A Reply to Lewandowsky’s sideswipe

In looking analysing the data on the Lew et al paper I made the following comment.

If you sample some of their articles, you will find a dogmatic defence of climate change, and blocking, editing or denigration views that are contrary to their own. The claim in the paper that they contacted five sceptical blogs to improve the spread of views is highly suspect. Jo Nova contacted 24 such blogs (including all the most prominent ones), with not a single one remembering such an approach. Prof. Lewandowsky is currently refusing to divulge the names of the blogs contacted. As there was no proper control of the answers, there could be rogue results generated.

It turns out that Prof. Lewandowsky’s assistant Charles Hanich did contact 5 “skeptic” blogs with requests. These requests were either ignored or rejected with little or no thought nearly two years ago. On his blog Stephan Lewandowsky stated

At this juncture one might consider a few intriguing questions:

1. When will an apology be forthcoming for the accusations launched against me? And how many individuals should now be issuing a public apology?

To explore the magnitude of this question we must take stock of public statements that have been made about my research. For example, one blogger considered it “highly suspect” whether I had contacted any “skeptic” sites.

It troubled me greatly this comment. Why had I failed to trust the word of a professor of psychology? A science which I have never studied? I will not give excuses, but give the reasons that were going through my mind at the time.

Firstly, I was prejudiced against Prof. Lewandwosky. I had first heard of him in relation to the Peter Gleick affair. This was when a so-called scientist impersonated someone else to fraudulently obtain documents from the Heartland Institute. He was “outed” because the key document – which was fabricated – was in the style of Peter Gleick. Yet, Lewandowsky’s believed Gleick’s lying to defend “science” was on the same moral plane as Churchill’s lying to deceive Hitler. Further, he accepted Gleick’s statement that he was sent the forged document in the post. In my eyes that was a choice between strong circumstantial evidence and the statement of a self-confessed liar. Also, for Gleick, admission of fabrication might be a far more serious crime, than his claim to receiving something in the post gullibly accepting it as genuine. So whatever the truth, there might be motive for an additional lie. Further, I do not believe that climate denial is as evil as Nazism. In fact I happen to believe that the term “climate denial” is a vicious smear.

Secondly, my prejudices were further exaggerated when I came across a climate opinion survey at “Watching the Deniers” blog. I not only answered this opinion survey, but recorded the questions and commented upon them. When I saw the Lewandowsky paper, with the some of the same questions on free markets and conspiracy theories, I erroneously thought that this was the same questionnaire. In fact, the questionnaire I answered is probably a later development of the survey behind the Lewandowsky paper. Looking at the actual questionnaire, my comments can be applied to the earlier and shorter survey.

Thirdly, I saw the paper and read the opening paragraphs. I see Lewandowsky’s belief (and the climate scientists as being) along the lines of climate scientists are the experts with PhDs, and are in strong agreement. I believe that far from the strong foundation sufficient to declare anyone who disagrees a motivated denier of the truth.

Fourthly, I am also prejudiced against using psychology to declare that critics sub-normal after reading in the 1980s about the abuses of psychiatry in the Soviet Union, to consign dissidents to mental institutions. Or the arguments the KGB put forward to dissidents of how they could possibly disagree with the huge consensus. Maybe this is an analogy that Lewandowsky will cry foul as one who knows the subject, but this is the honest truth.

Fifthly, I then looked at the data. I found a number of misleading statements in the paper, including the small minority of skeptic responses; the fact that the typical respondent wanted little or anything to do with any conspiracy theory not related to climate. In the extreme case of the “NASA Faked the Moon Landings” referred to in the title only 10 responses out of 1145 responses agreed with the proposition. Further, the two dogmatic rejecters of climate science I identified (before Tom Curtis) as being likely scammed. In other words, the dogmatic conclusions rested on little or no evidence.

My conclusion was this. Prof. Lewandowsky believes it is alright to lie and smear opponents in his “noble” cause. He has issued a highly prejudiced survey to verify a hypothesis that those who reject what he believes are nutters. He then failed to get a decent sample of skeptics and then failed to filter out the rogue responses. When the vast majority of responses failed to verify his hypothesis, he used the small differences in the minority who believed in conspiracy theories to support his dogmatic conclusions. Yet those could be accounted for by scam responses.

On the basis of all this, I had completely lost trust in any statement that Lewandowsky and his mates wrote. I believe I had more than sufficient grounds for suspecting that he had lied about contacting sceptical blogs.

What this leads me onto is something that Lewandowsky has completely missed. The claim is that we should trust climate scientists, as they are the experts.

But what happens when you betray that trust? Let me give three cases.

1. A business fails to deliver on time and what was specified. Then digs themselves into a deeper hole be making excuses and telling the customer that if they have not broken the small print of the contract. After such an experience would the customer ever trust that business again, even if dealing with a different department or people?

2. Somebody was wrongly convicted of murder due to misinterpretation of the evidence by experts, or tampering of the evidence by the police. After this is exposed, there is no action taken to release the innocent party or to stop these events occurring again. What would happen to people’s trust in the judicial process?

3. After twenty years of marriage, one of the partners sleeps with another. What happens to the trust in the marriage if the guilty partner then makes excuses, including blaming the other?

Betrayal of that trust will lead to the betrayer being viewed in a completely different light by the betrayed party. The betrayed now questions every statement and every motive. Once you have lost people’s trust, it is very hard to regain that trust – a point that Dale Carnegie makes in “How To Win Friends And Influence People”. Shifting blame, or failing to acknowledge fault, will only make matters worse. Yet this is what the climate science community has being doing for years. Look at the skeptic blogs and you will find lots of reasons for questioning the science. Some are valid, some are less valid. It is by a group of people that has, with multiple reasons, lost trust in the “science”. The response of the scientists is to call them names, question their motives and (if you look at the skepticalscience blog) provide feeble and biased excuses. By not acknowledging that differences of opinion are possible, or that the science is weak, or that misinterpretations are possible, they are destroying the trust people have in science.

In short what Lewandowsky has completely missed is that people reject the “science” because of lack of trust in scientists, for reasons that they believe in. His actions and those of climate scientists are just exacerbating the rift between the climate science community and people who live in the real world.

Final Note

I am not a scientist. But I have a degree in economics and worked for over 20 years in industry as a management accountant, mostly within the manufacturing sector. I am a Christian, who believes that people are fallible. That is human beings are prone to error, whether by design or by failing to perceive whether they are wrong. I am certainly fallible. In fact, my best work has often by analysing figures in different ways, wasting my time going up blind allies, learning and eventually getting to better solutions. But I strongly believe that those who believe themselves to be the most infallible are those who are usually the most wrong.

I have used an anonymous handle for various reasons, including that people who support “science” think that is alright to make unsubstantiated character assassinations against those who question them.

Kevin Marshall

Lewandowsky et al. 2012 MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE – Part 5 the Missing Links

Jo Nova has now provided the first full list of the survey questions used for the Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac paper, along with a well-written summary. However, there are a number of elements that need to be emphasised

  1. If “climate denial” is on a par with “holocaust” or “smoking” denial, why not start by referencing the clearest statement of the evidence, rather than past opinion surveys? That is, if direct evidence is available, why resort to hearsay evidence?
  2. But if opinion surveys are used, then they should at least be good ones. But the primary references are Anderegg, Prall, Harold, & Schneider, 2010 (Most climate scientists believe in what they do) and Doran & Zimmerman, 2009 (97% of climate scientists = 75/77 cut from >3000 responses).
  3. Even so, surely the association with NASA Moon Landings was correct? After all, the title is “NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.”
    Not when 93% of all respondents gave it a firm thumbs down.
  4. When Lewandowsky says over >1100 responses, and only talks about those who “reject the science”, it surely implies that all (or at least the vast majority) of responses were from the people he is attacking? Actually, around 15% of responses were from skeptics, in terms of answers to four “climate science” questions. Professional polling organisations in the UK state these figures. But a scientific journal seems not to have insisted.
  5. There are loads of conspiracy theories. But one of the most popular in recent years is something like “Climate denial only exists as a serious force due to significant funding by oil and tobacco interests.” Lewandowsky and his junior partners cannot have missed that one.

The basic psychology behind this can be found in “The Debunking Handbook” on the front page of the skepticalscience website. Here is the justification for lying, ad hom attacks and continued government grants to a failed research program. They know the truth, and are claiming a monopoly of that truth. But to legitimately claim a monopoly it is necessary to show the corollary. The corollary is that every person who disagrees with you is wrong on everything. In empirical sciences this leaves no gap for different interpretations from the same data; no gap for the unexplained; no gap for hypotheses or assumptions to be falsified; and no gap for new data contradicting old data or forecasts. Lewandowsky’s opinion poll applies the truth in the “The Debunking Handbook” to justify one version of climate science having a continued monopoly by showing that opponents are a load of undesirable nutters. It is not just full of gaps. Like past claimants to the throne of dictators of truth, he is more wrong than his detractors.

But if you do not have a monopoly of the truth in climate science, what is the alternative? What if there is a potential future threat, which is very real, but for which there is very little firm evidence? A tentative proposal will be the subject of my next posting.

Lewandowsky et al. 2012 MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE – Part 4 Political Opinions

This is the fourth in a series on Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (in press, Psychological Science).

This posting is further analysis of the data set sourced by Katabasis. (The data is now available from Bishop Hill) The previous post looked at the conspiracy theory question, whilst this looks at the link that the survey makes between free market ideas and rejection of climate science. From the abstract, this was the primary theme of the survey.

Abstract

Although nearly all domain experts agree that human CO2 emissions are altering the

world’s climate, segments of the public remain unconvinced by the scientific evidence.

Internet blogs have become a vocal platform for climate denial, and bloggers have taken a

prominent and influential role in questioning climate science. We report a survey (N

> 1100) of climate blog users to identify the variables underlying acceptance and rejection

of climate science. Paralleling previous work, we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire

conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science (r≈:80 between

latent constructs). Endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of other

established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking

causes lung cancer. We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy

theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon

landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific

findings, above and beyond endorsement of laissez-faire free markets. This provides

empirical confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to

the rejection of science. Acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with

the perception of a consensus among scientists.

There were relatively few questions to identify the political views of the respondent.

The Free Market Questions

FMUnresBest An economic system based on free markets

unrestrained by government interference automatically

works best to meet human needs.

FMNotEnvQual I support the free market system but not at the expense

of the environmental quality.

FMLimitSocial The free market system may be efficient for resource

allocation but it is limited in its capacity to promote

social justice.

FMMoreImp The preservation of the free market system is more

important than localized environmental concerns.

FMThreatEnv Free and unregulated markets pose important threats

to sustainable development.

FMUnsustain The free market system is likely to promote

unsustainable consumption.

The Climate Science Questions

CO2TempUp I believe that burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric

temperature to some measurable degree.

CO2AtmosUp I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has increased atmospheric temperature to an appreciable degree.
CO2WillNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years will cause serious negative changes to the planet’s climate unless there is a substantial switch to non CO2 emitting energy sources.
CO2HasNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has caused serious negative changes to the planet’s climate.

The Results

The answers for the free market questions are from 1 (reject the free market) to 4 (complete agreement to free market).

The answers for the climate science questions are from 1 (totally Reject) to 4 (complete agreement).

As in my previous posting, for the Climate Science questions I graded the answers to the four questions into groups based on the average score.


The answer is clear from the poll results. The stronger the support for free markets, the more likely one is to reject the climate science.

Taking the average score and rounding to the nearest whole number, the picture is even clearer.


The more free-market the views expressed, the greater the rejection of the science. Does this substantiate Lewandowsky et. al’s assertions?

Err No.

There are some series issues with this result.

Firstly, the survey was only available on a certain type of blog. Depending on your point of view, they are either pro-science or alarmist. These are

http://www.skepticalscience.com
http://tamino.wordpress.com
http://bbickmore.wordpress.com
http://www.trunity.net/uuuno/blogs/
http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/
http://profmandia.wordpress.com/
http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/
http://hot-topic.co.nz/

If you sample some of their articles, you will find a dogmatic defence of climate change, and blocking, editing or denigration views that are contrary to their own. To regularly trawl through articles that you disagree with takes a certain kind of person that may not be representative of the wider sceptic community. Given that the sceptic blogs attract a wider audience than the “pro-science” ones, the fact that only 15% of responses were from sceptics says that only a minority regularly visit the blogs antagonistic to their views. In other words, the survey is not representative of the true population of those interested in the climate change / global warming issues.

Then there are the questions themselves.

At first glance the questions do not allow for the middle ground. Many sceptics who are not libertarian in outlook have then a number of options.

  1. Some might quit the survey in disgust, thus creating a sample less representative of the true population. There was no record kept of the numbers of part completed surveys, nor the point at which they were completed. The lack of neutrality and narrowness of the range of questions suggests that might be material.
  2. The second is to answer questions in opposition to the climate consensus. That is the join in coalition to free-marketers to oppose the environmentalist ideology. This is quite logical. Environmentalist ideology can be viewed as increasing authoritarianism, constraining economic growth (and thus the prospect of ever-rising standards of living) along with regressive cost increases in electricity and fuel for cars. In other words, those who want the status quo to be maintained join in coalition with those who want the direction of change to be the opposite of where environmentalists are pulling. There is no risk here for the moderates. Libertarianism is nowhere a major political force.

Let us look at the average response for each question to see if this is suggested.


The most pragmatic question is the least polarized. People may support a position ideologically, but will compromise if there is a demonstrable need or benefit. Conversely the last two questions are the most ideological. A lot of people are motivated to oppose a movement that is contrary to their own beliefs. In other words, the nature of the questions further drives people into opposing camps.

How should Lewandowsky have approached these problems? If he was an objective scientist, Lewandowsky would have sought advice from professional pollsters on the content of the questions. They would have advised more neutral, and a broader range of questions to enable people to express a range of views. They would have also advised validity checks to make sure the survey results were representative of the population at large. But Stefan Lewandowsky is not an objective scientist. His agenda is to prevent any opposition to the ideology he and others promote.

Are there any conclusions to be drawn?

The biases in the free market questions apply to those who reject climate science. However, as a survey of those who accept the climate science, it is more valid.

Firstly the sample size is significant. Merging the six groups into 3 gives:-


The sample size of 854 is quite large, and more than six times the size of those who reject climate science.

Secondly, the sample is likely to represent the true population of “Acceptors”, as it was placed on the blogs that they frequent.

Thirdly, as the survey was devised by people sympathetic to their point of view, the abandonment rate should not have been any higher than for more neutral polls.

The major conclusion is that those who “accept the science” have no truck with conspiracy theories. On political opinions, they strongly support an ideology which promotes the environment at the expense of economic growth and economic freedoms. That is the, planet should be given a higher priority relative to the people that live on it.

Thus the true result of the survey data is not that those who oppose climate science are nutters. Rather, it is that those who support climate science have views that are at odds to, and contrary to the best interests of, the vast majority. We have not got here the justification to silence the opposition, but giving them due weighting.


Lewandowsky et al. 2012 MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE – Part 3 Data Analysis of the Conspiracy Theory element

A month ago made two postings on the paper Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (in press, Psychological Science). In the first I showed that an opening statement about the beliefs of climate scientists was not supported by the references. The second raised some questions, which owing to a lack of data I was unable to answer.

When Katabasis offered in the comments at Jo Nova’s blog to provide the raw data for the paper I took him up on the offer.

The paper’s major findings were on the link between climate denial and belief in free markets. However, I first want to deal with the aspect of the link with beliefs in conspiracy theories due to

  1. the title
  2. The articles that have appeared in the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers.
  3. The following from the conclusion
  4. Also consider this from the conclusion

    “However, to our knowledge, our results are the first to provide empirical evidence for the correlation between a general construct of conspiracist ideation and the general tendency to reject well-founded science.”

The lead author, Prof. Stefan Lewandowsky has a history of dogmatically defending climate science, often by attacking the opponents. However, that is no reason to reject the results of a published scientific paper if those results are substantiated by the evidence.

The survey was posted on a number of climate blogs of all the same persuasion. Depending on your point of view, they are either pro-science or alarmist. These are

http://www.skepticalscience.com
http://tamino.wordpress.com
http://bbickmore.wordpress.com
http://www.trunity.net/uuuno/blogs/
http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/
http://profmandia.wordpress.com/
http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/
http://hot-topic.co.nz/

If you sample some of their articles, you will find a dogmatic defence of climate change, and blocking, editing or denigration views that are contrary to their own. The claim in the paper that they contacted five sceptical blogs to improve the spread of views is highly suspect.* Jo Nova contacted 24 such blogs (including all the most prominent ones), with not a single one remembering such an approach. Prof. Lewandowsky is currently refusing to divulge the names of the blogs contacted. As there was no proper control of the answers, there could be rogue results generated.

Identification of those who “Reject the Science”

There were four questions on beliefs about “Climate Science”

CO2TempUp I believe that burning fossil fuels increases atmospherictemperature to some measurable degree.
CO2AtmosUp I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has increased atmospheric temperature to an appreciable degree.
CO2WillNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years will cause serious negative changes to the planet’s climate unless there is a substantial switch to non CO2 emitting energy sources.
CO2HasNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has caused serious negative changes to the planet’s climate.

The answers were from 1 (totally Reject) to 4 (complete agreement).

I found the average score for each respondent, graded and plotted the count.


Or summarising into 3 categories


As to be expected from the nature of the blogs where it was published, more than 4 in 10 gave the highest score and 85% are more positive than negative in their beliefs. The poll only includes 125 or 175 responses of those who “reject the science”.

Linking to Conspiracy Theories

The survey is about those who reject the science being more likely to believe in weird conspiracy theories than acceptors of the science. As Jo Nova puts it, the climate sceptics are meant to be nutters.

There were 14 conspiracy theories presented. Two (on New World Order and Climate Change) I will leave out for now as they are not entirely independent of the subject. Of the 12 remaining I took the average score. If the general hypothesis is correct, the more strongly the rejection of the science, the greater the score on conspiracy theories.


There is no significant relationship here at all. The typical respondent gives little or no credence to conspiracy theories.

To understand this better, I rounded the average score for each respondent to the nearest whole number. The pivot table is now.


There is no relationship here. The outlier is the two respondents with an average score of 4. One put a 4 for all, and the other put 4 on 11/12 and 3 on the other. These are clearly rogue responses and should have been removed as outliers from such a small sample. If removed, the average conspiracy theory score for those who dogmatically reject climate science conclusions drops to 1.49, the lowest of any group.

So what of the conspiracy theory that most the moon landings were faked? The one in the title “NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science


45 out of 48 of those who dogmatically reject climate science, also dogmatically emphatically reject the conspiracy theory. The two who score 4 are rogue results.

In fact, the response is pretty emphatic in every group. Consider the abstract.

We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings, above and beyond endorsement of laissez-faire free markets.

Maybe the correlation was with the Climate Science Conspiracy Theory?


If you take out the two rogue responses, then if any comment were to be extracted it would surely be the other way round. However, it is not significant, and internet responses get some rogue results on all sides.

Let me be quite clear. The title of the paper makes a false claim from authors with an agenda of silencing opponents. It is entirely without any proper evidence.

The other eleven results are below


Finally, the two conspiracy theories not included.


*Update 11th Sept see reply to Prof Lewandowsky at comment 120

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