The Principle of Substitution

Back in the 1970s there was an end of the world cult that had gained some recognition, mainly, I think, because they had actually predicted a specific date for the end of the world and were not asking their members to give all their money to the cult. The several thousand members had disposed of all their possessions in preparation for “the end.”

The date came and went and the world survived. The cult leader said he had misinterpreted God’s word and set a new date for “the end.” Remarkably, almost none of the cult members left. The date came and went two more times and, again, almost no members leaving the cult. After the third miss the cult leader declared that the world would not, in fact, end, and that the cult members’ devotion had saved it. Almost all the cult members accepted this line. For all I know the cult is still going strong, joyful in the knowledge that they saved the world from destruction.

Have you seen those commercials where an expensive consumer good, get rich scheme, or exercise doodad is offered for thirty days free of charge, with not even shipping fees charged if you decide to return it? Wonder how these people make a profit? Wonder what this has to do with cult behavior?

The common thread is what Dr. Robert Cialdini calls the “principle of substitution.” If the original reason we have chosen to make a decision (End of the world, free for thirty days) disappears, we will find another reason to justify our decision rather than admit we were wrong. Almost nobody ever returns their “free for thirty days” items, and few people discard a belief even when proven completely and utterly wrong. We can all probably remember a time when a family member or significant other engaged the principle of substitution, and, if we’re honest, we can probably remember doing it a few times ourselves.

This is why “climategate” is not the nail in the coffin of the man-caused global warming cap and tax scam. It’s not just that there are thousands of people and hundreds of corporations who are sucking on the global warming teat, many of whom, as we’ve seen, will do anything to keep the gravy train running, it’s that there are millions of ordinary people who have been duped and will never admit it. These folks will not admit they were suckered and will seek new reasons (which the vested interests will eagerly supply) why we must enact cap-and-tax lifestyle restrictions. We’ve already seen an example of this type of manipulation with the rebranding of “global warming” as “climate change.” Many will continue to believe in man-caused global warming and would do so even if the earth entered a new ice age. It’s not because they’re bad people, or that they’re stupid, it’s because they can’t help it any more than I could send back last year’s exercise DVD’s even after it became apparent that I wasn’t going to work out for an hour a day. It’s the principle of substitution.

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  • Rupert in Springfield

    I think it is a combination of the substitution principle along with another thing, the need for significance in ones life and the tendency to think history starts with ones birth. True, we see substitution in so many situations like with the exercise DVD mentioned, but it seems to me end of the world scenarios have a special place. They are constant throughout history ( Rupert’s Rule #1 – Throughout history there has always been someone making a good living predicting the end of the world ) thus the substitution principle if thought of in the light of that constancy becomes one of enormous scale. How has man become so capable of continually substituting one doomsday scenario for another throughout his entire existence? I am of the mind that these end of the world predictions are so appealing because they give man self worth and relevance. Once the doomsday prediction is heard, an ineluctable draw starts. If one accepts the prediction, then ones time on this earth is surely the most relevant ever. Ones life now is seen in a more vivid hue. All that came before might be very interesting, but this is the most interesting time by far. Not only that, but the believer is now one of the most relevant people by far because not only do they live in the most important time, but they are one of the first to be aware of the cataclysmic circumstances. This is where AGW has special significance because the believer also feels that they have the power to change the doomsday scenario. This is especially alluring with AGW because the power to change the doomsday scenario involves little sacrifice on their part. Change out a few light bulbs ride a bike every now and then and your done. The cherry on top is that curiously, although preventing the end of the world requires almost no effort on the believers part, it does involve prescriptions for the rest of society on a massive level. There is no other end of the world prediction I can think of that even comes close to this particular aspect. It allows no dilemma between massive moral pronouncements for society as a whole, with virtually no self sacrifice.

    End of the world scenarios suffer from two major pitfalls. Either the date comes and everything is just fine or the proponents are caught behaving in a way totally at odds with the belief system. AGW takes care of both of these very handily. First, the end date is set beyond life expectancy, however the date for action is set in the present so as to gain compliance and fulfill the need to have ones time the most relevant in history. Second, personal expectations are set really low but prescriptions for others set high. Thus leaders such as Al Gore, UN members are held to a very low standard. There is correspondence rather than dissonance, the leaders make no real sacrifice thus the lack of sacrifice in the members is reinforced, neither leaders nor members are at odds with the dogma.

    This is why the current post East Anglia stage of AGW poses no real alarm for the followers. With the revelation that the original climate data has been destroyed there is no way of validating the results obtained by the seers. The leaders saw the data, they interpreted it and now their interpretations cannot be recreated or validated. Essentially they are saying “trust us”. That is the definition of a belief system, not science. Does this cause concern among the followers? Not really, for removing of that trust would open up a worse outcome than continuing it. All of a sudden their lifetime might be ordinary rather than the most important in human history. Better to continue to have faith than to ask questions that might reveal ones time is of no special significance whatsoever. Just like all those before, who thought they lived in the most important time, who thought they had discovered the Coca Cola of apocalypse. AGW, “It’s The Real Thing”

  • Diamond Jim Franconni

    I think it is a combination of stupidity and insanity by the warming “believers”. A very deadly combination.

  • v person

    Or…perhaps its all about reality, and a few questionable emails hasn’t changed this. So we can substitute our perception of reality, but we can’t substitute for reality. Its either warming or it isn’t (the evidence is that it is) and its either due to greenhouse gas buildup from fossil fuel burning or it isn’t (the evidence is still overwhelming that it is).

    As for Rupert’s “end of the world” scenarios that come and go, when faced with factual problems, history shows that it is wise to take action before they become too large to adapt to. We once had rivers that caught on fire, so we passed the Clean Water Act and cleaned them up. We once had cities choking on smog so we passed the clean air act and can breathe again. We once slaughtered wildlife to extinction but passed the endangered species act and have at least slowed that problem. None of these acts destroyed our economy or way of life, and neither will a climate/energy bill that helps us transition away from dependence on diminishing fossil fuels.

    Now let’s cue the fake v person to make a homophobic comment below mine, and the anonymous person to call me various names.

    • Steve Plunk

      Let’s hope the fake v person stays away or the site admin blocks him.

      The supposedly benign emails are in fact evidence of a cancer in the man made global warming community. The emails expose the undermining of the scientific process, the fudging of data, the belief that the public must be fooled, and the reason these scientists keep at it, money in the form of research grants. If that is not enough to cause a complete reassessment of this I don’t know what would.

      Unlike the polluted rivers and air the costs associated with AGW mitigation are not reasonable for the expected benefits. Some would say a warmer planet would be better and the money spent on mitigation would benefit us in other areas like public health or clean drinking water. The problem is no one looks at this rationally anymore. It’s now all doomsday scenarios promulgated by people like Gore and Hanson.

      The reality is any warming taking place is likely natural and cyclical. Panic mode legislation or treaties are absolutely wrong at this point.

    • anon

      I think you are demonstrating about yourself exactly the point Tim is trying to make about human nature.

      Have the recent revelations about the climate debate caused you to question, even a little bit, the climate change/global warming arguments?

      • v person

        Ah…the homophobic comment, as predicted. I can almost hear the twittering glee.

        “Have the recent revelations about the climate debate caused you to question, even a little bit, the climate change/global warming arguments?”

        The answer is yes, they caused me to question more than a little bit. But then I took the time to look at the controversial emails, read a number of interpretations, and for now have concluded that they do not change anything of substance. There is nothing in them, as far as I have seen or heard, that suggests the earth has not warmed by the amount documented by 4 separate institutions, or that this warming is not primarily due to CO2. Also, there is nothing in the emails that points to any grand conspiracy amongst thousands of climate scientists to trick us.

        Scientists in all fields are engaged in a competition for finding new interpretations of reality and getting theirs accepted by their peers, and in the case of climate change the stakes are incredibly high for the wider world. Some of the actions of these scientists appear to have crossed an ethical line. But have the facts changed? I don’t see it.

        As for Steve’s post. Yes, a warmer world probably has its advantages, as well as disadvantages. Debating that is very different than debating whether it is warming due to our actions. And I’ll remind him that the same arguments were made for NOT passing legislation to deal with water and air pollution, and are still made for getting rid of the endangered species act. Cap and Trade is not going to bankrupt us. We will transition to much higher energy efficiency, and we will develop new forms of energy. Its already happening right under our noses and will continue, though at a quicker pace if we pass a meaningful bill.

        • Rupert in Springfield

          The same arguments were made for not dealing with water and air pollution? Endangered species?

          Say what?

          OK – I don’t remember a single one of these issues having the argument made against them that is being made here. That argument being:

          You destroyed the original data, so there is no way of checking your results so, sorry, we simply cannot get involved in multi trillion dollar investments simply by taking your word for it.

          That is the state of affairs now. The scientists are literally asking everyone to take their results on pure faith, have stymied efforts by others to look at their data and now have confessed to destroying the primary data set upon which all this is based.

          Sure, it would be nice to trust them, but after high jinks like those of Hanson at GISS, getting caught twice using phony data, the scientists asking us to trust them is a little much. Lets face it, these guys largely get their funding from sources that are hardly impartial. Governments stand to reap a whirlwind of tax revenue from AGW so there is little surprise they tend to fund those who will produce desired results.

          AGW’ers might not like it, but the onus is on them at this stage of the game. And no, other than the fact that there is controversy, the nature of that controversy bears no relationship to past water and air pollution efforts. Here we have substantial evidence of fraud, substantial behaviour of fraud in not releasing data, and substantial past circumstances of fraud as with GISS.

          You keep saying AGW is reality, but frankly the fact that you don’t seem the least disturbed by current revelations says to me you deal in a reality of unquestioning allegiance. That someone could regard scientists withholding data so their results could not be recreated and then confessing that they had destroyed the data and have his allegiance unshaken tells me you live by dogma, not objective circumstances.

        • jim karlock

          *Dean Apostle:* There is nothing in them, as far as I have seen or heard, that suggests the earth has not warmed by the amount documented by 4 separate institutions, or that this warming is not primarily due to CO2.
          Then you must have missed (or ignored) the discussion of adjusting data to a desired outcome (instead of letting the science guide adjustments.)

          Then you must have missed (or ignored) the blocking of the publication of skeptical papers.

          Then you must have missed (or ignored) them getting an editor fired for publishing a skeptical paper.

          Then you must have missed (or ignored) them truncating the data to hide the fact that it quit being a temperature proxy after the 60s. You are probably too illogical to recognize that this implies that it never was a temperature proxy.

          Then you must have missed (or ignored) the data adjustments that created the gap in temperature attributed to CO2. No adjustments = NO CO2 causation.

          Oh, and you must have missed (or ignored) the fact that the other major records are related to CRU.

          The whole field needs a compete start over with new people.
          Better yet, just shut it all down.

  • v person

    I ran this question by my friends at Embers during our last underwear only party and they were less than impressed. Lying is a way of life with gay liberals and we see no reason to stop now.

    • Steve Plunk

      This is becoming tiresome. The mature among us would like you to stop.

      • v person

        Let me think…………no, I don’t think so. Dean is banned from posting here, just because he came up with a gay name to hide behind doesn’t mean he should be allowed to.

    • Anonymous

      Really, dean’s own statements provide enough fuel for ridicule.

      His statement that he has read the emails and that there is nothing in them is, like everything else he says, a laughable lie.

      Re: Rupert’s statements about personal significance: most people will never contribute anything of the slightest significance to society, Writing a great book, discovering a new medicine, or even volunteering the time to teach illiterate adults to read takes far more work and/or intelligence than most people are capable of or are willing to contribute.

      The lure of schemes like AGW is that they offer the individual a way to feel they are doing something significant (saving the world) without expending any of their own time, effort or money. They can do nothing and still feel part of something important. It’s like the morons with the “free tibet” bumper stickers. What do you want to bet dean has one? If you REALLY want to free Tibet, sell all your stuff, buy weapons, smuggle them into Tibet, and start killing Chinese soldiers.

      If you really want to save the world, work in medical research, teach people to read, give large sums of money to the Salvation Army – give your time and treasure! But that’s SO much harder than trolling blogs, renting the latest Michael Moore film or making snide comments about SUV owners.

      • v person

        The argument I was referring to was that the cost of fixing the problem would be either too high or not worth it. If you were not around for those or don’t remember, then I can’t help you.

        “You destroyed the original data, so there is no way of checking your results …”

        Stop yourself right there Rupert. The original data apparently still exists. It just does not exist at the CRU. So if one wants to check the original data, they can still do so, but they have to go to the source, as CRU did initially.

        In addition, there are 3 other organizations in other nations who have independently tracked global temperature data and gotten nearly the same result as CRU. So even if you could throw out CRU as unreliable, we still have other records of global warming. Where does that leave your argument?

        “the scientists asking us to trust them is a little much. ”

        Well fine then. Put your trust in Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. Go to a witch doctor and have them slap a healing spell on you instead of going to an MD. Join a UFO club and share stories with Dennis Kucinich.

        “AGW’ers might not like it, but the onus is on them at this stage of the game.”

        News flash.. it always has been because we are the ones who have to make the case for change. Its been an uphill fight and the hill just got steeper thanks to this nonsensical event.

        “You keep saying AGW is reality, but frankly the fact that you don’t seem the least disturbed by current revelations says to me you deal in a reality of unquestioning allegiance.”

        I say it is reality only because it is reality. The independent findings of science are our most reliable basis for determining physical reality. Accepting this is what led western civilization out of the dark ages. If science concludes the moon is made of green cheese based on evidence, I’ll accept it until shown otherwise. AGW is a conclusion of science. A lay person not accepting this conclusion is the one with a misplaced allegance.

        “It’s like the morons with the “free tibet” bumper stickers. What do you want to bet dean has one? ”

        Its a good thing you did not make that particular bet.

        • jim karlock

          *Hey Dean,* Its time for you to quit being a denier!

          • Anonymous

            Jim –

            I just love it when you b-slap the AGW propagandists with facts. It’s hilarious watching the literary gymnastics they go to to avoid answering your simple, direct questions.

        • Steve Plunk

          The difference between these scientists versus Beck and Limbaugh (who I don’t listen to) is how much they will cost me. The policy changes being proposed that are based upon the work done by these cheaters will cost us all plenty. What do Beck and Limbaugh cost? Nothing, we are all free to turn them off. So if the climate kooks want my trust to potentially ruin the economy they need better science. They have been exposed as manipulators and liars.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Yep, surprise surprise – you have largely government funded science that yields a result that empowers government to raise taxes and restrict freedoms.

            How astonishing!

            Kind of the same weird coincidence like when tobacco companies funded The Tobacco Institute and scientists there found cigarettes weren’t addictive and posed no health risk.

            And how amazing that the recent data dump shows a pattern of stifling dissent. Who would have thought that a bunch of scientists doing work that yielded the results government wanted would try and stop opposing views from rocking the boat?

            I’m still trying to figure the whole thing out – Bush was bad because he supposedly prevented scientists with opposing views from being heard.

            Oh well, BO is still busy restoring, as he claimed, “science to its rightful place”.

            I guess that means funding scientists to say the right thing so government could reap windfall profits from new taxes.

          • v person

            Maybe you think that government funding and tobacco funding are equal, but we elect our government to represent our interests. Who elected tobacco company executives, and who’s interests do they represent?

            “And how amazing that the recent data dump shows a pattern of stifling dissent.”

            It shows that some scientists engage in marginal ethical behavior to prevent contra scientists from gaining legitimate forums. Now where have we seen that before? Last year, when a group of OSU forestry professors tried to block publication of a paper that called their own research and policy recommendations into doubt with respect to salvaging burned timber. In other words, intra battles amongst scientists over peer publication is hardly unknown. We should be shocked to find gambling going on here.

            “I’m still trying to figure the whole thing out…”

            I doubt it. I think you already have it all figured out. Wrongly, but figured out nonetheless. And the Bush Administration did not “supposedly” prevent certain scientists from being heard. They actively did so with respect to your favorite scientist, James Hanson.

            “Oh well, BO is still busy restoring, as he claimed, “science to its rightful place”.”

            OK. What does Obama have to do with private email exchanges between scientists over a period dating back to the mid 1990s? Was he supposed to have intervened somehow in private communications made well before he was President? And given the main culprits, if there are any are British, how is he funding them exactly?

            Your whole premise is off base.

        • v person

          Quit pretending to be me and go back to your boyfriend and the gerbil.

  • Moe

    All I know is it sure is getting cold out there!

  • SomeGuy

    Actually you can thank the Bush administration and the Republican party for re-branding global warming as “climate change” (at least in the US). In 2002 they decided to start using the latter term because it sounded less “frightening” to the public, and would therefore help them extend the amount of time they could deny global warming despite the fact that “the scientific debate is closing against us”.

    Those are their words, not mine. Read the full PDF of the internal white house memo at the bottom of this page:

    I’m sure you will probably ignore this evidence, Tim, and just invent some new bogus argument to support your theory, but thanks to your helpful article, at least now I know why. It’s not because you’re an idiot. It’s just the principle of substitution!

    • Anonymous


      That’s a report from Luntz Research, not a White House memo. But then, if you weren’t an idiot the words “”The Luntz Research Companies” at the bottom of each page probably would have tipped you off.

      If “Climaye Change” vs. “Global Warming” is a a fiendish republican plot, why is is that Democrats use the term “Climate Change” while repuiblicans use “Global Warming?”

      • Anonymous

        I’m not taking sides on the AGW issue, but on the narrow point about the change in terminology, I think the commenter is basically correct. The document he’s referring to is not a white house memo, but the author, Frank Luntz, is a well known Republican political consultant who was paid to produce it at the request of the administration. They read it and apparently took it to heart, because they implemented many of its recommendations, including the switch to the term “climate change”. In political circles this strategy was judged to be a great success, and Luntz’s association with it significantly elevated his reputation.

    • Anonymous

      A little upset because your picks based on bogus AGW claims are tanking? Clients a little pissed?

  • Anonymous

    December 4 and today’s high was 37 degrees, one degree above the record low high of 36 degrees. Earliest opening of skiing on Mt. Hood in a decade. Oh, that’s right, weather is only climate when it supports the bogus AGW argument.

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