We’re Seeing off the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Alex Cull has a neat comment on a key point in Lewandowsky’s campaign against us denialist conspiracist ideationists here

http://alexjc38.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/self-sealing-thought-system/

which he takes from a long interview which Lew gave to Chris Mooney at

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/stephan_lewandowsky_the_mind_of_the_conspiracy_theorist/

and which was linked at

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/06/conspiracy-theorists-also-doubt-climate-science

There’s also a magisterial analysis by Ben Pile at Climate Resistance, if you haven’t already seen it, at

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2013/05/the-lewandowsky-papers.html

I recommend a careful reading of the  Chris Mooney interview, which I transcribed and which Alex put up here

https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/home/20130603_sl

It’s the only off-the-cuff interview of his I’ve come across, and it’s full of contradictions. I pointed out some in comments at Mooney’s blog and at Mother Jones, but got no response.

I also recommend listening to the interview,  at least to extracts. Lew’s vocal tricks betray a troubled personality. His responses to Mooney’s softball questions frequently start with a strangled shriek, as if he’s about to assassinate  the interviewer. “YISS!!!“ he goes, before he calms down and quietly agrees with the questioner. His accent roams from Australia to Oklahoma to East Coast Ivy League in a troubling manner. No hint of British West Country yet, but that’ll come after a few months at Bristow, moy dear.

I’ve got a new Lew talk to transcribe, a presentation he gave to the American Geophysical Union on 6th June,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYzEWOHWTLk

in which he claims that there are psychological reasons to think that scepticism may be seeping into the brains of climate scientists, unbeknownst to them. Yes, he actually talks about seepage, as if he’s worried his tinfoil hat isn’t doing the trick.

Talking of tricks, he does one of his own. In the middle of the talk, he projects a number of words on the screen, then asks the audience if they recall seeing certain words. Sure enough, a number claim to have seen words that weren’t shown. Yes, people make mistakes. You can’t hide anything from a professor of cognitive psychology.

It’s a neat little parlour trick worthy of Dr. Mesmer or a music hall magician, and Lew wades straight in with his interpretation, saying:

“Your subjective feeling   … when you raised your hand … was a subjective sense of recollection. You thought you had actually seen it, but you didn’t . You confabulated a memory of something you never saw. In other words I made you hallucinate. OK? And I knew this ahead of time, I knew this was going to happen..”

It’s true that Lew’s act is hallucinating, spell-binding even, but not in the way he thinks.

Steve McIntyre frequently warns his readers to watch the pea under the thimble. With Lew you have admire the way he effortlessly hides the elephant under the thimble. As Alex points out, he proudly claims that the conspiratorial nature of our criticisms is independent of the truth of our claims. He airily states that he could easily refute the claims if he wanted to, but prefers to do something else (i.e. expose the irrationality of our criticisms, even when they are admitted to be well-founded).

He doesn’t directly refer to his conspiracy theory papers in the talk, though he does refer to our complaints to the journals in an aside:

“By the way, I’m not talking about bullying and intimidation of editors, that’s a completely separate issue. I will not talk about that today”.

This is not an off- the-cuff remark, since it’s repeated on the screen:

“Bullying and intimidating tactics of deniers vis-à-vis journal editors and publishers are a topic for another day.” 

It’s completely off-topic, and incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t been following the trials of Moon Hoax and Recursive Fury. We’re getting to him.

The rest of his talk is actually rather good. Apart from the grating accent, he has a rather easy delivery, I find (thoughts, Brian?) He makes the point that people are affected by things other people say, even when they think they’re not, and they think that other people are more affected by the things other people say than they are, even though they’re not. He seems to be suggesting that climate scientists may be influenced to tone down their message by the all-pervading atmosphere of denialism created by the continual presence of McIntyre Mckitrick Montford  and Monckton in the media, (“the constant drumbeat of propaganda”, is how he describes it) though he says there isn’t any scientific evidence yet.

No doubt there will be soon. Climate scientists: expect an anonymous invitation to take part in an on-line survey in your mailbox any day now.

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2 Responses to We’re Seeing off the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz

  1. How could I resist your direct invitation, Geoff?
    I sat and watched the video, covered sheets in notes, and lastly – before beginning a new posting – thought I’d read yours (here) again. It was spooky! You have made my posting essentially redundant. You’ve covered virtually all my points.
    Back in an earlier showbiz incarnation I worked with a magician who could make audiences ‘hallucinate’ in that fashion ten times out of ten – using precisely the same techniques (though not so ham-fistedly). I half expected him to start bending spoons. What would bending spoons have proved? What did any of it prove?
    What he gives us are unsupported assertions and empty insinuated suggestions. Is this man really a professor?
    The ‘bullying of editors …’ routine that you mentioned (at 5:13) is paralipsis (my glossary page explains). It enabled him to make a claim without the inconvenience of having to supply a speck of evidence. That’s how to get mendacity across to a naive audience.
    Overall, as our blogging colleague Alexjc38 has observed, we’re looking at circular logic. He insults his audience by assuming they won’t spot this (though it sounds as if he is preaching to an amen corner).
    In my niche (business speaking) heckling would have started within 30 seconds, because he proves nothing, says nothing and wastes more than 18 minutes doing it. His use of visuals is desperately amateur.
    His speaking delivery, taken independently of the preposterous content, isn’t bad – though it’s a little wheedling, like a used car salesman.
    I won’t comment on the extraordinary accent (that’s paralipsis).

  2. TinyCO2 says:

    Finally got round to watching Lew and spotted a huge hole in his argument.

    “He seems to be suggesting that climate scientists may be influenced to tone down their message by the all-pervading atmosphere of denialism,” but doesn’t appreciate the same may be true of the original all-pervading atmosphere of consensus.

    Until recently all the media talk was of consensus. The pressures from within the community were/are great. Professors, departments, universities, scientific societies, journals, governments, charities, celebrities and a myriad of hangers on, have touted the catastrophic consensus. If the more modest pressure from sceptics could have some appreciable influence, then the ever flexible consensus itself could have led scientists to erroneously side with the extreme alarmist position through the same mechanism.

    And of course he goes from the high numbers agreeing with consensus and then jumps to the catastrophist viewpoint which is never part of the questions that form consensus. Pea thimble. Thimble pea.

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