Lewandowsky fails his own low standards

Prof Stephen Lewandowsky keeps on digging a deeper hole for himself, and anybody associated with him. At “Shaping Tomorrow’s World” he has posted his personal values statement. Ben Pile has given it a pretty good frisking. A part of these beliefs is that opinions should only be expressed and debated in the peer-reviewed literature. This is interesting given that many of Lewandowsky’s arguments are outside the peer-reviewed literature. In a comment, I gave a recent example that undermines his claims:-

A major argument of Lewandowsky, is that critics of climate change are a bunch of conspiracy theory-loving nutters. At “The Conversation”, a taxpayer-funded blog for Australian and British academics to sound off, Prof. Lewandowsky stated

While consistency is a hallmark of science, conspiracy theorists often subscribe to contradictory beliefs at the same time – for example, that MI6 killed Princess Diana, and that she also faked her own death.

This was from a peer-reviewed study, that stated

In Study 1(n= 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered.

Steve McIntyre, with some difficulty, obtained the data. There was a reason for the author being a bit circumspect. McIntyre said

Within the Wood dataset, only two (!) respondents purported to believe that Diana faked her own death. Neither of these two respondents also purported to believe that MI6 killed Princess Diana. The subpopulation of people that believed that Diana staged her own death and that MI6 killed her was precisely zero.

The reason that the authors, the peer-reviewers and Prof. Lewandowsky failed to pick up on this is that they failed to do basic check on the data, using pivot tables. Instead, they rely on sophisticated statistical tests that Lewandowsky himself has used in his hoax paper. (The reason for the failure was succinctly expressed by Brandon Shallonberger in the comments) Ben Pile also used simple pivot tables, and eloquent language to completely demolish Lewandowsky’s 2012 hoax paper.

This example demonstrates three things

1. Lewandowsky does not stick to his own peer-reviewed rules.

2. Peer review can fail spectacularly.

3. Alternative opinions of data are possible, and the best analysis does not necessarily come from the most sophisticated techniques on the whizziest computers.

3. Lewandowsky swallowed misinformation because it accorded with his beliefs and lack of expertise in interpreting statistics. As a psychology professor studying misinformation, who is also “an award-winning teacher of statistics“, this is far less excusable than any trivial mistakes by the people he attacks.

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. Brian H

     /  February 25, 2014

    He’s not confused, he’s mendacious.

    Reply
  1. The Lewandowsky Smooth | ManicBeancounter

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