Lewandowsky and Cook lose the plot

It's Lew, no it's Cook, no Lew, Cook, Lew, er, hang on...

It’s Lew, no it’s Cook, no Lew, Cook, Lew, er, hang on…

[UPDATE 3 [8 Feb, 07.30 AEST]: Jo Nova has more on Mr Hubble Marriott here.

[UPDATE 2 [7 Feb, 18.40 AEST]: This is all in the public domain now, so I am sharing it here. The fourth author on this paper, Michael Hubble-Marriott, is the “Mike” who is responsible for the Watching the Deniers site (sorry, what are we denying again? Duh). Mike couldn’t contain his glee at being asked to be part of the team, so he revealed it all on his blog. I guess you judge people by the company they keep…]

[UPDATE: John Cook responds in the comments below.]

It’s typical isn’t it? You take a break and then, well, stuff happens. But this particular ‘stuff’ is too good to pass up.

The University of Western Australia’s very own Nutty Professor, Stephan Lewandowsky, goes full-on stupid, with best buddy John Cook of Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science, by publishing another risible paper on the ludicrous “moon landing denier theory” previously discussed widely here and on the net (see here and here and here and here and plenty more).

But wait… This time, instead of labelling anyone daring to question any part of the climate consensus as a crazy conspiracy theorist, it’s anyone who questions Lewandowsky’s moon landing denier paper, who’s, er… a crazy conspiracy theorist.

It’s snappily entitled Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation, but what it actually represents isn’t recursive fury, but recursive idiocy: rational, if sometimes irritated, responses to an idiotic paper confected into yet another, this time doubly idiotic, paper. It’s bullshit squared, in other words.

So I assume that this post on ACM will be used as evidence to show that because I dare question this paper, I am (yet again) a crazy conspiracy theorist – and Lew will write a paper about that in due course. Will it ever end? [No – Ed]

Here’s part of the abstract:

This article analyzes the response of the climate blogosphere to the publication of LOG12 [shorthand for the ‘moon landing denier paper’]. We identify and trace the hypotheses that emerged in response to LOG12 and that questioned the validity of the paper’s conclusions. Using established criteria to identify conspiracist ideation, we show that many of the hypotheses exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking. For example, whereas hypotheses were initially narrowly focused on LOG12, some ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors of LOG12, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. The overall pattern of the blogosphere’s response to LOG12 illustrates the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science, although alternative scholarly interpretations may be advanced in the future.

No acknowledgement of the multitude of obvious failures in the original paper’s methodology, just more of the same ideology, plugged as science.

The full text is here (PDF). I’m proud to say that this humble blog gets three mentions – I will wear those mentions as a badge of honour.

I can’t be arsed (or assed for our American readers) to bother even reading it let alone wasting my time responding (I used the search function in my PDF app to find out where ACM was mentioned, by the way), it’s so laughable. I’ll leave it to the incomparable Ben Pile at Climate Resistance to eviscerate this latest steaming heap of ‘research’:

I have little interest in parsing the 57 pages of the new paper [yep, with you there, bro], to get the measure of the remainder of what Lewandowsky believes are conspiracy theories. It seems sufficient to say that, whether or not the comments in question do betray a tendency of the authors towards conspiracy theorising, they were a response to a poorly-conceived research exercise which was transparently intended to frame the debate as one between science on the one hand, and idology/conspiracy theorists on the other. If the internet has a gutter, in which thrive conspiracy theories and pointless interminable flame wars between people who have little grasp on the real world, Lewandowsky’s work is amongst it.

But what is remarkable, however, is that seemingly academic research should have fallen to this level. Lewandowsky reduces academia to a silly blog comment war. He drags journals, and research organisations into this war, undermining the value of research in general and trust in it. The thrust of Lewandowsky’s paper is ‘I picked a fight on the Internet, and this is what people said about me’, which, of course, omits any criticism of his work that may enable him to develop a better argument.

And that’s the point. Lewandowsky’s research is intended to reduce the phenomenon of ‘scepticism’ and ‘denial’ without taking any notice of what sceptics say, except when it confirms to the stereotype Lewandowsky wants to demonstrate the existence of. No doubt that’s a ‘conspiracy theory’ on his view, but the truth is much simpler: either his mediocre talents aren’t sufficient for the critical self-reflection necessary to produce robust research, or an inflated ego precludes critical self-reflection.

Ultimately, ‘research’ of this kind will bring the academy down with it, because drawing attention to, and publishing Lewandowsky’s work means demonstrating to the world the fact that quite often, academic researchers are as petty-minded, ‘idologically-motivated’, and pig ignorant as the worst of online commentary.

Are you hearing this, UWA?

Equating climate sceptics with paedophiles is fine at the ABC


Offensive: Williams

You will recall the story recently where ABC “science” presenter Robyn Williams opened a programme on climate “denial” with the following:

“What if I told you that paedophilia is good for children, or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthma, or that smoking crack is a normal part, and healthy one, of teenage life, and to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths, again and again in recent times distorting the science.”

Lewandowsky got in on the act as well, naturally. I guess he’d be the go-to guy for people like Williams looking for an easy smear quote:

“I discovered that those people [sceptics] were not sceptical at all. They were rejecting the science, not on the basis of evidence but some other factor. We basically found that the driving motivating factor behind the rejection of climate science was people’s ideology or personal worldview.


Specifically what we find it that people who are endorsing an extreme view of market fundamentalism are likely to reject climate science.”

You forgot to mention that they also deny the moon landings took place, or that smoking is linked to cancer, or HIV linked to AIDS, or that the sun revolves around a (flat) earth – you’re slipping.

Former chairman of the ABC, Maurice Newman, like many of us, was incensed by these comments and lodged a formal complaint. Especially since an article he had written a while beforehand was referred to specifically in the segment.

And the result?

“ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs have carefully considered the complaint, reviewed the program and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial standards for harm and offence which state in part: 7.1 Content that is likely to cause harm or offence must be justified by the editorial context.

“ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs have also sought and considered a response from ABC Radio. Audience and Consumer Affairs have concluded that there has been no breach of the ABC’s editorial standards for harm and offence. (source)

What a surprise! No groupthink there, right? So the next time a filthy “denier” equates climate alarmists like Williams to paedophiles (not that “deniers” ever get invited on to ABC except to be ritually humiliated and ridiculed), and the complaints come flooding in, the ABC will dismiss them too?

Newman responds in an op-ed:

Ordinarily it should be unnecessary to object to such appalling commentary. It should have been automatically withdrawn. But no. An ABC response used sophistry to satisfy itself “that the presenter Robyn Williams did not equate climate change sceptics to pedophiles”. Tell that to his listeners.

Global warming is today more about politics than it is about science. If flawed evidence fails, coercion and character assassination is deployed. No slur is too vicious, nor, as we saw with the BBC’s 2006 seminar of the “best scientific experts”, which despite strenuous attempts to resist freedom of information requests were finally revealed to be mainly NGOs and journalists, no deceit is too great.

Lubos Motl, a climate commentator and string theory physicist, said about the ABC’s Science Show: “We used to hear some remotely similar (Czech) propaganda programs until 1989 … but the public radio and TV simply can’t produce programs that would be this dishonest, manipulative, hateful and insulting any more”.

This is not the first time I have provoked the public wrath of the ABC’s climate change clique, but it is the first time I have publicly responded to it. It is important that I do. (source)

One thing we can be absolutely sure of: nothing at the taxpayer-funded broadcaster will change an inch.

You can download PDFs of the two stories here and here.

Lewandowsky on IPCC leak

At it again…

At it again…

UPDATE: A commenter jokingly suggests below that Lew should “see a shrink”, but the strange thing is that he ticks several of the boxes for the psychological characteristic of narcissism, including:

  • Magical thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.
  • Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.
  • Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person’s ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.
  • Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an “awkward” or “difficult” person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.

I will leave it to readers to decide…

Stephan Lewandowsky weighs in with his usual tact and diplomacy on the IPCC leak, spraying the D-word around like confetti:

“Science is one of the most transparent endeavours humans have ever developed. However, for the transparency to be effective, preliminary documents ought to remain confidential until they have been improved and checked through peer review,” he said in an emailed comment.

“The leak of a draft report by a reviewer who has signed a statement of confidentiality is therefore regrettable and dishonourable.”

“However, what is worse than the leak itself is the distortion of the content of the draft chapter by some deniers,” he said.

Prof Lewandowsky said that the report’s statement that humans have caused global warming was a “virtual certainty” meant it’s [sic] authors had 99% confidence in that view.

“That’s up from ‘very high confidence’ (90% certain) in the last report published in 2007,” he said.  [Hey Stephan:  How, specifically, were those 90% and 99% numbers calculated?  What, specifically, changed between 2007 and now that accounts for the alleged 90% reduction in uncertainty?]

“In other words, the scientific case has become even stronger and has now reached a level of confidence that is parallelled only by our confidence in some very basic laws of physics, such as gravity or thermodynamics.”

To claim otherwise by cherry-picking part of a sentence out of context is absurd, he said.

“Although it illustrates the standard approach by which climate deniers seek to confuse the public. Climate denial lost intellectual respectability decades ago, and all that deniers have left now is to misrepresent, distort, or malign the science and the scientific process.” (h/t Tom Nelson via WUWT)

Nowhere in Lewandowsky’s world is there ever any hint of doubt, uncertainty, contrition or scepticism about his own beliefs. He’s right on everything – always.

This is evident from the UWA FOI emails (on which more will follow in due course) where the many emails of complaint to the University about his recent work are dismissed in the same cavalier manner as any legitimate questioning of the alarmists’ position on climate.

Commenting on one particular blog article critical of the Moon Landing Denier paper, the Deputy VC at UWA, Robyn Owens, emails Lewandowsky:

“The sooner we get Critical Thinking 101 back to being a compulsory unit for all university students (and the rest of the population) the better!”

To which Lewandowsky responds:

“These folks are beyond educable.”

Funny thing is that the more Lewandowsky, John Cook and others like them insult, demean and belittle their ideological opponents, the more those opponents will dig in and fight back.

Freedom of Information Update

FOI update

Lewandowsky – Universtiy of Western Australia

Graham Readfearn complains at DeSmogBlog that climate bloggers including myself are:

“using FOI to rifle through scientists’ daily emails.

[FOI] is a law which appears to have been hijacked by climate science sceptics and free market think tanks as a means to rifle through their inboxes in search of anything which, when taken out of context, might be used to make them look bad.”

This has resulted in a release this week of more than 300 pages of correspondence, although the applicant, “Australian Climate Madness” blogger Simon Turnill, has yet to publish the files. Lewandowsky said:

“There will have been easily more than 100 person hours of publicly-funded time spent dealing with this request, which cost the applicant only $30 to submit – although I understand there was an charge of $400. Putting in FOI requests seems to be common practice now. There is no question in my mind that the intent is to intimidate and slow down research. These kinds of requests discourage scientists from doing their work.”

Yes, it cost me over $400, and like anyone else I am fully entitled to apply for documents under the Freedom of Information Act without having to give any justification, because I was curious to see how such a piece of research was ever agreed to by University of WA’s ethics department.

And no, the intention was never to “intimidate and slow down research”, it is to subject academics who vilify sceptics to proper scrutiny. I have only ever submitted FOI requests when a highly questionable claim is made in the mainstream media, as was the case here, namely that sceptics believed the moon landings were faked. In total, I have submitted just four FOI requests in two and a half years on just two news stories – hardly what can be regarded as vexatious.

Lewandowsky obviously forgets that our taxes (including mine) pay his salary. When he uses his publicly funded position to launch highly politicised attacks on those he disagrees with, thinly disguised as academic research, then there are likely to be people who find that offensive.

As to why the documents have not been published, it is because there are a number of key emails between Professor Lewandowsky and a significant third party which have been withheld because of the third party’s objection. I am awaiting the release of those documents in due course, following which I will be commenting further on them.

As an aside, I must mention that the FOI department at the University of Western Australia has been exemplary in its handling of this matter.

Death threats – Melbourne University

Readfearn correctly states that I recently received emails under an FOI from Melbourne University. Once again, the “non-death threats” story made the mainstream media throughout the world. It is entirely proper for such claims to be backed up by documentary evidence. Emails received from the ANU showed that whilst there was abuse, there were no death threats. In other words, the FOI was justified in providing a proper background to the story which the mainstream media failed to provide.

As with the UWA, I must give Melbourne University credit for the professional manner in which the request was dealt with. Both it and the University of Western Australia are in stark contrast to the handling of the FOI request by ANU, which was initially refused, forcing me to appeal to the Information Commissioner.

I am still working on these, but guess what? The worst I can find is: “Die you lying bastard”. Unpleasant and distressing? Certainly. A death threat? Certainly not.

More importantly, however, one of the scientists involved, a prominent name in climate circles, even admits that the timing of the death threats story was a “media beat up”, and that there was no evidence of a “conspiracy” by sceptics to intimidate climate scientists.

What do you make of that, Graham?

ABC: institutionalised bias

Faine and Williams

Two stories, taken together, demonstrate beyond any shadow of doubt, that the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) is a mouthpiece for Labor, the Left in general and the Green agenda. OK, you’re saying, tell me something I didn’t know. Yes, yes, true, but these two examples perfectly encapsulate the blatant and institutionalised bias of the ABC ,which flies in the face of its legal obligations as an impartial public broadcaster, but somehow it escapes any sanction for doing so.

Story Number 1 – Julia Gillard and the Australian Workers Union

Overseas readers will have to bear with me for a little while. This story concerns our (sub-) Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in the days when she was a lefty lawyer in a lefty law firm in Melbourne in the 1990s. She helped to establish an incorporated association through the bank accounts of which a union official, who was also her boyfriend at the time, siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal benefit. Gillard managed to have two journalists who dared raise this issue sacked – Glenn Milne of The Australian and Michael Smith, a radio presenter who now blogs at Michael Smith News (and, I must add, is on a personal crusade to get to the very bottom of this shady period in Gillard’s past – add a bookmark).

There are plenty of questions for Gillard to answer, but at the moment, she’s using the stonewalling technique, alternating with the amnesia defence. The Opposition here is pushing Gillard hard for answers, as the issue goes to the heart of her credibility and integrity – and suitability for the high office of Prime Minister.

The ABC refused to even mention this story until this week, despite it having been rumbling on for several months. Emails of complaint were met with brick walls and a bizarre inability to accept that the story even existed! I personally thought journalists were supposed to ask tricky questions, but in the case of the ABC I assume that they should ask such questions only when it’s not something bad for Labor.

On Thursday of this week, Jon Faine, presenter on Melbourne’s Morning show, did his very best to defend Gillard and Labor against these charges. As the ABC blog notes:

Mornings host Jon Faine has had it with a long-running media campaign casting aspersions about Julia Gillard and her alleged role in establishing a union slush fund. He lays into the journalists who continue to push the story, and raises doubts about whether information from former unionist Ralph Blewitt is likely to produce any evidence.

Jon “has had it” – in other words, he cannot abide the fact that his beloved PM may have some awkward questions to answer, and instead pretends that there’s nothing to see and the main witness has no credibility. You have to listen to it to get the full picture. Following this tirade, Michael Smith contacted the show and asked for a right of reply. He got it the next day. Once again, you have to listen to it to fully appreciate the the contempt in Faine’s voice – he was formerly a lawyer at the same firm – no conflict of interest there, clearly – and thinks he knows something about the law.

So here we have an ABC presenter, paid by the public broadcaster, out of taxpayer funds, who has no interest in impartial reporting but simply defending Gillard and Labor. Faine is just beyond belief. The whole thing is breathtaking.

Story Number 2 – Robyn Williams links climate sceptics to paedophiles and crack dealers

Robyn Williams is the presenter of the Science Show on ABC Radio National and has a long list of form of defaming and smearing sceptics (see here). Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychology professor from the University of Western Australia, has similar form for smearing sceptics, most recently equating them with fruitcakes who believe the moon landings were faked. He also works closely with John Cook of Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science so it’s hardly news that he and Williams are best mates.

“What if I told you that paedophilia is good for children, or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthma, or that smoking crack is a normal part, and healthy one, of teenage life, and to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths, again and again in recent times distorting the science.

[Quoting The Economist magazine on the US election] It was a telling moment of denial. Much like the comforting myth that there is no such thing as climate change, or if there is, humans are not involved. Ensconced in a parallel world of conservative news sources and conservative arguments, all manner of comforting alternative visions of reality surfaced during the 2012 election. Many […] involved having to think about unwelcome things, often basic science or economics.”

Lewandowsky is then wheeled in:

“I discovered that those people [sceptics] were not sceptical at all. They were rejecting the science, not on the basis of evidence but some other factor. We basically found that the driving motivating factor behind the rejection of climate science was people’s ideology or personal worldview.


Specifically what we find it that people who are endorsing an extreme view of market fundamentalism are likely to reject climate science.”

I can’t bear to transcribe any more. It’s too painful. You can listen here (if you dare). This, of course, is the moon landing denier paper, rearing its ugly head again for the sympathetic Williams, who will accept it all as evidence of the fact that sceptics are bonkers – and of similar standing to crack dealers and paedophiles.

Once again, it is the same crude characterisation of sceptics as anti-science deniers that we have heard countless times by Williams and Lewandowsky.

All at the taxpayers expense.

Lewandowsky: ethical considerations for "moon landing denier" paper

Ethical dilemma

UPDATE 2 [Tuesday 16 October]: Further research has unearthed the specific procedure for amending an ethics approval at UWA. It can be found here. It states, inter alia:

When would a new ethics application be required?

Should a request for an amendment propose a significant change to the procedures and ethical implications of a project, the applicant may be required to submit a new Human Research Ethics Application to the HREO.

In such cases, a new human research ethics project will be established with a new project reference number.

The amendments proposed in the email of 12 August 2010 would have constituted a “significant change to the procedures and ethical implications” especially given the approval had already been used for an earlier piece of research. The policy in force at the time of the amendment (see here) are less specific, and only require a request to be in writing, however, the old policy still anticipates that if significant changes are made to procedures and ethical implications:

“the amendments will be referred to the full Human Research Ethics Committee, which could request the resubmission of an application form.”

UPDATE [Monday 15 October]: The “first” paper – dealing with interpretation of graphical data – is in fact no longer “in press” but was published in the journal Psychological Science as far back in April of 2011. Abstract is here. The paper states that the survey was completed during February 2010, seven months prior to the request for the amendment. Note that in the email, he states: “I want to administer THE survey not in person but via the internet”. The truth is, however, THE survey had already been completed and the paper written.

The Freedom of Information documents received recently from the University of Western Australia (and discussed here) suggest that Prof Lewandowsky submitted a substantial amendment to an existing Ethics Committee (“EC”) approval, which had already been used for one study, in order to use it for the now infamous “moon landing denier” paper (see here).

The amendment was approved by an administrative officer in the EC in less than 24 hours, and I currently have an email in to the head of UWA’s Ethics Office with a number of questions regarding the conduct of the approval of the amendment. The text of the email is reproduced at the end of this post.

However, notwithstanding the above, I have spent a little time researching the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (which can be found here). The introduction provides some background to the Statement’s purpose:

The purpose of this National Statement is to promote ethically good human research. Fulfilment of this purpose requires that participants be accorded the respect and protection that is due to them. It also involves the fostering of research that is of benefit to the community.

The National Statement is therefore designed to clarify the responsibilities of:

  • institutions and researchers for the ethical design, conduct and dissemination of results of human research; and
  • review bodies in the ethical review of research.

The National Statement will help them to meet their responsibilities: to identify issues of ethics that arise in the design, review and conduct of human research, to deliberate about those ethical issues, and to justify decisions about them. 

In the introduction, the Statement discusses the basic principles which apply to ethical considerations in research involving humans:

[…] the values of respect, research merit and integrity, justice, and beneficence have become prominent in the ethics of human research in the past six decades, and they provide a substantial and flexible framework for principles to guide the design, review and conduct of such research.  

In section 1.1, Values and Principles of Ethical Conduct, we find the following with regard to “merit and integrity”:

Research that has merit is:


(d) designed to ensure that respect for the participants is not compromised by the aims of the research, by the way it is carried out, or by the results;


Section 1.6 deals with “beneficence”:

The likely benefit of the research must justify any risks of harm or discomfort to participants. The likely benefit may be to the participants, to the wider community, or to both. 

Section 2.1 deals in more detail with Risk and Benefit, and the following extract is from the section “Harm, discomfort and inconvenience”:

Research may lead to harms, discomforts and/or inconveniences for participants and/or others.

No list of harms can be exhaustive, but one helpful classification identifies the following kinds of potential harms in research:

  • […]
  • devaluation of personal worth: including being humiliated, manipulated or in other ways treated disrespectfully or unjustly;
  • […]

The next consideration is:

Do the benefits justify the risks?

Research is ethically acceptable only when its potential benefits justify any risks involved in the research.

Benefits of research may include, for example, gains in knowledge, insight and understanding, improved social welfare and individual wellbeing, and gains in skill or expertise for individual researchers, teams or institutions.

The UWA Ethics Office web site links the duties of researchers at UWA to the terms of the National Statement:

The ethical conduct of research involving humans is governed by a number of guidelines and by legislation. In particular, the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research embodies the key values, principles and guidelines for the design and conduct of human research.

The University, and its staff and student researchers, must comply with the principles and guidelines contained in the National Statement when designing and conducting human research.

Does the research raise questions regarding “respect”? Given Prof Lewandowsky is on the record, well prior to the research being carried out, that he was of the opinion that climate scepticism was linked to far-fetched conspiracy theory ideation (see here), it could be argued that there was a substantial risk of humiliation or disrespectful treatment of participants, given that it may be argued that the intention of the research was to make that link – which in itself is objectively demeaning (either to the participants or a subset of the “wider community”). Even if it did not reach the threshold for “harm” could be regarded at least as a “discomfort”.

The emails to “sceptical blogs” stated:

” … I am seeking your assistance with a web-based survey of attitudes towards climate science (and other sciences) and skepticism [sic]. The survey has been approved by the University’s ethics committee and carries no risks for participants.”

We will see what kind of approval the survey received in due course, no doubt.

What benefits did the research provide? Evidence that climate sceptics have a psychological inability to accept climate science, linked to an acceptance of wacky conspiracy theories? It would be easy to reach the conclusion that the purpose of the research was simply to confirm a belief already held and portray sceptics in a negative light, in order to make a political point.

This conclusion is lent weight by the close association between Prof Lewandowsky and the Skeptical Science web site, which is well known for ridiculing and demeaning anyone (including respected atmospheric and climatic scientists) who questions any part of the AGW consensus. Examples of the tone employed include sections entitled “Lindzen’s Illusions”, referring to MIT Professor Richard Lindzen, “Spencer Slip-Ups”, referring to Dr Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, Huntsville to name but two.

As it turns out, there were only 10 responses out of over 1100 that either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the moon landings had been faked, and six of those also accepted the alarmist consensus on AGW. [In reality, of course, they were probably mostly fake response from “believers” wanting to assist with Lewandowsky’s effort – seriously, who in their right mind honestly believes the moon landings were staged? – Ed]

I consider that the above does not represent an appropriate benefit from supposedly impartial academic research.

I therefore suggest that the nature of the study, as understood from the final paper itself, would raise sufficient concerns regarding the criteria set out in the National Statement to require considerable evidence to demonstrate that they were not, in fact, sufficiently serious to warrant the study not taking place. The EC may, of course, have imposed special conditions on the approval, had a full review process taken place.

I further suggest that such a study, being as it was of a substantially different nature to that originally proposed, would require a fresh application to the EC at UWA, giving full details of the survey and the methodology to be applied. The casual email amendment to an existing approval (which, it appears, had already been used for another, different, paper) would be likely to be regarded as an inappropriate manner in which to seek ethical approval.

The email sent to the Ethics Office is as follows, and the response received will hopefully illuminate some of the questions above. If a response is not forthcoming, a further FoI request will be submitted for documentary evidence to show the what review of the amendment took place.

I have recently been provided a copy of the above document and various related correspondence via a Freedom of Information request to UWA.
I have some follow-up questions, which I would be grateful if you would address:
1. The original proposal provided by Prof Lewandowsky to the Committee in December 2009 related to a project entitled “Understanding Statistical Trends”. The approval relating to that proposal was RA/4/1/4007. It appears that the paper, Popular consensus: Climate change set to continue, follows from the specific research authorised by that approval. Is that correct?
2. Ethics approval for the paper that was the subject of my FoI request, NASA faked the moon landing—therefore (climate) science is a hoax: An anatomy of the motivated rejection of science, was sought not by a fresh application, but by an amendment to the existing approval above. Please would you kindly explain why it was not necessary for Prof Lewandowsky to submit a fresh application to the Ethics Committee, given that the nature of the paper and the methodology to be employed was substantially different from the first?
3. Prof Lewandowsky submitted the request for an amendment to the approval by email to Kate Kirk on 12 August 2010, for which approval was granted by her by email the following day. What form did the ethics review of that amendment take?
4. The amendments proposed by Prof Lewandowsky altered the nature of the research to such an extent that even the Title and Aim of the research (as set out in the original approval) were rendered wholly inaccurate, since no amendment was proposed to those sections by Prof Lewandowsky in his email. Why was Prof Lewandowsky not required to make consequential amendments to the approval so that the approval was at least internally consistent and made some sense in the context of the new research to be carried out?
5. Is it considered normal practice at UWA to amend an ethics approval granted for one project in order to use it for a second, entirely different, project? If so, how is this abridged process carried out to ensure that ethical considerations are fully understood and examined prior to subsequent approval, especially where there are such wholesale changes to the original? If not, why was Prof Lewandowsky permitted to use this course of action in order to seek approval for the second paper without going through the full ethics procedure procedure?

Lewandowsky FoI: substantial last minute changes to project waved through by UWA Ethics Committee

UPDATE: Bizarrely, a paper exists which is roughly in accordance with the original ethics application:

“In a large experiment, participants extrapolated global climate data, presented graphically either as share prices or temperatures.” (Link)

So it looks (allegedly) as if Lewandowsky, having completed the paper for which the approval was sought, submitted an amendment to that same ethics application in order to then use it a second time for a completely different paper.

As a result of my recent Freedom of Information request to the University of Western Australia, I have received copies of emails between Prof Lewandowsky and various blogs in connection with the “moon landing denier” paper survey (which I will deal with at a later date), and also the correspondence regarding the application to the university’s Ethics Committee (“EC”).

This latter document reveals that the project was substantially altered at the last minute, and the alteration was waved through by the EC in less than 24 hours.

This is a long post, so click through to read. [Read more…]

Lewandowsky YouTube video

UPDATE [30 September]: Video appears broken. Still on YouTube, but black screen… mysterious. No – problem with browser – sorry! But we and WUWT did manage to make the video (and another related one by the Lew) The Conversation’s most watched video, with over 4500 views. Next one down is 2500, and after that 700, with most of the rest between a few hundred and almost nothing.

Watch in wonder:

(h/t WUWT)

Lew – a few final thoughts

Cook and Lew – best buddies

UPDATE: Take a look at this article [backup link] on ABC’s The Drum, from May 2010, which reveals that Lewandwosky had already made the link between scepticism and conspiracy theories well before his paper was published – he just needed the right survey to confirm it:

Why would anyone believe that Prince Phillip is running the world drug trade? Why do some people believe that NASA faked the moon landing? Why is the internet abuzz with claims that 9/11 was an “inside job” of the Bush administration?

Conspiracy theories are part and parcel of modern life and some people clearly find their allure irresistible.

Likewise, climate “sceptics” obsessively yelp at the alleged frailties of the surface temperature record and accuse respectable scientific agencies of “fudging” data, oblivious to the fact that multiple independent analyses of the temperature record give rise to the exact same conclusion. The further fact that the satellite data yield precisely the same result without any surface-based thermometers is of no relevance to climate “sceptics.” It is also of no relevance to climate “sceptics” that their claims about the absence of global warming are logically incoherent with their simultaneous claim that humans didn’t cause the warming.

The conspiracy theory known as climate “scepticism” will soon collapse because it must be extended to include even the macrolepidoptera, including the rhopalocera, geometroidea andnoctuoidea. Yes, the European moths and butterflies must be part of the conspiracy, because they mate repeatedly every season now, rather than once only as during the preceding 150 years.

I’m not planning on posting any more on this ridiculous paper until I have some more news on FOI, but I do have a few final thoughts.

Steve McIntyre is doing sterling work digging into the data in great detail. But my question is, why bother? It’s lending credibility to a study which had zero to start with.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Lew is well known as a vociferous critic of anyone who questions the “consensus”
  • He’s buddies with John Cook, he of climate alarmist heaven Skeptical Science fame
  • He’s previously published a lengthy catalogue of patronising articles relentlessly and repetitively attacking “deniers”, and often questioning their psychological health
  • He has already decided that he can besmirch his ideological opponents by linking climate scepticism to kooky conspiracy theories, and designs an online survey accordingly [see article in the update above]
  • Alongside questions regarding the effect of CO2 on the climate, there are questions about HIV/Aids, smoking and cancer, JFK, the moon landings, and a bunch of other crazy conspiracies
  • He gets the survey published on a bunch of headbanger blogs, many of which have undisguised contempt for realists, and probably think that they can help achieve his unstated pretty clear goals
  • None of the sceptic blogs approached publish it (maybe because it’s so painfully obvious to them what he’s attempting to achieve and don’t want a bar of it)
  • 10 out of 1100 or so survey responses express belief in the faking of the NASA moon landings, a large proportion of which were probably faked by alarmists having a laugh…
  • Despite the fact that six of those ten also believe the consensus on climate change, he submits the paper for publication in a journal with a title linking moon landing “denial” to climate “denial”
  • Newspapers in the UK pick up on the story (Telegraph, Guardian) and in passing at the Sydney Morning Heraldmaking sure the moon landing bit features heavily in the stories
  • Objective to portray sceptics as nut-jobs achieved

And as a postscript, when any of the above is questioned by the great unwashed, Lew labels that a conspiracy theory as well. Enough said.

Last word goes to A Scott on WUWT:

For the first time, in a now total 9 blog posts on this paper, [Lewandowsky’s] most recent story is more talk, less condescension and derision towards those who would dare challenge his work. Well OK, mostly, sorta less. It is a long story, with lots of fancy terms, initials, equations and descriptions.

In it he reminds us lowly unwashed masses that we are knowledge-less simpletons – merely “toying” with his data. That we couldn’t possibly understand all the important stuff real scientists like him know. Or maybe he didn’t say it exactly that way, but it’s just how it came across.  

He takes the long way around to re-tell us why skeptics are somehow conspiracy theorists who believe the moon landing, and (science), is fake, or something like that. I guess the parentheses mean because the answers to some of the other questions about science were true, that we can perform a latent variable analysis, and prove we actually DO believe in that fake old moon landing even though we said we didn’t. Or maybe not.

That’s this cool new idea he shares – we can’t just look at the simple answers to the questions – like whether we believe the moon landing was fake, nah, those 10 people don’t know nothing – they’re just noise. Nothing to see here – no one behind this curtain – now move along …

No – we must look to the answers of the other questions, to determine if we believe the moon landing was fake and thus are nasty old science rejecters. And motivated ones at that. Or something like that.

I think we’ve given Lew enough oxygen for now.

Lew Paper: 'Everything that could have been done wrong, was done wrong'

Lots of questions…

William Briggs (statistician to the stars) rips the Lew Paper to shreds:

Everything that could have been done wrong, was done wrong. Every bias that could have been manifested, was manifested. Every fallacy pertinent to the matter at hand was made. The conclusions, regurgitated from unnecessarily complicated statistical procedures, did not follow from the evidence gathered, which itself was suspect. In its way, then, the paper is a jewel, a gift to the future, a fundamental text to how easy it is to fool oneself.

Consider that its errors are not far to seek. Take the opening sentence: “Although nearly all domain experts agree that human CO2 emissions are altering the world’s climate, segments of the public remain unconvinced by the scientific evidence.” Isn’t that gorgeous? I count at least seven mistakes, and we are only at the very beginning!

  • Mistake 1: Lewandowsky is not a domain expert, and by his argument is not qualified to speak on matters climatic, yet speak he does.
  • Mistake 2: His opinion about how to consider the science of climate change is therefore no more valuable than any other non-domain expert’s (about the physics), but he considers by this act of publishing that it is.
  • Mistake 3: He conflates voting with truth. His fallacy is to suppose that because the majority of domain experts say X, X is therefore true.
  • Mistake 4: He conflates numbers with weight of evidence. His fallacy is to suppose the minority of domain experts who do not agree with the majority are not to be listened to because they are only a minority.
  • Mistake 5: He confuses physics with economics, a vulgar but common error. It may be true that, say, temperatures will rise by 0.5o C in the next five decades, but it does not follow that any theory of what will happen because of this temperature rise is true, nor is it true that anybody’s suggestion to combat the adverse consequences of what will happen is therefore worthy of consideration.
  • Mistake 6: Since Lewandowsky committed this howler, and is obviously unaware of it, he cannot see it in the people he interviews, who often make a similar error. That is, when a civilian is asked, “Do you believe in climate change?” he often answers “No,” but the mistake is to assume he is answering the question as stated, when in reality he has answered the modified question, “Do you believe in climate change and should the government regulate, rule, tax, control, mandate, penalize, etc., etc. to combat this change?” Such an elementary mistake by a psychologist shows us just how far the madness has progressed.
  • Mistake 7: Lewandowsky, because he is not a domain expert, misunderstood the basic physics. There are no domain experts who do not agree that mankind changes the climate. The only matters in question are: how much? where? when? with what certainty can we know? Notice the absence of “What can be done?” because this requires expertise in human behavior, and that expertise is what is suspiciously missing in this paper.

My dears, I emphasize that this was merely the opening sentence, and that much worse was to come.

Read it all.

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