John Cook undermining democracy through misinformation

It seems that John Cook was posting comments in 2011 under the pseudonym Lubos Motl. The year before physicist and blogger Luboš Motl had posted a rebuttal of Cook’s then 104 Global Warming & Climate Change Myths. When someone counters your beliefs point for point, then most people would naturally feel some anger. Taking the online identity of Motl is potentially more than identity theft. It can be viewed as an attempt to damage the reputation of someone you oppose.

However, there is a wider issue here. In 2011 John Cook co-authored with Stephan Lewandowsky The Debunking Handbook, that is still featured prominently on the This short tract starts with the following paragraphs:-

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

A common misconception about myths is the notion that removing its influence is as simple as packing more information into people’s heads. This approach assumes that public misperceptions are due to a lack of knowledge and that the solution is more information – in science communication, it’s known as the “information deficit model”. But that model is wrong: people don’t process information as simply as a hard drive downloading data.

If Cook was indeed using the pseudonym Lubos Motl then he was knowingly putting out into the public arena misinformation in a malicious form. If he misrepresented Motl’s beliefs, then the public may not know who to trust. Targeted against one effective critic, it could trash their reputation. At a wider scale it could allow morally and scientifically inferior views to gain prominence over superior viewpoints. If the alarmist beliefs were superior it what be necessary to misrepresent alternative opinions. Open debate would soon reveal which side had the better views. But in debating and disputing, all sides would sharpen their arguments. What would quickly disappear is the reliance on opinion surveys and rewriting of dictionaries. Instead, proper academics would be distinguishing between quality, relevant evidence from dogmatic statements based on junk sociology and psychology. They would start defining the boundaries of expertise between the basic physics, computer modelling, results analysis, public policy-making, policy-implementation, economics, ethics and the philosophy of science. They may then start to draw on the understanding that has been achieved in these subject areas.

Kevin Marshall

AndThenTheresPhysics on Paraguayan Temperature Data

The blog andthentheresphysics is a particularly dogmatic and extremist website. Most of the time it provides extremely partisan opinion pieces on climate science, but last week the anonymous blogger had a post “Puerto Casado” concerning an article in the Telegraph about Paraguayan temperature by Christopher Booker. I posted the following comment

The post only looks at one station in isolation, and does not reference original source of the claims.

Paul Homewood at notalotofpeopleknowthat looked at all three available rural stations in Paraguay. The data from Mariscal and San Jan Buatista/Misiones had the same pattern of homogenization adjustments as Puerto Casado. That is, cooling of the past, so that instead of the raw data showing the 1960s being warmer than today, it was cooler.

Using his accountancy mind set, Homewood then (after Booker’s article was published) checked the six available urban sites in Paraguay. His conclusion was that

warming adjustments have taken place at every single, currently operational site in Paraguay.

Then he looked at all 14 available stations in neighbouring Bolivia. His conclusion

At every station, bar one, we find the ….. past is cooled and the present warmed.”

(The exception was La Paz, where the cooling trend in the raw data had been reduced.)

Homogenization of data means correcting for biases. For a 580,000 sq mile area of Central South America it would appears strong adjustment biases to have been introduced in a single direction.

Homewood references every single site. Anyone can easily debunk my summary by searching the following:-

Jan-20 Massive Tampering With Temperatures In South America

Jan-26 All Of Paraguay’s Temperature Record Has Been Tampered With

Jan-30 Cooling The Past In Bolivia

My comment did not contain the hyperlinks or italics. It has been deleted without passing through moderation. The only bit of the moderation policy I believe that I fall foul of is the last.

This blog is also turning out to be both more time consuming and more stressful than anticipated. Some moderation may be based purely on whether or not I/we can face dealing with how a particular comment thread is evolving. This is not a public service and so, in general, any moderation decision is final.

The counter-argument from ATTP is

If you look again at the information for this station the trend before adjustments was -1.37oC per century, after quality control it was -0.89 oC per century, and after adjusting for the station moves was +1.36 oC per century. Also, if you consider the same region for the same months, the trend is +1.37 oC per century, and for the country for the same months it is +1.28 oC per century. So, not only can one justify the adjustments, the result of the adjustments is consistent with what would be expected for that region and for the country.

Paul Homewood has investigated all the other stations in Paraguay or in neighbouring Bolivia and found similar ad hoc adjustments. It completely undermines ATTP’s arguments. This anonymous individual is wrong. Rather than face dealing that he is wrong, ATTP has deleted my comment. He is entitled to his beliefs, and in a free society can proselytize to his heart’s content. But there are boundaries. One of them is in suppressing evidence that undermines the justification for costly and harmful public policies. That is policies that are harming the poor here in Britain, but (and more importantly) can only be remotely successful by destroying the prospect of increasing living standards for over half the world’s population. Paul Homewood and others are increasingly uncovering similar biases in the temperature record in other parts of the world. The underlying data for the global surface temperature sets is in need of a proper, independent audit, to determine the extent of the biases within it. But when the accusation that the Paraguayan temperature data set is corrupted, people will point to ATTP’s blog post as evidence that there is but a single instance, and that instance has been debunked. Another boundary is a value that that many in the criminal justice system also hold dear. The more emotive the subject, the greater all concerned must go out of their way to compare and contrast the arguments. That way, the influence of our very human prejudices will be minimized. Again, independent audits will help eliminate this. If ATTP thinks he has all the answers then he will not be afraid to encourage people to look at both sides, evaluate by independent standards, and make up their own minds.

Kevin Marshall

Comment ATTP 310115

Instances of biases in the temperature sets

This will be added to when I get time.

Paul Homewood on San Diego data 30-01-15

Shub Niggareth looks into the Puerto Casado story 29-01-15

Paul Homewood on Reykjavik, Iceland 30-01-15

Jennifer Marohasy letter on Australian data 15-01-15

Update 01-02-15

I have invited a response from ATTP, by posting #comment-46021.


You have deleted two of my comments in the last 24 hours that meet all of your moderation criteria except one – that you cannot face dealing with a challenge. That is your prerogative. However, the first comment, (now posted on my blog) I believe completely undermines your argument. Paul Homewood has shown that the Puerto Casado dataset homogenization did not make it consistent with neighbouring non-homogenized surface temperature stations, but that all the Paraguayan and neighbouring Bolivian surface temperature stations were “homogenized” in the same way. That is, rather than eliminating the biases that local factors can create, the homogenizations, by people far removed from the local situations, effectively corrupted the data set, in a way that fits reality to the data.

I might be wrong in this. But based on your arguments so far I believe that my analysis is better than yours. I also believe that who has the better argument will only be resolved by an independent audit of the adjustments. If you are on the side of truth you would welcome that, just as a prosecutor would welcome the chance to prove their case in court, or a pharmaceutical company would welcome independent testing of their new wonder-drug that could save millions of lives. Even if I am wrong, I will be glad at being refuted by superior arguments, as I will know that to refute my claims will require you to up your game. Humanity will be served by my challenging a weak case and making it stronger. You have generated over 500 comments to your post, so an appeal for help via email should generate some response. If that does not work there are many well-funded organisations that I am sure will rush to your assistance.

There are at least seven options I think you can take.

  1. Ignore me, and pretend nothing has happened. Bad idea. I will start analysing your posts, as you did with Wattsupwiththat, only rather than your pea-shooters firing blanks, I have the heavy artillery with HE shells.
  2. Do an attack post – like desmogblog or Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute might do. Bad idea, I will take that as perverting or suppressing the evidence, and things will get rather rough. After all, I am but a (slightly) manic ex-beancounter, and you have the consensus of science on your side, so why is should sending in the PR thugs be necessary unless you are on the losing side?
  3. Get together a response that genuinely ups the game. Win or lose you will have served humanity as I and others will have to rebut you. Engage and all will gain through greater understanding.
  4. Admit that there are other valid points of view. A start would be to release this comment, which will get posted on my blog anyway. I quite accept that you cannot come up with a rebuttal at the drop-of-a-hat. A simple comment that a response will be made sometime this year is fine by me.
  5. Also call for a truly independent audit of the surface temperature set. It could be for your own reasons, and if truly independent, I will support it. If a whitewash, like the enquiries that Gordon Brown ordered into Climategate, an audit will do more harm than good.
  6. Close down your blog and do something else instead. You choose to be anonymous, and I respect that. Walking away is easy.
  7. Admit that you got this one wrong. You will take some flack, but not from me.

The Lewandowsky Smooth


The Risbey at al. 2014 paper has already had criticism of its claim that some climate models can still take account of actual temperature trends. However, those criticisms did not take into account the “actual” data used, nor did they account for why Stephan Lewandowsky, a professor of psychology, should be a co-author of a climate science paper. I construct simple model using Excel of surface temperature trends that accurately replicates the smoothed temperature data in Risbey et al. 2014. Whereas the HADCRUT4 data set shows the a cooling trend since 2006, a combination of three elements smooths it away to give the appearance of a minimal downturn in a warming trend. Those element are the use of the biases in Cowtan and Way 2013; the use of decadal changes in data (as opposed to change from previous period) and the use of 15 year centred moving averages. As Stephan Lewandowsky was responsible for the “analysis of models and observations” this piece of gross misinformation must be attributed to him, hence the title.


Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky has previously claimed that “inexpert mouths” should not be heard. He is a first a psychologist, cum statistician; then a specialist on ethics, and peer review; then publishes on the maths of uncertainty. Now Lewandowsky re-emerges as a Climate Scientist, in

Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase” James S. Risbey, Stephan Lewandowsky, Clothilde Langlais, Didier P. Monselesan, Terence J. O’Kane & Naomi Oreskes Nature Climate Change (Risbey et al. 2014)

Why the involvement?

Risbey et al. 2014 was the subject of a long post at WUWT by Bob Tisdale. That long post was concerned with the claim that the projections of some climate models could replicate surface temperature data.

Towards the end Tisdale notes

The only parts of the paper that Stephan Lewandowsky was not involved in were writing it and the analysis of NINO3.4 sea surface temperature data in the models. But, and this is extremely curious, psychology professor Stephan Lewandowsky was solely responsible for the “analysis of models and observations”.

Lewandowsky summarizes his contribution at shapingtomorrowsworld. The following is based on that commentary.

Use of Cowtan and Way 2013

Lewandowsky asks “Has global warming “stopped”?” To answer in the negative he uses Cowtan and Way 2013. This was an attempt to correct the coverage biases in the HADCRUT4 data set by infilling through modelling where the temperature series lacked data. Principally real temperature data was lacking at the poles and in parts of Africa. However, the authors first removed some of the HADCRUT4 data, stating reasons for doing so. In total Roman M found it was just 3.34% of the filled-in grid cells, but was strongly biased towards the poles. That is exactly where the HADCRUT4 data was lacking. A computer model was not just infilling for where data was absent, but replacing sparse data with modelled data.

Steve McIntyre plotted the differences between CW2013 and HADCRUT4.

Stephan Lewandowsky should have acknowledged that, through the greater use of modelling techniques, Cowtan and Way was a more circumstantial estimate of global average surface temperature trends than HADCRUT4. This aspect would be the case even if results were achieved by robust methods.

Modelling the smoothing methods

The Cowtan and Way modelled temperature series was then smoothed to create the following series in red.

The smoothing was achieved by employing two methods. First was to look at decadal changes rather than use temperature anomalies – the difference from a fixed point in time. Second was to use 15 year centred moving averages.

To help understand the impact these methods to the observations had on the data I have constructed a simple model of the major HADCRUT4 temperature changes. The website very usefully has a temperature trends calculator.

The phases I use in degrees Kelvin per decade are

The Cowtan and Way trend is simply HADCRUT4 with a trend of 0.120 Kelvin per decade for the 2005-2013 period. This simply coverts a cooling trend since 2005 into a warming one, illustrated below.

The next step is to make the trends into decadal trends, by finding the difference with between the current month figure and the one 120 months previous. This derives the following for the Cowtan and Way trend data.

Applying decadal trends spreads the impact of changes in trend over ten years following the change. Using HADCRUT4 would mean decadal trends are now zero.

The next step is to apply 15 year centred moving averages.

The centred moving average spreads the impact of a change in trend to before the change occurred. So warming starts in 1967 instead of 1973. This partly offsets the impact of decadal changes, but further smothers any step changes. The two elements also create a nice smoothing of the data. The difference of Cowtan and Way is to future-proof this conclusion.

Comparison of modelled trend with the “Lewandowsky Smooth”

Despite dividing up over sixty years of data into just 5 periods, I have managed to replicate the essentially features of the decadal trend data.

A. Switch from slight cooling to warming trend in late 1960s, some years before the switch occurred.

B. Double peaks in warming trend, the first below 0.2 degrees per decade, the second slightly above.

C. The smoothed graph ending with warming not far off the peak, obliterating the recent cooling in the HADCRUT4 data.

Lewandowsky may not have used the decadal change as the extra smoothing technique, but whichever technique that was used achieved very similar results to my simple Excel effort. So the answer to Lewandowsky’s question “Has global warming “stopped”?” the answer is “Yes”. Lewandowsky knew this, so has manipulated the data to smooth the problem away. The significance is in a quote from “the DEBUNKING Handbook“.

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

Lewandowsky is providing misinformation, and has an expert understanding of its pernicious effects.

Kevin Marshall

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.

Showing Warming when it has Stopped

There has been no statistically significant warming for at least 15 years. Yet some people, like commentator “Michael the Realist”, who is currently trolling Joanne Nova’s blog, are claiming otherwise. For instance

Again look at the following graph.

Now let me explain it to the nth degree.
# The long term trend over the whole period is obviously up.
# The long term trend has pauses and dips due to natural variations but the trend is unchanged.
# The current period is at the top of the trend.
# 2001 to 2010 is the hottest decade on the record despite a preponderance of natural cooling trends. (globally, ocean, land and both hemispheres)
# Hotter than the previous decade of 1991 to 2000 with its preponderance of natural warming events.
# Every decade bar one has been hotter than the previous decade since 1901.

Please explain why the above is true if not AGW with proof.

State of the climate 2012

The three highlighted comments are the ones that this posting addresses.

Using decadal average temperature changes to cover up the standstill.

The latest way to avoid the truth that warming has stopped for 15 years or more is by decadal averages. This can be illustrated by using an approximate model of the data. Assume constant average temperatures from 1960 to 1975, a linear warming of 0.6oC from 1976 to 1998, followed by a further standstill.

The decadal averages are

So, instead of 24 years of warming, it is 4 consecutive decades, that are each warmer than the last. The 2000s are warmer than the 1990s simply because there was warming the 1990s. It is political spin, relying on an ignorance of basic statistics, that is needed to make such claims.

Lewandowsky’s Recursive Corruption of Science

Wattsupwiththat have a guest post by Brandon Shollenberger on “Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook – making things up“. It details how the Recursive Fury paper elements that are fabricated. This is a comment just posted.

The “Recursive fury” paper fails to consider an alternative hypothesis. If psychology expert L came along and said that you should not be listened to about subject A, which you believe strongly about, because:-

(a) Nearly all the “experts” disagree with you.

(b) Some fellow believers allegedly have political beliefs that the person L does not like.

(c) A higher proportion of your fellow believers than L’s group allegedly hold other beliefs that most people view as being “nutty

Then you would be somewhat upset – a normal, human, reaction. If you later found out that the claims about the experts were not true, the questions were biased and the statistical conclusions were contradicted by basic statistical analysis, you would be justifiably furious.

Like with people who attribute every extreme weather event to global warming, Lewandowsky bases his case for ignoring sceptical opinions on a distorted opinion of corrupted evidence. When it gets a very predictable response, he interprets this with a distorted opinion of corrupted evidence. The only recursive bit is in the methods Lewandowsky employs in corrupting science.

Lewandowsky et al. 2012 (LOG12) – Questionnaire examined

The latest paper from Lewandowsky is

Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation : Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook1,, Klaus Oberauer and Michael Hubble

The authors explain

This article analyzes the response of the climate blogosphere to the publication of LOG12. We identify and trace the hypotheses that emerged in response to LOG12 and that questioned the validity of the paper’s conclusions. Using established criteria to identify conspiracist ideation, we show that many of the hypotheses exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking.

In order to respond, it is first necessary to gain a proper understanding of the original questionnaire and the conclusions the authors reached. This posting starts with examining the forty questions to see if the questions were balanced or designed to support the authors’ hypotheses. The full list can be found at Joanne Nova’s website.

Free-market Politics Questions

1. An economic system based on free markets unrestrained by government interference automatically works best to meet human needs.
2. I support the free-market system but not at the expense of environmental quality
3. The free-market system may be efficient for resource allocation, but it is limited in its capacity to promote social justice
4. The preservation of the free market system is more important than localized environmental concerns
5. Free and unregulated markets pose important threats to sustainable development
6. The free-market system is likely to promote unsustainable consumption

There were two areas that the questionnaire tried to test around the motivated rejection of climate science – free-market ideology and conspiracist ideation. The first six questions dealt with belief in free markets. There are a number of issues.

First, those who believe in free-markets are libertarians. They value individual liberty above all else and see laissez-faire capitalism as the only means to achieve this. The reason for many rejecting climate change policies is a belief that it would lead to a suppression of individual choice. They can also see that those who oppose the “scientific” consensus are stigmatized, and criticism suppressed. They might see historical parallels in the rise of communism, Nazism and in the McCarthyist era. Without such questions, rejection of the consensus could be viewed as much shallower and more dogmatic than is actually the case.

Second is that these questions are framed by somebody who clearly does not understand nor like the market mechanism. Most free-marketers would not view it a structural system, but a spontaneous order. Nor would they see a market mechanism as being antagonistic to development or preserving the environment.

Third is that there are a large group of people who may general reject environmentalism, but be quite centrist in their political views. Conversely, there might be some people who are highly antagonist to capitalism, but also sceptical of global warming. Without questions for a broad range of political views, responses will be more polarized than is actually the case.

In conclusion, these six questions seem aimed at marginalizing sceptics.

Conspiracy Theory Questions

A total of 15 questions

7. The Iraq War in 2003 was launched for reasons other than to remove WMD from Iraq
8. A powerful and secretive group known as the New World Order are planning to eventually rule the world through an autonomous world government, which would replace sovereign governments
9. SARS was produced under laboratory conditions as a biological weapon
10. The US government had foreknowledge about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but allowed the attack to take place to as to be able to enter the Second World War.
11. US Agencies intentionally created the AIDS epidemic and administered it to Black and gay men in the 1970’s
12. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr was the results of an organized conspiracy by US government agencies such as the CIA and FBI
13. The Apollo Moon landings never happened and were stages in a Hollywood film studio
14. Area 51 in Nevada US is a secretive military base that contains hidden alien spacecraft and or alien bodies
15. The assassination of John F Kennedy was not committed by the lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, but was rather a detailed, organized conspiracy to kill the President
16. The US government allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place so that it would have an excuse to achieve foreign (eh wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) and domestic (eg attacks on civil liberties) goals that had been determined prior to the attacks
17. In July 1947, the US military recovered the wreckage of an alien craft from Roswell, New Mexico and covered up the fact
18. Princess Diana’s death was not an accident but rather an organised assassination by members of the British royal family who disliked her
19. The Oklahoma City Bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nicols did not act alone but rather received assistance from Neo Nazi groups
20. The claim that the climate is changing due to emissions from fossil fuels is a hoax perpetrated by corrupt scientists who wish to spend more taxpayer money on climate “research”.
21. The Coca Cola company intentionally changed to an inferior formular with the intent of driving up demand for their classic product, later reintroducing it for their financial gain.

When I first looked at these questions it struck me that some were related to the climate issue. Therefore I left them out as biasing the results.

I think there are five broad categories of question, which I have colour-coded.

Blue questions are neutral to the climate change issue.

Red questions are those that see the climate consensus as some sort of conspiracy.

Green questions are those that see motivations for rejecting the climate consensus as some sort of conspiracy.

Pink Questions are conspiracies that those who reject the climate consensus might believe in, but unrelated to the climate issue.

Brown Questions are conspiracies that those who accept the climate consensus might believe in, but unrelated to the climate issue.

What is clear is that there are no questions that ask if scepticism was underpinned by of some sort of conspiracy. A common theme is that denial being promoted by secretive funding by fossil fuel interests. For instance searching “Koch” on Desmogblog reveals 2440 hits. With such a question, there would have been symmetry. I have rated question 7 (WMD) as possibly appealing more to the climate consensus types, as they tend to be more to the left of centre and certainly are mostly anti George Bush. This was the only question NOT reported in the LOG12 paper. So two conspiracy-type questions specifically appealing to sceptics, and none (reported) that no conspiracy-type questions specifically appealing to “pro-science” types out of 14 would have been sufficient to bias the results towards “finding” that sceptics are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories.

Climate Change Science Questions

22. I believe that burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric temperature to some measurable degree
23. 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
24. 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
25. 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

There is an complete absence of questions about future projections of accelerating warming; or of future catastrophes well in excess of anything so far observed; of the strength of the science or the uncertainties; our trust in what scientists are telling us; nor of the ability of policy to do anything successfully combat it. These are the questions that many sceptics, including myself, are grappling with. As Warren Meyer concludes, it is the projected catastrophe that sceptics “deny”. Joanna Nova, Lord Monckton, Prof Richard Lindzen, Anthony WattsBishop Hill (Andrew Montford), Prof Bob Carter and Lord Nigel Lawson all recognize to some extent that humans might be causing some global warming and that this may continue.
Many, like Lord Lawson (and myself) conclude that the policies to “combat climate change” are both ineffective and hugely harmful to economic prosperity, yet there is no recognition of this aspect. The whole thrust of the questions appears to be one of polarization, making sure that those who reject the consensus is as large as possible.

Environment questions

26. The problem of CFC;s is no longer a serious threat to the ozone layer
27. The problem of acid rain is no longer a serious threat to the global ecosystem

Two questions on the environment, that quite rightly see where people stand on other environment issues.

Personal Questions

28. In many ways my life is close to my ideal
29. The conditions of my life are excellent
30. I am satisfied with my life
31. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life
32. If I could live my life over I would change almost nothing
39. Out of 100 people in your neighborhood, how many do you think earn more than you do?
40. Out of 100 people in your country overall, how many do you think earn more than you do?

Six psychology questions. They do not appear in the conclusions of the paper. This might be because there was no relationship to respondents’ self-esteem and their views on climate science.

Established Science Questions

33. The HIV virus causes AIDS
34. Smoking causes lung cancer
35. Human CO2 emissions cause climate change
36. Out of 100 medical students how many do you think believe that the HIV Virus causes AIDS
37. Out of 100 medical students how many do you think believe that smoking causes lung cancer?
38. Out of 100 climate scientists how many do you think believe that human CO2 emissions cause climate change?

There are two sections. Three questions on what the respondent thinks about three propositions and three questions of about where the respondent thinks the scientific consensus lies. The questions are somewhat sneaky. That HIV causes AIDS and smoking causes lung cancer is quite clear to the vast majority. But human CO2 emissions causing “climate change” is something more ambiguous to anyone who thinks about the issue. Does a small amount of warming really mean a change in the climate? Is it a change of climate system – from rainforest to savannah for instance? Or is it the same climate type, but with more extreme weather events. As a political concept in the minds of the authors it might be quite clear, but to respondents who have a less polarized view of the world it may not be so clear. The ordering is quite clear though. The questions are viewed by the question-setters are equally valid, so answering the third question differently is indicating to the respondent something of how they are viewed.


The questions appear to have been devised to obtain verification of the hypothesis that rejection of climate science is motivated by belief in free-market ideology and due to a conspiracist ideation. In more colloquial language, the questions were biased to support the view that denial of climate science is due to free-market ideologues who are incapable of evaluating the evidence. The questions on free-market ideology betray the question-setters prejudices. The questions on conspiracy theories are show something of the question-setters own beliefs or a deliberate ploy to bias the results in the desired direction. The questions on climate science show a desire to show consensus amongst pro-science views, along with trying to ignore the possibility that policy questions are a matter of contention as well as the “science”.

Kevin Marshall

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.


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

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.


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