Looser Screws than Lew’s

Just as I was planning on dropping blogging and going back to a normal life watching ballet on my new big screen computer and drawing sexy super-heroines, Lewandowsky’s “Recursive Fury” paper gets retracted and I’ve been busy commenting and networking at Retractionwatch, Shapingtomorrowsworld and elsewhere. If you haven’t been following the story, start at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/3/20/flushed-away.html

and

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/3/21/the-lew-roll-1.html#comments

and follow the trail, being sure to take in

http://climateaudit.org/2014/03/21/lewandowskys-fury/

Meanwhile, at

http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/03/20/science-journal-retracts-paper-showing-how-climate-change-sceptics-were-conspiracy-theorists-after-sceptics-shout

Graham Readfearn explains that Lew can’t reveal the nature of the complaints made to him because he’s signed a gagging order

While DeSmogBlog understands the authors of the paper have signed confidentiality agreements preventing them from discussing the nature of the complaints, FOI documents and pre-existing blog posts show how the journal was facing accusations that the paper was defamatory”.

Which doesn’t stop Lew from defending himself vigorously at

http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/rf1.html#3166

and in a forty minute video rant at

https://vimeo.com/89099432

Dana Nuccitelli wades in at the Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/mar/21/contrarians-bully-climate-change-journal-retraction

under the headline “Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper”. Nuccitelli gives no evidence of bullying, but instead links to Readfearn’s article, which quotes my complaint and Steve McIntyre’s, both of which describe “Recursive Fury” as “defamatory”. I’ve been banned from commenting at the Guardian, but I reported two of Nuccitelli’s below-the-line comments on the grounds of legal issues, pointing out that in accusing me and McIntyre of bullying, the article was itself defamatory.

I left a three-part comment under the video, which elicited a sweet response from one Elizabeth Chosen:

Don’t listen to Geoff Chambers, that way lies confusion and scepticism. How does this confusion spread?”

http://livefromgolgafrincham.org/2014/03/18/will-they-ever-get-it/

Her link is so delightful I’m reproducing it here in full:

* * *

WILL THEY EVER, EVER, EVER GET IT?

March 18, 2014 · by Marcus Toynboyalé ·

It is an unhappy fact that climate change remains a confusing subject for many. This confusion has had the unfortunate effect of making many people sceptical of the very existence of climate change so it’s of fundamental importance, if we want to arrest scepticism in its bed, to find out the source of the confusion. Where does it come from, the confusion? What’s the confusion’s provenance? What’s making people so confusedly sceptical and not unconfusedly accepting of the science?

The answer is that a lot of people’s beliefs and judgements are made confused by a variety of competing confusion-promoting, anti-science sources: religious upbringing, political leaning, ideologies and self-interests, what news channels are watched, what newspapers are read, what blogs are visited, some of which, inevitably, are more confusion-promoting and anti-science than others. So what can we do about this?

The first practical thing we can do is provide a guide for the confused, a list of reads-if-you-have-the-times and avoids-even-if-you-do-have-the-times. If science – and its confusion-lowering effects – is to be affirmed, a list of what people should be reading, viewing and attending to to lower their confusion (and remember only scientific insight can lower confusion) ought to include:

  • Australia’s ABC

  • UK’s BBC & Guardian

  • USA’s New York Times

  • Real Climate Blog

  • Skeptical Science website

  • IPCC report

  • The international COP meetings

  • Michael Mann’s twitter feed and facebook page

  • Anything by the UK’s Royal Society and Sir Paul Nurse

  • NGO websites (Greenpeace, FoE, 10:10, us)

  • Anything by Stephan Lewandowsky and COIN

  • Anything by Lily Cole

Conversely, a list of sources people ought to avoid to keep confusion to a minimum should include:

  • Steve McIntyre of the Climate Audit blog

  • Anthony Watts of the Watts Up With That blog

  • Andrew Montford of the Bishop Hill blog

  • Anything by Lords Monckton and Lawson

  • The GWPF website

  • The UK’s Daily Mail & Telegraph, the USA’s Wall Street Journal, Australia’s The Australian

  • The Jo Nova blog

  • Anything by Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr, Richard Tol, Donna Laframboise, Fritz Vahrenholt, Andrew Bolt, James Delingpole, Christopher Booker, Tim Worstall, Bjorn Lomborg, Matt Ridley, Benny Pieser, Ben Pile, Barry Woods, Geoff Chambers and Matt Briggs.

  • The Register website

  • Conferences and literature by the Heartland Institute

  • Anything by Jonny Ball

How do we know this? The answer is twofold. Firstly by not examining the stuff that pours from the second-list sources in order to avoid risking exposure to confusion ourselves; and secondly by logically deducing, based on the prior-identification or self-identification of these characters and their associations as climate change sceptics, that they either deny, or are ignorant of, the climate science ‘fact-roll’ agreed by 97% of climate scientists, namely: 

  1. The earth’s climate is changing

  2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that contributes to this

  3. humans contribute to atmospheric CO2 through industrial activity

  4. therefore we need to change our profligate, over-consumptive lifestyles 

So that’s the first practical step we can take. The second step we can take to minimise science-starved confusion is expose the motives of the science-dismissing confusion maximisers. What’s in it for them? Why do they do it?

The answer to this is that it profits them to spread confusion. Sceptical bloggers, science-denying journalists, sceptical thinktanks, foundations, institutes and groupuscules – all in some way profit, either directly or indirectly, from dirty industry. If they weren’t in the pay of dirty industry they wouldn’t say the (almost laughably simplistic and un-nuanced) things we can deduce they do say. This observation is given further credence by considering the embarrassment factor: if there wasn’t such material advantage to be gained in being so unsophistcatedly outside the 97% consensus it’s unlikely anyone would have the front to situate themselves there.

Finally, the third, and possibly most important thing we can do is… improve communication! Keep on keeping on about all of the above. So we need to:

  • keep highlighting that if it rewards the confusion merchants to stick to the same message irrespective of scientific development, irrespective of new insight and research, irrespective of evidence, then this simply wrong message – climate isn’t changing, man doesn’t contribute, business as usual – will remain their shabby, constant mainstay;  

  • keep banging on that if it remunerates them financially to keep repeating the same discredited message over and over then this endless repetition, this never-ending recital, rather than one day crystallising the message into dazzling sense, rather than suddenly revealing it to be the honest and true account of nature it purports to be, reveals it instead to be the ineffably droning, cyclical mantra, the series of wretched gurgles and phonemes that it actually is;

  • keep pointing out, tirelessly and ceaselessly, year after year, decade after decade, that if there’s money to be made by endlessly covering the same old discredited ground, if the coffers are constantly replenished by repeating ad nauseum the same arguments and words over and over, over and over and over again, if endlessly banging on, decade after decade, year after year in this fashion fills your trouser pockets then why would you tire of doing it? Why would you stop writing the columns? Why would you give up filling the blogosphere? Stop appearing on television? Stop accepting the speech fees? Why would you pause, even for a moment, to think about the climatic depredations suffered by the developing countries? That if there’s money to be gained your likely reaction to this would be, so what? What pressing concern is that when there are squawk spots to fill on tv news channels, columns to fashion in the endless, oily spill of newsink (see the second list above) when there are international conferences to attend, films to make, and books to sell (see the second list above – the second list is the one below the first list);

  • and keep pointing out that actually if it makes you a profit to keep rehearsing this same message, far from the suffering of poorer countries and generations unborn, what becomes your most pressing concern is the comforting warm, sloppy sound of your own verbal, glossolalic incontinence; the florid flourishes of your keyboard rhetoric as you rat-ta-ta-tap your laptop into self-induced oblivion, drifting, soaring, plunging through helical word strands down into the DNA of your own seminal, lexical fluid, which should get boring for readers after a while but somehow, miraculously, doesn’t because the graphomaniacal authors of this nauseating ocean of FUD are always, always careful to finish, Big Brother style, with the hint of an emerging tactical breakthrough if only readers will stick by them.

To summarise, then, what we need to do is (a) identify the confusion merchants, (b) expose their motives, and (c) keep re-exposing their motives – but is that it? Well, possibly not because there is now emerging a fourth possible avenue of action. Over on The Conversation, Rochester Institute of Technology Professor of philosophy Lawrence Torcello has suggested making it an offence of criminal negligence to wilfully spread confusion and misinformation. Now, whether these powerful levers are necessary just yet is debatable, but certainly we might start the ball rolling with something akin in spirit: the regulation of scientific output on the internet.

Next week, then, LFG – proudly funded by clean money from the public purse which, crucially, is guaranteed to flow so that we can maintain financial independence from commercial pressure and keep on sticking up for the health of the public and planet – will be launching a new campaign, PLAIN PAGES, to stem the flood of handsomely-funded anti-science nonsense on the internet and stop the confusion-merchants in their tracks.

Much, much more to follow. Masses of it.

* * *

Did you see us there? Barry Woods, Ben Pile and me listed among the people you absolutely must not read, right up there with Bjorn Lomborg, Steve McIntyre, Judith Curry, Richard Tol, Donna Laframboise … and Johnny Ball. (We’re in the second list, which, as author Marcus Toynboyalé helpfully points out, is the one below the first list). After such a writeup, how can I possibly consider throwing in the towel? As Marcus so rightly says, why would I “…give up filling the blogosphere? Stop appearing on television? Stop accepting the speech fees?”

I was intrigued by Marcus’s proud boast to be “… funded by clean money from the public purse which, crucially, is guaranteed to flow..” That must be nice, while Bjorn, Ben, Barry and I have to survive on the fees for our numerous speaking engagements and TV appearances.

I went to their blog to find out what this guaranteed flow of clean public money was, and found this:

BY GOVERNMENT, FOR GOVERNMENT

Our main goal in bringing the brains of the public, government and science together to challenge bad practice is to give government a voice. At the end of the 20th century following momentous political change western governments of all hues struggled to find direction; they lost their voices. After a short period however a new political compact began to emerge between governments, charities, NGOs, civil-society and academics with the aim of leading people towards better living through raised awareness, healthier living, and more sustainable behaviour. Founding members of LFG were there from the start but seperately [sic] we began to notice the growing importance of neuroscience in providing answers to the most intransigent questions about healthier living. We formed LFG in 2011 to fill the neuroscience-shaped gap in evidence-based policy research.

BY YOU, FOR YOU TOO

With our position in the new compact determined by its internal parameters LFG necessarily receives the major part of its funding (92%) direct from the European Commission via the Department of Social and Environmental Affairs and its Office for Environmental and Social Council Support’s Special Fund for Behavioural Insight. Using the insight of common sense, however, we know that relying on income from too few sources can jeopardise impartial science. This is why your participation is vitally important too. Join in and make sure your voice is heard! Sign the pledge here.

Two of the six members of this NGO are or have been stand up comedians, so don’t take anything I say for granted. But I shall be asking Lord Lawson about this eccentric use of government funds the next time we appear on a TV programme together.

Here’s some more on Marcus, the author of the article that wants to regulate scientific output on the internet, as a first step towards prosecuting Lord Chris, Lord Nige, Barry, Ben and me for criminal negligence:

Before taking on stewardship of LFG full time, Marcus spent a couple of years as a film-maker (and even, for a short while, did the rounds as a stand-up comedian!) Prior to this he lectured part-time at the College of Food Enterprise, Lincoln… Here, among other things he commissioned the first report on the sustainability of East Lincolnshire’s food systems … and worked closely with Ian Dickinson’s Lincolnshire Sausage Company on conservation and sustainability issues.

..and here’s some more on Elizabeth Chosen:

Elizabeth (soon to be Baroness) Chosen is Policy Director at Remind, the West Wales mental health charity for teenagers.

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25 Responses to Looser Screws than Lew’s

  1. Geoff, thanks for the re-post. As I’ve said to TinyCO2 in the comments below it, there seem to be some sceptics who are of the opinion that it’s *alarmists* who are the ones so ridiculous as to be beyond parody. I’m very glad you’re not one of these deluded people.

  2. kim says:

    I thought the Confessional was a private place.
    ============

  3. Hi Marcus
    Would you like to tell us how much your NGO receives from the European Commission via the Department of Social and Environmental Affairs and its Office for Environmental and Social Council Support’s Special Fund for Behavioural Insight, and how long it’s guaranteed for?
    (I receive nothing from anyone by the way)

  4. Well, you say you receive nothing, but you receive all the material comforts of modern capitalist society so I think, you know, that’s a bit like receiving money isn’t it? And by being a sceptic what you’re doing is, saying ‘yep, go ahead with modern capitalist society’. I see a link. The link is liking being comfortable and agreeing with the system that brings much of that comfort. I’m surprised you can’t see it. It’s there in front of you, reflected in the giant screen of your flatscreen television when you switch it off and it goes black.

    I’m not sure how much we receive from the European Commission via the Department of Social and Environmental Affairs and its Office for Environmental and Social Council Support’s Special Fund for Behavioural Insight. Probably quite a lot.

  5. Congratulations Geoff for being “on the list”. As a lover of comedy we can only hope Marcus Toynboyalé will one day see his own post as ridiculous as “Don’t tell him Pike!” Substantial donations to the fuel poor will I’m sure go a long way to bringing a sense of reality and shame of having taken the EC largesse to impoverish those less fortunate.

  6. Marcus
    Presumably someone knows how much you receive? Do you have to file accounts like a registered charity? I suppose I could find out this information from the EU body itself, but telling me would save time. Thanks.
    I see you’re a fan of COIN. I’ve had quite a lot of amicable contact with Adam Corner there. You can check with him. I don’t bite.

  7. Is Marcus a parody by any chance? The answer is, embarrassingly, yes. More actual jokes might make it a bit more obvious perhaps. I’ll work on that. ;-)

  8. Ian
    Gosh. How didn’t I see? Lew must have a name for my kind ,of blindness. Do you want me to take the post down?
    It’s definitely time I took a long holiday from blogging.

  9. What’s worrying is that it was so hard to tell.

  10. Geoff, Richard

    Funny thing is Geoff, *I* wasn’t sure whether your commentary was knowing, either. So I assumed so and went along with that assumption. Bloody tricky all this nod and wink stuff isn’t it? I mean, what do you actually want – Richard included – sodding jokes as well? You’re all so demanding. I won’t bow to it.

    I’m happy for you to keep it included in the post, though. Whatever you feel you want to do.

    PS. I may go to see Lewandowsky again in June, as Bristol’s near. If I gather the courage to ask a question, any suggestions?

  11. Oh, I didn’t make the DNR list :-( But that aside, perhaps we should help Marcus and his band of Merry TruthMakers out. Start a new blog dedicated to those who have no wish to think for themselves. Let’s call it the DoNotReadTodayList on which we will post linked highlights from the latest and baddest from those on his DNR list ;-)

  12. Ian: The problem with climate jokes is they keep getting unelected (power). Feel free to ask the same question and let us know if you decide to go at Bristol pub meet or Lew seat.

  13. TinyCO2 says:

    ROTFLMAO. It was too much like the real thing… except for the polite replies. It’s it odd how many sceptics followed the link from the Guardian but there hasn’t been a flood of warmists.

  14. Congratulations Ian. It’s brilliant, though very embarrassing for me that I was completely taken in. It’s clear (and I’m sure Stephan will agree) that I believed it because I wanted to.
    The other interesting psychological aspect was the fact that realisation was instantaneous. There was no period of weighing the pros and cons. It was like those trick pictures in gestalt psychology that flip from being a cancan dancer to a profile of a man with a beard, or whatever. Soon-to-be baroness; ex-stand-up comic; sustainability in a sausage factory – how could I possibly not have seen? Paul on the road to Damascus was a slow learner in comparison. And what does that tell me about my reasoning proceses and the nature of belief? Help! Is there a psychologist in the house?

  15. TinyCO2 says:

    Seriously, it’s a better web site than most warmist sites and about as busy (you know, nothing for ages and then 15 sceptics come along at once). If you’re not careful Ian you might get a following of greenie B Arkers and then what will you do with them?

  16. Geoff, I have told you before, you should be on twitter! If you were, you might have noticed the curious fact that the only references to Marcus’s excellent website seemed to come from Ian Woolley. I don’t think the LFG site is a spoof. Have you seen the article there about frapping? It looks very serious.

  17. manicbeancounter says:

    There are a Four fundamental issues with Marcus Toynboyalé’s analysis.
    First is the consensus issue. Greater than 97% of New Testament theologians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, whilst probably 100% of Islamic Scholars would view that as blasphemy. Yet both groups are the highest level experts in their fields. When Darwin’s Origin of the Species was published, the consensus of scientists believed in the biblical creation story. Support for a theory or hypothesis is no measure of its predominance, nor of the change in its stature over time.
    Second is what the 97% of climate scientists allegedly agree upon are necessary, but far from sufficient to justify policy. The bit glanced over is the magnitude of the adverse consequences caused if we do nothing. The strength and quality of the evidence appears to be inversely related to the magnitude of the problem.
    Third is that a potential catastrophic problem does not necessarily mean that there is a solution,any more than identifying that HIV causes AIDS points to a solution, or giving a few quid to a charity prevents global hunger. Given that emerging economies will not seriously engage in GHG emission reduction policies, and that most policies to reduce carbon emissions are hideously expensive and ineffectual, countries like Britain that engage in such policies will make their people worse of than if they did nothing. If climate scientists are correct, then policy will leave the British public with all the excessive costs of poicy, and 99% of the climate consequences.
    http://manicbeancounter.com/2014/02/23/why-climate-change-mitigation-policies-will-always-fail/
    Fourth, is dealing with the the human aspect. If ideas are denigrated and people discouraged from contaminating their minds with them for without good reasons, then people who do question will be marginalised, and the masses not trust what is said. Climate alarmists are just preaching to a diminishing bunch of fellow-believers.

  18. manicbeancounter says:

    Geoff,

    I have just made a long comment at “Shaping Tomorrow’s World”, that tries to summarise why Prof Lewandowsky is not just wrong, but undermines democracy and academic freedom. As it will be probably be removed, I hope you do not mind my re-posting here.

    Stephan Lewandowsky,
    As a professor, you should be my intellectual superior. As a scientist you should be able to provide novel explanations about your subject area that go beyond what the non-specialist would find out for themselves, but at the same time accommodate the basic understanding that the non-specialist.
    Your “Hoax” paper ignored the obvious conclusion of the data. The vast majority of respondents did not believe in the cranky conspiracy theories, regardless of their views on “climate science”. Any “conspiracist ideation” revolves around differences in the small proportions that do. That means that the vast majority of “skeptics” who do not understand will feel insulted. Morally you should have clearly stated that any conclusions only apply to a small minority. The first part of the paper’s title inferred the opposite.
    “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax”
    Out of 1145 respondents, just 2 strongly rejected “climate science” and strongly supported that faxed moon landing theory. The question was not asked of those two people if they followed that path of reasoning. Unsurprisingly, when you smear people with ideas that they find insulting they express outrage. There is nothing “confected” about this.
    There are three things that make this beyond the pale of academic freedom
    First, you do not advance knowledge, but to repress the obvious empirical statement (the vast majority do not believe in cranky conspiracy theories) with the opposite.
    Second is that the smears is to deny a group of people who you disagree with a voice.
    Third, is that you use false allegations of intellectual inferiority to evaluate climate “science”, to prevent a voice in matters of public policy. Yet the voices that you seek to repress often have far greater understanding and knowledge of economics and policy implementation than you and your fellow-travelling academics.
    Academic freedom must be protected so that ideas and knowledge that challenge society’s established beliefs can be nurtured. But that must be accompanied by a deliberate policy of pluralism, for there are none so defensive of their protecting their beliefs or ideas as those who spent their lives developing them. Professor Lewandowsky, your work in the last three years should become a textbook example of the attempts and consequences to suppress that freedom.

  19. Thanks Geoff. I’ve long been a fan of your writing, so it means a lot. (You haven’t done too badly, a few people didn’t notice Anthony Giddey was Prince Charles on a post about e-cigarettes).

    Completely agree with manicbeancounter above. Depressingly though, just by Lewandowsky’s extended ‘uuummmmm’s when he speaks, you know he’s just transfixed by the sound of his own voice and there’s not much more to it than that. I don’t think much can ever change this, can it?

  20. Brad Keyes says:

    Does anyone understand the alarmists’ “science communication” strategy? You know, the one that’s enabled them to keep half the world in thrall despite a defect that might have been considered a death sentence for a scientific paradigm: zero physical evidence? The one in which serious scientists and other grown men and women bafflingly choose the most effete cliches imaginable to talk about anything sciencey? “Overwhelming body of evidence?” It’s as if, just when they arrive at the payload of their spiel, the will to deceive suddenly runs out and their language becomes as feckless as possible. They’re not even trying, it seems. It’s nice to know a vestigial capacity for shame is present.

    As much fun as it is taking the piss out of these “science communication” moments, I’m just deluding myself about the intellect behind them. Far from childish or unscientific, these obnoxious tropes represent the bleeding edge of evidence-based persuasion. Someone far cleverer than us not only thought about each thoughtless word, they focus-grouped it and mathematically modeled its impact.

    When I think of this kind of evil genius, my natural admiration for genius kicks in and I hope they win. As far as I know, our side doesn’t use such dirty technology… yet. (Hooray—by steering completely clear of linguistics for 20 years and trying not to think about what George Lakoff is telling them, we hold the moral high ground!) As far as I know, it’s never even occurred to us that they’re using it. Well they are. I say we either get smart soon, or cede the evolutionary battleground to the bad guys.

  21. Brad Keyes
    Why assume they have a strategy? Did the bubonic plague virus have a strategy? It spread, then one day the antibodies reacted, and it died away.
    The plague won’t come back because of our immense progress in medical knowledge. Global warming hysteria is psycho-social rather than bio-medical in nature, and our understanding of the social sciences is about where our understanding of medicine was in the time of Dr Rabelais.
    I don’t think “Someone far cleverer than us not only thought about each thoughtless word”. They just spout out memes and see which ones survive. Survival depends not only on the power of the meme, but on the size of the petrie dish. Just twenty years ago, there was a field for abstract discussion which you could define as the letters pages of the newspapers, political parties, churches, and various groups and associations ranging from Women’s Institutes to Rotary Clubs. Then the internet arrived and the field changed radically in its nature and expanded by several magnitudes overnight. These are ideal conditions for strange mutations. Global warming is the winning mutation – so far.

  22. Given its psycho-social nature you’d think ‘style’ would at some point come to the rescue, in the most positive sense of style as the accumulated impression of genuine virtues of character and not in any empty ‘lifestyle’ sense. Alarmist environmentalism as merely a hook on which to peg your standing as a good, socially aware person with an impeccable conscience should be open to challenge from the real thing, but there’s a whole generation of mind-weight invested in this posture, so the fight against is necessarily slow and ludicrous. Having watched more than taken part, that’s my impression. I think if you go in for the brilliant kind of skirmishing Brad goes in for, you may well come to feel a force of ignorance so intense it must be evilly conscious.

  23. Pingback: The new environmental threat – Frapping | The IPCC Report

  24. Pingback: Satire, spoofs and Poe’s law | The IPCC Report

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