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.

Leave a comment

5 Comments

  1. Brian H

     /  September 7, 2012

    How to debunk a valid proposition, Lovely.

    Reply
  2. myself

     /  September 11, 2012

    interesting followup (for those who care anyway):

    http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/lewandowskyGof4.html

    Reply
    • manicbeancounter

       /  September 11, 2012

      Lewandowsky is making excuses and trying to deflect attention from the bigger picture. Interesting for students of psychology, but an embarrassment as well.

      Reply
  3. John from CA

     /  September 11, 2012

    Great analysis Manic. This Bolt article was posted on the 11th.

    Lewandowsky was warned his survey was no good
    By Andrew Bolt

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/lewandowsky_was_warned_his_survey_was_no_good/

    Reply
    • manicbeancounter

       /  September 11, 2012

      Lewandowsky did not need to be told that his survey was no good. He has done surveys before. He could see that #860 and #889 were scam responses. He left them in, as without them he was get absolutely no relationship between “rejection of the climate science” and “NASA faked the moon landings”. He did not allow for error margins like professional opinion pollsters, as the results were insignificant, and he did not mention the vast percentages of all responses who totally rejected the vast majority of the conspiracy theories.

      Reply

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