Lewandowsky: UWA general counsel a Greenpeace supporter



Many complaints were filed at the University of Western Australia about the appalling research techniques employed in the Moon Landing Denier paper and the subsequent Recursive Idiocy paper, and yet the UWA has staunchly defended Lewandowsky, and has repeatedly refused to take any action against him.

In a recent post on Lewandowsky’s Shaping Tomorrow’s World blog, UWA general counsel, Kim Heitman, jokes about the ‘confected outrage’ of those making complaints about the Recursive Idiocy paper:

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

A little googling reveals (Webcite) where Heitman’s sympathies lie:

I support human rights and environmental activists and I am a supporting member of Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

I like to read news articles online, and subscribe to a number of news services including The New York Times [left – Ed],  The Guardian [very left – Ed], The Nation [oh, very left again – Ed], Al-Jazeera [oops, and again – Ed], Matilda [and yet again! – Ed] and The Onion.

No further comment required…

Hietman’s blog homepage is here.

Lew Paper: Dana’s catalogue of excuses

Dana's denial!

Dana’s denial!

LOL moment ahead! Dana is far more of a denier than any of those to whom he liberally applies that moniker. He denies reality itself.

An embargoed post on Un-Sk Ps-Sc, inadvertently published and captured by Google’s cache, lists all the reasons why Dana thinks the Lewandowsky paper ‘Recursive Fury‘ has allegedly been retracted (all links removed):

Given that fewer than 3 percent of peer-reviewed climate science papers conclude that the human influence on global warming is minimal, climate contrarians have obviously been unable to make a convincing scientific case.  Thus in order to advance their agenda of delaying climate solutions and maintaining the status quo in the face of a 97 percent expert consensus suggesting that this is a high-risk path, contrarians have engaged in a variety of unconventional tactics.

  • Funding a campaign to deny the expert climate consensus.
  • Harassing climate scientists and universities with frivolous Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • Engaging in personal, defamatory public attacks on climate scientists.
  • Flooding climate scientists with abusive emails.
  • Illegally hacking university servers and stealing their emails.
  • Harassing journals to retract inconvenient research.

That final tactic has evolved, from merely sending the journal a petition signed by a bunch of contrarians, to sending journals letters threatening libel lawsuits.  Unfortunately, this strategy has now succeeded.

Even after repeating (yet again) the oft-discredited 97% lie, Dana has unfortunately ignored [‘denied’ perhaps? – Ed] the real reason, staring everyone in the face:


The Moon-landing paper was the original lump of ordure, and Recursive Fury was that lump multiplied by itself.

On a tip from The Bish, who has more here.

A PDF of the page is here in case the cache is ‘disappeared’.

Cook ‘n’ Lew’s propaganda war

Propaganda war

Propaganda war

John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky, the Laurel and Hardy of pop climate psychology, are back with more self-serving consensus nonsense in The Conversation.

The question posed by the first article, “The truth is out there – so how do you debunk a myth?” seems to be answered by the response “replace it with a different myth”:

First and foremost, you need to emphasise the key facts you wish to communicate rather than the myth. Otherwise, you risk making people more familiar with the myth than with the correct facts.

That doesn’t mean avoid mentioning the myth altogether. You have to activate it in people’s minds before they can label it as wrong.

Secondly, you need to replace the myth with an alternate narrative. This is usually an explanation of why the myth is wrong or how it came about. Essentially, debunking is creating a gap in people’s minds (removing the myth) then filling that gap (with the correct explanation).

If you had to boil down all the psychological research into six words then it can be summed up as follows:

fight sticky ideas with stickier ideas.

Myths are persistent, stubborn and memorable. To dislodge a myth, you need to counter it with an even more compelling, memorable fact.

But Cook’s first ‘memorable fact’ is itself another myth. The 97% consensus figure is as meaningless as any other factoid. Nothing in that figure conveys the subtlety of the arguments in play – it’s a typical black/white result chosen to mislead. Putting aside all the statistical sleight of hand (which others have dealt with), even if we accept the conclusion, what does it tell us? That almost all papers conclude that the climate is changing and humans have an influence? Count me in.

What it doesn’t show is the range of views within that group – from those like me, who acknowledge the effect on climate but question its magnitude and the proposed response, to those like Cook ‘n’ Lew, who think there is no natural component to the recent warming, it’s all man-made, and we should wreck the global economy in a pointless gesture that won’t change a thing.

The second ‘memorable fact’ is simply misleading and emotive: the Hiroshima bombs analogy.

Global warming is a build up in heat. Greenhouse gases are trapping heat which is building up in our oceans, warming the land and air and melting ice. When scientists add up all the energy accumulating in our climate system, they find the heat build-up hasn’t slowed since 1998.

The greenhouse effect continues to blaze away. It turns out the laws of physics didn’t go on hiatus 16 years ago.

Creating a metaphor

To communicate this, we used a metaphor. We toyed with many metaphor ideas but found none able to conceptualise the heat build-up in a stickier manner more than this:

Since 1998, our planet has been building up heat at a rate of 4 Hiroshima A-bombs per second.

We released a website with an animated ticker widget to show how much heat our planet is building up each second. The widget, which can be freely embeded on other websites, also includes a number of other metrics such as the amount of energy in hurricane Sandy, an earthquake and a million lightning bolts.

This is intentionally and cynically misleading, since it plays on the ignorance of the general public as to the amounts of energy flowing into and out of the atmosphere. As pointed out in this post, 4 Hiroshima bombs per second is very small compared to the 1000 launched at us by the Sun every second. But your average man in the street wouldn’t know that. They would look at the destruction of Hiroshima and link that with the ‘destruction’ wrought upon the atmosphere.

Cook is then joined by Lew for another defence of the fake Consensus, this time against an attack from their own side. Mike Hulme argues that simply quoting figures (like the 97% fake consensus) has little influence on the political actions that are needed (or not) to deal with the problem (or lack of a problem). Cook and Lew disagree, naturally, since the fake Consensus is their baby:

The data we have just reviewed show otherwise: there is strong evidence that the public’s perception of an overwhelming scientific consensus is key to stimulating the constructive policy debate we should be having.

All of this is wrapped up in cliched comparisons with the tobacco lobby (whereas many do and will continue to die from lung cancer as a result of smoking, the planet is refusing to warm as expected despite increasing CO2 emissions; whereas stopping smoking will reduce your chance of dying from lung cancer, taxing CO2 will make no difference to climate change; etc etc) and the citing of fake data about the funding poured into the denial machine.

In case you haven’t noticed, this is all propaganda. It is about creating a consensus where none exists, in order to fool the public.

But, guys, it ISN’T WORKING. Despite all your desperate attempts to manufacture agreement, the Australian public (and around the world) are even more sceptical of the exaggerated and alarmist claims of extremist environmental groups, Western governments, the UN and the IPCC. The more you try, the worse it gets.

In other words, keep it up!

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., http://www.surveymonkey.com 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., http://www.uwa.edu.au/climatescience 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., http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2980286.htm}, and my name alone routinely elicits frothing at the mouth by various people (e.g., http://joannenova.com.au/2010/05/name-calling-fairy-dust-conspiracy-theorist/), 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?

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