This is a comment by Brad Keyes on the “Frontiers” thread under Lewandowsky’s paper at
It is reproduced entirely without his permission, because I like it. It’s followed by an extract from
Which Brad Keyes kindly pointed out. Again, I haven’t asked permission. I only hope that the family of the late blog author will excuse me.
Above, I mused about Dr. Lewandowsky being the only practicing psychologist in the world who would actually SUGGEST paranoid, conspiracist ideas to a vulnerable member of the community (as he did in the tragic case of the late Ms Composta, who was already known to be severely depressed when she reached out to Lewandowsky for help).
I completely forgot to mention the good doctor’s other claim to fame: Lewandowsky is the only licenced psychologist on earth, to my knowledge, who prides himself on *not talking* to the very people into whom he professes special insight and on whom he markets himself as a world authority!
In his own words, in a discussion forum about climate skeptics, he blurts out that, “Engagement [with them], in my view, is not a solution but just an enormous waste of time.”
Let me get this straight.
Lewandowsky owes an academic career—of sorts—to climate skeptics (“nutters,” according to his professional, public diagnosis). If you live in the “lucky country” on the underbelly of the globe there’s a 90% chance that you get your news from an organ whose go-to guy on the phenomenon of climate skepticism is UWA Professor of Psychology Stephan Lewandowsky. He’ll tell you all science knows about why we “nutters” still exist in the face of the many and divers proofs of apocalyptic global warming.
He doesn’t see the point, though, of sullying himself by actual *communication* with us.
To call Lewandowsky a quack smears ducks.
He’s a joke on the behavioral and mental sciences, an enemy to the hard-working army of mental health professionals whose driving motivation is to help other human beings, a disgrace to the Australian Psychological Society and a herpes sore on the reputation of any other body promiscuous enough to accredit him.
SOURCE—Lewandowsky’s intellectually suicidal outburst can be seen here:
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verdanthopes.blogspot.com.au/ was a blog written by Alene Composta of Victoria, Australia, who described herself as follows:
I am an unremarkable person. For many years I worked in one of the caring professions, helping clients access benefits and a measure of natural justice. About 15 years ago my partner walked out, plunging me into depression that eventually lifted but led to a legacy of agoraphobia and panic attacks. I seldom leave my home as a result but, thanks to the Internet, I can stay informed and, from the security of my writing room, can put words together that might just help to make this world of ours a better place.
In March 2011 she wrote to Professor Lewandowsky:
Dear Prof Lewandowsky,
We have never met, although we do share a background in the field of psychology, so I feel emboldened to ask for your professional advice. You see we have something in common: a passionate concern for averting the looming catastrophe of runaway climate change.
I recently began blogging, especially about climate change, and after a month my site was noticed. Noticed by the wrong people, sadly. Readers of Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt have swamped my site with genuinely abusive comments, many relating to my disability, which I find very hurtful.
So my question to you is this: How do you deal with monsters like this?
I have read and savoured every column you have published at Unleashed, and I have read the hateful comments that, even with an ABC moderator to vet them, still make it up on the site. The worst charge is that they simply do not take me seriously, which diminishes me in my humanity. I must confess that, after the latest round of abuse, I hugged my little cat and cried for an hour.
You have not only shrugged off that abuse, you have also survived the scorn and ridicule of your fellow West Australian Joanne Nova (I found that while googling your email address). It is a species of bravery I do not know if I can tap.
I’m a fragile woman and I thought my blog, Verdant Hopes, might be a force for good in the world. Instead it has made me a victim once again.
Any advice you could share would be appreciated.
And here is what Stephan wrote in response:
Hi Alene, thanks for getting in touch. Yes, I know all about those abusive comments and it is brave for you to reveal as much personal detail as you do on your blog. Alas, for some people that is an invitation to rip into you and get a laugh out of that—they are like the school bullies whom no one really liked and who didn’t really have close friends, only followers.
I deal with those comments and actions largely by ignoring them. Wherever possible, I insert some of them into my talks to point out to the audience what sort of people are engaging in this assault on science and by what means they operate. Unfortunately, there presently is not much else that can be done about those comments.
As far as your blog is concerned, bear in mind that it is yours and that you can shut down any comment and run any moderation policy that you want. That still doesn’t make it easier to receive those hateful utterances in the first place, but at least it gives you some sense of control to shut them down. Bear in mind that a proportion of those comments is orchestrated and for all we know there are only a handful of people with multiple electronic “personas” each, who are paid to create disproportionate noise.
All the best, Stephan
And that was not all the support Stephan has provided. In a follow-up email he writes:
Hi Alene, further to my earlier email, here are some more recommendations from a friend, John Cook of skepticalscience.com, to whom I mentioned your distress:
One is that saying by Gandhi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. The fact that deniers are going to the trouble to attack her means she’s making a difference. That may be scant comfort but there will always be people vehemently opposing action on climate change and the greater the perceived threat, the more intensely they attack. The other saying that comes to mind is “for evil to triumph, it only requires good people do nothing” – it’s inevitable we invite attack if we campaign for climate change and try to make a difference. … deniers attack everyone indiscriminately from the lowly blogger to the most imminent climate scientists in the world. In fact, the level of attack that the climate scientists receive are the greatest – death threats, dead rats left on their door, legal harassment from conservative lawyers and ad hominem attack after ad hominem attack. No one is worthy of more respect than climate scientists who are the preeminent experts in the world, spending decades researching this stuff, and yet their name is mud to deniers. As all the science and evidence points to climate action, the only recourse deniers have is to attack the messenger.
On a practical level, I would recommend if possible that she changes the settings of her blog so registration is mandatory before people can post comments. Nothing cleans up a person’s behaviour like the removal of anonymity. It also makes it easier to ban poorly behaved commenters and to enforce a strict moderation policy. Perhaps direct her to an example of a comments policy like http://www.skepticalscience.com/comments_policy.shtml – our level of discussion is of a fairly high quality thanks to plenty of moderation and compulsory registration.
Thanks, hope that helps,