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.
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.