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Thursday, September 6, 2012

More climate denier hysteria over study of climate denier hysteria [re: Stephan Lewansowsky's new paper]

Confirming the obvious

by Stephan Lewandowsky (Winthrop Professor and Australian Professorial Fellow, School of Psychology, University of Western Australia), Shaping Tomorrow's World, September 6, 2012
The public response to my forthcoming paper in Psychological Science, entitled "NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science," has provided a perfect real-life illustration of the very cognitive processes at the center of my research.

In fact, the cascading eruption of allegations and theories about the paper and myself have illustrated the impoverished epistemology of climate denial better than any mountain of data could have done.

It is helpful to analyze some of the theories that have sprung up in response to my paper.

First out of the gate was the accusation that I might not have contacted the 5 "skeptic" bloggers, none of whom posted links to my survey. Astute readers might wonder why I would mention this in the Method section, if I hadn't contacted anyone.

In an exercise more reminiscent of juvenile hyperventilation than adult cognitive control, several individuals jumped to the conclusion that I must be guilty of academic misconduct because no skeptic blogger could recall having been contacted by me. And of course, those bloggers know more about my research, or that in any other scientific discipline, than myself or any of my scientific colleagues.

This theory, alas, is now in terminal decline. First, one individual recovered his search skills after launching wild accusations against me and found that he had been contacted not once but twice.


We now also know that two of the people who were contacted even replied to my assistant's query.

Oops. Oops.

Let's move on quickly. There must be another gourd somewhere.

And thus, as sure as night follows day, the second theory was born, arising like Phoenix from the ashes of the first one. The second theory revolves around the dates of certain events: It turns out that I gave a talk at Monash University in Melbourne, during which I alluded to these data briefly, after having done a very rough preliminary analysis. This event occurred a few days after Mr. McIntyre had been contacted with a request to post a link.

Oh how nefarious! I reported data only 3 days after contacting a blogger to collect data!

Never mind that the first theory claimed I never contacted anyone. That's sooooo 2011. Let's move on to the next conspiracy.

Only 3 days and I reported data from 1100 subjects. The travesty of it!

I wish this theory well, and I suspect much more analysis of dates, involving multi-colored Gantt charts, will be performed once the identity of the other 4 bloggers will (hopefully—I am working on it) have become public in the near future.

Reality-based readers may now note that it doesn't matter whether 3, 30, or 666 days elapsed between Mr McIntyre ignoring an email and me giving a talk about data gathered from other blogs.

You know, it's like this: when a link isn't posted on a blog, then that blog could not have contributed data, however long one waits. But don't let me stop anyone staring at that shiny object, it's been approximately 666 + 45 days since Mr McIntyre ignored my email, and the cube root of 666+45  is, after all, 8.925307759554336.

On that pesky issue of reality: Mr. McIntyre was contacted twice, as he himself acknowledged, and the date of first contact would have actually given him ample time to direct his readers to my survey, for timely inclusion in my Monash talk.

This leaves us with at least two further theories. Both are still in their infancy and it may be advisable to let them grow a little more.

I will therefore tread lightly and speak softly to provide them both with the nurturing environment they deserve.

One theory involves the breathtaking discovery that there were different versions of my survey posted at different blogs.


It's a trick!

This theory is quite meritorious but has received way too little attention to date. I will therefore explore its laudable aspect in due course in one of my next posts, once it has gained more prominence and once more nonsense has reverberated around the denialist echo chambers. There is no point in pricking a balloon before it has been fully inflated with pompous self-importance.

The final theory involves the participants from Area 51, who apparently were on vacation from the grassy knoll: Warmists framing the survey, pretending to act like skeptics to make deniers look like nutters! Or something like that.

The data are invalid!

I call this the Daedalus theory and I sincerely hope it gets wings because it has such promise.

Let's not interfere with it before it really takes off. Let's wait till it gets a little closer to the sun.

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