"Skeptical Science" reports a rather extraordinary statement by the British Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson. Here it is:
"Well I'm sitting like a rose between two thorns here and I have to take practical decisions - erm - the climate's always been changing - er - Peter mentioned the Arctic and I think in the Holocene the Arctic melted completely and you can see there were beaches there - when Greenland was occupied, you know, people growing crops - we then had a little ice age, we had a middle age warming - the climate's been going up and down - but the real question which I think everyone's trying to address is - is this influenced by manmade activity in recent years and James [Delingpole] is actually correct - the climate has not changed - the temperature has not changed in the last seventeen years and what I think we've got to be careful of is that there is almost certainly - bound to be - some influence by manmade activity but I think we've just got to be rational (audience laughter) - rational people - and make sure the measures that we take to counter it don't actually cause more damage - and I think we're about to get -"
(See here for a detailed debunking of these statements)
Doesn't this statement give you the impression of an infected mind? Something like a Petri dish full of bacteria festering on their nutrient solution.
Minds, however, are not so often infected by real bacteria or virus but are easily prey to their virtual equivalent: "memes." Originally proposed by Richard Dawkins in the 1970s, the concept of meme sees ideas as able to reproduce and spread hopping from one mind to another; it is the origin of the idea of "viral communication".
As we see from the statement from Secretary Paterson, sometimes a human mind seems to be more a battleground for infectious memes than the rational computing device that we imagine it to be.
But what is really maddening, here, is how well "negative" memes (intended as contrary to reality) spread. There exist perfectly good memes that describe how climate change is happening; for instance "the Arctic is melting" is a meme that describes reality. But, no; these memes don't spread, don't stick. So, Mr. Paterson doesn't mention that "the Arctic is melting"(true) but that "in the Holocene the Arctic melted completely" (not true).
That is confirmed by a study by Lazlo Karafiath and Joe Brewer, co-founders of DarwinSF. They found that memes that describe the reality of climate change simply don't stick. Why is that? Perhaps we didn't find the right memes; or is it that the human mind is structured in such a way to reject reality when given a chance to do so?
Hard to say; in any case we can't hope to diffuse the urgency of doing something about climate change if we don't take into account the concept of meme. For a start, you may give a look to this video - also by the founders of DarwinSF