The Lewandowsky Endgame

Lots of people are wondering why serious sceptic blogs like ClimateAudit,


and BishopHill

are devoting so much attention to the Lewandowsky papers and the question of whether Lew and John Cook were fibbing when they said that the survey was linked at Cook’s blog SkepticalScience.

(The question doesn’t arise for this blog. I trawl the net for the trivial. I revel in the ridiculous. I get ecstatic about the execrable. Cook and Lewandowsky are my Laurel and Hardy, my Mutt and Jeff, my Romeo and Juliet*).

The answer is this: a peer-reviewed paper may be a steaming pile of Findus Lasagna, but it’s still a peer-reviewed paper. The only way you can get it withdrawn is by showing that it contains a deliberate falsehood. That’s why Steve McIntyre is breaking the habit of a decade and crying Pants on Fire.

Mann, Amman, Steig, Briffa, Gergis, Wang, Jones and Marcott are still standing, despite the brilliant work of  Steve and others. Lewandowsky is a tottering skittle. The first peer-reviewed paper to be withdrawn just might be the breach in the dike to bring the whole house of cards to its knees and reveal its feet of clay.

Back in early September 2012 I pointed out to Cook in the clearest possible terms that there was definitive proof that the survey was never linked at SkepticalScience.

I suggested that perhaps Lewandowsky had overlooked the fact, and that it would be easy to rectify the error. Instead of which they went ahead and published.

It took Lew a matter of days to draw his conclusions from the survey. Links went up at seven blogs 28th and 29th August 2010, and four weeks later, on 23rd September Lew was announcing at Monash University that he had a survey with 1100+ respondents which proved conclusively  that climate sceptics were conspiracy theorists.

It took another two years to get the article into pre-publication. It seems highly likely that there was some reticence to publish this nonsense, possibly on the part of his co-authors, who presumably provide the statistical expertise, or on the part of the peer reviewers, or of the journal editors. We shall never know. Science thrives on openness, we are continually being told, but when it comes to the process by which scientific papers come to be published, the Vatican could learn a thing or two from science.

The revelation of the lie is an object lesson in how conspiracies come unravelled. I haven’t checked the exact dates, but I think the honour goes to Barry Woods for having badgered Lewandowsky into lying about the SkepticalScience link, as only Barry can, in early August 2012. DGH wasted several hours of his life hunting out the Cook tweet and mentioned it at ClimateAudit September 15th. Simon Turnill of Australianclimatemadness spent $400 getting hold of the Cook / Lewandowsky e-mails via FOIA. He is the unsung hero of this story.

(He also censored my first comment at his blog. So did Jo Nova. What is it about me and Australia? I am the Northern Hemisphere’s greatest Austrophile. Norman Lindsay is my favourite twentieth century artist. Gilbert Murray is the formost twentieth century classical scholar, Trendall the greatest expert on Greek art. I introduced a generation of French-speaking African science students to the work of David Evans. Where’s the justice?)

I went on a dead thread at SkepticalScience to ask where I could find the comments to their link to the Lewandowsky survey, out of a vague curiosity. My curiosity was rewarded by a private e-mail exchange with John Cook  and  a barrage of  comments from Tom Curtis accusing me of  contradicting myself and  being a conspiracist ideationalist.

Too right I am. For where two or three are gathered together in their name, there is Lewandowsky in the midst of them. 

I can’t say that at skepticalscience because of Cook’s religious beliefs. I’ve been censored at skepticalscience for saying I believe that the Turin Shroud is a miraculous emanation of Jesus Christ, and too bad for my atheism. And for replying to a commenter who cited Norman Cohn’s “The Pursuit of the Millennium”.

The Lewandowky affair has been re-alighted by this article

in which Tom Curtis apologises to Steve McIntyre. The thread is embroidered with praise for Tom Curtis for being  “a gentleman and scholar” for his “forthrightness”, for “standing up and looking for the truth here, regardless of ‘side’”, for his “work and honesty with this issue”, his “courtesy in debate” and his “ integrity”.

Tom Curtis is not a gentleman and a scholar. He’s an author at SkepticalScience who criticised the Hoax paper and has been doing his best to back-pedal ever since. Something funny happened at Skeptical Science in September. I’ll try to get to the bottom of it when I’m feeling less tired and emotional.

The evidence is on these two SkepticScience threads if anyone’s interested:

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
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19 Responses to The Lewandowsky Endgame

  1. I hope it is the endgame Geoff. May the chips fall where they may. I enjoyed the “For where two or three are gathered …”. It’s funny how that all works.

  2. dearieme says:

    “Steve McIntyre is breaking the habit of a decade and crying Pants on Fire.” McIntyre’s self-command on this policy is remarkable – years of dealing with these crooks and liars, and still he destroys only their “work”, leaving us to draw our own conclusions about their characters and intellects.

    Be that as it may, isn’t your describing Curtis as “a total arsehole” a bit too strong? He’s offered an apology – doesn’t that imply that he might be only a 99% arsehole?

  3. Dodgy Geezer says:

    “…The answer is this: a peer-reviewed paper may be a steaming pile of Findus Lasagna, but it’s still a peer-reviewed paper. The only way you can get it withdrawn is by showing that it contains a deliberate falsehood. ..”

    Where did this idea that a ‘peer-reviewed paper” is something special come from?

    There’s nothing in the scientific method which requires ‘peer review’. None of the important papers throughout scientific history have required it in any way. Of course, papers are usually examined and commented on by other specialists in the field – but I have never heard of a rule which says that this is a process which MUST be gone though before a paper is acceptable.

    The concept of ‘peer-review’ is unpleasantly close to operating a closed union shop for ideas. I think that commentator ought to stress that the important thing about a new scientific proposal is whether it stands up to criticism or can be falsified. By ANYONE.

    NOT whether it is acceptable to a self-selected bunch of elitists.

  4. dearieme
    You’re right. I’ve changed it, removing the unpleasant insult to Tom Curtis, for which I apologise.

    Dodgy Geezer
    Exactly. The endless citing of papers resembles nothing so much as Bible commentary. You can say anything you like as long as you can back it up with a quote from Scripture. All those dozens of references in the ‘Fury’ paper serve no other purpose than to define the concept of “conspiracist ideation”. “Someone said people who believe in conspiracies are like this”. “Someone else said that someone in the tobacco industry said that”. The only common factor is that they said it in obscure and expensive specialist journals which only exist in university libraries. The wizards in Terry Pratchett’s Unseen University are more real than these people.

  5. dearieme says:

    “for which I apologise”: Good Lord, there’s no need for an apology – you do the work around here, I only read.

  6. RokShox says:

    “tired and emotional”


  7. Don B says:

    Just slightly off topic…

    You might consider adding to your list of Aussies of note the name of poet Dorothea Mackellar, who more than 100 years ago wrote that Australia was a country “Of droughts and flooding rains.”
    Warmist Jeremy Grantham said in early 2011 that the recent Australian heavy rains, following on the heels of years of droughts, was a sure sign of climate change. More recently, the Climate Commission reports that droughts in southern Australia can be blamed on climate change. Dorothea knew better than that.

    Back on topic….

    Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus. Demonstrating conclusively that Lew et al lied about one thing, damages their whole paper.

  8. tlitb1 says:

    I dunno about Tom Curtis there is something a bit faux about his interactions. He seems happy to go on a jag, hammer and tongues at the deniers, and then sometimes seems to stand back and belatedly process the information and realise his mistakes and then tactically pick and chose how he can go back and be big about them.
    Frankly I can see myself respecting John Cook more. I think Cook is more sincere. I guess this whole breakthrough on CA is worth highlighting because of Curtis’s position being from the opposite camp and his “status” an’ all, but I’m not a big fan of evidence by authority like this, frankly I think all you guys who risked being pathologised for even thinking that the link on SkS was a crock have a right to be a bit mean back to him.
    This strikes me like a bit of a Tamino like appropriation of a inquiring stance when others have shown them up 😉 To me it’s a bit late, they don’t deserve to be credited with the ability until they can show they can do it unprompted.

  9. Foxgoose says:

    Come on Geoff, man up!

    Open another bottle of that Languedoc red and seek a reasonable compromise – Tom Curtis is at least 87.5% arsehole.

    We’ve both argued with him at the Tree House and watched his pompous verbose, circumlocutions.

    His intermittent encounters with ethical rationality are just the twinges from his long atrophied conscience – which occasionally bothers him like a mildly grumbling appendix.

  10. A.D. Everard says:

    I find all this fascinating. The alarmists are trying so hard to keep their wagon rolling, yet they justify their lies with more lies – then hope no one notices??? I almost feel sorry for them. The harder they try, the worse it gets, and the more people see them for what they are and for what they are doing. Then they have to shout louder and try even harder.

    I’m watching them and wondering, “When will they wake up to what they are doing to themselves?”

    Amazing. They just don’t seem to get it. Not one of them.

  11. DaveB says:

    “The first peer-reviewed paper to be withdrawn just might be the breach in the dike to bring the whole house of cards to its knees and reveal its feet of clay.”

    Yup, here’s hoping it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back, that it proves to be a step too far, that there’s no going back, that they’ve Crossed the Rubicon. Have they gambled at the Last Chance Saloon?

    Seriously, I do so hope you’re right – profound thanks to all for a superb initiative.

  12. Paul Matthews says:

    Minor correction – Gergis et al has in fact been withdrawn, see
    after protestations from one the authors that it hadn’t been and was only ‘on hold’.

    Note the eerie similarity between Karoly’s statement about Gergis et al, “The paper has not been withdrawn nor has it been retracted” and the Frontiers statement about LCOM13 “The article has not been retracted or withdrawn.”

  13. Climate Daily says:

    Reblogged this on Climate Daily.

  14. Barry Woods says:

    Hi Geoff

    Perhaps you could add this link to the main article, need to be with Curtis at the top.

    It really looks like Lewandowsky, Cook and Gignac are trying to build a whole body of work, to wave at people about sceptics..


    Lewandowsky,S.,Ecker,U.K.H., Seifert,C.,Schwarz,N.,and Cook, J.(2012a).Misinformation and its correction: continued influence and successful debiasing. Psychol.Sci. PublicInterest 13, 106–131.

    Lewandowsky,S.,Gignac,G.E.,and Vaughan,S.(2012b).The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science. Nat.Clim. Chang. doi:10.1038/nclimate1720

    Lewandowsky,S.,Gignac,G.E.,and Oberauer,K.(2013).The role of conspiracist ideation and worldviews in predicting rejection of science. [Manuscript submitted for publication].

    Lewandowsky,S.,Oberauer,K.,and Gignac,G.E.(inpress).NASA faked the moon landing–therefore (climate)science is a hoax:an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science. Psychol.Sci.

  15. Don B says:


    Has anyone filed a complaint with UWA? I wrote expressing my displeasure, and was asked if I was filing a complaint. As I have no standing, I said my email was informational, and that I assumed the university would be concerned.

  16. DonB
    Yes, several people filed complaints, I believe. There were also several complaints to, the publishers of the “Recursive Fury” paper, and “Psychological Science” the editors of the original Moon Hoax paper.
    The complaints against the university were necessarily legalistic, referring to their rules on ethical standards. I didn’t submit a complaint, since I didn’t see any advantage in numbers when it came to establishing whether a specific rule had been broken. I did complain to the two editors, since in the Fury paper I was mentioned in a manner I considered defamatory, and I have some experience in opinion research, which was relevant to the Moon Hoax paper.
    There was a lot of “backstage” discussion about the best way to proceed, but I think in the end each complainant went about it in their own way. The editors were efficient and correct in their correspondence, and I hope to have something to report soon.

  17. hro001 says:

    Paul Matthews says: April 5, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Note the eerie similarity between Karoly’s statement about Gergis et al, “The paper has not been withdrawn nor has it been retracted” and the Frontiers statement about LCOM13 “The article has not been retracted or withdrawn.”

    That was one of the first things I noticed, too. It’s almost as if they’ve (finally?!) run out of “doesn’t matters” and they’ve found a new “playbook” – which (at the risk of being accused of “conspiracist ideation”) seems to include Science “losing” your brief comment on Marcott et al. Some might call this a coincidence of convenience. But I couldn’t possibly comment.

    Which brings to mind yet another similarity in the twisted tours of this triptych of less than trophy-worthy papers:

    IPCC-nik Karoly’s E-mail of acknowledgement to Steve (taking matters out of Gergis’ hands) was (almost) a masterpiece of creative ambiguity. Similarly, IPCC-nik Clark (taking matters out of Marcott’s hands, with more than a little help from Revkin) in his “… we’ve decided that the best tack to take now is to prepare a FAQ document … We appreciate your taking the time and interest to try to clarify what has happened in our correspondence with McIntyre” is equally ambiguous.

    If one were a skimmer, one might easily mistakenly leave with the expectation that Team Marcott would be responding to the issues Steve had raised. Yet a more thorough reading indicates no such thing. Somewhat less than creative, but equally ambiguous. Even setting aside the fact that Revkin’s description of his precipitating E-mail indicated that he was merely seeking “elaboration on points Marcott made in the exchanges with McIntyre”.

    YMMV, but I find it curious that Revkin didn’t ask for Marcott’s responses to (what he had described as) Steve’s “constructive and important questions”. All he wanted was Marcott’s “points”. Too bad that Revkin didn’t see fit to actually list that which he found to be “constructive and important questions”.

    Everything would have been up-front and on the table, all along. Simples, eh?! Instead, Revkin obviously chose to foster a filibuster. And 600+ comments later had the chutzpah to ask for a volunteer to compile a list of questions – long after Marcott et al were safely ensconced in the climate-barn. (Pardon my slightly modified metaphor)

    That being said … On the Lewandowsky front, I do have to give Revkin a little credit for what I suspect may well be an unwritten and unacknowledged (albeit probably somewhat belated) recognition that he really needs to steer clear of Lew. My search results on “Lewandowsky” at dot earth turned up only one item: 28-Sep-2011 in which he gave Lew his five 0.5 (pls. see below) minutes of NYT fame, in a post he titled, “On Birth Certificates, Climate Risk and an Inconvenient Mind“.

    It may just be coincidence that this article (word count 363) was posted at 9:23 am. And he did an update (word count 1,053 – including segue/intro) at 10:11 am. The bulk of this update had nothing to do with Lew’s magnificent obsession, but was Robert Brulle’s lengthy review of Kari Norgaard’s somewhat related opus.

    And, as far as I can tell, he never mentioned Lew again. Mind you, Lewandowsky was mentioned seven times in the comments, and not a single one accorded Lew the halo he no doubt believes he deserves. Too bad, eh?! Just imagine … if this article by Revkin had been a year later, he could have included these mentions in his “Fury” flop’s “raw data”.

    As for Curtis, I cannot disagree with your take. He seems to revel in playing both “good cop and bad cop”. And, as a Bridgeplayer, I appreciate your calling a spade a spade.

    P,S. Geoff, my apologies for wandering so far off-topic. Feel free to rap my knuckles, and/or snip most of the above if you like. But, by way of explanation, I’ve always been an incorrigible pattern-picker-outer since my days in the trenches, combatting real (i.e. Holocaust) deniers … and the pattern of Revkin’s choices – which to my mind can be reduced to ‘if the subjects are on my side of the fence, I’ll bend over backwards to help them retain their halos. But if it turns out that the halo doesn’t really fit, I’ll just change the subject slightly and cross him off my list.’ – is just something I had to get off my chest 😉

    Hilary [stepping down from soapbox]

  18. DGH says:

    Correction notice posted at Frontiers IN. You’re not going to be impressed.

  19. Thanks DGH. I’m sending off another letter of complaint to the editors (my sixth, I think) and posting it on the comment thread at the same time.

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