Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dissecting A Conspiracy Theory on WUWT

Sou | 4:37 PM Go to the first of 10 comments. Add a comment
The fake sceptics are getting frazzled.  Their paranoia is getting the better of them.

I wrote before about the conspiracy ideation of Anthony Watts and Brandon Schollenberger in regard to a survey being conducted by John Cook of the University of Queensland (well known for his award-winning website SkepticalScience.com).  The Auditor got hot and bothered over it too, suggesting people scam the survey. (Some of the obsessives are even dissecting and analysing and second-guessing the programming of the internet survey.)  Now Alec Rawls is jumping into the fray on WUWT.  His article is a good demonstration of how the mind of a conspiracy theorist works - or should I say, doesn't work.

Anatomy of a Paranoid Conspiracy Theory

Assumed nefarious intent:  The thrust of Rawls' article is mainly premised upon an assumption of nefarious intent.  This is one of the markers of conspiracy ideation as described in Recursive Fury.

Climate science is a hoax: The underlying assumption Rawls makes is that climate science is a hoax.  Probably more for reasons described here, but you never know, it could be this (which isn't unrelated, just more extreme).

Let me highlight some of the passages, which are followed by my comment in bold italics, some hyper-linked to explanations:

Rawls: Is John Cook planning to use systematically biased “correct” survey answers to make unbiased skeptics look biased? Sou: The title of his article - suggesting from the outset an assumption of nefarious intent.

Rawls: The likely shenanigan has to do with how the rating rules are applied.  Sou: Assumed nefarious intent.

Rawls: It seems impossible that Cook could actually have gotten large numbers of authors to apply his rating scale to their papers. Sou: Logical fallacy of personal incredulity.

Rawls: Suppose (as is likely) that survey participants who are referred by skeptic websites rate the abstracts accurately according to the instructions while those who are referred by credulous websites misapply the instructions so as to exaggerate the degree of consensus. This misapplication of the rules will bring the ratings of the consensoids closer to the ratings of the authors than the accurate ratings from the skeptics will be, making the consensoid surveyors look less biased than the skeptic surveyors when they are in fact more biased. Mission accomplished.  Sou: Confirmation bias - doubled or maybe tripled, plus unsupported assumptions.

Rawls: John Cook, creator of the pathologically credulous Skeptical Science website  Sou: Rhetoric, false statement

Rawls: Skeptics see the “consensus” as manufactured by 20-plus years of politically allocated funding and ideological bullying. The science itself is extremely uncertain and rife with contra-indications, turning any high degree of conformity in the peer-reviewed literature into a measure of intellectual corruption. Sou: An interesting admission that 'skeptics' generally go with the "climate science is a hoax" conspiracy theory.

Rawls: ...some kind subterfuge is planned, especially since he asked different bloggers to post survey links with different tracking tags without mentioning this in his invitation letter. Sou: Assumed nefarious intent.

Rawls: Okay, there is another likely reason: because politically funded climate science won’t support anything to do with the natural causes of climate change, or the very real damage that even mild global cooling would inflict.  Sou: Strawman fallacy plus assumed nefarious intent.

Rawls: Mr. Cook is welcome to avail himself of this assessment if he thinks it strengthens the case for a genuine scientific consensus. I have a different interpretation. My anecdotal sampling, if it turns out to be representative, strongly supports the skeptical charge that climate science is thoroughly dominated by a tyrannical politically-fabricated and monetarily-enforced “consensus.” Sou: Another admission that Rawls belongs to the "climate science is a hoax" brigade.

Rawls: In all, a clear picture of ideological bullying, self-censorship and rent-seeking, exactly what we should expect from a politically created and controlled branch of science.  Sou: Strawman fallacy.

Rawls: I suspect that Cook is instead planning on using the systematically high author ratings to accuse participants from skeptic blogs of bias for estimating less consensus conformity than the authors themselves. Sou: Unsupported assumption plus more assumed nefarious intent conspiracy ideation.

Rawls: At the same time he can count on participants from credulous blogs to overrate the degree of consensus conformity, making them look less biased and more honest than skeptical participants when they are actually more biased and less honest. Sou: Unsupported statement plus more assumed nefarious intent conspiracy ideation.

Rawls: As we all know, and as Cook would know, there is widespread belief amongst climate alarmists that it is okay to misrepresent specifics in support of the “larger truth” that human impacts on the planet need to be dramatically curtailed. Sou: Unsupported statement.

Rawls: According to the late Stephen Schneider, one of the founding fathers of climate alarmism: Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest. Sou: Rawls distorts the statement by cherry-picking a sentence from a longer quote by the esteemed Dr Schneider, which continues with: "I hope that means being both".

Rawls: One indication that he is thinking in this direction is the failure to mention in his invitation letter that different survey links were provided to each invitee. This omission suggests that he was trying to get away with something. In a court of law such behavior is taken as an indicator of “guilty conscience.” So what was his sneaky purpose? Sou: Assumed nefarious intent, big time.

Rawls: This is indicated by the second thing he is not upfront about. He cites what would seem to be a “correct” estimate of what the ratings should be without noting that the self-estimates from the scientific authors are systematically biased vis a vis the survey questions. That extends the pattern of surreptitiousness and it suggests the purpose. Yeah, he was going to use this known-to-be-wrong “correct” rating to make the dishonest ratings from his consensoid compatriots look honest and skeptic ratings look biased. Sou: Wow! Just wow will do here! Super dooper convoluted conspiracy ideation.

Denier Weirdness

I'll just add one excerpt from one of the comments.  After the dissection above and the way Rawls portrays John Cook, it seems to me to be particularly weird:

atheok says:
May 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm  Impressive post Alec!
Still, I believe you are imparting your scientific honor and clarity of intention where it is not deserved nor likely to be demonstrated.
I applaud your professional courtesy towards Cook’s survey; ...
Update: One more.  I couldn't resist this comment :D
Moe says (my link):
May 9, 2013 at 12:10 am  I haven’t been so conned since I was told the Oregon petition was legit.

Are Conspiracy Theorising Fake Sceptics Running Scared?

With so much angst and navel gazing by the fake sceptics over a straight-forward internet survey, one might jump to the conclusion that they are scared.  Scared that they will be unable to persuade people that global warming isn't really happening and that tens if not hundreds of thousands of scientists from widely disparate scientific disciplines and from all over the globe have managed to align their research findings almost exactly to all point to the same conclusion, and by so doing have perpetrated a giant hoax on the world, that can be traced back nearly 200 years.


  1. So, they're actually stating outright that their 'skeptic' interpretation of papers is better - in fact, more honest - than the authors' own! Not much left to be said after that...

    The paranoia is palpable. As is the bad faith. But they got hurt badly by moon-landings and recursive fury because it reveals the most profound truth about themselves they can neither fail to notice nor acknowledge, and their anger is a a manifestation of their cognitive dissonance

    And 'rent-seeking' is certainly the loony-Right shibboleth term of the moment. The mere fact that it doesn't apply shouldn't stand in the way of using it, of course...

    1. Yes, the term rent-seeking is the fashionable mot du jour of rent-seeking fake skeptics :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. (Try again -- got the link right this time)

    Well, when you are too incompetent to do any science yourself, what do you have left?

    I mean, when you are so incompetent that you still confuse absolute temperatures with temperature anomalies, and are unable to put together (or even figure out how to use) a simple global-temperature program like this in spite of the fact that you've been spent *years* supposedly "analyzing" the NASA/NOAA global-temperature work (and have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to do so), what do you have left?

    Conspiracy theories!

    It's like junior-high students who flunk math. Are they more likely to say, "I flunked because I was lazy and didn't study enough", or "It's a conspiracy -- the teacher gave me an F because he doesn't like god-fearing conservatives like me"?

    Take that junior-high excuse-making attitude into adulthood, and you get people like Anthony Watts.

  4. Thanks for this analysis.

    Intriguing that, according to the article, John Cook might be using respondents' personal views to skew the results of the survey.

    I completed the survey, and am now left wondering: How will John Cook be able to tell what my personal views on climate change are? The most personal information he can have about me is my IP address so he can't possibly connect my responses and my views, even if this was his evil, scheming intention.

    I actually had to go and read the original Rawls article but this particular point hasn't been address, as far as I can see.

    Is there also a conspiracy that the Pro-AGW New World Government assigns IP addresses based on AGW belief?


    1. Is there also a conspiracy that the Pro-AGW New World Government assigns IP addresses based on AGW belief?

      I wouldn't be surprised. At least one paranoid conspiracy theorist assumes his IP address is blocked every time he can't access a science website. (It wasn't blocked.)


      Of course, being a paranoid conspiracy theorist doesn't mean no-one is out to get you.

  5. For the record, it was Rawls who 'leaked' the latest IPCC report.


    And you should check out his "Crescent of Betrayal" website.


    1. Checked "Crescent of Betrayal". Once was already too many. There are people who cannot speak truth: it is poisonous to them.

  6. Wow I love that graph you provided above, the one with the gently sloping downward curve that shows a small uptick at the end. The little uptick is then extrapolated into a wicked vertical red SPIKE. It reminds me of my sons last basketball game where he got a couple of baskets in the final few seconds, getting a similar uptick at the end. Now if I extrapolate like they did in the graph, he should have an additional 14,000 points in his next game. Wow, not bad.

    Don't you just love climate science? Lol!


    1. That's not an extrapolation as in just extending the curve it originates from. It's a projection of what will happen given a BAU scenario of rising CO2 based on nearly two centuries* of science.

      *Fourier discovered the greenhouse effect in the 1820's.



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