Moon Hoax data suggests Climate Sceptics are sceptical and Climate Alarmists are more dogmatic

It is now nearly seven years since the in-press release of the notorious “Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” and the 26 March is the sixth anniversary of its final publication in amended form. Last month I was prompted to look again at the underlying survey data a short article at Medium by Jose Duarte. I fully agree with the differences in between the “published” and “extended” data files, now both archived on a Bristol University server, and have found some others. However, the subject of post is very different.

Main Thesis

Based on the “Moon Hoax” survey data, when confronted with a unknown conspiracy theory, the more sceptical a person is of climate “science” the more likely they are to mildly disagree with the conspiracy, whilst the more accepting a person is of “climate science” the more likely they are to strongly reject the conspiracy. Climate sceptics tend to be more sceptical of statements new to them, whilst those believing in climate science to roundly reject such statements.  Presented with a conspiracy theory that at least a strong minority agree with, then the degree of acceptance shows that sceptics tend to be more conservative or neo-liberal, whilst climate alarmists are more to socialist / progressive / (US) liberal.

The Iraq War Question

One of the first things I found in the “extended” file on the Bristol University server was responses to the missing Iraq question, located at the start of the conspiracy theory questions. The question was

The Iraq War in 2003 was launched for reasons other than to remove WMD from Iraq.

To look at the results, like in my September 2012 analysis, I produced a pivot table of the Iraq War responses against the average of the four “CO2 Science” questions. I did the same for the 14 conspiracy theory questions.

Figure 1 : Comparison of responses to the 14 Conspiracy Theory statements and the IraqNot4WMD with the average response band to the four CO2 Science questions. Note that the “average response” is the raw average response, and not the average of the response bands. For instance if a response had 8 “1” and 6 “2” the raw average response would be 1.43 and the response band would be “1”.

The first thing to note from figure 1 is that the vast majority all responses on average reject all 14 conspiracy theories. The conclusion from these figures is that, with few exceptions, those who reject climate science (skeptics/deniers/contrarians) also reject conspiracy theories, just like those who accept climate “science”. Two notable exceptions are responses 860 and 889 who answered 1 to all four CO2 Science questions and who strongly agreed with nearly all the conspiracy theories. Whether scam responses, or clearly held beliefs, they are outliers in the data sets.
Also of note is that the average response score for both the 14 conspiracy theories and the Iraq War question increases with increasing acceptance of climate science. Thus average responses suggests the opposite to what the paper claims.

Why the difference?

The average score suggests the opposite of far more sophisticated findings of the published paper. To understand more we need to look at the average response counts for the 14 conspiracy theories in more detail.

Figure 2: The count of average 14 conspiracy theory scores and the percentage of total responses, split by conspiracy theory band and by acceptance of CO2 science

The average score this time is on the conspiracy theory bands. It now gives the opposite of the conclusion in Figure 1. This time conspiracy theory average score decreases with increasing acceptance of CO2 Science.
The detail suggests why this is the case. % Score 1 – the strong rejection of conspiracy theories – there is an increase in percentage of respondents with increase in belief in climate change. But for score 2 it is the reverse direction. This should be an interesting result in itself. The dogmatic rejection of conspiracy theories appears to be related to belief in climate alarmism, but a less strong rejection – or a more sceptical stance – appears to be related to degree of climate scepticism. I have produced a similar table for the Iraq War question.

Figure 3: Count of responses to “The Iraq War in 2003 was launched for reasons other than to remove WMD from Iraq” by beliefs in climate science.

An interesting point about the IraqNot4WMD is acceptance by the vast majority, not rejection like for the other conspiracy theories. Strong acceptance of “The Iraq War in 2003 was launched for reasons other than to remove WMD from Iraq” appears to be related to belief in CO2 Science, but lesser acceptance is strongest with those of more moderate views. Less than 10% of responses rejected the statement. Amongst this small minority of responses, disagreement with the statement is related to the rejection of CO2 Science.

Looking at the breakdown of the 14 conspiracy theories gives some further insights.

Figure 4 : Analysis of 14 published conspiracy theories using the “published” data

The full title of the “Moon Hoax” paper is

NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

The title is ill-chosen given that the average score of 1.08 is the lowest of all conspiracy theories, with just 10 out of 1145 expressing any agreement and 93.2% expressing strong disagreement. Even worse, the title infers a chain of thought by a small minority of 3 from among hundreds of other potential combinations, without asking any questions of the respondents. Five years ago I looked at this in detail in “Lewandowsky’s false inference from an absurd correlation”.
There are just two conspiracy theories where acceptance is over one fifth of the total responses – the JFK Assassination and the Oklahoma Bombing.

Figure 5: Analysis of the results from CYJFK and CYOKL.

The questions were

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.
The Oklahoma City Bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nicols did not act alone but rather received assistance from Neo Nazi groups.

From Figure 5 both of these, better known, conspiracy theories, strong rejection is related to the rejection of CO2 Science, whilst weaker rejections is related to rejection of CO2 Science. That is the very opposite of the average of 14 conspiracy theories. The dogmatic rejection of conspiracy theories appears to be related to the degree of climate scepticism, but a less strong rejection (i.e. a more sceptical stance) appears to be related to degree of belief in climate alarmism.

With a larger sample of those expressing belief in conspiracy theories there are contradictory results. For moderate acceptance, belief is related to degree of climate scepticism, for CYJFK and degree of belief in climate alarmism for CYOKL. Although the responses are much smaller in number, similar results are present for strong acceptance of the conspiracies if the two scam responses 860 & 889 are removed. This is consistent with the JFK conspiracy being more appealing to conservatives, whilst the Oklahoma Bombing conspiracy being more appealing to (US) liberals.

The 12 Less Popular Conspiracy Theories

Figure 6 : The Average Response of the 12 less popular conspiracy theories
The element that has not changed is the average conspiracy score.

Compared to the “Ave of 14 CY” in figure 2 there is very little difference with the “Ave of 12CY” end column in Figure 6. But the impact of removing the two most popular conspiracy theories amplifies the features in Figure 2. The stronger the acceptance of climate “science” the greater the propensity to strongly reject a conspiracy theory, whilst the stronger the rejection of climate “science” the greater the propensity to less strongly reject – or to be sceptical about – a conspiracy theory,

Conclusions and further thoughts

There are three major findings.

First is in the analysis of the Iraq War conspiracy theory question. This conspiracy theory was not included in either the pre-publication or final published versions of the paper. Nor were the responses included in the “published” data file that has been available since August 2012. There are mixed messages in the responses when related to the belief in CO2 science. The stand out finding is that strong acceptance of “The Iraq War in 2003 was launched for reasons other than to remove WMD from Iraq” appears to be related to belief in CO2 Science. This should not be a surprise, as the Iraq War was the responsibility of Republican President George W Bush, whilst the survey, conducted on very climate alarmist blogs, shows strong belief in CO2 Science is very closely related to extreme socialist-environmentalist ideation.

Second is a new finding from reanalysis of the data using pivot tables. There is no significant linear relationship between belief in conspiracy theories and degree of acceptance or rejection of CO2 science.

Third, and deriving from the second point, the “Moon Hoax” data indicates about important differences in handling new controversial claims between acceptors and rejecters of climate science. The greater propensity of the rejecters of climate science to only moderately reject conspiracy theories, in the “Moon Hoax” paper was put down to conspiracy ideation, a form of faulty thinking. The data indicates something radically different. When confronted with conspiracy theories for which there is little prior knowledge, the degree to which CO2 science is rejected indicates the likelihood of expressing moderate disagreement with the conspiracy theory. Conversely, the degree of expressed belief in CO2 science indicates the likelihood of immediately rejecting the conspiracy theory. But when confronted with conspiracy theories where there is broad knowledge, the likelihood of some agreement appears to be related to ideological views.
This finding can be put in slightly different language. The degree to which respondents “deny” CO2 science indicates the degree to which they will be sceptical of unfamiliar dogmatic proclamations thrust at them. Conversely, the degree to which respondents express belief in CO2 science indicates the degree to which they will be reject out of hand unfamiliar dogmatic proclamations thrust at them that do not accord with their world view.

Traditionally academic study in the quasi-sciences, along with non-sciences such as history and theology, involved carefully evaluation of the evidence and the differing arguments to reach conclusions. In climate “science” such a sceptical approach is evidence of climate denial. It follows from this consensus science logic that “correct” thinking is achieved by filtering experience through the dominant dogmas or mantras.

As a final point, the conclusions I derive are through analysing the data in different ways using pivot tables. It suggests that responses are not linear, but based on different approaches to processing data. The “Moon Hoax” paper takes a view analogous to that taken by the authorities in Soviet Union. Lack of complete agreement with authority is evidence of denial. Not accepting consensus dogma due to it conflicting with one’s perceptions is inconceivable to members of that consensus, so must be the consequence of receiving misinformation, or being psychologically deficient.

Kevin Marshall

Michael Mann and John Cook at Bristol University

Lucia at The Blackboard last month publicized that the John Cook is to speak at Bristol University on Dogma vs. consensus: Letting the evidence speak on climate change on Friday 19th September. There are still 395 free tickets left for the event.

Stephen Lewandowsky also notes that Michael Mann is to lecture at the same event on Tuesday 23rd September on The Hockey Stick and the climate wars – the battle continues. Just 102 free tickets left for this event.

Given the Mann’s belief that the continued climate denial is due to “massive funding of climate change denial by monied interests” (HuffPo), it might provide some light entertainment for the students.

Update 19th Sept. There are still 309 tickets left for the John Cook lecture for tomorrow – Friday 20th September. See http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cabot/events/2014/488.html

The Michael Mann lecture is now SOLD OUT, or more accurately, all the tickets have been given away.

Observations on the Shollenberger Survey

In late 2012 there was a lot of adverse comment about 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). I did my own quick analysis using pivot tables, which was referred to elsewhere.

Last week, Brandon Shollenberger produced a shorter survey that, though tongue in cheek, aimed to replicate the findings of the Lewandowsky et al. He wrote

As you’re aware, Stephan Lewandowsky has written several papers claiming to have found certain traits amongst global warming skeptics. I believe his methodology is fundamentally flawed. I believe a flaw present in his methodology is also present in the work of many others.

To test my belief, I’m seeking participants for a short survey (13 questions). The questions are designed specifically to test a key aspect of Lewandowsky’s methodology. The results won’t be published in any scientific journal, but I’ll do a writeup on them once the survey is closed and share it online.

This was published at the blogs Wattsupwiththat, JoanneNova and BishopHill blogs. The poll is still available to view.

A few hours ago Jo Nova published Shollenberger’s initial findings, as “Warmists Are Never Wrong, Even When Supporting Genocide“. Using the same methodology that Lewandowsky et al (LOG12) “demonstrated” that those who reject the climate religion have a propensity to believe in cranky conspiracy theories, Shollenberger showed that believers in catastrophic global warming have a propensity to believe in genocide, paedophilia and human trafficking. Like for the LOG12, I have run the data through Excel pivot tables to reveal that Shollenberger was successful in undermining LOG12.

Categorizing the responses

For the LOG12 I split the respondents according to the average response to the four LOG12 “climate science” questions.


Similarly, with the Shollenberger survey, I have categorised the respondents according to response to the three questions on global warming. This time I weighted the responses in relation to belief in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. First I changed the 1 to 5 response to a 0 to 4 response. The weightings were then 1 for Ques 1, 2 for Ques 2 and 4 for Ques 3. By dividing by the maximum score of 28, I obtained a “believer” percentage. Questions are below.

Also, I have looked at the percentage with the outlier scores, along with the average scores.


Preliminary observations

Some brief preliminary observations that stand out from the pivot tables. These are the green bordered summaries below and the responses to the individual questions at the foot.

  1. Compared with LOG12, Schollenberger gets three times the responses and takes a week rather than 18 months to publish the results.
  2. Schollenberger shows the result of only publishing a survey on only one side of the global warming divide, whilst trying to analyse the other side. The vast majority of responses are from people you are not targeting.
  3. The three times response, in a much shorter time frame indicates that sceptics are far more interested in the subject of global warming than the believers.
  4. Proportionately, more far sceptics seem to visit “believer” blogs than “believers” visit sceptic blogs. This should not be controversial. Sceptics look to understand the view they oppose, whilst “believers” look for confirmation. Climate change is no different from many other areas, including many of the softer sciences.
  5. Schollenberger, in his three questions on belief in global warming captures a broader possible range of beliefs in the climate science, than LOG12 does in four questions. In particular it is possible to distinguish between those who believe humans have caused most of the recent warming, but it is fairly trivial, and those who (like the MSM) believes we are all doomed unless we abandon out cars for bicycles and go to 2W lightbulbs everywhere. The LOG12 questions were designed to polarize views into “pro-science” and “deniers”. Schollenberger thus achieves very quickly what millions of dollars spent on opinion surveys conceals. The extreme alarmism that justifies policy is not held by the majority who believe that anthropogenic global warming is an issue.
  6. Both surveys were uncontrolled for “scam” responses. That is for those on one side to be able to mischievously post as an opponent, but with reprehensible views. The Schollenberger survey had more, and (to a lesser extent) a higher proportion of scam responses. Given the knowledge of LOG12, this is not surprising. But, given the proportions of non-scam responses, “believers” seem to have a greater propensity to scam “sceptics” than the opposite.
  7. Thus Schollenberger can demonstrate that Lewandowsky’s conclusions are as much based on scam responses as his survey.



The Survey Questions


Number of Responses to questions 4 to 13, in relation to CAGW score.


Kevin Marshall

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

http://www.skepticalscience.com
http://tamino.wordpress.com
http://bbickmore.wordpress.com
http://www.trunity.net/uuuno/blogs/
http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/
http://profmandia.wordpress.com/
http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/
http://hot-topic.co.nz/

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

Big Oil Funding of Climate Denial – An Examination of the Thesis

It is a common them by those who most dogmatically support the climate change agenda that the opposition are funded by big oil and similarly evil companies. There are potentially a number of angles to this viewpoint.

  1. If money does influence outcomes then we should see that where money on one side is hundreds of times greater than a ragbag of critics, then the critics will be drowned out. This is clearly not the case.
  2. When political parties complain of a money bias, this often goes hand-in-hand of complaints of media bias. But in the global warming sceptics have the most grounds for complaint on the media front. For instance the policies of the BBC and Guardian Newspaper.
  3. Maybe then the sceptics are winning, despite the lack of funds and despite the strong media bias against them, because they are using inappropriate language. My belief is that it is the mainstream who are guilty of intolerant and misleading language.
  4. Maybe the outside money has led to sceptics having undue influence on decision-making, subverting the democratic process. Like the WWF has achieved with the IPCC process?
  5. Maybe the sceptics are guilty of campaigns to misrepresent the status of the science. Like the eco activists “cajoling” scientific organisations to make political proclamations?
  6. Maybe it is the source of funding that creates the greatest bias. In the case of big oil money, if they decided to fund both ways, there are two ways to go. Either, the credibility of both sides is forever tainted, or, if the money was loaded massively one way, then on one side is tainted far more than the other.
  7. Maybe it is because big oil funds climate denial that we should be most concerned. The alternative explanation is that public knowledge of the funding will lead to attacks by environmental groups. To support of attacks by environmental groups (and hence viewing the secrecy of “denial” funding) require two moral points to be maintained. The first is that the views supported are evil. Second, that character assassination, or blockading of premises, or physical attacks on opponents are legitimate ways of opposing those you disagree with.
  8. Maybe, big oil could be viewed by some as being immoral or evil. Others might view with suspicion funding from anyone who makes their money in the gambling industry (especially if they pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection to those activities). They may also view with suspicion currency market speculators, especially one who made over $1bn at the expense of UK taxpayers.
  9. Maybe it is only recent big oil funding that has tainted the policy outcomes. The alleged bad reputation of the oil industry was largely down to one individual in creating a virtual US monopoly in oil production in the late nineteenth century. I do not see a similar smearing of the activities of the foundation created with the ultimate in big oil money.

In short I can see no valid reason to base rejection of critical viewpoints on climate change simply because of unsubstantiated allegations of big oil funding.

I offer an alternative view of those who make these allegations. The belief in “evil funding” stems from a belief they are guardians of some fundamental and irrefutable truths. Furthermore, these truths are concerning a future apocalypse. By implication, those who have an unwillingness to accept that truth is due to out-right lying, or having being deceived by some evil entities, or because they are not right in the head. Historically, those who have maintained to be Truth Guardians, have never substantiated their arguments or allowed for error, or allowed the slightest deviation. Instead they have sought to discourage or prevent people exploring alternatives, knowing deep down that the process of questioning will lead to the understanding that their beliefs are either extreme or in many respects wrong.