Saturday, March 22, 2014

Recursive furies, hurt feelings or confected outrage

Sou | 2:28 AM Go to the first of 57 comments. Add a comment

Update: I've been getting a few visitors from ClimateAudit so I had a peep.  Not satisfied with his previous rants and false accusations of "fake" and "scam" when he failed his attempt at stats, one of the most unethical people in the blogosphere, Steve McIntyre, is manufacturing yet another conspiracy theory out of emails - ha!  It looks as if he's hoping to take centre stage in another cognitive science paper! (Archived here) I won't bother unpacking his diatribe. Suffice to say when you look past Steve's rhetoric at the content and break it down, his analysis is all bluster and ethics free.  He doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Today Stephan Lewandowsky announced that his Recursive Fury paper is being retracted by a journal.

Why?  It was not because of any problem with the paper itself from a scientific or ethical perspective.  In fact, the journal did an investigation and "did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study".

No, it was because a "small number" of deniers harassed the journal.  The journal made a vague reference to "legal context" and insufficient clarity of same.  In other words, it caved when bombarded with complaints from a small number of deniers (see below).

On its website page showing the abstract, there is this statement, which has been there for some time - here is the link.
This article, first published by Frontiers on 18 March 2013, has been the subject of complaints. Given the nature of some of these complaints, Frontiers has provisionally removed the link to the article while these issues are investigated, which is being done as swiftly as possible and which Frontiers management considers the most responsible course of action. The article has not been retracted or withdrawn. Further information will be provided as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

(The journal needs to hire a webmaster, it keeps messing up the page.  Compare the earlier archive here and the "fix", archived here.)

I finally found the retraction notice on another page here, which states:
Retraction of the Original Research Article: Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation by Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Klaus Oberauer and Michael Marriott Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00073
In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors.

As Stephan Lewandowsky writes:
The authors were involved in drafting the retraction statement and sanction its content: We understand the journal’s position even though we do not agree with it. 

Stepping away from the Grand Vision

Frontiers in Psychology is an open access journal that says:
Our grand vision is to build an Open Science platform that empowers researchers in their daily work and where everybody has equal opportunity to seek, share and generate knowledge.

By all accounts the journal could be viewed as taking a step backwards from that "grand vision" by caving into people who object to research.  I can appreciate that it's not a large publishing house and doesn't want to risk a lengthy (or any) legal battle.  On the other hand, it doesn't set a good precedent.  Deniers may well take it into their heads to employ similar tactics against any paper for any reason or no reason at all.  I expect IOP got loads of complaints about the 97% paper - we know that Richard Tol did his best to discredit that - although his best wasn't worth a cracker.  That paper ended up at the top of the list of IOP papers for 2013.

The Recursive Fury has been viewed almost 40,000 times in total - even though the full text version was taken down some time ago.  Compare that with a well-cited article (81) published in the same journal the previous year, about video action games, perception and cognition, which has had less than 22,000 views in total.  Or this one, which also got lots of citations (51) which has less than 1,400 views in total.  You'd think the journal would want to hang onto papers that attract the public's attention.

You can download the paper now at the University of Western Australia's website - or if you prefer, you can get the paper as it stood "after rigorous peer review" from the journal's own website.

...but perhaps impacting the goal

The journal website has a goal to increase the impact of articles and their authors:
We are the first – and only – platform that combines open-access publishing with research networking, with the goal to increase the reach of publications and ultimately the impact of articles and their authors.

This action has made a bit of an impact in the deniosphere and it will be interesting to see the impact it has on the journal's authors and potential authors.  Whether the action has had an impact on the authors of Recursive Fury has yet to be seen.  If anything it will probably lead to more publicity for the paper, which will also be publicity for the paper's authors.  I don't know if this will "increase the reach of publications" of Frontiers in Psychology, but it will most like increase the reach of publications by Professor Lewandowsky and his colleagues.  And this publication in particular.

Deniers squeak and squeal "defamation" and threaten legal action

Recursive Fury is being furiously discussed all over the deniosphere.  Anthony Watts has written about it (archived here) - to add to the 25 plus WUWT recursively furious protest articles on Professor Lewandowky and his work.

Graham Readfearn has written about it from a different angle.  He obtained by FOI request the swag of furious emails and other correspondence sent to the University of Western Australia, where Professor Lewandowsky used to work.  It won't be any surprise to inhabitants of climate blogs to see that deniers are big fat sooks and have double standards as well as being conspiracy nutters. They will write arguably libelous articles against scientists ad infinitum but as soon as the spotlight is shone on their antics they scream blue murder. Even, in some cases, threatening legal action.  I guess they think government institutions aren't all bad after all.

At WUWT, Anthony wrote (archived here):
We are all scratching our heads at the “threat of libel” narrative. As far as I know,  nobody in the climate skeptic community has instigated a libel lawsuit or even gotten a lawyer involved over the Lew paper. Mostly we just laugh about it. 

You'd think dour old Anthony Watts spent all his time "laughing".  A google search of Lewandowsky at WUWT yields 5,850 results!

Anthony doesn't know very much in any case. As Graham Readfearn wrote:
In FOI documents another climate sceptic blogger forwards a complaint they had made to the Frontiers journal. The complaint said: “I have sought legal advice which has confirmed that, as long as a reasonable number of blog readers are aware of my true identity and professional reputation (which is the case), I could potentially have a defamation action against the authors and publishers of this paper for an outright lie that was told about me.”
Later in the letter, the blogger added: “I hope that you will see that this was a clear case of quote falsification, academic misconduct and defamation and that the paper will now be permanently withdrawn.”

Graham also wrote about how Steven McIntyre made up stuff, including falsely accusing the scientists of not get ethics approval (which they did).  Steven is prone to conspiracy ideation quite often, for example, the first thought that enters his mind when he can't access a website is that people are deliberately blocking his ip address! He's also very quick to falsely accuse scientists of faking and scamming.

The University of Western Australia didn't cave

The University of Western Australia is standing by the paper.  It's probably a lot bigger than the Frontiers in Psychology journal and almost certainly has more expertise in law.  Here is what Stephan Lewandowsky wrote, including a quote from the University's legal counsel:
Given its popularity, and given that approximately 29,300 viewers did not complain about our work, it would be a shame to deprive the public of access to this article. Because the work was conducted in Australia, I consulted with the University of Western Australia’s chief lawyer, Kim Heitman, who replied as follows:
“I’m entirely comfortable with you publishing the paper on the UWA web site. You and the University can easily be sued for any sorts of hurt feelings or confected outrage, and I’d be quite comfortable processing such a phony legal action as an insurance matter.”
— Kimberley Heitman, B.Juris, LLB, MACS, CT, General Counsel, University of Western Australia

Update: Dana Nuccitelli has a well-written piece about this at the Guardian.

Update 2: John Timmer has an article about this at ArsTechnica.  Plus there are some interesting tweets including this one.

Update 3: Michael Halpern has a good article about this at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

From the WUWT comments

Despite all the articles on WUWT about the Recursive Fury paper and the Moon Landing paper, there are a lot of deniers who don't know anything about either.  There are also a few WUWT commenters who are angling for a place in the follow-up to Recursive Fury, though not as many as there were when the Moon Landing paper was published. Here are some comments:

Cold in Wisconsin doesn't know what s/he is talking about but says something irrelevant anyway:
March 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm
I do think that using information for research without informing the subjects is questionable. Call it a poll or something else, but what’s to keep people from being non-serious with their answers when the intentions of the question have to be obvious? Also, how can you tell that your subjects are randomly chosen and representative when you use blogs as your population? Really to represent that type of material as Academic research is kind of laughable. I’m not sure that a high school class couldn’t improve on that scheme.

rogerknights is a conspiracy theorist who opts for "nefarious intent" (see the Recursive Fury paper) and says:
March 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm
It looks to me as though this libel-threat is a cover story to enable a face-saving distancing from the poo-paper.

Mac the Knife seems to think that Professor Lewandowsky is a climate scientist and says:
March 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm
Since when are climate pscientists qualified to conduct psychology research? Are psychologists equally qualified to conduct climate research? Is psychology required course work for climate pscientists????
It may be more appropriate and enlightening for theologists to conduct research on the climate pscientists and their true believers, m’thinks…

kcom says:
March 20, 2014 at 8:49 pm
The paper is actually published in full (as far as I can tell) on the US government’s NIH (National Institute of Health) website:
It gives all the appearance of having been there for a year, showing the March 18, 2013 publication date of the original paper.

I'm not sure why Fabi made this comment in this particular thread, but I think it's cute and wonder if the penny dropped about the difference between the fake Oregon Petition and the much heralded Cook13 paper when s/he says:
March 20, 2014 at 9:13 pm
Something I noticed above and it relates to the much-abused 97% figure. As referenced (correctly), it claims that 97% of climate ‘papers’… How ‘papers’ got translated to ‘scientists’ is beyond me. Not that I ever liked the 97% figure to begin with, but it should also be argued that it is research paper abstracts, and certainly not scientists.

Whereas conspiracy theorising Barry Woods theorises some more and says:
March 21, 2014 at 2:47 am
Ben was tipped off about that Skeptical Science web page, being in the google cache..
Was it a Skeptical Science insider, was it their hacker, or was there a more simple explanation to who tipped Ben Off about it…….
I wonder why SkS withdrew it, the page said embargoed to the 20th March, I wonder what happened (now the 21st) 

Barry Woods is claiming some credit for harassing the journal and says (excerpt):
March 21, 2014 at 3:00 am
I complained to Frontiers about the ethical conducts and conflicts of interest and vested interest of the authors. I requested my name to be removed from the paper. Because one of the authors Marriott, (Watching the Deniers blog) had been writing over a dozen articles attacking the critics of LOG12 during the research period (ie not neutral as claimed) and more particularly, had personally attacked me, naming me (and others) on his blog Watching the Deniers.. and as such I said this compromised the paper.

Here's a link to the article that Barry took exception to.  It's nothing to do with the Recursive Fury paper. Barry wrote a dumb article at WUWT protesting the findings of Doran and Zimmerman's survey of scientists about global warming.  I wonder why Barry thinks that it's okay for him to attempt to blog-refute Doran and Zimmerman but it's not okay for someone else to blog-refute Barry's "arguments".

jauntycyclist hasn't bothered to read any science and is waiting for someone to read it to him or her.  jauntycyclist also has strange ideas about the study of psychology and says (excerpt):
March 21, 2014 at 3:50 am
i don’t see people inventing conspiracy or in a fury. I just see people waiting for proof to claims co2 is the main driver of temps and will result in catastrophic change.
if people want to talk psychology then the word cult comes to mind? Patrick Moore uses the term cult.

En Passant queries whether it really is just "harmful fun":
March 21, 2014 at 4:46 am
Stop laughing as this is not funny. Every week these clowns collect a paycheck, many of them paid by we taxpayers.
Still think it is just harmful fun?

Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Klaus Oberauer and Michael Marriott-Hubble (2013) "Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation" Available at UWA


  1. I think you're spot on, Sou, in reckoning that this is more of a legal matter than an academic behaviour matter. Perhaps someone has sent a letter on a solicitor's headed paper and the journal has taken fright. I like the way the UWA legal eagle takes a typically Aussie approach.

    Anyway, it's not as if a whole climate denier journal ever gets shut down by the publishers. Oh, sorry. One did recently.

    1. I think that climate science journals would be used to getting complaints from science deniers. And general science journals would probably get letters from all sorts of nutters like evolution deniers as well as greenhouse effect deniers.

      Most psych papers would be too dense (ie technical) for the general public to bother with so this is probably the first time that particular journal had to deal with something like that. It's a shame it caved in though, for its own sake. It probably means that from now on, any cognitive scientist who writes a provocative paper will publish it elsewhere.

    2. Given that the journal is an open access journal, they only real service they provide is the peer review, that has been done and is also not reversed by a "legal" retraction. Thus more or less nothing happened. Except a lot of publicity for the paper.

      Normally Anthony Watts enjoys the Streisand effect enormously.

      Is this recursive vitriol?

    3. I wonder if this particular journal would have retracted the paper by Dunning and Kruger had they published it there. Not that I think that Recursive Fury is on the same level, but still... :)

    4. That the retraction of this paper is not a huge loss for scientific progress may also have been part of the consideration. For the authors the publication around the retraction makes the paper more worthwhile.

      There are only winners on the science side, except that it sets a bad precedent for the future about how to resolve scientific disagreement. Also that part is not that bad, as in this case the attacking party is non-scientific, to use a friendly term.

      A scientist that would threaten a journal would decimate his reputation. I would be surprised to see that happen, even if scientists can be a colorful bunch.

    5. Life in all its rich tapestry. "Sceptics" are the first to complain that they are censored and that their right to free speech is being impugned by the powers that be.

    6. The loons are currently baying at the moon over at Lewandowsky's site.


    7. I'm having a bit of fun with dear old Foxgoose over there.

      Sountracked to the Smiths This Charming Man.


    8. Foxgoose is the one who made a stink because the authors thought he was promoting one conspiracy theory. Foxgoose claimed they got it wrong. He was insistent that it was a (slightly) different conspiracy theory that he was promoting!

    9. Sou

      Like you, I'm past caring what paranoid fantasies have infected the mind of one of the more notably unpleasant fake sceptics on the internet. I do care about the way that concerted bullying with legal threats has resulted in a paper being withdrawn. Even if what it said is indisputably a matter of fact and common knowledge: large numbers of pseudosceptics are conspiracy theorists.

      Some of these erstwhile comedians are exerting a disproportionately malign influence at the moment. They are getting too big for their boots.

    10. I agree BBD. It's as if they are angling for a version 3. Steve McIntyre is being truly weird. He's trying to manufacture a conspiracy out of emails and processes that he doesn't understand. AFAIK he's never worked in a university or government agency and it shows. I doubt he's ever been near one or other of them.

      His fans are lapping it up though. A bunch of weirdos.

  2. I got some good laughs out of this post. Fortunately my first coffee of the day stayed off the screen and keybooard. :D

    Good for the UWA. I suppose what's needed now is another paper that ties Dunning-Kruger Effect to the recursive fury work. That would be wonderful.

  3. BTW, although having a journal cave into this sort of thing isn't good, is Frontiers worth worrying about?


  4. Perhaps the recursive fury would not occur if the proponents who even deny their own utterances, when they publish missives for all to see, from their self referential thought bubble of total ignorance to complain of a perceived libel, could see their own ignorance at best and hypocrisy at worst. They must be squirming as first class examples of the Dunning Kruger Effect. The irony due to this effect is that they are blissfully unaware how ludicrous they really are. Sou quotes them relentlessly not because they have something to say but to make an example of their sheer stupidity and ignorance.
    It is no different to simians flinging their own excreta at their enemies and then 'claiming' that their hands and minds are not full of shit!
    I do not feel sorry at all for the ingnorati being led by the faux denialati. They are just like the cannon fodder in all past and current wars. Without them the pointless battle would not even begin.
    Michael Mann's law suit has got them rattled. They are just trying to bluff with the same tactic. What is the bet when Michael Mann wins, these same idiots will say that the legal system is run by some warmist conspiracy.
    Bt the way thanks Sou for a most enlightening blog. I think I am a smart old bloke (retired Physicist) but I can barely keep up with you. Your attention to detail is remarkable. Far better than the wild uninformed incorrect musings of the wuwt idiots.
    I used to tell my PhD students that my job was to teach them everything I knew and so what do we do after lunch! The only reason I knew more than them is I had already made all the mistakes. It was their job to find entirely new mistakes to make and to pass on to others.
    Bert from Eltham.

  5. I've been following the controversy over LOG12 since it first hit the climate blogosphere back in late 2012. Between them, Barry Woods and Geoff Chambers have been to Lewandowsky as Steve McIntyre is to Mann. They will pursue their conspiracy theories to the grave.

    The main issue with LOG12 according to these two seems to be that since John Cook forgot to post the link to the LOG12 survey on Skeptical Science, a fact which I verified myself using the Wayback Machine, just for the lolz... that only 7 pro-science sites actually hosted the survey and not 8 as Lewandowsky reported. And for that, they argue that the entire paper is invalidated and must be retracted.

    Since *no* skeptic sites hosted the survey, the fact that the 1377 survey responses that were garnered came from 7 pro-science sites instead of 8 makes no difference to the results, as far as I can see. As with McIntyre, these people seem to be serial nitpickers just for the sake of it, and do nothing in their efforts but bolster the findings of Recursive Fury.

    I normally wouldn't post anonymously, but I'm seriously afraid of attracting the attentions of rabid terrier Barry Woods. He has relentlessly cyber-stalked Lewandowsky for 2 years now. Every time Lewandowsky posts anything on shapingtomorrowsworld, sure as anything Woods shows up in the comments a few hours later hounding him with his "it wasn't 8 sites!!!1!!!" single issue. I'm almost certain he's the main driver behind the Recursive Fury paper being retracted. He contends that since other bloggers (e.g. watchingthedeniers) were discussing his public comments at the time Recursive Fury was being compiled, this means it was somehow unethical that his comments appeared in the Recursive Fury supplementary materials. Sounds like another level of CT-recursiveness to me.

  6. Sou - my point is a researcher should not be publically attacking the people he researches, it is a psychology paper, it looks bad ethically, especially during the research period of the paper.

    1. You weren't "publicly attacked" - Barry, it was your public article and public comments that were "publicly attacked", after you "publicly attacked" a bunch of other people. Sheesh, what a wimp and a hypocrite. That last sentence is a "public attack" for doing the same here.

      And I doubt that you were being "researched" at the time either. You attracted attention to your comments by your comments, just like you are doing now.

      BTW don't use HW to tout to be part of the next bit of research. Any further on this from you will be deleted. Readers who are curious can go to any of the other websites that Barry is writing on. (I expect there's a lot of cut and paste going on at Barry's end.)

      (Why does the behaviour of Barry and Foxgoose and their cronies remind me of people at a restaurant who bring their own cockroaches so they can sue?)

    2. BTW - all the research had ethics approval. And you are in no position to talk about ethics, Barry - going by the content of your spate of "public attacks" - which are wrong and reprehensible!

    3. Top comment!

      "Why does the behaviour of Barry and Foxgoose and their cronies remind me of people at a restaurant who bring their own cockroaches so they can sue?"

      I am not sure the cockroaches would be all that pleased about it either. They have standards.

    4. Sou, this is isn't hard:

      Barry's issue is not that Marriott was writing bad things about him. It's that they betray Marriott as not being an objective evaluator of his psychology owing to hostility shown toward his research subjects.

      I read your material for fun but I wouldn't rely on your psychological profiling of Anthony Watts. And where is the sense of balance? Do you really believe climate bloggers can perform psychological research on their fellow bloggers?

      Second, you say"

      "And I doubt that you were being "researched" at the time either."

      You doubted wrong. Marriott and Cook were set to harvest comments and blog posts from mid-July. Marriott's post appeared on 20th July, i.e., after the project had begun.

    5. Marriott and Cook were set to harvest comments and blog posts from mid-July

      Oh? And you know that how, Shub?

    6. Shub

      Conspiracist ideation (wonderful phrase, that) is rife among you lot. This is a matter of fact evident to anyone who has spent any time conversing with "sceptics" on blogs.

      Are you denying this matter of fact? Yes or no?

    7. Sou, I need to make a correction.

      Marriott and Cook were collecting data sometime Sept 10 2012 onward. So, they were collecting data sometime mid-Sept onward, not mid-July. They were -not- collecting any data during July 2012.

      Marriott's post mocking Woods' WUWT's post appeared before the data collection period.

      That was my mistake in remembering dates. I recount the specific details in my blog.

      But the point about researcher hostility toward subjects stands. This is Barry's and my main problem with the 'data'. As Barry has explained, and you noted in the other thread, the discussion and tentative conclusions of commenters on Lewandowsky's paper took place a good month before Marriott's cutoff date of end-August. People had several questions to ask and the authors mistook/misrepresent this as a eruption of conspiratorial thinking.

    8. Why have you dodged my question Shub?

      Is conspiracist ideation relatively common amongst "sceptics"?

      Yes or no?

    9. It's endlessly amusing to me that not one fake sceptic has ever given a straight answer to this question.

      Not one.

    10. Shub - you didn't answer my question. It was "how do you know" when they started collecting data?

      As for mistaking conspiratorial thinking for conspiratorial thinking - there was no mistake. Deniers became the laughing stock of the blogosphere with their reaction - even more so than usual. It was ripe for the picking. And still it goes on...

    11. BBD - fake sceptics think they don't have to answer questions - they only ask them, and then ignore the replies. It's one of their defining traits. That's one sure way of distinguishing a fake sceptic from a real one.

    12. Sou, the source of informtion on when they started collecting data is Lewandowsky. It is in the ACM FOI documents. (p. 288 of 'documents 2 pdf).

      Lewandowsky wrote in an email to the deputy vice-chancellor on the 5th of September that he had "...a team of people keeping track of all the conspiracy theories and how they spread across the internet."

    13. Thanks, Shub. You're the exception that proves the rule :)

      It's odd, though, how you think that deniers' public comments should not have been the subject of research (though they were practically begging for it) because you regard the researchers as "hostile" (which I'd quibble with in the example here - the WTD article isn't hostile to a person, only to the content).

      Yet you don't seem to have the same qualms about Steve McIntyre - who has definitely been hostile. He's been openly, repeatedly, extremely hostile (to put it mildly) to Professor Lewandowsky personally, since his first paper hit the Internet.

    14. Thanks, Shub. You're the exception that proves the rule :)

      Not quite, Sou. Another question still remains unanswered.

    15. Sorry, BBD. You're right. I guess your question was too much for him to handle.

    16. Not one single straight answer to a yes/no question. Not one.

    17. Marriott and Lewandowsky's hostility toward skeptics rule them out being capable of performing objective psychologic research on skeptic subjects. In general, there are two ways: (i) that such researchers work past their own biases in extracting valid psychologic content from their subjects (ii) that such researchers work past their biases in avoiding harm to their subjects.

      Again, in general, researcher hostility toward subjects is not a commonly encountered scenario, as its converse. But this is an instance borne by the adversarial and polarized nature of the climate debate where there are clear 'battlelines' and two different 'sides'. It is clear which side Marriott thought Woods belonged to.

      'Deniers' (or whatever else names you wish to call) can definitely be studied as a group and there have been several observational papers on climate skeptics and climate skepticism in the peer-reviewed literature. There is absolutely no reason why the online venues where climate skeptics comment ought not to be examined or psychologically analysed.

      However there are simple caveats. Because when you analyse comments or blog posts (i.e., 'text'), you are ultimately analysing people (i.e., humans), researchers have to tread carefully. The issues concerned are consent, debriefing, non-interventionism and de-identification.

      Between us as bloggers, we could go through issues and discuss the shades of opinion possible on these four issues in study design and where the chips must have fallen. When it comes to conducting a project though, decision-making on these aspects is primarily a call for an institutional ethics review committee.

      Lew and company faltered at this juncture on several counts. It doesn't look like the paper went through a formal ethics review. These 4 issues were not discussed by a third party review committee. Lewandowsky and co-authors, despite known hostility, went ahead and studied responses to their own paper as psychologic material and intervened and interacted with study subjects and did not de-identify anything. A massive failure, which leaves no other option but to conclude the team carried out an attack job on their critics by purporting to psychologically analyse them.

      Lewandowsky et al quote and rely on Cass Sunstein's paper on conspiracies extensively (Google it, it is a good long read). Simple suspicion, mistrust, skepticism, or cynicism do not qualify for conspiratorial thinking. Conspiratorial thinking is a specific and complex pattern and Lewandowsky et al went overboard calling anything 'conspiracist'. He earned mistrust and tried to paint this mistrust as conspiracy. Do you trust Watts? Probably not. Does that make you a conspiracist? I'm not sure I would agree.

    18. Not one.

      Why have you dodged my question Shub?

      Is conspiracist ideation relatively common amongst "sceptics"?

      Yes or no?

    19. Shub - your very long post is, well, very long.

      You are trying to defend your conspiracising mates I suppose. I don't know that they need or want defending though. Foxgoose, for example, got particularly upset not because the paper mentioned a comment of his in passing, but because he reckons that he was talking about a different conspiracy theory to the one the authors thought he had.

      Anyone who reads the blogs at the time saw much conspiracy ideation. Your argument that the researchers were "hostile" and therefore had a coloured view doesn't hold up at all. That notion is a new one to me and not one I've come across elsewhere. Certainly neither the journal or its reviewers thought so. (Is this another example of evolution of a conspiracy theory?)

      Also, they weren't "analysing humans" in the way you imply. They were tracking the development of ideas, and how one conspiracy ideation evolved into another. For example, when new knowledge came to light it was either ignored or the ideation evolved to incorporate it - if the new knowledge was irrefutable.

      Your own ideation of nefarious intent is showing, by the way. I don't know if any of your actual comments rated a mention but I expect you were in the thick of discussions in which some of the juicier conspiracy ideations were evolving. Maybe that's why you are in such a lather about all this.

      The really odd thing about all this is that in the original paper, conspiracy ideation was only weakly linked with science denial. It was free market ideology that was the stronger predictor.

      If people had only read the moon landing paper they could have patted themselves on the back and said - yes I'm a free market science denier but I'm not a conspiracy theorising science denier. Instead the moon landing paper brought out all the wackiest ideas.

      My guess is that many deniers were acting in their usual fashion and didn't bother reading the original paper, they just took what they were fed by denialist bloggers and distorted it in a way that matched their world view. It's as if they wanted to believe something so they did. Just like they do with climate science. It's a "hoax" because that's easier for them to believe than reality.

    20. Sou, you are completely right. I don't know how I missed these obvious points.

    21. I could hazard a guess, but then I've covered that already :(

    22. Having been found compos mentis by a slim majority of a panel of psychologists, I feel that I can comment with some authority on psychological studies. (Just kidding, it was a panel of psychiatrists.)

      "Because when you analyse comments or blog posts (i.e., 'text'), you are ultimately analysing people (i.e., humans), researchers have to tread carefully. The issues concerned are consent, debriefing, non-interventionism and de-identification." shub

      Wrong, wrong, wrong!

      "Consent" does not apply as bloggers comments are in the public domain and not subject to copyright when they fall under the "fair use" or transformative principle. Fair use because they have been used in an academic study and transformative because criticisms or praise of comments does not involve straight copying. Bloggers' comments also fall into a grey area when it can be argued that they are not factual but fictional e.g. conspiracy ideation.

      "Debriefing" is not needed in an observational study nor in a survey. There has been embarrassment for the bloggers who've expressed some weird opinions but surely not for those with pseudonyms. (Anonymity is the scourge of the internet as it encourages some individuals to post unsupportable pap on blogs.) Apart from that, the use of debriefings in the event of a trauma (poor sweet babies) is not necessarily a panacea as research shows that it may hinder the recovery process.

      "Non-interventionism" is a principle more applicable to foreign policy or to photographing wildlife and does not apply to carrying out an observational study.

      "De-identification" is a policy for the release of data of personal information. It is laughable for someone who is willing to put their name to their opinions in blog comments, that are public, to complain on grounds of de-identification when their comments become part of a research paper.

      Claims as to non-objectivity of psychological studies are difficult to substantiate as all observations may be classed as individual subjective experiences shaped by our cultural backgrounds, value systems, prejudices, etc. In that regard, a debate over subjectivity versus objectivity of a psychological study is as meaningless as the debates in long gone times over whether monsters lived at the edge of the known world or there was just a bottomless pit.

      Reality is the ultimate test of objectivity. People who protest that they have been aggrieved by the Lewandowsky et al paper need a good dose of reality therapy to separate them from their identified fantasies and behaviours linked to those fantasies. At the very least, they need to desist from posting florid, disparaging, mock-indignant comments on skeptic blogs from where they become public property and potentially exposes them to ridicule and embarrassment.

    23. [Part I]

      "Marriott [sic] and Lewandowsky's hostility toward skeptics rule them out being [sic] capable of performing objective psychologic [sic] research on skeptic [sic] subjects."

      Grammar aside there's a problem here shub, and that is that you commence your proposition with a logical fallacy - or several.

      You are presupposing that the science deniers studied are in fact just "skeptics" when this is not demonstrated and in fact can in most (if not all) cases be demonstrated to be false.

      It is much closer to the truth to say that LOG12 was looking at poor thinking and the factors that are associated with poor thinking. This is a very different thing to real, scientific scepticism. Examples of such poor thinking include:

      1) ignoring solid, scientifically-obtained and verified data
      2) relying on the distortion of fact to support an ideology
      3) inferring motivation from personal ideology rather than from parsimonious analysis of available fact (ironically, something that you accuse LOG12 of)

      amongst other things...

      Second, you are confabulating (perhaps understandably) hostility with limited tolerance. Science does not tolerate lazy or fallacious thinking, and science knows when poor thinking is occurring. Oh, you can go all Barry Marshall on us, but it doesn't alter the fact that Marshall's example is substantively different to the decades-old climate change issue. Anthropogenic climate change deniers are demonstrably, woefully fallacious in their thinking (to use the term loosely...) on the matter, and there's no room in science for the oft-refuted garbage of magical/fantasy thinking at best, and deliberately mendacious dissemblance and distraction at worst. If the LOG12 authors are intolerant of that then that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    24. [Part II]

      Further, you have not demonstrated that the LOG12 authors' intolerance of poor thinking about scientific matters is actually a disqualifier from researching poor thinking. What is the connection that actually rules them out? And if they are biased in their analysis, where's the peer-reviewed rebuttal to the paper?

      "It doesn't look like the paper went through a formal ethics review."

      This shows how little you know of Australian tertiary research.

      The funding declaration says "Preparation of this article was facilitated by a Discovery Grant from the Australian Research Council and an Australian Professorial Fellowship..." At my university, which follows the same standard of practice as do most (if not all) other Australian universities heavily involved in research, the administration of funding proceeds through a dedicated mechanism, and a mandatory and inescapable part of that process is that appropriate Ethics approvals must be identified and completed. The paperwork has to go through each of the researchers, their Head(s) of School(s), the Funding office, the Finance office, the Legal office, and the Vice Chancellor in charge or research before it can be completed, and at each step there will be a check to see if there is a requirement for consideration by an ethics committee.

      Further, it's built into the very contracts that the ACR uses for its grants so they would be checking for ethics oversight from their end. The simple fact of funding being provided indicates that this project received Ethics oversight.

      On the same theme, I'm curious about whether you are applying your concern about ethics review to Steve McIntyre's demand for the IP addresses of respondents - given your concern for the respondents' (of which I am one) ethics treatment, I am sure that you must be just as curious about the ethical oversight that McIntyre has... or does not have... In particular, I am sure that you are keen to know why people who participated in the LOG12 survey knowing how those authors were going to use the data are going to retrospectively have their rights to privacy assured in McIntyre's attempts to obtain their personal details. I didn't agree to McIntyre getting my IP address when I completed the survey, and I am bloody well certain that many others would feel the same way.

      You express a lot of concern for proper process shub, but it seems that in your case "proper process" is that which enables your denialist colleagues to continue with their distortion of actual science, and to avoid facing the fact of the fallacies of their own claims.

    25. Thanks for your inputs George and Bernard.

      I have to say that for all Steve McIntyre's posturing and for all the fuss about FOI'd material, there is not one bit of evidence supporting the silly claims of deniers that the research failed the ethics test. On the contrary - as you say there are multiple checks and balances all along the way.

      I wish I knew what the fuss was all about. I've read some of the protests but the reality is that the study merely picked up public comments on public blogs. If they weren't embarrassed when they wrote the comments why are they suddenly all coy about them now?

      All this nonsense about anonymisation (particularly of anonymous bloggers) and de-identification is irrelevant. Apart from the fact they were public comments, the research couldn't be reported without direct quotes. If the location wasn't mentioned, "Google is your friend" is all that'd be needed to find out who said what and where. I doubt the paper would be accepted without thorough referencing back to the sources.

      The paper was fair in reporting the examples. The blogs on which they were written were mentioned - but then they were selected for their public popularity (at least as far as Alexa ranking goes), so they can't in any way be deemed "private" conversations.

      If the bloggers are so embarrassed about what they said the first time around, then why oh why are they repeating the fiasco over and over again? Still. Now. Seems like they are wanting a starring role in Recursive Fury 2. The protests are rife with "nefarious intent" (Lewandowky is the big bad wolf), "I'm a persecuted hero" (amn't I brave for spamming UWA and Frontiers and blogs everywhere that mention Lewandowsky with my protests), plus exaggerated suspicion (now even the Vice-Chancellor is part of the plot and can't be trusted!)

      Weird barely describes it.

    26. Without the direct naming, we'd have the pseudoskeptics howling and demanding to release the data. Upon which some others, being embarrassed that their delusions are now in the public, would start howling that their personal information was made public.

    27. Shub.

      I was hoping, in a fit of that morbid perversity that oft afflicts the unrewarded educators of fools, for a response.

      You've had quite a lot of thinking time now, so perhaps you could grace us with a reply...

    28. Tick, tick, tick...

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Apologies for using your blog to ask a question, Sou, but I am keen to catch Barry Woods' attention.

    Barry Woods, I would be interested to see your response to this:


    [Originally posted on March 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM - accidentally deleted by Sou - now restored]

  9. The paper was required to be reviewed by the ethics committee and it was not. Steven has a point, so perhaps you should man up and admit when you are wrong.

    1. You don't know what you are talking about Bill L. Papers do not need to be reviewed by ethics committee. The stage for ethics committee approval is research design.

      Frontiers stated quite clearly that there were no issues with the academic or ethical aspects of the work. Their public statement is that they "carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study."

      BTW, I have no intention of manning up. I am quite happy with my sex just the way it is.

      BTW 2 - who the heck is Steven?

    2. re BTW 2- I figure "Steven" is the conspiracy theorising Steve McIntyre.

      Ironic how deniers like him bleat about transparency and wail about "censorship" are now gloating that they've censored scientists (except they haven't). And those same deniers are refusing to allow "transparency".

      Also weird that they (mis)quote comments stolen from a private discussion to complain about publication of comments made in public.

      Deniers are disgusting.

    3. Since the usual misrepresentations are bursting out here as well as every other site where this is discussed, let's get the statement made by the journal itself on the page where everybody can *read it* before commenting:

      In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors.

      This is a description of legal bullying being used to curtail academic freedom. It explicitly goes on the record to exclude either academic or ethical issues with the paper.

      Read the words.

  10. Dear Ms. HotWhopper,

    Good to see you defending Lewandowsky. The more regular, reasonable people read his work the more they will understand the fanaticism behind it. Of course, some of his readers may not realize that the Dr. Richard Betts he criticises is a lead author of IPCC AR5. Does he really want to make the argument that those who look at the data and find little warming in the last 20 years also don't believe in the moon landing? Wouldn't it be easier to find actual astronauts who have actually walked on the moon? Oh, they actually don't believe the science supports the IPCC conclusions and are highly embarrassed by the poor science on this issue that has come out of NASA.

    Those who criticize Lewandowsky actually look at data (e.g. http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v3/n9/full/nclimate1972.html?WT.ec_id=NCLIMATE-201309 ).

    You seem to be surprised by events, and may be surprised by eventual resignations at UWA over this matter.


    1. Hmm...Another furious re-curser :)

      Geoff didn't read the moon landing paper (or if he did, he couldn't understand it)..

      Geoff is just another fake skeptic fly by who thinks that climate science is a conspiracy because an ageing astronaut said so!

    2. Let's never forget that Harrison Schmitt, one of those astronauts, has said he is a fan of the Alex Jones show. Alex Jones regularly goes on and on and on and on and......about various conspiracies. Interestingly, Alex Jones thinks AGW is a hoax, and he also has an opinion about the moon landings. Guess what that opinion is?
      (hint: see the title of Lewandowsky's paper)

    3. Ah, Alex Jones and Infowars - don't forget the chemtrails, the fluoride, the Illuminati, and the UNoneworldgovernmentnewworldorder, and the rather bizarre link with the not-at-all-nutty folks from NaturalNews.

      For an insight into the weird world of Jones, A. I recommend Jon Ronson's Them: adventures with extremists.

      To be honest, I do wonder if Jones is a Poe, a kind of ongoing situationist performance. Or perhaps even an agent of the very forces he claims to valiantly oppose, neutralising an army of nutters by diverting their energies into futile - and risible - squawking about imaginary threats...

  11. More here

  12. I note that the response of deniers on the Frontiers page that announced the retraction is to engage in para-conspiracist/conspiracist ideation regarding the study of conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation.

    They couldn't parody themselves more if they tried.


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