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
- 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?
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.