Lew’s Crew: The Plot Sickens

“Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation” (Lewandowsky et al, 2013) was pre-published at


on 05 Feb 2013. It was taken down following a complaint to the journal’s editor by Jeff Condon, who had been misquoted (for the second time) in the paper. In answer to a query from Paul Matthews – see his comments at


– the journal stated that the paper had been taken down “for typesetting”. It’s back up again, properly formatted, and with Jeff Condon’s quote corrected.

There’s a comment thread under the article. The first  five comments are very supportive of Lewandowsky’s paper:

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (05 Feb 2013 at 11:15am) Great article! Provides a fascinating perspective on conspiracist ideation – no doubt this will infuriate the ‘irrational ones’ as in the original context! Intriguing to watch!

Michael Ashley (05 Feb 2013 at 11:16am) Lewandowsky et al have clearly hit a nerve that has infuriated the climate deniers. It is astonishing that the deniers have so little insight that they don’t realize that the best approach to refuting accusations of conspiracist ideation is NOT to imagine wilder and crazier conspiracies! Lewandowsky et al tell an extraordinary story, investigated with forensic attention to detail. One can’t help but wonder if a follow-up paper will be needed to analyze the reaction to this one, and so on. It would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad. When the histories are written of the climate denial lunacy that afflicts our time, this paper will be an excellent resource.

Michael Ashley (05 Feb 2013 at 11:25am) Interesting… the first two comments are positive ones and within a minute of each other… Coincidence? I sense a conspiracy! I’m sure that this will convince the climate deniers that Lewandowsky et al have instructed their friends to comment.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (05 Feb 2013 at 11:49am) Must be! Just think … conspiring about conspiring about conspiring (the next paper should be entitled ‘conspiring cubed’). By the way, I was here first which means you must be the one seeking to conspire! But seriously, this is a very important contribution to understanding the irrationality of the denialist position.

Bob Beale (05 Feb 2013 at 12:29pm) I can’t wait to see the reaction to this one. Oh, hey, hang on: just read the comments above – I thought I was the only one the authors had instructed to get in early here and post a pre-emptive positive comment before the denialist trolls got here and cooked up another conspiracy. Then again, maybe the fact that they haven’t done so yet suggests that they are . . . no, it couldn’t be . .. . they wouldn’t!

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is Professor of Marine Science and the Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Michael Ashley is Professor in the School of Physics at the University of New South Wales Sydney, Australia

Bob Beale is Public Affairs Manager in the Faculty of Science at the University of New South Wales Sydney, Australia

The comments that follow have been pre-empted by the comments above, which dismiss them before they are even made, as more conspiracy theorising.

Be clear what is going on here.

1) A professor of cognitive psychology pre-publishes a trashy paper based on a phony survey whose sole purpose is clearly to denigrate the opinions of a group of people who disagree with him, and sends it to a prominent environmental journalist, who gives it world-wide publicity.

2) A number of people publicly criticise the paper, which, eight months after its first “pre-publication” is still not published.

3) The professor and a number of colleagues write a second paper, prepublished on-line, which ridicules the individuals who have criticised the first paper, mentioning them by name. .

4) The authors of the second paper plot together with three of their colleagues (two professors and a university official) arranging for them to be the first to comment on the paper on the journal’s website. The comments ridicule anyone who might comment on the paper, pre-empting their criticisms by accusing them of conspiratorial thinking.

5) Several people comment, criticising the second paper and pointing out a number of inaccuracies. (One, which was the subject of representations to the publisher, was removed. The rest remain). But those who point out the errors in the second paper had already been ridiculed and dismissed as conspiracy theorists, by two professors and a university official before their criticisms appeared, thanks to a silly conspiracy dreamed up with the paper’s authors.

In comments elsewhere, A. Scott has pointed out that the list of supposed peer reviewers of this paper has been changed three times. Brandon Shollenberger has pointed out errors in the article (including a garbled quote from a comment of mine) in an article at WattsUpWithThat . Barry Woods, A.Scott, James Doogue and I have pointed out errors in the article in comments under the article itself. Six weeks later, these errors have not been corrected. Instead, we’re treated as mentally defective non-persons by a couple of giggling university professors.

As Professor Ashley says in his comment, “It would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad.”

About Geoff Chambers

Retired illustrator (children's magazines, religious education textbooks, an Encyclopaedia of Christianity, gay contact and female fitness magazines, pornographic strip cartoons etc.) Retired lecturer in English and History of Art in a French University; ardent blogger on climate hysteria, banned five times from the Guardian and twice from the Conversation. Now blogging at Cliscep.com
This entry was posted in Stephan Lewandowsky and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Lew’s Crew: The Plot Sickens

  1. katabasis1 says:

    This is exactly the kind of childish and – let’s be frank here – irrational behaviour that has put me off of continuing a career in academia post PhD.

    It was only a few months ago I was butting heads, face to face with Professor Greg Philo who was promising everyone present that we’re in for six degrees of warming and that some form of neo-marxism is the only answer. This professor of media (sorry – “Professor of Communications and Social Change”) didn’t even know how to operate windows media player on a laptop and demanded some lackey do it for him.

    Professorships appear to come very cheap nowadays.

  2. Brad Keyes says:

    These academic whores are nakedly devoid of all professional or moral integrity.

    Take serial reef obituarist, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

    Guldberg urges Australians to trust his Climate Commission pals because scientists who don’t trust them can’t be trusted. Why not? Because they’re climate change deniers, literally. (Yep. In this day and age!)

    Or so he says:

    Searching for articles by David Evans and William Kininmonth revealed no peer-reviewed scientific literature that tests their claim that climate change is not happening.

    None of these peer-reviewed articles presented data or tested the idea that climate change is or is not happening, or any of the other “errors” that Carter and his co-authors claim are associated with the conclusions of the Climate Commission.

    The number of articles by Franks since 2000 that involve peer review of his claims that climate change is not happening is also zero.

    The problem is, none of the scientists attacked by Guldberg have ever made such a claim.

    Continuing his libellous and fallacious strawman argument, Guldberg even resorts to outright quote-doctoring:

    Carter and his colleagues dispute the major findings and assert that “independent scientists are confident overall that there is no evidence of global warming” or unusual “sea-level rise”.

    The real passage reads:

    [I]ndependent scientists are confident overall that there is no evidence of global warming at a rate faster than for the two major 20th century phases of natural warming; no evidence of sea level rise at a rate greater than the 20th century natural rise of ~1.7 mm/yr; no evidence of acceleration in sea-level change in either the tide gauge or satellite records …

    Apparently Guldberg thinks he can convince us of our Climate Commission’s “credibility,” not by showing us any particular physical evidence but by lying about the Commission’s critics.

  3. katabasis1
    I hadn’t heard of Greg Philo, but I had heard of the Glasgow Media Group, which he’s been involved in for about twenty years. Previous reports of their research had seemed interesting, with a definite left-wing slant.
    If he’s spouting 6° warming it just demonstrates the peculiarity of global warming belief, since his whole career has been based on not believing the official line.
    I found a report he’d been involved in on “Belief Attitude and Behaviour onClimate Change and Energy Security” from December last year. http://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/papers/view/188145
    The research technique – basically prodding focus groups with imaginary news stories of climate catastrophe – seemed to me an interesting one. The problem comes with the nature of the prompt material. The results as reported are pretty dull. And it talks about “anthropomorphic global warming”, which is not promising.
    Brad Keyes
    The behaviour of Hoegh-Guldberg and Ashley demonstrates some important things about the debate. Normal people respond to criticism because they don’t want to seem irrational or unreasonable; self-esteem makes us attentive to the rules of rational debate. Lewandowsky and his mates have no shame. Above the demarcation line established by peer review they play the intellectual game according to the rules. Below the line they behave like kids. Nothing we say in comments has any importance. Polite requests for information. refutation, pointing out contradictions or errors – it’s nothing but subject-matter to be examined. They dehumanise their opponents. I’m trying to avoid getting angry about it, and just concentrate on how fundamentally weird it is.

  4. tlitb1 says:

    “Above the demarcation line established by peer review they play the intellectual game according to the rules. Below the line they behave like kids.”

    That is it exactly. I’m sure there are examples in all academic fields of infantile practitioners who however appear normal when publishing. But what are the chances that you get a complete set of authors of the same mind-set all working together in the same paper?

    I would say that the chances seem quite high in social sciences where one can pick fights and stand back and watch the “data” come in.

    I can understand being irked by these people, but I stopped feeling that way myself because whenever I’m thinking on how the hell these guys make a living I just keep coming back to an evolutionary metaphor as the only explanation. Your list of praising academics seems to back this up. This kind of academia arises because of the available niche it can occupy. When we remember to avoid the fallacy of thinking of evolution as an inevitable process of improvement, as in the classical ascent of man, and remember it is really only about the best adaption to the environment, then I think the existence of the academic species of Lew et al become clearer. They have an environmental niche (pun intended) where they will get kudos and work, maybe even government work, but they can never do anything that anyone could ever rely on that would be useful in a real sense.

    This won’t get better for them in the future. They have no real pinnacle of understanding that will ever be useful and applicable anywhere. In this line of research they only have the truisms of antagonism as their raison d’etre.

    As you say, it is quite weird to behold.

  5. tlitb
    I’m not happy with the idea of them occupying some kind of evolutionary cul-de-sac where they can be left alone, partly because they won’t leave us alone, but also because they’re cuckoos, occupying a niche which would be better occupied by someone else.
    I’m a fervent believer in the human sciences. We need psychology and anthropology and sociology to make sense of the world, the important part of the world, namely ourselves. Lewandowsky’s pseudo-science puts intelligent people off the human sciences and takes a nasty step towards a totalitarian world, where peer-reviewed experts can ignore the criticisms of the unqualified below-the-line commentator.
    One thing Adam Corner and I agreed about (surprisingly) was that the social sciences took a wrong turning when they decided to ape the “hard” sciences.
    Lew uses undergrad statistics as a smokescreen to hide his anti-humanist ideology. He’s not the only one. The climate-related social sciences degrade and dehumanise their “subjects” (us). I think it’s just as important to combat this tendency as it is to determine the value of CO2 sensitivity.

  6. tlitb1 says:

    OK now I’ve seen I’m in the “Excerpt Espousing Conspiracy Theory Column” in the supplementary materials, I’ve changed my mind and I’m mad as hell! 🙂

    Although Richard Betts is too 😉 Isn’t this just laughable?

  7. Brad Keyes says:

    1. Why don’t we move this conversation over to frontiersin.org?

    2. I dare say Richard Betts’ annoyance at their pseudoscholarly shenanigans is more important than our annoyance. He’s a fellow member of the professoriat, so he can’t be so easily ignored above or below the line.

  8. Brad Keyes says:

    Professor Dan Kahan at Yale is a believer but a stand-up guy who abhors the abuse of psychology, skepticism and science Lewandowsky’s work represents—though, for whatever reasons, he’s never denounced Lewandowsky by name. I suggest if any of you has an “in” with Kahan (which is as easy as striking up a friendly correspondence with him) this might be a good time to get his assistance. Lewandowsky can (pretend to) be contemptuous and unafraid of our complaints, but it wouldn’t be so easy for him to ignore the opprobrium of fellow academics.

  9. tlitb1 says:

    IMHO I think this twitter exchange says it all. I’ll take a punt and say it possible is an indicator of the future downfall of this paper:

    Richard Betts ‏@richardabetts
    Hi ‪@skepticscience‬, why was my comment here ‪http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/8/31/lewandowskys-data.html …‬ “espousing conspiracy theory”?! That’s just crazy. ‪http://www.frontiersin.org/personality_science_and_individual_differences/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00073/abstract …‬

    John Cook ‏@skepticscience
    ‪@richardabetts‬ supplementary data for Recursive Fury are any comments *related* to particular theory. It’s raw data, not final paper.

    Ben Pile ‏@clim8resistance
    .‪@skepticscience‬ It shows that you’ve made a judgement based on your own prejudice, not on ‪@richardabetts‬’s argument.

    The Leopard In The B ‏@TLITB1
    ‪@clim8resistance‬ ‪@skepticscience‬ ‪@richardabetts‬ Their subjective opinion creates data. This process is “orthogonal” to criticism 😉

    I think I might take up Brad Keyes suggestion and try and post a question on the frontiers site asking about the alleged “orthogonality” of their “data” from personal bias .

  10. tlitb1 says:

    Geoff further to what you said here:

    “I’m not happy with the idea of them occupying some kind of evolutionary cul-de-sac where they can be left alone, partly because they won’t leave us alone, but also because they’re cuckoos, occupying a niche which would be better occupied by someone else.”

    The fact they won’t leave us alone is a rather pitiful sign of their neediness don’t you think?

    IMO, to stretch my metaphor possibly to the breaking point, I would say this is another fallacy of evolution – that it is a zero sum game – and the assumption that the disappearance of a species means that its niche will later be re-occupied by something more pleasant.

    This is not to dehumanise these practitioners, I am sure they are nice people otherwise. But I think there will always be this cruddy species of academic practice occupying the gutter niche somewhere. We could change the environment but I sometimes think we almost need this to exist so we can have the contrast available to remind us what to avoid 😉

  11. HK says:

    John Cook ‏@skepticscience
    ‪@richardabetts‬ supplementary data for Recursive Fury are any comments *related* to particular theory. It’s raw data, not final paper.

    Wouldn’t Tom Fuller’s very critical comments of the original methodology have been “raw data” too? What basis would there be for excluding those comments?

  12. tlitb1 says:

    I have a comment up on the Frontiers page there now. Although I maintain my anonymous name, and it looks like they have a policy of real names, so if they strike it then fair enough. No conspiracy ideation will come back from me 😉

  13. Latimer Alder says:


    ‘This is exactly the kind of childish and – let’s be frank here – irrational behaviour that has put me off of continuing a career in academia post PhD.’

    Sound thinking.

    Get out into the real world and do something concrete, rather than just sit in an ivory tower and write papers that few will read.

    I suggest that the commercial world would be a good place to start. It is an intensely practical place There is little room there for prima donnas or bullshit merchants. ‘Does it work for us today?’ takes precedence over ‘I’ve got a nice new theory I’d like to spend two years wondering about’

    Having a PhD may help to open some doors, but your status and rewards in that world is determined primarily by what you actually achieve, not by what qualifications you have.

    After a year or two experience of reality you will look back in amazement at the immaturity of a lot of academe and the sheer triviality of their precious tribal shibboleths.

    Go for it!

  14. Phillip Bratby says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again. These professors are a product of the dumbing down of education. In my day, I doubt they would have even graduated, let alone have an academic career.

  15. Mike Jackson says:

    “Giggling professors” shouldn’t surprise you.
    Think boarding school. Academia is a sort of prolonged adolescence which is why (a) they think everybody ought to agree with what they say and (b) when we don’t they either throw a hissy fit or treat us like the dirt beneath their feet.

  16. Barry Woods says:

    OK who do I complain to?

    Lewandowsky even CHERRYPICKED PART OF MY COMMENT, his supplementay data (url below) he quotes me.

    http://www.frontiersin.org/Journal/DownloadFile.ashx?sup=1&articleId=40138&FileId=2676&FileName=Data Sheet 1.PDF&contentType=Data Sheet&contentTypeId=6&version=1

    “someone has looked at the data. and the conclusions and title of the paper are utterly fraudlent. ie 45 out of 48 those that reject climate science REJECT the moon landing conspiracy theory” – Barry Woods

    the url provided in the supplementary data didn’t work for some reason, so I had had a search for my comment and found he had selected part of it.

    MY full comment was actually this, which backs up my statement, whilst linking to an analysis of Lewandowsky’s actual data for LOG12)

    Barry Woods (Comment #102532)
    September 2nd, 2012 at 3:53 am

    someone has looked at the data. and the conclusions and title of the paper are utterly fraudlent. ie 45 out of 48 those that reject climate science REJECT the moon landing conspiracy theory

    Looking at the data, those that most strongly ‘reject’ climate science, ALSO strongly reject ALL the conspiracy theories…

    extract below:

    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.

    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

    well worth a look at the pivot tables in the above link


    That was MY FULL comment is at Lucia’s here:


    😉 😉 This is beyond satire, who will psychoanalyse these troublesome activists psychologists.. 😉

  17. Pingback: Lewandowsky – Strike Three!! What a riot! « the Air Vent

  18. Geoff
    One major aspect in such studies, usually a point of contention as one well imagine, is on whether the analysed material is ‘text’ or ‘subjects’. Lew and Cook purport to analyse included comments as ‘text’ from the ‘blogosphere’. Under such a scheme, it wouldn’t matter who said what. All that counts is the ‘text’ which is balled up and ‘analysed’ as a conspiratorial mass, as a whole.

  19. Climate Daily says:

    Reblogged this on Climate Daily.

  20. Mike says:

    Really classy comments by some fellow academics (Ashley and Hoegh-Guldberg). Makes me so proud to belong to this exalted profession.

  21. hunter says:

    The Lew crew is playing a childish game where they can dismiss anything they do not like by claiming it is ‘conspiratorial’. Even if it is ‘conspiratorial’ in a real world definition, they do nothing about context, and their reliance on conspiracies of oil companeis. ‘motivated thinking’, etc. leaves them only looking more and more childish. and now that they are attacking fellow believers for daring to even critique the Lew & pals paper as conspiracy kooks, they seem to see conspirators under every e-mail header. So if everyone is conspiratorial, it seems the logical question is, “Who cares?”

  22. Brad Keyes says:


    Have you said so at frontiersin.org?

  23. alexjc38 says:

    Aside from possible legal options and flagging unprofessional behaviour with principals of the relevant universities, I think the best thing might be to document and archive as much of this mad stuff as possible (bearing in mind that while it appears likely that the internet will exist in some form, over a decade from now, there’s no guarantee that many of today’s online repositories will still be in existence then.)

    The social sciences – once they have eventually woken up from their slumber – will, I imagine, have a field day with the utterings of Lew and his crew.

  24. bullocky says:

    We’ve got a little way to go yet, but history will lay the Pagan Reformation, aka Climate Change, squarely at the feet of western academia.

  25. hro001 says:

    Leading the charge of Lew’s cheering brigade was (as Geoff had noted above):

    Ove Hoegh-Guldberg [who] is Professor of Marine Science and the Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

    It’s also worth noting Hoegh-Guldberg’s additional “credentials” (courtesy of Peter Bobroff – the wizard behind AccessIPCC – and his [almost] perfect python parser, which is not quite ready for prime-time live). Some highlights (or lowlights, depending on one’s perspective):

    He was a Contributing Author to the IPCC’s AR4-WG2-Ch11 (which just happened to include references to 7 papers of which he was the lead or co-author)

    Perhaps because Hoegh-Guldberg was such a star performer in AR4, the IPCC – in its infinite wisdom – decided that he should be a Coordinating Lead Author for AR5-WG2-Ch30.

    YMMV, but to my mind, Hoegh-Guldberg’s enthusiastic endorsement of Lew’s latest leaps downward into the depths of mediocre “scholarship” calls into serious question Hoegh-Buldberg’s ability to “objectively” assess the work of others.

    One would think that a proven demonstration of objectivity should be a requirement of an IPCC Coordinating Lead Author.

    Certainly his laudatory comments on Lewandowsky et al would fail such a test – as would (or certainly should) Hoegh-Guldberg’s voluntary participation in the WWF;s “Climate Witness Advisory Panel”.

    Amaxing. Simply amazing.

  26. onoropu says:

    Conspiracy: A combination of people for an unlawful or reprehensible purpose; an agreement to so combine. [Shorter Oxford Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 1993]
    For Lew and crew to credibly claim that there is a conspiracy, on any topic , they must first demonstrate that the people they accuse have previously reached a mutual agreement to undertake some action, and also that the agreed action is unlawful or reprehensible. Which, of course, they cannot do.
    So they talk in terms of “conspiracy theory,” which obviously refers to a theory that they have conspired to perpetrate, in regard to any person or persons, acting independently, who have a counter opinion of their own.
    When I studied Psychology, this was known as Projection.

  27. Pingback: Lew’s Guru and the Science of a Beautiful You | Geoffchambers's Blog

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