Lots of people are wondering why serious sceptic blogs like ClimateAudit,
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 The only way you can get it withdrawn is by showing that it contains a deliberate falsehood.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 The first peer-reviewed paper to be withdrawn just might be the breach in the dike to bring the whole house of cards to its knees and reveal its feet of clay.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: