (The economist already said exactly that during the interview. In fact, his entire book is based on global warming being true and hastened by fossil fuels.)