A body of research is building to try to determine what it is that motivates some people to make stuff up, particularly about topics like climate science.
A lie is different to a mistake. Mistakes can be corrected. When people deliberately tell lies they generally have to dig deeper holes for themselves as aspects of the lie are revealed. (In a similar vein, later in this post I make reference to a paper that deals with attempts to construct fantasy conspiracy theories, and how the theories are altered as facts become too obvious or contradictory.)
For example, what drives someone to tell a whopper as blatantly false as this, referring to global surface temperatures and claiming they aren't rising :
Source: HotCopper.com S&M forum
Does he even know he is telling fibs or is he lying to himself as well as to everyone else? It can't be called a simple mistake. The youngster has to be aware that the science shows that global temperatures are rising. Even though he has often boasted (on a science forum!) that he refuses to read science from scientific sources (eg Nature, CSIRO etc), he can't help but have seen one of the dozens of global temperature charts posted on HotCopper similar to this one from NASA (with my markings showing the temperatures of 100 years ago).
Incidentally the lad's promise to not post as much in the future may or may not be a lie. It might be classed as a broken promise or might even be true. He still seems to be posting an awful (sic) lot, but the posts are not worth counting (or reading, except for entertainment value. They are of similar caliber to the above (and these).)
Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues have been doing some related research, particularly on how some people have a tendency to lie to themselves; and how they find comfort and support in building on each other's lies - a group approach to fabricating Whoppers. This paper on motivated reasoning drew considerable attention from fake skeptics, many of whom manufactured complex conspiracy theories in an attempt to reject the findings. In doing so they helped prove them. So much so that it spawned a follow-up paper (by Lewandowsky and different colleagues), which has just been accepted for publication.
There are some revealing comments on related articles on Shaping Tomorrow's World and elsewhere. (Unfortunately many of the silliest responses to those articles were removed.)
The recent Lewandowsky paper proposes conspiracist ideation may go some way to explaining how people kid themselves and others and includes some interesting analyses, using the examples in the blogosphere to break down the processes involved in developing conspiracies. It reveals how those conspiracies change shape (or not) when irrefutable contradictory evidence emerges. The authors also include some provisos, such as:
Although there appears to be ample evidence to classify the response to LOG12 at least in part as conspiracist, one must guard against overextending this conclusion: There are other streams of science denial that are detectable in the response to LOG12. For example, the repeated re-analysis of data, involving the elimination of \inconvenient" subsets of data points based on fairly fluid criteria, has a long-standing history in other contentious arenas.Fake skeptics often lack self awareness. Ironically, a blogger called Watts last week posted an article about the Lewandowsky follow up paper on conspiracy ideation immediately after posting an article about the attempts by ATI to uncover what they believe to be a fantastic conspiracy (which they 'believe' will be uncovered in scientists' emails).
Watts is not quite as bad a conspiracist as Jo Nova and her partner David Evans, who subscribe to anti-semitic conspiracies involving gold and fiat money among other weird ideas. Or the peer Monckton, who is a self-confessed 'birther' (and who has such 'batshit crazy' ideas that even the hard-boiled science denier, Andrew Bolt, distances himself). However Watts continues to publish articles by the mad monk and supports Jo Nova.
Many people who reject climate science will try to tell you about the giant world-wide conspiracy that presumably began about 200 years ago. According to them, scientists are perpetrating a 'hoax'. This 'hoax' must involve not only thousands of scientists throughout the world, past and present, but engineers, manufacturers and all humankind who make use of or benefit from the knowledge that CO2 absorbs radiation of particular wavelengths.
Humans as a species are quirky.
(To whom it may concern - that is, anyone who might have been too scared to post a comment: I expect to rarely have to resort to deleting comments from this blog. Nor would I expect to ever 'disappear' entire threads, especially not ones in my honour :D. The blog doesn't attract many comments. It's mainly just a bit of fun. So far some comments have been remarkably revealing, others comical, others informative, others correcting my errors (both real and imagined) and some - thanks people - personally supportive; and some all of the above.)