The Paper by Lewandowsky Oberauer and Gignac “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” (hereafter LOG12)
has finally been published in Psychological Science
The very fact of its publication proves that we deniers are guilty of counterfactual thinking, since everyone who bothered to read the paper in its prepublished form back in July 2012 was convinced that such a pile of Findus would never see the light of day.
How wrong we were. Here it is:
I’ve played “spot the difference” and found a few minor changes.
- “… a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King..” becomes “…a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the Federal Bureau of Investigation killed Martin Luther King, Jr…”
- The belief falsely attributed to Jeff Condon is replaced by a totally different attributed belief. Instead of: “climate deniers believe that temperature records have been illegitimately adjusted to exaggerate warming (e.g., Condon, 2009)” we have “climate deniers believe that communists, socialists, and a ‘global elite’ have manufactured global warming as the ‘biggest scam in history’ (Sussman, 2010, p. 215)”.
- One odd unsupported non-sequitur is reworded: “By definition, denial is difficult to practice in the peer-reviewed literature” becomes “By definition, the peer-reviewed literature does not promote denial”.
- And the claim that Steve McIntyre testified before the British Parliament has been removed.
Something I’ve learned from a careful reading of the text (others can look at the statistics) is that Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts are the real targets of the paper. I’ll explain.
Under the heading “Potential Objections” the authors state:
“We acknowledge that our sample is self-selected and that the results may therefore not generalize to the population at large. However, this fact has no bearing on the importance of our results: We designed the study to investigate what motivates the rejection of science in individuals who choose to get involved in the ongoing debate about one scientific topic, climate change. As noted earlier, this group of people has a demonstrable impact on society, and understanding their motivations and reasoning is therefore of importance”.
The only earlier statement which can be interpreted as demonstrating that sceptics have a demonstrable impact on society reads as follows:
“Accordingly, climate-“skeptic” blogs have become a major staging post for denial, although blogs are also used by supporters of climate science to disseminate scientific evidence. The influence of blogs should not be underestimated: For example, one skeptic blogger (Steven McIntyre of the “Climate Audit” blog, at climateaudit.org) has triggered several congressional investigations, and one anonymous proscience blogger (“Deep Climate”) uncovered a plagiarism scandal involving a report skeptical of climate change for Congress, which ultimately led to the retraction of a peer-reviewed article. Popular climate blogs can register upward of 700,000 monthly visitors, a self-selected audience that is by definition highly engaged in the increasingly polarized climate debate.”
Steve is named, not for anything he’s said, but for the fact of having triggered investigations, and WattsUpWithThat is hinted at, but not named.
Steve’s criticisms of LOG12 are hinted at in an unexplained addition. After a long section discounting “Another objection that might be raised”, namely, “..the possibility that our respondents willfully accentuated their replies to subvert our presumed intentions” the following sentence has been added:
“The Supplemental Material also shows that the results are robust to the removal of potential outliers”.
We also get a hint that the unnamable Anthony Watts is on their minds with this:
“Conspiracist ideation is, by definition, difficult to correct because any evidence contrary to the conspiracy is itself considered evidence of its existence… Thus, increasing global temperatures are reinterpreted as being the result of government agencies selectively removing thermometers that show a cooling trend and retaining only those that show the “desired” warming trend.”
Unlike the dozens and dozens of irrelevant examples referring to tobacco, AIDS, assassinations, etc., this “conspiracy theory” is not referenced. That it is obviously an example of delirious paranoia is suggested by what follows:
“Sunstein and Vermeule suggested that instead of rebutting single conspiracy theories, scientists and policymakers should try to rebut many at the same time. This conforms with our finding that conspiracist ideation tends to be quite broad. Multiple rebuttals also raise the complexity of possible conspiracist responses (not only must there be a conspiracy to remove thermometers, but there must also be a conspiracy to launch a false “decoy” theory about the absence of a plane hitting the Pentagon on September 11 in order to detract from the real conspiracy, which was to destroy the Twin Towers, and so on)”.
Attributing the belief about the selective removal of thermometers to Watts, and associating it with the “false conspiracy theory” theory about 9/11 might leave them open to charges of defamation. So the thermometer theory remains anonymous – a peer-reviewed Chinese Whisper.
The published version of the supplemental material repeats the lie that the survey was publicised at skepticalscience, and at last reveals why Lewandowsky and Cook have persisted in this falsehood, despite the evidence of the Wayback machine, FOIA -released emails between Cook and Lewandowsky, and emails between Cook and myself. They say:
“All of the blogs that carried the link to the survey broadly endorsed the scientific consensus on climate change (see Table S1). As evidenced by the comment streams, however, their readership was broad and encompassed a wide range of view on climate change. To illustrate, a content analysis of 1067 comments from unique visitors to http://www.skepticalscience.com, conducted by the proprietor of the blog, revealed that around 20% (N = 222) held clearly “skeptical” views, with the remainder (N = 845) endorsing the scientific consensus. At the time the research was conducted (September 2010), http://www.skepticalscience.com received 390,000 monthly visits. Extrapolating from the content analysis of the comments, this translates into up to 78,000 visits from “skeptics” at the time when the survey was open (although it cannot be ascertained how many of the visitors actually saw the link.)
For comparison, a survey of the U.S. public in June 2010 pegged the proportion of “skeptics” in the population at 18%.. “
But there was no link at Skeptical Science for the 78,000 sceptical visitors to see. All there was was Cook’s tweet. See:
since the survey was never publicised at Skepticalscience. They need to pretend it was, in order to justify the highly unlikely hypothesis that a quarter of the so-called “proscience” blog readers who filled in the questionnaire were sceptics.
A letter will be going off to Psychological Science pointing out this unfortunate inaccuracy and suggesting that the article be withdrawn.