Thursday, July 9, 2015

Anthony Watts weakly protests Recurrent Fury

The reaction from WUWT deniers to Recurrent Fury so far is fairly ordinary, though chock full of conspiracy ideation (archived here). It's not clear whether any denier has actually read the paper. Evidence suggests most haven't - they are too busy complaining about it. There is only one article at WUWT and it's dominated by Barry Woods. Barry has spent the past few years scouring the internet for any mention of Professor Lewandowsky and writing endless overly-long, over-hyped complaints mixed with general disinformation. That's because a comment from him was included (buried deep) in the data for the original paper, and Barry maybe regretted making his public comment publicly, and so he took it out on Professor Lewandowsky. (Barry found a paper written by a couple of deniers that he thinks refutes the moon-landing paper. It didn't.)

Many deniers might be nutters, but that's not what Recurrent Fury is about

Anthony Watts himself insists that Recurrent Fury demonstrates that "“people who question the veracity of global warming/climate change are nutters”. It doesn't. That's just what Anthony Watts wants you to think but it's not what the paper shows. Recurrent Fury is about the way that conspiracy theories evolve when facts emerge that force changes to the original conspiracy theory. It isn't a psychological diagnosis of individuals and never was. In any case, as Dr. Katharine Blackwell wrote: "believing in a conspiracy theory is not a psychological disorder, any more than a religious belief is."

Here again are the categories of conspiracy ideation identified in the paper:
  1. Nefarious Intent or Questionable Motives (QM): Assuming that the presumed conspirators have nefarious, or at least questionable, intentions. 
  2. Persecuted Victim (PV): Self-identifying as the victim of an organised persecution.
  3. Nihilistic Skepticism or Over-riding Suspicion (OS): Refusing to believe anything that doesn't fit into the conspiracy theory, which in turn can be any hypothesis that can be described as conspiracy ideation. It doesn't have to be a grand conspiracy theory.
  4. Nothing occurs by Accident (NoA): Weaving any small random event into the conspiracy narrative.
  5. Something Must be Wrong (MbW): Switching liberally between different, even contradictory conspiracy theories that have in common only the presumption that there is something wrong in the official account by the alleged conspirators.
  6. Self-Sealing Reasoning (SS): Interpreting any evidence against the conspiracy as evidence for (or of) the conspiracy.
  7. Unreflexive Counterfactual Thinking: These included several hypotheses that were "built on a non-existent, counterfactual state of the world, even though knowledge about the true state of the world was demonstrably available at the time".

Did Anthony Watts or any denier read the paper?

Did Anthony read the paper before making up stuff, or did he make it up his protest out of thin air, to prove what a persecuted victim he is? He didn't recommend anyone read the paper though he did provide a link to it. He wrote:
If anyone wants to bother to read it, here are links to the paper.Full Text: PDF HTML
Anthony also elevated the false claims from Barry Woods to his article. The original paper was withdrawn because people like the arguably unethical Barry Woods intimidated the publishers, with some people threatening legal action. From an academic viewpoint, succumbing to threats from science deniers is quite shocking and some editors quit as a result. No-one took any legal action against the University of Western Australia, which housed the original paper on its website, so the threats could be considered empty threats. (I can't see how they could have won in any case.) Barry continues to spread the lie that the paper was withdrawn over ethics concerns. That's not true. The journal's own expert panel had no objections on ethical or any other grounds and the research had ethics approval from UWA. Deniers are all in favour of "free speech" except when it applies to anyone else. As Neuroskeptic wrote in Discover Magazine:
No-one entered into a relationship of trust with the authors. No-one had a right to privacy: no private information was involved. No subjects volunteered to participate in an experiment: there was no experiment. In fact, RF includes no mention of the term ‘subjects’ except in reference to other papers.

What the authors did was to take already published statements and interpret them. This makes all the difference. Once someone has published something, no-one needs any further permission in order to read it, quote it, criticize it and interpret it – within the law. Publication is consent for lawful discussion – this is an axiom of public debate, not just in science but elsewhere.
[That last bit added by Sou - 1:48 pm 9 July 2015]

Lots more conspiracy ideation emerges from WUWT

From WUWT, here are some of the objections to the paper that seem to fit into one or more of the above categories. You'll probably notice quite a few who think that climate science is a hoax. Evidence suggests that most people didn't read the paper (eg references to "two authors", "survey", "mental issues" etc). I've categorised the comments, though that's just an initial cut. You (and Recurrent Fury authors) might disagree with my take:
  • But, that doesn’t stop them from essentially labeling everyone who does not agree with “climate change” as having “conspiracy ideation” mental issues. - Persecuted Victim
  • If the science is so sound, then why are the believers in CAGW doing everything except debating the science? - Something Must be Wrong, Overriding Suspicion
  • Starting with “A growing body of evidence . . . .” If they had evidence, they wouldn’t need a “growing body.” Something Must be Wrong, Unreflexive counterfactual thinking
  • I’m going to make predictions that Phil Jones and Keith Briffa of CRU (both 63 yrs old) will show their skeptic side after retirement.  - Self-sealing reasoning, Overriding Suspicion
  • Why do I get the idea that the basic massage of this paper might be summarized as “If your mind is not closed up tight on the subject of global warming, you are almost completely insane”? - Persecuted Victim
  • It never ceases to amaze me that professional students like these two refuse to examine the complete body of evidence surrounding climate “science”. - (With the six authors being reduced to just two) - Unreflexive counterfactual thinking, Questionable Motives
  • The fact that they can willfully dismiss the CRU emails, for example, speaks volumes about their intellectual curiosity. This climate change subject is at best an adolescent group think for people who want to be part of the cool crowd and at worst, a pagan religious experience complete with demons and gods. - Unreflexive counterfactual thinking, Self-sealing reasoning
  • Well, I guess Lew would call me a “nutter” then. - Persecuted victim
  • Thanks, but no thanks, Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, at al., I’ll get my psychiatric help from a real psychiatrist, if needed. From your ilk, I only expect more deception. - Persecuted Victim, Overriding Suspicion
  • They try so hard to stay on that Gravy Train. Publish anything and you’ll get your money. - Overriding suspicion, Questionable Motives
  • That’s always a good one to get people to think skeptics completely reject everything connected with climate science, even us that believe CO2 is a greenhouse gas that has contributed towards the modest BENEFICIAL warming. - Overriding Suspicion, Questionable Motives, Unreflexive Counterfactual Thinking
  • The level-headed folks here, ( I admit some commenters sound like they would believe the actual conspiracy of a backroom cabal) do not talk about or express belief in some over-arching conspiracy of the kind this paper seems to want to paint for the skeptics. No, it is the racket we see. And a racket does not require some long range planning where a group gets together to agree. No, rackets can exist with many players hardly knowing what role they play. A racket in this sense would be to control legitimate science across, and up and down its many parts by controlling who has access to that science, who is allowed to speak for that science, and who gets funded, and who gets “protected”. Strong arm tactics are the realm of rackets, not absolute control and agreement in a conspiracy sense. - Unreflexive Counterfactual Thinking, Overriding Suspicion, Questionable Motives
  • I don’t think it is [a hoax] either. I think it was oversold from the beginning, the momentum it got was surprising, and there’s no easy way for those entrenched with it to dial it back without looking like fools. - (Anthony Watts) - Unreflexive Counterfactual Thinking, Overriding Suspicion, Something Must be Wrong
  • Scientists from other fields simply accepted the body of claims coming from the new field of climate science without looking at the dynamics occurring within the field. They also saw an opportunity to apply for grants studying the catastrophic effects GW, taken as a given, was having on their field. There wasn’t any reason for them to be skeptical. They could profit from the issue and could always claim that they were merely trusting this newly created group of scientists. Many politicians, unable to perform any scientific scrutiny on their own, also embraced the notion of CAGW in order to advance their political careers. - Questionable Motives, Overriding Suspicion, Unreflexive Counterfactual Thinking
  • But the United Nations IPCC was founded with a mandate to look at catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming. Now that is pretty one-sided and fits my definition of a scam — especially with all the money and power involved. - Overriding Suspicion, Questionable Motives, Unreflexive Counterfactual Thinking
  • In essence, there is a scam going on. That does not mean everyone involved is in on the scam. - General conspiracy theorising, Overriding Suspicion
  • Regardless of one’s beliefs in climate change, you need to wonder about the caliber of university that is allowing him to publish such garbage. It’s fine for climate scientists to turn a blind eye on Lewandowsky. They aren’t responsible for the nonsense he publishes, and it helps the propaganda war. But how much longer is Lewandowsky’s employer able to endure the stain it puts on them? - Something Must be Wrong, Overriding Suspicion
  • I don’t think the university cares as long as the money is rolling in and Lewandowsky et al. contribute to the propaganda war to make carbon the new money. - Questionable Motives, Overriding Suspicion
  • Just because you keep calling it mainstream science, doesn’t make it so. The mythical 97% consensus has been busted so many times that only the terminally clueless still spout it. - Unreflexive counterfactual thinking
  • As to using CAGW to justify more taxes, just look at those who are at the forefront of the movement are calling for. They are almost unanimous in their desire to use taxation to decrease the use of fossil fuels. - Questionable Motives
  • As to the one world govt stuff, that’s proven by once again actually reading the words of the leaders in this movement.- Pure Gold
  •  I think most of these scientists are just doing what they are being paid to do. - Questionable motives
  • I would really like to see someone do a better version of this survey. I have a hunch that a real survey like this would turn out quite different results - Something Must be Wrong
  • It appears that Lewandowsky et al are desperately trying to lay the ground work to justify marginalizing, bullying, and persecuting global warming skeptics. If we “nutters” don’t hang together, they will attempt to hang us separately. - Persecuted Victim
  • Someday, the media will look back and provide an explanation of “what went wrong” and “how were so many scientists wrong about global warming.” The media will simply report that there was a comedy of errors that occurred while looking at data that seemed to be saying something different than what was eventually known. The media will report that it was all innocent misunderstandings, and that there was nothing unethical or untoward about the conduct of the scientists that really were trying to save the world from a disaster that they really believed was imminent. - Overriding suspicion, it's a hoax
  • Actual conspiracists gain advantage by preemptively accusing opponents of conspiracy! - Unreflexive counterfactual thinking
  • Papers, such as the one by Lewandowsky et al, are nothing more than a reworking of the old Soviet method of declaring dissidents to be mentally ill and are incontrovertible evidence, to use the APS wording, that AGW is just an -ism backed by junk science. - Persecuted Victim, Self-Sealing Reasoning, Questionable Motives
  • Shame is a powerful tool to control behavior. The fact that conspiracy ideation can be thrown out unquestioned as a psychological disorder, is evidence of the complete brainwashing by propaganda the media has accomplished. - Self-sealing reasoning
  • I think it’s everyone’s duty to remind the world that the key scientists, in the lead body which promoted the Global Warming scare WERE conspiring to deceive. - It's a hoax
  • It’s been my experience that the vast majority of Internet trolls accept Global Warming as fact, and the reason may be because it feeds their pathological need to harm others. Attacking and insulting “deniers” is socially acceptable and even encouraged in the Climate alarmist community, and that’s an engraved invitation to sociopaths. - Self-sealing reasoning
  • No offense intended, but I have a very strong moral, and logical, objection to people attempting (like Lew, Cook etc) to diagnose or assign mental illness to others over the internet. - Self-sealing reasoning, counterfactual thinking

And here is a comment chock full of conspiracy theorising and lies:

Gary Pearse
July 8, 2015 at 12:58 pm
I should think that Lew as a psychologist would know that conspiracy is conducted in secret and not broadcast on multiblogs. Indeed, it ceases to be a conspiracy once everyone knows about it. Like when the insider released the Climategate emails, the jig was up for the climateers, Cop19 failed miserably, everyone was writing columns and blogs about it. With the conspiracy no longer a secret, there is no effort required to make the science look kosher. Hey, the real agenda has already been outed: we have to destroy the US economy, democracy, capitalism, ownership of property and put unelected elitists in charge to make sure we can succeed in wiping out half the population.
So why do the climateers keep needing to adjust the data to fit? Well they are scientists and have to do something.

References and further reading

Curses! It's a conspiracy! The Fury is Back Thrice Over - HotWhopper article with references and further reading

Recursive Fury: Misunderstanding The Ethics of Criticism - Neurskeptic at Discover Magazine

Lewandowsky, Stephan, John Cook, Klaus Oberauer, Scott Brophy, Elisabeth A. Lloyd, and Michael Marriott. (2015). "Recurrent fury: Conspiratorial discourse in the blogosphere triggered by research on the role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial." Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3 (1). doi: 10.5964/jspp.v3i1.443. (open access)


  1. "It isn't a psychological diagnosis of individuals and never was. In any case, as Dr. Katharine Blackwell wrote: "believing in a conspiracy theory is not a psychological disorder, any more than a religious belief is.""

    Believing in a conspiracy theory and/or religious belief can be cases of irrational thinking though. And the way we think can lead to neural/synaptic rearrangment, so to the degree that irrational thinking occurs there may be a smear the boundary between normal variation and pathology.

    1. Thinking irrationally isn't necessarily a psychological disorder - or perhaps I should call it "non-rationally" - we all skip steps in logic all the time, or we'd never get through the day :)

      Read Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow

      Deniers adopt climate conspiracies because they can't or won't use rational thinking processes when they should and opt for irrationality, even when their lack of reason is pointed out to them. Understanding science requires rational thought, and deniers don't apply it to climate. I'm talking about the hard core deniers who hang about conspiracy blogs like WUWT.

      However we don't need rational thinking every time we make a decision. (Some people carry an umbrella so that it won't rain, for example. That's superstition - but not likely to be damaging to the human race. Unlike science denial.)

    2. Making a clinical diagnosis would be complicated by the need to separate out the psychotic from the paid shills who are whipping up any kind of anti scientific mob hatred they can.

    3. "Thinking irrationally isn't necessarily a psychological disorder - or perhaps I should call it "non-rationally" - we all skip steps in logic all the time, or we'd never get through the day :)

      Read Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow

      I have indeed read TF&S - I think that I once recommended it here or on another blog. :-)

      Perhaps my clumsy drag-and-drop make my earlier post a bit confusing, but I was not equating irrationality directly with pathology - I was pointing out that the way we think shapes our brains, and extreme directions of thinking may lead to pathological reshaping.

      I was speaking with a friend last night whose ex used to be simply resentful of a harsh childhood. Over decades he reinforced his resentment with bottling up and self-fulfilling accusation of the unfairness of life, and he's now a very difficult person with which to have any connection: he's withdrawn, depressive and almost abusive.

      Such a condition comes from a lot of neurological reorganisation. Appropriate intervention (and that includes a lot of appropriate guidance of thinking) at the correct time would have prevented what is now a pathological condition. And no, I am still not saying that all irrational thought is pathological - I'm just trying to illustrate, as I attempted in the first post, to point out that irrational though can (in some cases) lead to examples of pathology.

      As I said earlier, to the degree that irrational thinking occurs there may be a smear the boundary between normal variation and pathology [my later italics].

      Sure, it's not a psychological diagnosis, and I wasn't trying to say that it was, but some beliefs may directly or indirectly result in conditions (or be the result of conditions) that are on a spectrum that would include recognition of a pathology.

      Perhaps it's my pendantry, but I am just sayin'... ;-)

    4. Yes, I can't fault anything you say there, Bernard. And it might have been you who put me onto that book. (I haven't finished reading it yet.)

  2. Captain FlashheartJuly 9, 2015 at 3:00 PM

    Haha, in comments TonyG says he would "really like someone to do a better version of the survey" because he thinks it would turn out different results. If only someone had done that ... oh but they did! And never published their analysis. I wonder why?

    1. Yes, Steve McIntyre absconded with A Scott's much publicised WUWT survey and buried it very deep. At first it was just because he couldn't figure out the stats. I expect he also didn't like the results.

    2. But if another study turned out the same, would he shut up? Hell, no.

      What happened with all the "Climategate" investigations? There were 9 (?) of them, and the deniers still aren't satisfied because they all revealed no misconduct. There could be a hundred and it wouldn't change their minds: the CRU is a house of crooks because it MUST be.
      Adam R.

  3. Lets not forget the first paper found only a weak correlation between AGW denial and conspiracy ideation. That looks now to be a doubtful result.

    1. I'm sorry, your comment is ambiguous What do you mean by "doubtful result"? Did you mean the correlation is actually not as weak as had been thought, or that it doesn't exist?

    2. I think the often hysterical response from deniers rather suggests the former, but of course it may be down to something else - such as, for instance, a correlation between conspiracy ideation and volubility.

  4. One disturbing WUWT comment:

    Aphan July 8, 2015 at 8:53 am
    Whew! We just ran out of toilet paper this morning! Thanks boys.

    As this was published in an online journal, Aphan needs to quit whatever hallucinogenic substance he's on, and wash his hands once he's compos mentis.

    1. Perhaps he's using his smartphone as toilet paper...

  5. Barry Woods quoting Prof. Jonathan Jones:

    From one point of view there are only four things wrong with the original LOG13-blogs paper. Unfortunately those four things are the design of the experiment, the implementation of the data collection, the analysis of the data, and the reporting of the results. As a consequence of this interlinked network of ineptitude it is very difficult to disentangle all the errors from each other.

    Sounds like the guy is carrying around a chip on his shoulder the size of Manhattan. And, according to Barry,he apparently FOI'ed the CRU and 'won'?! Presumably he was given access to the data because he's an academic. What did he do with the data then, pass it on without permission to someone like McIntyre? How ethical of him.

    Speaking of which, from what I've learned about station data homogenisation in the past few years from the likes of Nick Stokes and Victor Venema, how exactly would someone like McIntyre go about removing the likes of TOBS and station relocation problems from the raw station data, which they *do have access to now for several years*? It's time this denier clown car was pulled over and done for driving under the influence of D-K.

  6. A couple of days ago on WUWT MCourtney, in a rare moment for a denier, wrote that conspiracy ideation can undermine both side's argument, yet over at the Guardian he achieved a perfect CI rating in just 2 sentences.

    Courtney regurgitated Barry Woods' lie that Recursive Fury was withdrawn from publication for ethical violations.

    In a reply he was confronted with Frontiers' reasoning which as we know, specifically excluded ethical violations.

    Courtney replied with a half Stealey - asserting that a fear of an action in defamation = ethical violation therefore he was right, end of conversation.

    One can reasonably categorise his exchange as exhibiting QM, PV, OS, NoA, MbW, SS and UCT.

    And here was I worried that he was turning into his father when he's a actually turning into dbstealey.

    1. I've noticed he's changed in the past few months. MCourtney used to be more moderate but these days he's even buying into Tim Ball's fantastical conspiracy theories and becoming, as you say, a lot more like Smokey/Stealey.

      I think that WUWT is now mostly for the real conspiracy freaks. There are very few "moderate" deniers that post there these days. It had to happen. There's no way back for Anthony Watts. It's the utter nutters or no-one at all. And that means, like melting ice, there's a tipping point. The change will be swift at WUWT. There will be no room for rationality.

    2. It's become a collection of piss-poor Non sequiturs. To the point that Monckton's verbosity serves as light relief.

    3. There's no escaping the Curse of the Downfall Parody.

    4. "(that's not true - you're study on climate elves was excellent.... )"


    5. palindrom

      That line made me laugh as well. :)

  7. Seems the 97 percent scientific consensus on climate change is wrong after all.

    1. This link is to an article which says it's actually 99.9%. The methodology used does not exclude the "luckwarmers", like Lindzen and Spencer. Is there any analysis which specifically identifies the percentage of papers/authors that assume explicitly or implicitly an ECS considerably less than the IPCC "average" of around ­3°C?

    2. BTW, I tried repeatedly to comment under my name (Nick Palmer) but it just wouldn't do it. I tried my google and wordpress accounts and all of the tricks mentioned in your comments policy section - no dice!

  8. I think MCourtney and M Courtney may be different people.

    1. I don't think so, Nick. Checking WUWT it's the same person. He continues the same conversation with different logins. (He probably logs in on different computers at different times.)

    2. Nick they're the same. Both signatures display the same faux moderate tone on BH, the Guardian and WUWT and both espouse the preposterous talking point that the harnessing of renewables will impoverish the poor. Same bloke but lately louder and sadly weirder.

      BTW Nick great work on TempLS mesh V3.

    3. As I just said over on The Guardian, I find it grimly humorous when those on the political right suddenly become concerned about "the poors", the moment they can use them as pawns in a bogus argument about climate change.

    4. Palindrome - indeed.

      I spend a bit of time in the Twittersphere tweaking about human rights (and about climate change, of course) and the only time I see the Fullers of this world saying anything about The Poors is when they're talking about climate change: these folk are notably absent from serious non-climate change discussions about human rights, poverty, inequity and the like.

      One would almost think that they're insincere...

    5. In the case of Tom Fuller, I think it's quite clear that he's sincerely insincere ...


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