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:
* * *
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,
Are psychologists licenc(s?)ed in Oz? Must they be to call themselves psychologists? Is someone with a PhD in psychology necessarily a psychologist?
In the US, the answer to the above questions would be no.
Is Professor Lewandowsky a licenced psychologist?
Oops, answer to first question in US would be, it depends. i suspect clinical psychologists may be licensed.
I’m not sure whether I’ve missed something, but Alena Composta is a fictional character.
A bit of a leg-puller from what I can tell.
Lewandowsky is a professor of psychology. He doesn’t treat anyone.
Shhh. Alenne may be fictional, but Lew and Cook are real, and so are their letters (unless I’ve been fooled …)
The irony! Lewandowsky is clearly being taken out of context here, and lampooned for something he didn’t really say. Read the SOURCE and it’s quite clear that Lewandowsky was responding to a comment from Ben Heard which is all about Doug Cotton.
Here’s what I wrote yesterday on BH:
It saddens me when the sceptics get all in a tither about Lewandowsky taking quotes out of context, then do exactly the same to him
You’re not missing anything.
But Lewandowsky sure was. As I mentioned at Frontiers:
Thank you for raising what you see as a mistake on my part—it’s important that we keep each other honest:
The possibility that he was referring specifically to Doug Cotton did occur to me—but I excluded it (to my own satisfaction) before publishing my comment. I excluded it by reading the SOURCE.
First of all, you yourself are grossly unjust to accuse Lewandowsky of being “quite clear” on this or any other topic! 😉 He writes and speaks the easy, sleazy weaselese of the lifelong academic mediocrity. Ultimately we may never know beyond all doubt what answer, if any, Lewandowsky had in mind to the question, “engagement with whom? Whom am I talking about, exactly?” After all, an “intellectual” like Lewandowsky is in the business of being as explicit as absolutely necessary and not one bit more. To be clear and committal is to be falsifiable, and why on earth would an “intellectual” want to risk being proven wrong? What do you think Lewandowsky is—some sort of scientist?
Second, as far as I can tell he never deigns to mention Doug Cotton, by name or even by pronoun. (If his comment was meant to be so narrowly construed, he should have said so—I’m not going to lose sleep over the possibility that he was just careless and lazy.) The reasonable reader can only be left with the conclusion that Lewandowsky means “engagement [with them].”
Thirdly, the other comment by Lewandowsky on the same topic reinforces that conclusion:
In a third comment on the same page, Lewandowsky yet again passes up the opportunity to write clearly:
Fourthly, follow the links Lewandowsky provides to “the pro and con arguments about engagement” and you will find an article about engagement with skeptics/deniers in which, yet again, there is no mention of Doug Cotton.
Fifthly, Lewandowsky does not engage with skeptics/deniers.
That’s the empirical reality, steveta. As you know.
Oops—this whole clause deserves black:
Brad, you got me. it went right over my head. nice going, and thanks. 🙂
Geoff – I’m saddened and disappointed that your uncontrolled, recursive fury has overcome your normal good taste and allowed you to mock the untimely passing of Alene Composta – surely the green movement’s first antipodean martyr.
When the dust has settled on all of this unpleasantness and the records are written, I feel sure that Alene’s name will be forever associated, in the academic literature of climate psychology, with her devoted mentor – Stephan Lewandowsky.
She would be proud.
Brad, you appear to have some comprehension issues. I said “it’s quite clear that Lewandowsky was responding to a comment from Ben Heard”.
The SOURCE contains this from Lewandowsky:
There’s is no way anyone can contrue this as being anything other than a reply to Ben Heard.
So you quite clearly misrepresent me by saying:
I at no time said or implied that Lewandowsky was being clear about anything. Learn to read.
I saw your comment on BH where you said:
“However, if you look into the source the Lew’s comment, he is specifically saying that there is no point in engaging with Doug Cotton.”
I found the thread in question and indeed Lewandowsky is responding to Heard who in turn had just said he thinks there’s no reason to deal with the science discussion Cotton is raising – which seemed to me a clear and reasonable thing to say at that stage, Lewandowsky’s response to that is this:
“Ben, i agree regarding the impossible problem which arises from any kind of direct engagement.
See the comment thread on http://theconversation.edu.au/way-off-balance-science-and-the-mainstream-media-4080 where some of us actually had a fruitful discussion of possible solutions.
Engagement, in my view, is not a solution but just an enormous waste of time.”
I don’t think you can say he is definitely directing his stance at Doug Cotton, (unless there is another example somewhere I missed) it seems more like Lew is allowing himself permission to make a generalised, undirected statement about his philosophy of general lofty disdain.
steveta@uk … I suggest you read the comments in this related thread – referenced by Lew. It makes absolutely crystal clear the disdain is for ALL – not one individual.
Oh for fox ache. You have all the sense of humor of a True Believer.
Anyway I note you’re backing down from your major claim which isn’t simply that he was responding to Ben Heard—a simple matter of his hitting Reply on Heard’s comment and not somewhere else—but that he was writing about engaging with Doug Cotton in particular, an interpretation that has little or no support in the overall conversation or his wider oeuvre.
So that’s progress. 🙂
The smiley-face means that, even if you don’t agree with me, you’re not allowed to get stroppy and start saying “learn to read” like some believalist bitch, ‘k? 😉
As Brad says, the exact intent of Lewandowsky’s comment to Ben Heard is unknowable. Probably even to him at the time.
His total lack of interest in any sort of debate is, however, certain.
Brad’s position that Lew is uninterested in any debate with people that disagree with him stands, regardless of the weakness of a particular quote. In the end whether you are right or not Steveta, is doesn’t invalidate the main argument.
Lewandowsky is a disgrace to his profession. Whether he expresses that disgraceful behaviour in one line or not is largely irrelevant. Brad is not being unkind to Lewandowsky.
We could fix the matter. Write to Lewandowsky and ask if he is willing to debate in a forum where we promise to behave and remove any trolling. Except, as we know, he almost certainly will refuse to even reply, let alone come along for a debate.
I suggest the topic to debate should be “Is the Big Oil allegation a smear thrown at sceptics, or is there actually a well financed operation of distortion against the science of climate change?”
(Personally I think that “Big Oil” is an example of a well-believed but untrue conspiracy theory. But since it is one that Lewandowsky’s friends believe in, it clearly does not count as one for his purposes.)
You guys are too subtle for me. 🙂
And remember: when they do it, it’s a conspiracy.
When we do it, it’s a well-orchestrated, well-funded behind-closed-doors campaign implicating Big Nicotine, Big Oil and the Murdocracy and going all the way up to the White House, employing a tiny but vocal cabal of Jewish tobacco scientists who travel through time promoting FUD by exaggerating minor typos in the science, which are then amplified into pseudo-scandals by the dog-whistling of the right-controlled hate media with perfect timing so as to derail international will on climate change, lung cancer, gravity, evolution or whatever the corporation-threatening Science of the decade happens to be. Not a conspiracy.
Perfect example of the Big Oil “not a conspiracy” – Climategate as the perfect “black ops” campaign on behalf of the shadowy “fossil fuel lobby”, as revealed by Paul Brown of the Climate News Network and discussed by HauntingTheLibrary here:
This whole episode is like going into a hall of mirrors. If you chase a link given above to
you find a series of statements by Lew that convincingly show that he lacks all self-awareness:
“There is also something unfunny about this issue, which has now been taken up by a tabloid blog. There is much hilarity among commenters there about how anyone could be gullible enough to believe that a seemingly troubled and challenged person was actually, well, a troubled and challenged person. By some leap of logic this “gullibility”, in turn, somehow disproves the science underlying global warming”
And yet, a few paragraphs later, he uses this episode to support his belief that global warming is a danger to life:
“Finally, it amplifies yet again what is obvious to most of us: the fact that the climate is changing and that human CO2 emissions are causing it is now unassailable by conventional scientific means, forcing some of those who cannot accept this discomforting fact to seek refuge in the ethical twilight of internet warfare.”
It is hard to take this man seriously, isn’t it!.
Michael Tobis is his usual good value on this and other subjects. He is one of the most remarkably stupid scientists on the internet, I find.
“There is some argument that Marcott et al may have done something silly about the final uptick, which we know anyway from direct measurement is real. So that probably doesn’t change the broad picture that is emerging from their work, which after all is unsurprising, pretty much is in line with what everybody else is finding. We should wait for their response, at least for a while, before drawing conclusions. Even at worst this is a very different class of BS than the anti-climatology zealots are so generously providing.
I consider Stephan Lewandowsky a scholar and a gentleman, as well as a friend. That doesn’t make him infallible, but I don’t know of any major problems with his work.”
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Most excellent 👍