Group-think described

Group-think rules…

Group-think rules…

Christopher Booker, writing in the UK Telegraph, points to a fascinating extract from a book entitled “The Blunders of our Governments” by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe. The extract in question refers to the work of an American psychology professor in the 1960s, Irving J. Janis, who studied the cultural phenomenon of group-think.

When reading the following paragraphs, keep in the forefront of your mind the following:

  • the ABC (and its ideological twin the BBC);
  • John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli of Skeptical Science;
  • Stephan Lewandowsky and his psychology mates, and
  • the majority of the ‘consensus’ community in climate science

and see how much of it can be applied to them.

Janis became intrigued by a sequence of unfortunate episodes in modern American history that seemed to him to display a number of common characteristics: the Roosevelt administration’s faiure in 1941 to prepare for a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; the Truman administration’s rash decision in late 1950 to invade North Korea; the launching of President John F. Kennedy’s clownish Bay of Pigs expedition in 1961; and Lyndon B. Johnson’s escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War during the mid-1960s. To that original list, he later added President Richard M. Nixon’s attempt to cover up his own and his henchmen’s complicity in the notorious Watergate break-in of 1972.

According to Janis, whose views are now almost universally accepted, group-think is liable to occur when the members of any face-to-face group feel under pressure to maintain the group’s cohesion or are anyway inclined to want to do that. It is also liable to occur when the group in question feels threatened by an outside group or comes, for whatever reason, to regard one or more outside individuals or groups as alien or hostile. Group-think need not always, but often does, manifest itself in pathological ways. A majority of the group’s members may become intolerant of dissenting voices within the group and find way, subtle or overt, of silencing them. Individual group members may begin to engage in self-censorship, suppressing any doubts they harbour about courses of action that the group seems intent on adopting. Latent disagreements may thus fail to surface, one result being that the members of the group come to believe they are unanimous when in reality they may not be. Meanwhile, the group is likely to become increasingly reluctant to engage with outsiders and to seek out information that might run counter to any emerging consensus. If unwelcome information does happen to come the group’s way, it is likely to be discounted or disregarded. Warning signs are ignored. The group at the same time fails to engage in rigorous reality-testing, with possible alternative courses of action not being realistically appraised.

And the following paragraph could have been written for our friend Professor Lewandowsky:

Group-think is also, in Janis’s view, liable to create “an illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all the members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages taking extreme risks”. Not least, those indulging in group-think are liable to persuade themselves that the majority of their opponents and critics are, if not actually wicked, then at least stupid, misguided and probably self-interested.

Denial, conspiracy ideation, extreme free-market adherents – add those to the list and we’re done! It continues:

Irving Janis’s own conception of group-think is tightly bounded. It refers only to situations in which members of a face-to-face group feel, consciously or subconsciously, a need to maintain the internal cohesion of the group. It is, in that sense, a purely psychological concept. But of course the notion of group-think can be extended and used more widely to refer to a variety of situations in which there exists such widespread agreement among the members of a group about the desirability of a given course of action that no threats to the group’s internal cohesion ever arise. Because there really are no dissenters in the group, no one in the group ever expresses dissent. There are no nay-sayers. Everyone is agreed. But such situations can be just as dangerous as the ones Janis describes. The decision-making processes associated with unforced agreement may be just as defective as the ones associated with suppressed dissent.

As Booker concludes:

[Janis’s] account of “the illusion of unanimity”, and how group-thinkers regard anyone daring to question their belief-system as an “enemy” to be discredited, superbly characterises the mentality of that small group of “climate scientists” at the heart of driving the warming scare. This was never more clearly brought home than by those Climategate emails, showing how they were ready to fiddle their data to promote what they themselves called “the cause”, and to suppress the views of any scientists they saw as a threat to their illusory “consensus”. We all casually use the term “group-think”, but I had not known how comprehensively Janis explains so much that is puzzling about this world we live in.

Perhaps Cook, Lew, Nuccitelli and the rest of the “consensus” crew should take a good, long, hard look in the mirror now and again, instead of applying pseudo-psychology to their critics.

Five Holiday Gifts for Skeptical Science readers

Skeptical Science has suggested some “gifts for skeptics” (i.e. proper skeptics, that is), so in the spirit of Christmas, here are ACM’s ideas for the warmist in your life:

The SkS Shredder

Inconvenient data? No problem with this shredder. Just watch the Medieval Warm Period disappear. Forget having to change your models to fit reality, simply change reality to fit your models! Nothing could be easier!



Escalator News

Skeptical Science loves escalators, so why not buy that special person a subscription to Elevator World?


Fascinating reading!

“ELEVATOR WORLD is the premier publication for the international building transportation industry and has been publishing the latest news, newest innovations, imperative safety issues, current code requirements, events coverage and accessibility, legal and maintenance issues since January 1953.”

And don’t worry, it has plenty about escalators as well!

Print edition, just $125. Order here.

The Skeptical Science Consensus Calculator

Do you need to keep repeating the fake statistic that 97% of scientists agree with the consensus on global warming, when in reality the figure is barely half that? Well, now your troubles are over with the new Consensus Calculator. Specially designed, this clever device will ensure you only get the result you want, every time.

Easy peasy!

Easy peasy!

Karl Popper – The Logic of Scientific Discovery

Why not find out what real scientists do by reading on of the essential texts on the scientific method. A lot of this will come as a shock to Skeptical Science readers, so best read it sitting down. It’s even available on Kindle, so do yourselves a favour and work out the difference between science and propaganda.

Get ready for a roller coaster ride, folks!

A real page turner for warmists

And finally, to show that special person how much you care…

Yes, it’s the new I “heart” Lew mug. Lovingly crafted and designed, this gift will really send the right message…


Show him you love him…

Available from the ACM Cafepress shop here, a bargain at just $15.99.

Merry Christmas!

Lewandowsky forgets who funds his university: the Aussie taxpayer

Cook 'n' Lew

Cook ‘n’ Lew

UPDATE: Another article in Psychological Science claims that critics of Lewandowsky’s work were:

“invited to submit a commentary for publication in Psychological Science, but never acted on that invitation.”

I for one have never been invited to make such a comment, and I’m still waiting… (h/t Geoff in the comments)

Astonishingly, Professor Stephan Lewandowsky appears to have completely forgotten that, being on the staff at the University of Western Australia (UWA), he was paid out of the public purse, contributed to by my (and all other Australians’) taxpayer dollars, and as a consequence must accept that his work is subject the Freedom of Information (FoI) regime in force in Australia.

If he wishes to avoid such scrutiny, he should find a job in the private sector, which is not subject to the same rules, but where he would have to compete in the market for funding for his peculiar brand of research. Yeah, right, good luck with that.

Clearly peeved at his last few papers being ripped to shreds by the blogosphere, Prof Stephan Lewandowsky jumps the shark (with the willing assistance of Michael Mann) in his latest screed, lashing out at sceptics in all directions like a cornered dog. You know you’re pushing the right buttons when they resort to these kinds of hysterical outbursts of paranoia.

Entitled The Subterranean War on Science, Lew and Mann whine and whinge about all those nasty bloggers and sceptics (like me) who act up because they are sick and tired of being labelled as mentally deranged. Here’s a hint – stop demonising your ideological opponents, and maybe you wouldn’t get so many complaints and FoI requests. But let’s face it – that isn’t going to happen in a hurry, so Lew digs himself in deeper, labelling FoI requests as “vexatious” and constituting “harassment”.

The paper states, in relation to such FoI requests (by ACM):

During the last 9 months, the first author has been subject to numerous requests for correspondence and other documents, including trivial pedantry such as the precise time and date stamps of blog posts. In a paradoxical twist, accusations of impropriety were launched against the first author when an FOI-release confirmed that inconvenient research (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013) was conducted with ethics approval. The allegations — by bloggers unaccountable to any form of review or ethical scrutiny — cited the fact that ethics approval was granted expeditiously (for details, see Lewandowsky, Cook, et al., 2013). 

Taking those two claims in turn:

Trivial pedantry

The “trivial pedantry” which Lewandowsky casually brushes off was actually a perfectly valid attempt to work out whether Lewandowsky backdated a blog post on Shaping Tomorrow’s World in order to falsely claim priority on outing the identity of bloggers contacted as part of the research for the original “moon landing denier” paper. Steve McIntyre deals with this issue in great detail here. Personally, I wouldn’t call this either trivial or pedantic, when the claim to priority was not just published on a blog, but was then repeated in a second “academic” paper by Lewandowsky, the sole purpose of which was to prop up the conclusions of the first.

Ethics approval

As regards the ethical approval for the moon landing denier paper, I provide the documents released under the FoI which relate to this claim here (PDF, 4MB). These documents also contain the emails from Charles Hanich to various blogs.

Beginning on page 37 of the file is the original ethics approval submitted by Lewandowsky on 12 December 2009. That approval was for a project entitled “Understanding Statistical Trends”, the purpose of which was stated thus:

“The project seeks to explore people’s understanding of statistical trends in time-series data. If we are monitoring a stock price, what do we think will happen to it in the future?

Participants will be shown simple graphs of time series (samples enclosed) and will make predictions about the future trends.”

Approval for this project was given on 21 December 2009 (p 35).

However, on 12 August 2010, Lewandowsky emails Kate Kirk in the UWA ethics department in the following terms (p29):

Dear Kate,

I am writing to seek approval for an amendment to the procedure for RA/4/1/4007. In a nutshell, I want to administer the survey not in person but via the internet using professional survey software (e.g., or equivalent.) [a]

As before, completion of the survey will be taken to constitute consent, and as before a variant of the approved information sheet will be shown before the survey commences.

The survey will be modified slightly as follows,

(1) The graphical extrapolation task is removed [b]

(2) In addition to the already-approved items, some further questions will be presented that are enclosed in this email. [c]

»Note that the scale “H&G&Kahan” already has UWA approval under a different project (RA/4/1/4054).

»The remaining two scales, “BCTI” and “Happ&Sat” have both been used extensively in previous research elsewhere.

»To satisfy constraints of the Web software, some items may need to be reworded or altered; however, the enclosures accurately describe the thrust of the questionnaires.

(3) In all other respects, the approved procedure remains unchanged [d] except that it is administered via internet, with consent again being expressed by completion of the electronic questionnaire.

(4) Participants will be recruited by posting links at relevant websites (e.g., or science-oriented “biogs”).

[a] – It is highly disingenuous to suggest that merely using survey software was the amendment “in a nutshell”, as can be seen from the following.

[b] – The graphical extrapolation task comprised the core of the original project, a point which is clear from its name: Understanding statistical trends.

[c] – “Some further questions”, dropped in casually as almost an afterthought, essentially redefines the project to introduce the conspiracy ideation element which eventually caused the reaction it did when the moon landing denier paper was published.

[d] – Translation: Move along, nothing to see here.

Despite all these red flags, Kate Kirk approved these amendments within 24 hours, to the amazement of Lewandowsky himself, who clearly couldn’t believe his luck, writing back (p27):

“Wow, thanks for the quick approval.”

If that wasn’t enough, Lewandowsky slips in yet another sneaky request:

Would it be possible to mention only my assistant’s name, Charles Hanich, on the online survey (with full contact d etails, plus the usual HREC address of course}? The reason for this is that I have been writing on the climate issue in public (e.g.,}, and my name alone routinely elicits frothing at the mouth by various people (e.g.,, not to mention the hate mail I receive. Because I am interested in soliciting opinions also from those folks, I would like to withhold my name from the survey as I fear it might contaminate responding.

Lew is clearly aware that anyone seeing his name would realise that he would be attempting to stitch up the “deniers” so excludes his name from the survey. Once again, this was jokingly waved through by Kate Kirk in about five minutes:

Hi Steve, Yes, fine for you to leave your name off as long as the standard complaints paragraph and contact details are there. I look forward to receiving the hate mail. I’ll let you know if I get any. Kate

So the ethics department at the UWA saw no problems with any of the above. None. Despite the fact that the eventual project was entirely different from that for which ethics approval was originally sought, there was no requirement for a resubmission of the application, with significant amendments simply waved through. The irony is that none of this would have come to light had Lewandowsky not used the research to demean his ideological opponents and insinuate that they were suffering from some kind of psychological condition. Unfortunately, he did, and provoked the ire of a very large number of people. All of it on taxpayers’ money.

Given the above, Lewandowsky has no cause for complaint whatsoever at the FoI requests, which were anything but vexatious, all of which makes his latest paper all the more tragic and desperate.

I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions from the documents themselves – LINK HERE.

US: Conservatives “more open-minded” on climate

Which one wears the blinkers?

Which one wears the blinkers?

Hang on a minute – we all know that it’s the Right that are the ideological climate “deniers”? Stephan Lewandowsky has made an entire career out of claiming that free marketeers are more likely to be conspiracy theorists, correct?*

Well hold on to your hats, folks, because guess what, a study in the US has found precisely the opposite, namely that Democrats and liberals (i.e. the Left) are the blinkered ones. Who’d’a thunk it?

While politics affects both parties’ prescriptions for energy and the environment, a look at the data suggests that Democrats and liberals are far more likely to have their ideological blinders on. In our poll of 1,000 Californians, Democrats and liberals were more likely to give incorrect, highly unlikely, or intensely ideological responses to a set of basic questions about energy and environmental policy than were independents, conservatives, and Republicans.

Such a result should not be entirely surprising. The Democratic party’s electoral majority is currently sustained by low-information voters and people who are unlikely to be persuaded by data that contradicts their own political narrative. In the Golden State Poll, which had both internal and external question reviewers to minimize bias, several interesting results emerged that reinforced the idea of a liberal information gap.

Taken as a whole, the Golden State poll suggests that many liberals have a deeply ideological view of energy and climate and policy, one in which certain “truths” must be accepted to show one’s moral virtue while genuinely inconvenient truths are ignored. Conservatives, always appropriately skeptical of liberal utopianism, have reacted against that by redoubling their skepticism. While the media and liberal politicians attack them, conservatives know that it is hard to have a rational argument with a fanatic about the subject of his fanaticism.

On energy and climate, the Democrats’ political and policy ignorance needs to be exposed for what it is: self-contradictory, incoherent, and yes, unscientific.

Read it allh/t Judith Curry


* Actually, check out Michael Mann’s twitter feed, and you’ll see the name Koch appear a remarkable number of times. Who’s the conspiracy theorist now, Mike?

Lewandowsky and UWA – Freedom of Information Documents

More Lew paper

More Lew paper

I am providing a download link to all the UWA FOI documents relating to Stephan Lewandowsky and the “Moon Landing denier” paper. If you haven’t followed this closely, you can check out the whole story here.

The FOIs were in two stages, the first focussed on the emails sent to “sceptic” blogs, and the second was more general in scope. The ZIP file contains two folders with the various documents from each.

Download HERE (.zip file, 95.7 MB).

The 97% Consensus

The climate Consensus isn’t that 97% of climate scientists or papers worship at the altar of the warmist religion, as Cook ‘n’ Lew would have you believe, kind of like the old Whiskas advert (“8 out of 10 owners, that expressed a preference [that proviso added by the lawyers, clearly], said their cats preferred it”), but is in fact…

… that 97% of climate models are wrong. In fact, it’s nearly 100%. Epic fail.

That's the only consensus there is…

That’s the only consensus there is…

How Cook ‘n’ Lew do science

Climate Clowns

Climate Clowns

Here’s a summary of the Scientific Method, according to John Cook & Stephan Lewandowsky:

Step 1: Develop a quasi-religious belief in a particular point of view (e.g. that human-caused emissions are causing dangerous climate change);

Step 2: Convince yourself that you are morally and intellectually superior to those who hold a different view, since your view is naturally “right” and “good”, and the other is “evil” and “bad”;

Step 3: Look for ways to caricature, demean, ostracise and ridicule your ideological opponents whilst at all times avoiding any rational discussion of the subject matter in dispute;

Step 4: Find some suitably catchy phrases, like “deniers are all conspiracy theory fruitcakes who think the Moon landing was faked” or “97% of scientific papers support the ‘consensus’ on global warming“, with which to frame the “research” and portray your opponents as fools;

Step 5: Beat, batter and torture whatever data you get until it fits said phrase;

Step 6: Use said phrase in the title of your paper so that MSM journalists, who never read anything beyond the title anyway, will do all the hard work for you (especially when one of your mates writes part of the story…!);

Step 7: Continue to pretend that the research is “impartial” and of the highest standard, despite the fact that the entire world and his dog is aware of the researchers’ firmly held beliefs and biases. How?  Mainly because they publish them every day on web sites.

Step 8: Sit back and wait for moonbat universities, governments and supposedly learned societies to award you great honours for doing such valuable “research“, and for the grants to flood in.

By the way, that whirring noise in the background is Karl Popper spinning in his grave.

Lewandowsky invents new pseudo-science of psycho-climatology™

Pseudo-science rules!

Pseudo-science rules!

Stephan Lewandowsky knows nothing about climatology, meteorology, geology, atmospheric physics or thermodynamics, but that trivial obstacle does not prevent him believing the alarmist consensus with such fervour that he uses his own “discipline” (if you can call it that) of psychology to label those who question said consensus as suffering from some kind of mental condition, his favourite label being “conspiracy theorist”.

If that wasn’t enough, however, Lewandowsky has also invented “recursive idiocy” by taking the above approach a step further, so that anyone who questions Lewandowsky’s psychological assessment is themselves branded a “conspiracy theorist” and the recursion goes on, presumably, ad infinitum. Seriously, I’m not making this up. And Lewandowsky is something called a “Winthop Professor” at the University of Western Australia. And a recipient of the UK Royal Society’s Wolfson Research Merit award. No, really.

By himself, Lewandowsky, with a bit of help from John Cook over at Un-Sk Ps-Sc, has invented the shiny new pseudo-science of psycho-climatology™, whereby scientific study and debate regarding the earth’s climate system is replaced by psychological demeaning of those with whom the learned professor (for a professor he is © Media Watch Dog) happens to disagree, on a subject about which he knows nothing.

Enough already. Just read Ben Pile’s majestic demolition of Lewandowsky and his pseudo-science psycho-climatology-babble here.

Lew & Cook: economical with the truth

Climate clowns.

Lew & Cook: climate clowns.

A retarded amoeba with a half-a-dozen neurons for a brain could see that the Lew & Cook conspiracy papers are a transparent attack on heretics of their AGW religion, and that they give junk science a bad name.

As a result of information obtained from FOI requests that ACM put in last year, Steve McIntyre posts a withering attack on their integrity:

Last fall, Geoff Chambers and Barry Woods established beyond a shadow of a doubt that no blog post linking to the Lewandowsky survey had ever been published at the Skeptical Science (SKS) blog. Chambers reasonably suggested at the time that the authors correct the claim in the article to reflect the lack of any link at the SKS blog. I reviewed the then available information on this incident in September 2012 here.

Since then, information obtained through FOI has shown that responses by both Lewandowsky and Cook to questions from Chambers and Woods were untrue. Actually, “untrue” does not really do justice to the measure of untruthfulness, as the FOI correspondence shows that the untruthful answers were given deliberately and intentionally. Chambers, in a post entitled Lewandowsky the Liar, minced no words in calling Lewandowsky “a liar, a fool, a charlatan and a fraud.”

Even though the untruthfulness of Lewandowsky and Cook’s stories had been clearly demonstrated by Geoff Chambers in a series of blog articles (e.g. here), in the published version of the Hoax paper, instead of correcting prior untrue claims about SKS, Lewandowsky doubled down, repeating and substantially amplifying the untrue claim.

I’m getting a little weary of giving this pair of clowns any more air time, but McIntyre’s (and others’) work exposing them is worth repeating.

Cook & Lew label senior Met Office climatologist a ‘conspiracy theorist’

Cook and Lew - twisted reality

Cook and Lew – twisted reality

UPDATE: Cook and Lew tie themselves in syntactical and grammatical knots  over at Un-Sk Ps-S trying to explain that they weren’t really calling Betts a conspiracy theorist…

In John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky’s twisted version of reality, anyone who disagrees with them is a conspiracy theorist.

So obsessed have they become with this piece of cheap psychobabble that they have written two papers about it, the second claiming that there was conspiracy theorising from sceptics in the responses to the first paper, which also accused sceptics of conspiracy theorising about climate change. Following me so far? [No – Ed]

In the Supplementary Information for the second paper (a PDF here – make sure you know where the zoom button is), Cook and Lew quote from a guy called Richard Betts, who left a comment at Bishop Hill, as follows:

The thing I don’t understand is, why didn’t they just make a post on sceptic blogs themselves, rather than approaching blog owners. They could have posted as a Discussion topic here at Bishop Hill without even asking the host, and I very much doubt that the Bish would have removed it. Climate Audit also has very light-touch moderation and I doubt whether Steve McIntyre would have removed such an unsolicited post. Same probably goes for many of the sceptic blogs, in my experience. So it does appear to that they didn’t try very hard to solicit views from the climate sceptic community. 

This is labelled  by the learned Professor and his Eureka-Prize-winning sidekick as an “excerpt espousing conspiracy theory” under the category of “Didn’t email deniers”.

So who is Richard Betts? I’ll give you a clue. He leads the “Climate Impacts area, specialising in ecosystem-hydrology-climate interactions but also overseeing work on urban, health, industry and finance” at the UK Met Office…!

Current activities

Richard is Head of the Climate Impacts strategic area, which includes climate impacts research and also the climate change consultancy unit.

The Met Office’s main role in climate impacts research is to facilitate a more integrated approach to the assessment of climate change impacts, in collaboration with specialists across the wider academic community. A large part of our impacts research, therefore, involves examining the interactions between different impacts areas, such as agriculture, natural ecosystems, water resources, glaciers, urban areas and human health.

Richard leads the impacts theme of the JULES community land surface modelling programme. This collaborative project forms part of UK-wide efforts to assess impacts in an internally-consistent manner. (full bio here)

He is also a Lead Author for IPCC AR4 WG1 and a Contributing Author for IPCC AR4 WG2… and Cook and Lew think he’s a climate conspiracy theorist. Bahahahahaha! Epic fail!

UPDATE: Thanks to Barry Woods for Richard’s Twitter response:

Lewandowsky et al clearly deluded!

More laughs to be had at the following sites:

Background to the Lew Papers is here.

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