18. Beliefs

Strong social or religious beliefs, especially religious beliefs, can powerfully influence or bias estimates of global risk. Many Christians believe that the course of history is directed by God, and that he would never allow humanity to be exterminated for an arbitrary reason. It would be disappointing if we were then wiped out because not enough Christians cared about global risks to participate in doing anything about them.

Aside from Christianity, there are also pseudo-religious beliefs associated with progressivism and liberalism that bias risk estimates. Questioning global warming, or the severity of global warming, is often considered heresy according to the dominant progressive paradigm. Emails from the ClimateGate controversy, of which there were two rounds of emails, made it very clear that one prominent group of climate scientists were only looking for the “right” conclusions, scientific objectivity be damned. Another example is that those with engrained liberal beliefs might find it personally difficult to consider the effects of mass intelligence enhancement creating  humans with superior capabilities, because of distaste for the idea of innate inequality.

In his book on global risks Our Final Hour, Sir Martin Rees writes that in Reagan's environmental administration, the religious fundamentalist James Watt, Secretary of the Interior, believed that the arrival of the Apocalypse might be accelerated by destruction of the environment17. There are many other examples in this vein, too many to count.