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Friday, October 18, 2013

Free marketers and conspiracy theorists at WUWT protest and prove Lewandowsky et al (2013)

Sou | 3:08 AM Go to the first of 5 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has decided to generate additional evidence supporting the findings of a recent paper by Stephan Lewandowsky et al, published in PLoS One.  Anthony writes (archived here):
He STILL is using the “Free Market” beliefs are associated with climate denialism.
It is odd for Anthony to find fault with that result, because Anthony himself admitted that he reason he rejects climate science is because of his free market ideology.  From his PBS interview at 54 seconds:
Interviewer: "What bothers you the most about the arguments that there is serious global warming?"
Watts: "They want to change policy, they want to apply taxes"!

If you've been keeping up with the HotWhopper blog roll, you're probably already aware of the paper, which was discussed on Shaping Tomorrow's World a couple of weeks ago in FAQ format.  It elicited comments from the usual suspects.

Anyone who's aware of the weirdness of climate science deniers won't be surprised at the findings of this latest research.  The study reinforced findings of work by the authors and other research teams and added some.  For example, it found that free-market world views predict rejection of science that has regulatory implications, but not necessarily of other scientific issues.  (You can see that in a recent article here, where even when scientific findings are in accord with denialist memes, fake sceptics still scoff at them.)

It also found that conspiracist ideation predicts rejection of climate science, genetically modified (GM) foods and vaccinations, though to varying degrees.  One thing they did find was that, contrary to some thinking, was no evidence of an association between ideological leanings and opposition to GM foods, and only very weak evidence for an association between ideological bent and anti-vaxers.  This latter association is complex and if you're interested you can read what it says in the paper itself.  To give you an inkling, the paper states:
Although conservatism and libertarian worldviews tend to be perceived as allied or nearly synonymous when viewed through the conventional “right vs. left” political lens, recent research has begun to differentiate libertarian worldviews from conservatism. 

Below is a section from the FAQ on the paper:
Q: How might people who reject scientific findings deal with the now fairly well-established fact that denial involves a measure of conspiratorial thinking?
A: Some ideologically-motivated people who oppose the scientific consensus on climate change have recognized that their proximity to conspiratorial thinking is discomforting and have publically distanced themselves from that component of denial, in particular its anti-Semitic element. The present data may provide a further “Sister Souljah” moment.

The FAQ also describes how this research differs from LOG13 (the NASA faked the moon landing paper).

From the WUWT comments

I waited a bit before completing this article to see what gems emerged in the comments.  Below is a sample (archived here):

Gerry - England is a great mix of free market ideology, anti-vax mythology and conspiracy ideation.  He says:
October 17, 2013 at 6:14 am
Since governments have got so involved with funding science, is it such a surprise given the mess governments make of everything they go near that the populace are more sceptical about their claims? In Booker & North’s book Scared To Death, they highlight how much governments get wrong based on just one flimsy report. People also use their personal experience. With vaccination for example, I believe it is generally good, but the MMR vaccine has questions against it with regards to autism. I have a close friend and have worked with somebody who have both experienced a child becoming autistic having received the MMR vaccine. The doctor who suspected a link was subjected to the full force of the establishment to say he was wrong. I believe his evidence has been satisfactorily countered but there does seem to be a lack of enthusiasm to look further at why normal children become autistic shortly after received the MMR jab.
Given that the government will be in trouble should a link be proved, they won’t be keen to fund it. The pharma companies that make the vaccine won’t be keen either. And given the hounding the only person who has questioned it received, why would somebody of limited means put their career on the line?
On free markets, if wind and solar power was so great and profitable, private companies wouldn’t need to be bribed with taxpayers’ money to get involved would they?

There is more than a hint of conspiracy ideation from Pamela Gray who, after commenting on a recently deliberately faked paper, says:
October 17, 2013 at 6:04 am
That is not to say that the current paper is fake. But it does give reason to think that if a well-done faked paper with fatal flaws can get in, a less well-done real paper with poor design and unsupported conclusions can get in.
It's worth pointing out that PLoS One, which published Lewandowsky's paper, rejected the faked Bohannon paper.

D. Holliday is betrayed by his or her own words:
October 17, 2013 at 5:15 am
Seriously? Conservatives don’t believe in science? What we don’t believe in are “consensus” driven, politically motivated statements by supposed scientists like this dork Lewandowsky.

Jimmy Haigh. says:
October 17, 2013 at 4:33 am
“Climate science” is all about bullshitters making up bullshit.

techgm classifies trust as an emotion and is up front about conspiracy ideation, writing:
October 17, 2013 at 4:12 am
“Trust in science has been declining since 1970’s.”
Besides the error of attributing emotion (trust) to something that is inanimate (science), the article errs in that the decline in trust has been with scientists (not “science”) – that people believe that (many) scientists have been corrupted by grant money and a lust for recognition, and/or that their skills are 2nd-rate.

Old Hoya says:
October 17, 2013 at 8:31 am
Questioning Big Brother as always been recognized as a form of mental illness. We have always been at war with EastAsia precisely because the enemy is warming the planet….
How do we characterize the disposition toward science by CAGW fanboys who believe that there are more hurricanes, malaria, extinctions and an imminent ice-free Himalayas because the rapid warming has already taken place?
Notice that skepticism directed at the most politicized corner of science since Lysenko is treated like a form of mental illness or sociological aberration by this clown. “Lewandowsky” is becoming a synonym for self-satire.

Elliott M. Althouse doesn't recognise conspiracy ideation when he sees it and says:
October 17, 2013 at 8:28 am
If his survey asked a group of 1000 physicians, dentists, PhD chemists and physicists, and engineers would he get the same result? Not to mention statisiticians should be included. I find it hard to believe there are very many (less than 2) conspiracy theorists amongst the posters at WUWT, Climate, etc. and Climate Audit. It is intriguing that someone can publish utter nonsense and get away with it.

Vince Causey comes up with a counter argument, which proves popular at WUWT, but looking at it more closely his argument is itself conspiracy ideation.  (Plus his use of the term CAGW lets him down.) He says:
October 17, 2013 at 7:55 am
Lew’s paper raises the corollary. If we must ask why sceptics tend towards free market views, we must also ask why believers tend towards socialist or statist views. Given Lew’s answer to the first question, one could equally reply that people with socialist/statist views believe in cAGW precisely because mitigation entails statist solutions, government intervention and redistributive economics.
Of course, Lew isn’t going to give this answer. He might say something like “People with liberal/left wing views aren’t contaminated with the free market blinkers that prevents those types from seeing the truth,” or something equally logically absurd. In other words, the liberal/socialist/leftist positions are characterised by an absence of a property (free market blinkers) rather than with properties of their own.
But, if we look at the activities of cAGW scientists we see not merely the absence of free market views, we see a vigorous pursuit of pushing mitigation policies. Why is this, if not that they themselves are driven by statist ideologies?
If Lew’s paper has anything to commend it, it is that it has shown the politicisation of climate science – on both sides of the divide. Having now let the cat out the bag, he must confront his own reflection in the mirror, to mix metaphors.

Lewandowsky S, Gignac GE, Oberauer K (2013) The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science. PLoS ONE 8(10): e75637. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075637


  1. Bovids. They deserve the future they will get - at least those of them not in or near their dotage already. Sadly, the rest of us do not deserve the future the Watties are so energetically helping to create.

  2. One small comment on PLoS One: it has some good papers, but it also has published plenty of outright crap. Worst is that I have pointed it out to the several Editors and the authors, but nothing really seems to change: they keep on publishing that crap.

    Bohannon's fake paper could easily have gone through if they had hit one of the bad Editors.

    Note that this says nothing about the quality of Lewandowsky's paper.


  3. The funniest reaction to this, for me, is Judith Curry's, here:

    "JC comments: I thought these two pieces were quite interesting when considered together. The skeptic (Haseler) digs in and really tries to understand the reasons why educated people look at the same evidence about climate change and come to other conclusions. The warmist (Lewandowsky) is looking to find evidence to support his ‘interesting’ ideas skeptics are conspiracy theorists, motivated reasoners, and something is wrong with their brains."

    So Mike from Scotland, making up his own list of why his friends are the goodies, and the baddies are the baddies, is really addressing the issues. Whereas the professor of psychology (Lewandowsky) obviously won't understand what confirmation bias is, so he's guilty of it.

    You couldn't make it up.

  4. Free markets don't have to be right wing. According to Professor Wikipedia, there are plenty of socialist versions of the free market idea.

  5. Coming fairly soon: the followon for Defamation By Internet? Part 1 - Murry Salby's Short-Lived Blog Storm analyzes the cornucopia of paranoia, conspiracy ideation, tribal groupthink, Dunning-Kruger, confirmation bais, (Un)Skepticism, ad hominems against outsiders actually supply real information .

    AFter 16000 breathless comments in ~!4 days (many at WUT and Jo Nova's), when it collapsed, a few fought on, but suddenly the topic became uninterestting.

    Of course, there was a lot of bashing of Stephan Lewandowsky, as everyone knew paper he led on conspiracy theory was totally wrong :-)

    Among the raft of conspiracy theories, among the most amusing was the popular idea that Macquarie University had "lured" a troublesome academic to Australia (in 2008) in order to obstruct his "research" that threatened the CAGW religion (or something like that). The fact that his wrong ideas on CO2 did not surface until July 2011 implies use of a time machine by MQ, I guess. Even more, someone discovered that Kevin Trenberth works in Boulder, CO, and he must have had something to do with it, or it might have been "The Team," Mike Mann, Lewandowsky (who's at Bristol, in UK), or John Cook (all of whom were deemed to have some strong influence at MQ).
    I condensed the quotes down to 2 pages, 4 columns each, but many are delicious.
    A few:
    Feynman is much missed
    Go away and preach to the already converted. We use our brains here. We think for ourselves.
    I decline to dignify the children at desmogblog.
    I know we are mocked for conspiracy theories
    I’m sorry, I didn’t realize we were indulging in conspiracy ideation
    Scientia weeps
    The enormous difference between skeptics and the other camp is the skeptics want to get to the bottom of the issues…


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