Lewandowsky et al. 2012 MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE – Part 3 Data Analysis of the Conspiracy Theory element

A month ago made two postings on the paper 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). In the first I showed that an opening statement about the beliefs of climate scientists was not supported by the references. The second raised some questions, which owing to a lack of data I was unable to answer.

When Katabasis offered in the comments at Jo Nova’s blog to provide the raw data for the paper I took him up on the offer.

The paper’s major findings were on the link between climate denial and belief in free markets. However, I first want to deal with the aspect of the link with beliefs in conspiracy theories due to

  1. the title
  2. The articles that have appeared in the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers.
  3. The following from the conclusion
  4. Also consider this from the conclusion

    “However, to our knowledge, our results are the first to provide empirical evidence for the correlation between a general construct of conspiracist ideation and the general tendency to reject well-founded science.”

The lead author, Prof. Stefan Lewandowsky has a history of dogmatically defending climate science, often by attacking the opponents. However, that is no reason to reject the results of a published scientific paper if those results are substantiated by the evidence.

The survey was posted on a number of climate blogs of all the same persuasion. 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. 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.

Identification of those who “Reject the Science”

There were four questions on beliefs about “Climate Science”

CO2TempUp I believe that burning fossil fuels increases atmospherictemperature 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 answers were from 1 (totally Reject) to 4 (complete agreement).

I found the average score for each respondent, graded and plotted the count.

Or summarising into 3 categories

As to be expected from the nature of the blogs where it was published, more than 4 in 10 gave the highest score and 85% are more positive than negative in their beliefs. The poll only includes 125 or 175 responses of those who “reject the science”.

Linking to Conspiracy Theories

The survey is about those who reject the science being more likely to believe in weird conspiracy theories than acceptors of the science. As Jo Nova puts it, the climate sceptics are meant to be nutters.

There were 14 conspiracy theories presented. Two (on New World Order and Climate Change) I will leave out for now as they are not entirely independent of the subject. Of the 12 remaining I took the average score. If the general hypothesis is correct, the more strongly the rejection of the science, the greater the score on conspiracy theories.

There is no significant relationship here at all. The typical respondent gives little or no credence to conspiracy theories.

To understand this better, I rounded the average score for each respondent to the nearest whole number. The pivot table is now.

There is no relationship here. The outlier is the two respondents with an average score of 4. One put a 4 for all, and the other put 4 on 11/12 and 3 on the other. These are clearly rogue responses and should have been removed as outliers from such a small sample. If removed, the average conspiracy theory score for those who dogmatically reject climate science conclusions drops to 1.49, the lowest of any group.

So what of the conspiracy theory that most the moon landings were faked? The one in the title “NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

45 out of 48 of those who dogmatically reject climate science, also dogmatically emphatically reject the conspiracy theory. The two who score 4 are rogue results.

In fact, the response is pretty emphatic in every group. Consider the abstract.

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.

Maybe the correlation was with the Climate Science Conspiracy Theory?

If you take out the two rogue responses, then if any comment were to be extracted it would surely be the other way round. However, it is not significant, and internet responses get some rogue results on all sides.

Let me be quite clear. The title of the paper makes a false claim from authors with an agenda of silencing opponents. It is entirely without any proper evidence.

The other eleven results are below

Finally, the two conspiracy theories not included.

*Update 11th Sept see reply to Prof Lewandowsky at comment 120


  1. DR_UK

     /  01/09/2012

    Cool analysis! Your first table shows a great hockey stick….

    And thanks to you I’ve been inspired to find out how to use Pivot tables in Excel. I have been doing a similar analysis this afternoon (I also added in the question CauseCO2 to the CO2 science qs) and came to the same conclusions.

  2. Excellent. Send it to Psychological Science at
    The article isn’t up yet, even in their section
    OnlineFirst (Forthcoming articles published ahead of print)

    • manicbeancounter

       /  02/09/2012

      Done. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Blackadder

     /  02/09/2012

    We only have the word of a known liar that the paper is in press at Psychological Science.

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