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Climate Hustle

Climate denial linked to conspiratorial thinking in new study

Posted on 8 July 2015 by dana1981

A new study has examined the comments on climate science-denying blogs and found strong evidence of widespread conspiratorial thinking. The study looks at the comments made in response to a previous paper linking science denial and conspiracy theories.

Motivated rejection of science

Three years ago, social scientists Lewandowsky, Oberauer, and Gignac published a paper in the journal Psychological Science titled NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

The paper detailed the evidence the scientists found that, using survey data provided by visitors to climate blogs, those exhibiting conspiratorial thinking are more likely to be skeptical of scientists’ conclusions about vaccinations, genetically modified foods, and climate change. This result was replicated in a follow-up study using a representative U.S. sample that obtained the same resultlinking conspiratorial thinking to climate denial.

Of course science denial and conspiracies go hand in hand

This shouldn’t be a terribly shocking result. When confronted with inconvenient science, those in denial often reject the evidence by accusing the experts of fraud or conspiracies. We saw a perfect example of this behavior just a few weeks ago. When scientists at NOAA published a paper finding that there was no ‘pause’ in global warming, one of the most common responses from those in denial involved the conspiratorial accusation that the scientists had somehow fudged the data at the behest of the Obama administration.

Nevertheless, nobody likes being characterized as a conspiracy theorist, and so those in the denial blogosphere reacted negatively to the research of Lewandowsky and colleagues. Ironically, many of the attacks on the study involved conspiratorial accusations, which simply provided more data for the social scientists to analyze. For example, the authors were accused of everything from faked data to collusion between Lewandowsky and the Australian government.

Recursive Fury

As a result, a year later Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer, and Marriott published Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation. The paper analyzed blog comments that mentioned the Moon Landing paper. It became the most-read paper ever published by the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

However, the study was subsequently accused of being defamatory because the public blog comments had not been made anonymous in the paper. At the request of Frontiers, the authors anonymized the comments, but the journal still withdrew the paper out of fear of legal action. Its failure to stand behind sound scientific research led to the resignation of three of Frontiers’ editors: Ugo Bardi,Björn Brembs, and Colin Davis

Subsequent to the withdrawal of Recursive Fury, the journal Frontiers published an article that denied the link between HIV and AIDS. Despite widespread protest from the scientific community, the journal declined to withdraw the paper andinstead classified it as an “opinion” piece. More recently, Frontiers fired 31 Editors in the medical arena, who expressed concern that Frontiers’ publication practices are designed to maximize the company’s profits, not the quality of papers, and that this could harm patients.

The latest study: Recurrent Fury

Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer, Brophy, Lloyd, and Marriott have now publishedRecurrent fury: Conspiratorial discourse in the blogosphere triggered by research on the role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial in a different journal - the Journal of Social and Political Psychology.

In this latest study, university undergraduate students (mainly psychology majors) were given the comments from denial blogs, together with genuine scientific critiques of the Moon Landing paper provided by 3 psychology PhD students at the University of Bristol. 

In order to make this a blind test, participants were told the comments related to an unnamed scientific paper. The participants were asked to classify the comments, for example as types of conspiratorial thinking (e.g. questioning the motives of the authors of the paper) or as reasonable scientific critiques.

In the end, the participants clearly identified the comments from science-denying blogs as conspiratorial in nature, and the comments from the 3 PhD students as genuine scientific critiques. In fact, the results were quite strong. 

Normally we might expect the data to have a shape similar to that of a Bell Curve, with some of the comments mentioning the Moon Landing paper exhibiting a moderate level conspiratorial thinking, but few to an extreme degree. On the contrary, the results were heavily skewed, with most denial blog comments about the paper being heavily suspicious and questioning the motives of the authors.

Lewandowsky figure

Distribution of the blind categorizations of the comments from 3 psychology PhD students (dashed line) and science-denying blogs (grey boxes). From Lewandowsky et al. (2015).

Lead author Stephen Lewandowsky told me,

I do not recall ever having seen such a strong effect in 30 years of behavioural research, and I have certainly never encountered ratings that favoured the extreme end of the scale to the extent observed here.

Conspiracies and skepticism don’t mix

Given that those denying a 97% consensus among scientific experts must find a reason to reject that consensus, it’s not at all surprising that conspiratorial thinking is common among those who deny climate science. Conspiracy theories have even become a prime argument against climate policy among some top Republican presidential candidates like Ted Cruz, who said in a recent interview,

I think the data is driven by politicians who have always supported more government control.

However, Lewandowsky explains why he believes the results of his study are important, if not surprising,

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 55:

  1. Something the deniers say that troubles me is that the first W/m^2 of forcing results in a temperature of about 65K for a sensitivity of 65C per W/m^2 and that the Stefan-Boltzmann Law requires more forcing as the temperature increases, thus the sensitivity must decrease as the temperature increases which is consistent with the stated sensitivity of 0.8C per W/m^2 at the current temperature.

    The problem is that When I plot the sensitivity as a function of temperature starting at 65C per W/m^2 for the first W/m^2 ending at 0.8C per W/m^2 forcing at 239 W/m^2 (the total forcing from the Sun at the defined sensitivity) and integrate across all 239 W/m^2 of forcing, the surface temperature I end up with is higher than the boiling point of water. I simply can not find any reasonable function for the sensitivity as a function of temperature that produces the correct temperature based on the constraints on the sensitivity.

    My question is what is the sensitivity as a function of temperature? I
    haven't been able to find this in any of the literature.

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  2. MIchael Fitzgerald @1.

    I'm not sure what sensitivity function you're using. The Stefan-Boltzmann Law does yield a rise of 65°C for the first W/sq m (actually 64.8°C). At 239 W/sq m, it yields a temperature of 255 K or -18°C which is, of course below freezing, this being the temperature of the atmosphere up where it radiates out into space, theoretically.

    Sensitivity (from the direct forcing alone) would presumably be 3.7 x  dT/dF =3.7 x d/dF ((5.67e-8 x F)^0.25) = 3.7 x 0.25 x 65 x F^-0.75 = 0.99°C. However, do note this is the sensitivity without any feedback mechanisms. With feedbacks the sensitivity is put in the range 1.5 °C to 4.5 °C according to IPCC AR5.

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  3. MA,

    The zero feedback sensitivity I used is the slope of the Stefan-Boltzmann Law as this would precisely quantify the relationship between temperature and incremental input (forcing) for a planet with no GHG's or clouds in its atmoshere (i.e. no feedback).  As for feedback, I don't even account for that at 1K, so the actual sensitivity at 1K must be even higher than 65C per W/m^2, making the situation even worse.

    Your equation seems to assume that dT/dF is linear which can't be true based on the requirements of Stefan-Boltzmann.  Back to the original question, where can I find a plot of the sensitivity as a function of temperature?


    Perhaps a better way to pose the question would be that if the next W/m^2 of forcing increased the surface temperature by 0.8C what did the one before that do, the one before that and so on.  If I just divide the current surface temperature of 288K by its Planck emissions of 390 W/m^2 I get 0.74 C per W/m^2, however the relationship between temperature and emissions is far from linear (its a T^4 relationship), so I would expect a sensitivity closer to the slope of Stefan-Boltzmann at 288K which is about 0.2C per W/m^2.

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  4. Gentlemen, this is kind of OT and should be taken to he appropriate thread, as usual.

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  5. Philippe,

    Sure.  Can you suggest an appropriate thread? I can't seem to find one.  Might I suggest that one of your authors find a reference for sensitivity as a function of temperature, write an article about it and then we can have a place to discuss this.  It seems to me that such a reference must exist somewhere, I just can't seem to find it and your authors should know more about what is out there then I do.

    Thanks,

    Michael

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  6. Michael Fitzgerald @5.

    The Weekly Digest is sort-of Open Topic thread. I'm surprised this is needing more than a single Q&A, but...

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  7. Michael Fitzgerald, I have responded to your questions here.

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  8. But getting back to "Recurrent fury" ... it occurs to me that the "do you trust scientists for information about X?" questions we've been asking on surveys basically tap into the obverse. Who trusts scientists? People *not* inclined toward conspiracy thinking.

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    Moderator Response:

    Duplicate image removed.

  9. This kind of study is very interesting as it reflects what we (I) see in my profession as a teacher - if there is no explanation that I can understand or accept then there MUST be something else happening eg "they all hate him/her" , "he/she is being picked on" , "this school really has it in for (name your group) people".  I suspect it is a way of aligning or justifying  some core beliefs/ideas/biases with what is actually the truth. Alternatively it is a way out as it allows the user to justify an exit because the alternative is just to uncomfortable to consider.

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  10. Is this a new paper as your headline states or is it a revamp of the paper Recursive Fury that was withdrawn for ethical reasons from The Journal of Social and Political Psychology?  

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  11. ryland @10, the retraction of Recursive Fury stated:

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

    (My emphasis)

    Transparently, your claim that Recursive Fury was withdrawn "for ethical reasons" completely misrepresents the case.  Rather, a small group of people were so determined to prevent the publication of Recursive Fury that they were threatening legal action, and the publisher was overly cautious.  That they were overly cautious was shown by the fact that the paper remained available for over a year at the UWA with no legal action being taken.

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  12. As always Tom Curtis thank you for your comment.  Although you do not specifically say so, I gather from your  comment the paper is not new.  You are quite correct that the initial statement from the Journal made on March 27 2013 did state there were no issues with academic or ethical aspects  of the study. This however was contradicted in a later statement from the  Journal on April 4 2013 which does indeed show retraction was on ethical grounds.  I append that statement below (my emphasis}  

    "As a result of its investigation, which was carried out in respect of academic, ethical and legal factors, Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics. Frontiers informed the authors of the conclusions of our investigation and worked with the authors in good faith, providing them with the opportunity of submitting a new paper for peer review that would address the issues identified and that could be published simultaneously with the retraction notice."

    The authors agreed and subsequently proposed a new paper that was substantially similar to the original paper and, crucially, did not deal adequately with the issues raised by Frontiers.

    One of Frontiers’ founding principles is that of authors’ rights. We take this opportunity to reassure our editors, authors and supporters that Frontiers will continue to publish – and stand by – valid research. But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper.  The reference is here,  

    In fairness I must note however that the retraction of the paper was controversial and Ugo Bardi the chief specialty editor  of Frontiers in Energy Research, Energy Systems and Policy resigned in protest against the retraction.  In so doing he stated:

    "The climate of intimidation which is developing nowadays risks to do great damage to climate science and to science in general. I believe that the situation risks to deteriorate further if we all don’t take a strong stance on this issue". `see here

    All that said, to repeat what I said above, I gather this is not a new paper but a revamp of the paper retracted by Frontiers. 

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  13. I am slightly troubled by your use of language: the second response from 'Frontiers' didn't 'show' anything. Both the first and second responses made claims, and those claims contradicted one another. For context, the second response from Frontiers came after a significant amount of criticism had been directed at Frontiers over the incident.

    There are a number of possible interpretations. The first response from Frontiers might have been an attempt to be diplomatic. Or the second might have been an attempt to save face. The correspondance between Frontiers and the university might provide more insight on the question.

    There are multiple issues being conflated here:

    1. Was the research ethical according to the norms of the field?
    2. Was the research ethical according to the norms of the university?
    3. Was the research ethical according to the norms of the journal?
    4. Did 'Frontiers' consider the research to be ethically problematic, or were they simply making an expedient argument to justify their actions? (This contains the further simplification that an organization can hold an opinion.)

    There appears to be a significant amount of literature on the use of internet communications in research - here are the first two that I found. A survey of recent opinion on the question would be interesting.

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  14. As this is a republication of the original results with additional reconfirmation and further work to extend the findings but now in a journal perhaps more directly on topic the "unethical" argument goes by the board. The remaining argument is the litigation fear of the original publisher.


    Those engaging in conspiratorial thinking on public forums may now sue. It is their perogative. I am unsure as to what country's legal system would apply and doubt such a suit would get much shrift anywhere but they are now welcom to try. Of course they were welcome to try suing UWA over the past year which hosted the paper and failed to do so.

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  15. ryland @12, the specific claim in the blog post to which you link is:

    "As a result of its investigation, which was carried out in respect of academic, ethical and legal factors, Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics."

    It is not mentioned whether or not the rights which are "not sufficiently protected" were ethical rights, or legal rights, or (quite frankly) fantasy rights.  Given this, and given the statement in the official communication, you are not entitled to interpret those rights as ethical rights.  

    Nor is it stated that the rights were violated.  Taking insufficient steps to protect a right is not the same thing as violating a right.  You can take insufficient steps to prevent pregnancy, and still have no pregnancy eventuate; and likewise you can take insufficient steps to protect a right without that right in fact being infringed.  Of the nature of rights, it is only infringement of rights that can constitute an ethical violation; whereas insufficient measures to protect rights can leave one open to legal liability (on grounds of negligence) even when no right is in fact infringed.

    Further, the supposed right to not have your behaviour categorized if you are identifiable, and if it is in the context of discussion of "psychopathological characteristics" is very vague.  There is an ethical duty on psychologists to not diagnose people without consultation; but categorizing behaviour in the context of psychopathological characteristics is not diagnozing them.  Saying somebody has "conspiracy ideation" is not diagnozing them as a conspiracy theorist, which is not a psychopathological diagnosys in any event.  Any theory that suggests doing so is an ethical breach shows absurd levels of overreach.  It is also (given the normal fare on denier blogs) a massive hypocrissy to claim it is an ethical violation.

    However, categorizing people's behaviour can lead to people mistakingly assuming a diagnosis has been made where no diagnosis has been made.  That is, it can lead to potential issues with regard to libel.

    So, there is nothing in the blog post to which you refer which contradicts the official statement, and subsidiary evidence in that blog post strongly suggests it was in fact legal issues that created the problem - said legal issues being vapourware as shown by the lack of legal response to the continuing publication of the paper on the UWA website.

    Finally, while the recent paper is related to the retracted paper, it apparently also includes new research.  Ergo it is not just a reboot of that paper.  However, I cannot comment on the exact extent of similarity, having not read the recent paper.

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  16. By word count the original study comprises less than half (about 45%) of the new study.

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  17. Kevin C This statement from the journal that retracted the paper clearly shows their concern with the privacy of the individual "But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper.

    The ethical necessity of the need to preserve confidentiality are given by the American Association of Psychologists here (Section 4) and by the British Association of Psychologists here
    In the opinion of the Journal there was a breach of ethics which is why the retraction occurred. Others, such as yourself disagree. One who has been vociferously in disagreement states that the withdrawal a) was on the grounds of breach of ethics and b) was wrong. See here

    jgnfld Looking for more information I did find out this was a republicaton but one that has been modified so that individual participants cannot be identified. It is this change that removes the breach of ethics considered to have occurred in the retracted publication.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Excessive white space deleted.

  18. ryland - Um, nope. Frontiers retracted the article stating that there were no ethical or academic issues with it, but rather some potential legal expenses they didn't want to risk (even a frivolous suit, as would have been the case, costs money), in a statement agreed to with the Frontiers expert panel and with the authors. The expert panel stated that:

    "...among psychological and linguistic researchers blog posts are regarded as public data and the individuals posting the data are not regarded as participants in the technical sense used by Research Ethics Committees or Institutional Review Boards. This further entails that no consent is required for the use of such data. [...] ...to the charges that Fury was unethical in using blog posts as data for psychological analysis, the consensus among experts in this area sides with the authors of Fury." (emphasis added)

    The editors later made some statements contradicting themselves and their own expert panel, but given what happened with the Recursive Fury paper and other issues (the HIV paper mentioned above), I would mark those down to a lack of integrity and consistency on the publishers part, rather than anything wrong with the original RF paper. 

    Public posts are public information, no ethical breachs occurred - and while these (unsupported) ethical complaints against the RF paper are, well, a convenient handle for some to wave about attacking it, they have absolutely no relevance to the conclusions of the Recursive/Recurrent Fury papers, or to the obvious stacks of conspiracy theories spawned as climate denialists frothed about the original 'NASA' paper.

    Yours is a (again, unsupported) complaint about methods, not conclusions, and IMO the conclusion is clearly that many climate denialists are conspiracy nutters. 

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  19. Tom Curtis The blog post is that of the Journal itself and you do not acknowledge the second part of the statement which states "rights and privacy" . In a later post I give references from both the American here and British Associations of Psychology here to the ethical considerations researchers should consider . Both Associations stress the need for ethical consideration of privacy. I also give a reference to a blog post which is firmly against the action of the Journal but clearly states the retraction was made on ethical grounds see here.

    My apologies I've just checked back to find those links in my post at 17 are kaput.  Apologies

    KR are you saying the journal ddn't change its mind and retract on grounds of rights and privacy, breaches of which are unethcal?  Did you read the section on Inernet Mediated Research from the British Association of Psychologists which states inter alia

    "Serious consideration should be given to whether publishing such traceable quotes requires specific valid consent from the individual, and it should be avoided in any cases where possible consequential risk and harm to participants is non-trivial" 

    And  I do have a very good working knowledge of Ethics requirements as I was an academic member of the Ethics Committe for the Division of Heslth Sciences at Curtin University Perth for10 yesars

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  20. Ryland: I'm interested that you attribute to me the view that there was no breach of ethics in the original paper. In fact, having never worked with human subjects, I had no opinion on the subject, hence my preliminary search for relevent literature.

    The first two examples I found, from experts who clearly accept the ethical pricipals you highlight, were equivocal on the question of whether blog contributions comprise public speech. Which suggests to me that the question is not as simple as you suggest.

    Nonetheless climate blogs and the psychology of science rejection are clearly an important area for future study - and I would be very interested to see future work using both discourse analysis and systematic grammar on the topic. However I think it benefits the science if the work is done in such a way that avoids ethical ambiguities, in order that those ambiguities cannot be used to distract from the results of the research.

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  21. Recurrent Fury is similar to Recursive Fury but goes further.  I don't believe Recursive Fury had the comparison between the genuine scientific critiques made by PhD students and the denier blog comments, for example.

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  22. ryland"...are you saying the journal ddn't change its mind and retract on grounds of rights and privacy, breaches of which are unethcal?"

    Yes, I'm saying exactly that. Quoting from the original retraction:

    "...Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical, and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study." (emphasis added)

    That was the statement made at the time of the retraction, the basis of the action. No issues with the academic or ethical aspects were identified or used as reasons for that retraction - they were simply afraid of ending up in court, regardless of the frivolous nature that such lawsuits would entail. 

    You might want to look at Retraction Watch or the documents that DeSmog FOIs unearthed. Any later revisionism by the publishers is directly contradicted by the announced and agreed to retraction, and IMO demonstrates an unreliable and poor publisher. I consider it quite a shame that it wasn't originally published under a more reputable and solid banner, but the authors wouldn't be the first academics that later regretted their choice of submission venues. 

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  23. ryland - I'll note that the blog post you referred to discusses Frontiers contradicting itself, and states:

    Frontier’s second statement would make perfect sense if RF had been a conventional psychology paper reporting on the results of an experiment or survey – like, say, Lewandowsky et al (2012).

    [...] But to apply this frame of reference to Recursive Fury is blinkered. RF just wasn’t that kind of study.

    [...] So the ethics of RF are sound.

    In short, that blog post doesn't appear to support your claims at all. 

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  24. ryland - Do you have anything, anthing relevant that is, to say about the conclusions of the Recursive Fury paper? That there is (clearly) considerable conspiratorial ideation in the climate denial blogosphere, with implications for public discussions of science?

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  25. @17  As a registrar and elected member of a psychology regulatory board for over thirty years and as a prosecutor, complaints committee member, and adjudication panel member judging ethics violations under all the various codes of ethics professional psychologists have to subscribe to in a number of cases, I can give a pretty educated opinion that there was no violation of the APA Code of Ethics.


    For the code to apply, one would first have to establish that there was a relationship of trust involved that was violated. That simply did not occur. If you put a sign out on a public street and a psychologist takes a picture of it and analyses the content for themes, there simply is no ethical violation to be found. Even if you sign your name and provide an address. You are the one who put the sign out in public, after all. Nor was any ethical violation  found by the bodies that studied this publication.

    Now the fear of having to prove this in court against a deep pocketed opponent is a different matter that says nothing whatever about the merits of the case. It speaks to the economics of the legal system. Many, many people give in rather than undergo the expense of a trial on many, many issues.

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  26. jgnfld has it exactly right. The fact that this kind of intimidation and stifling exists is a much more serious concern than the alleged breach of ethics. As always, deniers use every dirty trick on the handbook of deception and mind manipulation to attempt to legitimize their delirious divorce with reality. They remind me of certain soccer players, pulling every sneaky move while they think the referee can't see and then falling all by themselves clutching their leg in what seems like excruciating pain, right before starting to run again after a favorable decision is rendered.

    At some point, reality will inevitably catch up. All of this, however, is a distraction away from the the real findings of the paper, which have in fact not been disouted in any convincing way. I second KR question to Ryland, who is again long on rethoric and short on substance, under a thick coat of politeness that adds no substance whatsoever. Do you have anything to say about the findings of the paper, Ryland and its implications, as KR already asked?

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  27. @19 Your final point gets at the "harm" issue. This, likely, is where the publisher's legal team felt there was some possibility of expensive litigation.

    The ethical questions here would revolve around such issues as

    1. Were psychological diagnoses being made? (No--though that was part of the complainants' complaint and yet another case of disinformation.)

    2. Were gratutious comments being made about posts by the authors? (No.)

    3. Were the "subjects" coerced in any way concerning their statements? (No.)

    4. Did the investigators manipulate the "subjects" into commenting in any particular way by inserting posts of their own? (No...though that one might make for an interesting discussion around the ethical review board table should anyone ever propose such a thing.)

    5. Did the "subjects" in any way indicate any expectation of privacy whatever for the public comments they freely provided in public spaces? (No.)

    This most basically is field research, not a controlled study. What the "subjects" resent is that their responses were labelled in ways they disagree with. You might well find the same resentments into the results of field research of the most objective possible kind into publically displayed political signage.

    Did this cause "nontrivial harm"? Harm to a political position, possibly. But harm of a psychological nature to individuals? Most unlikely.

    Now going through all these issues in court would, as I say, be expensive. The publishers chose not to do that regardless of the merits. As a result, editors associated with the journal resigned in protest.

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  28. I have to be the voice of discontent and declare again how tired I am of the nonsense. Deniers are in large part fruitcakes that have little clue of what's going on and substitute their ignorance and emotional attachment to irrelevant ideas for other's true expertise. The more educated ones know better but follow their emotions instead of evidence. Pretty simple, no need to write a behavioral science paper about it. It took me half a day of reading, many years ago to figure that, and not an ounce of verifiable reality has turned up since that could challenge that perception. It didn't take me a survey of the litterature.

    Writing a science paper about it is in fact a mistake because it gives them more fuel to add to the conspiratorial thinking fire, and further legitimizes them as a group under attack by the big bad villain of rational thinking (scary!).

    Ryland's ramblings are a shining example of these consequences. Not a word about the stupidity, the content, of the blog posts that became the object of the fake breach of ethics. Just hair splitting about which journal did what, when and for what reason. Impressive.

    As for Frontiers, the fact that it would publish a pile of junk suggesting doubt between HIV and AIDS says all that one needs to know about it. It's gone down to the dark side. I'm sure that all the people who were fired from it are relieved that this happened to them. Imagine a few years down the road, mentioning this in conversation, 2 possible versions:

    1: "they published an AIDS denial paper but I didn't open my mouth too much and continued working for them for a while after that."

    2: "They published an AIDS denial paper and I protested enough that they fired me."

    Which one of these fellows would you rather be?

    A blog is a public forum. If I post under my name, I own the statement and I know it's out there for all to see and comment upon, or even use, and the name is an integral part of the piece. This whole nonsennse is akin to the stupid teens putting pictures of themselves without sufficient clothing on the internet and then compaining that some use that to hurt their feelings. More and more BS.

    Scientists are a stubborn lot. They say, "no, I can prove scientifically that they really are fruitckaes, and I can even give you the proportion of fruit per pound of cake." And so they do, rather well indeed, and what comes out of it? More fake controversy, more liars holding their leg in fake pain, no increase in cogent conversation about the fruit density of the cakes, which was not all that interesting in the first place, I'm sorry to say.

    Going down in the mud to wrestle with the pigs, what could possibly come out of it?

    I am not getting any younger and  will not see the dawn of the next century. I wonder if the beginning of the 21st century will ever be called "the great bullshit storm." Perhaps there will be papers treating of how the internet age put all knowledge, opinion, information on an plane of equality, when some clearly had a valididity whose worth ranged somehwere between the rabbit's fart and the mouse turd.

    Here is an idea for the abstract: "Combined with ever decreasing numeracy and critical thinking skills, the general population found itself to be a toy in the hands of skilled rethoricians, whose methods had by then been considerably refined by the advertisement and marketing industries, elevating them to an art form. The electronic communcations provided an instantaneous global reach and easy means to flood the public place with messages, drowning the poor crowds in a fog of inextricable confusion, in which everything and anything was just a matter of equally valid opinion." 

    No court had found that there was breach of ethics, but, oh the juicy controversy!!

    I find it more and more difficult to have any optimism on the future of this species of ours. Perhaps Ryland will cheer me up with something like this: "hey, it's ok, there is still plenty of fossil fuel to play around, we'll just use all the snowmobile engines to make jet-skis." Fun.

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  29. KR It really doesn't matter what enquiries did or didn't say or what you or I think, the journal did pull the paper and one of the reasons it gave was " But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper." That is clearly introducing ethical considerations into their decision. Why else, if it were not for the ethical aspect, would the journal belatedly bring in the issue of privacy? No matter if they were right or wrong that is their reason or excuse if you prefer, to pull the paper.
    As for an opinion, I haven't read the paper. In my original post I was asking the question if the paper was new as the headline said it was or was it a revamped version of a previous paper. From some of the comments given here, it is clear it isn't new but is an extended and improved version of the original. And yes, I did say "withdrawn for ethical reasons". Despite the welter of words this phrase has generated, no one has been able to convincingly explain why the journal suddenly introduced the aspect of the subjects privacy other than to use ethical considerations as a reason to retract the paper.


    Will I read the paper? Probably not. I'm not terribly interested in the psychology of those who deny or for that matter support, human impact on climate change. Psychologists might find it interesting but anyone capable of rational thought would clearly dismiss conspiracy theories as utter drivel whatever their views on the human impact on climate change. What does it add to the science of climate change or to the measures that need to be taken to mitigate it?

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  30. ryland #29: What was your objective in posting comments on this thread? 

    I ask because you have expended a lot of verbiage discussing a paper that you have no desire to read — just seems odd. 

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  31. Phillippe Chantreau. My ramblings as you so scathingly call them arose because I was attacked from all sides regarding my initial post. In this post I asked if the paper Recurrent Fury was in fact a new paper as the headline stated or a revamped version of one retracted in 2013 by the Frontiers Journal. Foolishly I also said the Journal had retracted it for ethical reasons. This unleashed a torrent of comment pointing out how this was not true. Perhaps even more foolishly I responded to these comments in a vain attempt to show that in the final analysis the Journal did cite privacy of respondents as a reason for retracting the paper. As jeopardising privacy is a significant ethical concern in research publications of this nature this provided the Journal a very good reason/excuse for retraction.
    I may ramble but at least the ramblings are from a scientist with a PhD from the University of Western Australia who rose to become a Professor at Curtin University in Perth. I don't believe in conspiracy theories but neither am I entirely convinced that only by reducing CO2 levels will climate change be averted. There may be a 97% consensus of climate scientists that humans are responsible for climate change and certainly I consider that humans have contributed and do contribute to climate change but there are a lot of other scientists who are less convinced. I'm less convinced because the empirical evidence doesn't always entirely support all the contentions of the climate scientists. But Phillippe Chantreau I am certainly not a subscriber to conspiracy theories.

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  32. @ryland #31: 

    You challenge more than just climate science on this website. I am very curious about what motivates you  to spend so much time posting comments on SkS. Is it your political ideology?

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  33. John Hartz @30 had you had the fortitude to scroll back through this veritable deluge of verbiage and that you didn't is hardly surprising, you'd have found my original comment at 9 was:

    Is this a new paper as your headline states or is it a revamp of the paper Recursive Fury that was withdrawn for ethical reasons from The Journal of Social and Political Psychology?

    Had I left out ethical I probably would have generated, possibly from you,  a single comment stating "It is an updated and extended version of the paper Recursive Fury"  and all would have been quiet and placid on this thread.  But then, its often more fun when its not.  

    Oh and Phillippe Chantreau had you read another thread, sorry but I can't remember which one, you'd have found a reference from me and another from  John Hartz both stating that the world has come to the conclusion there is plenty of fossil fuel to play with and intends to get on playing with it without delay. Fun?

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  34. John Hartz

    Sorry forgot to add "At least I stayed the pace"

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  35. @ryland #33: I did in fact scan the comments prior to posting my comment #30. I chose not to infer your motivation and consequently asked you directly. 

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  36. ryland @29...  You ask: "In my original post I was asking the question if the paper was new as the headline said it was or was it a revamped version of a previous paper."

    It's actually something in between. The original paper included names of commenters, unaltered, as they appeared on the publicly accessible blogs. That was austensibly the issue of concern raised by denialists. The journal pulled the paper for investigation, found no ethical or scholarly problem, but asked the authors to redact the names because of potential libel issues (which have, as I understand it, changed during the course of all this). The authors complied with the journal's requests, and I believe made additional changes before resubmitting. 

    I've been told, the final paper that was ultimately retracted by Frontiers was more similar to the Recurrent Fury paper just published than the original Recursive Fury paper which deniers complained about.

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  37. ryland - The initial retraction, based upon discussion with the authors and with the investigation of the Frontiers expert panel, stated:

    This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study.

    About a week later Frontiers contradicted that retraction statement with their additional posts, at a time where they were receiving quite a bit of (deserved) flack for pulling a paper based solely on fears of ending up in court. I would consider that post-hoc revisionism on their part, an attempt to cover their (ahem) nether regions in the face of criticism. It certainly had nothing to do with their expert review panels evaluation of the ethics and academic worth of the paper. 

    I will note that if you are (as you have stated) wholly uninterested in the content of these papers, your objections would appear to be more about the conclusions (which you haven't begun to discuss) than the papers (unread) content, ethics, or methods. Objections and attacks much like those made by any number of people easily identified as climate deniers - in effect an indirect and fallacious ad hominem attack on the RF conclusions. 

    I would have to consider that simply rhetorical nonsense on your part, rather than a scientific discussion. 

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  38. ryland @31...  " I don't believe in conspiracy theories but neither am I entirely convinced that only by reducing CO2 levels will climate change be averted."

    It's off topic but this is a strange comment. So, you think global temperatures will continue to climb precipitously through the next century even if we mitigate carbon emissions? Or am I misunderstanding your statement?

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  39. I note you changd your comment at  30   which originally asked why I had spent so much verbiage on a paper I wasn't going to read.  Why did you do that?  And your post 32 wasn't there when i replied.  Why did you insert that? 

    To answer your question at 32 as to why I spend so much time posting.  Actually I don't spend that much time taken overall as most threads are of little interest but occasionally I come across a thread that is.  Coincidentally two such threads arrived in close proximity and I spent time on both. A quick scan showed from June 23 to July 8 there were 20 topics of which I posted on only two.  I find that responding to the comments mentally stimulating. It certainly isn't political ideology for politics shouldn't enter science.   It certainly  doesn't in my  own field of interest, the study of prostate cancer using molecular biological techniques.  And as a final comment I'm sure you've noticed  the threads on whic I do post usually have quite a large number of comments as all your commenters hasten to get stuck into what they consider a brainless interloper who probably believes in conspiracy theories.  As if!!  

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  40. Ryland, your ramblings are not limited to this thread. Unfortunately, I can find no better word to describe you overall contribution so far; it accurately describes what you do, so it's not really "scathing." Perhaps there is another word with a less negative charge, but I couldn't think of one.

    You may wonder what I consider "rambling." Take this for instance:

    "There may be a 97% consensus of climate scientists that humans are responsible for climate change and certainly I consider that humans have contributed and do contribute to climate change but there are a lot of other scientists who are less convinced."

    It matters very little that there are "a lot" of scientists who are less convinced. They're still only 3%. It changes nothing at all to where the weight the evidence points. "Less convinced" is vague and suggests they may disagree while in fact their disagreement could be quite minor, changing nothing again to the big picture. This is rethoric. Rambling. You've got truckloads of the stuff, I'm sorry to say.

    I see very little new substance from you in this thread, despite the increasing word count. You state what your personal opinion about conspiracy thinking is, I guess that's something.

    The papers mentioned are about the fact that deniers are heavily influenced by conspiratory thinking. It uses a rigorous method to show that. 

    One paper came under fire from a hysterical crowd so far removed from rational thinking that it should be ignored. But they found a way to intimidate the publisher, a way that is obviously illegitimate, as was well explained by jgnfld, who I'm sure could also attach diplomas to his name. This maneuvering is why contributors here get emotional about the subject. It is unjust and underhanded. A perverted justice system allowing for exploitation and bordering on threatening freedom of speech.

    Intimidation with threat of lawsuit hinging on a technicality was used to discourage publication; your posts vaguely seemed to defend the act of withdrawing the publication, although, as usual you didn't clearly say that or otherwise either.

    You're very good at that; it has on several occasions allowed you to later complain that you were being wrongly attacked from all sides for something you didn't actually say. I do not recall seeing anyone on this site who was asked as often to clarify their meaning, or state what their point actually was. Whatever your PhD is in must involve extensive use of language, you have certainly achieved a level of mastery there.

    When you're pressed to truly clarify, you escape. Just like a while ago you would not definitely answer whether you thought that was OK for Chisty to lie to Congress and instead moved on to the next squirrel.

    Whether one has diplomas has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of their argument. Being educated in a field reduces the likelihood of being wrong about a particular problem pertaining to that field and should ensure that some basics are mastered. That's all it does. One thing it doesn't do is impress me.

    Attaching a diploma to ramblings does not increase their value, but it can decrease the value of the diploma, by demonstrating that said diploma does not protect against ramblings. In fact, it takes away the excuse of confusion, or poor mastery of language, for not stating clearly a meaning; it also takes away the excuse of ignorance, thereby increasing the probability that one may be arguing in bad faith. Not that this would be the case with you, I'm just considering the meaning of throwing diplomas in a generic conversation. 

    One thing that could speak more loudly than diplomas would be a style of argument with a predilection for rethoric and convoluted language. Surely something against which we all must exercise caution. 

    As for how much fossil fuel there remains to be played with, I had no doubt you were going to remind me of that. I'll remind you that there is no long term future for mankind that does not involve the complete eradication of industrial scale use of FF, one way or another. That much is 100 % certain, just like the radiative properties of CO2.

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  41. I do believe in conspiracies — crime and politics are full of conspiracy and collusion. The term "conspiracy theory" does not sit well — history is full of pacts and conspiracies. Protections rackets are one of the oldest games in town and conspiracy is of course routinely denied by the perpetrators. Ruling out all conspiratorial explanations because there are so many whacko's ... the denial industry itself shows conspiratorial traits.

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  42. "I'm less convinced because the empirical evidence doesn't always entirely support all the contentions of the climate scientists. "

    Now that is interesting. Are your opinions on what the "contentions of climate scientists" are informed by reading the actual papers of climate scientists? Or by what others, anxious to challenge the conclusions, tell you are the "contentions of climate scientists"?   I notice that you mostly cite media if you cite anything at all.

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  43. Philippe Chantreau.  If you're going to attack something i wrote, attack what I actually did write rather than what you think I actually wrote'  You start off with this comment of mine:

    "There may be a 97% consensus of climate scientists that humans are responsible for climate change and certainly I consider that humans have contributed and do contribute to climate change but there are a lot of other scientists who are less convinced."

    You then say: 

    It matters very little that there are "a lot" of scientists who are less convinced. They're still only 3%.

    Can you not see i didn't say 97% of scientists but 97% of climate scientists.  You then follow up by saying it matters very little as they're still only 3%  

    Who are still only 3%?  All the other scientists who are not climate scientists?  Geologists? Meteorologists? Physicists?  Surely you recall the survey by the American Meteorological Society that showed only 52 % of its members were convinced oof AGW.  The survey did make it plain that meteorologists were at odds with the majority of scientific research on climate change.   I was careful to distinguish between climate scientists and other scientists, a distinction you appear not to have noticed.  After that introductory bit of stunning misapprehension I didn't bother to read the rest as its late

    scaddenp what I can't get from the daily mail I make up.  And as for the media The Guardian in which dana frequently writes is a useful source as is RealClimate.  So is Roy spencer and judith Curry and Jo Nova and Grant Foster 

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  44. Ryland @21: The question that I posed in my #30 is completely different that the one I posed in #32. What's the problem?

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  45. In comment #33, ryland states:

    Had I left out ethical I probably would have generated, possibly from you, a single comment stating "It is an updated and extended version of the paper Recursive Fury" and all would have been quiet and placid on this thread. But then, its often more fun when its not. [MY bold.]

    The final, bolded, sentence of the above paragraph suggests to me that Ryland's interactions on this website are a form of recreation to him.  I encourage all readers to ignore what he posts in the future.

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  46. "Surely you recall the survey by the American Meteorological Society that showed only 52 % of its members were convinced oof AGW."

     

    According to the Washington Post of April 14th, the number of broadcast meterologists who accept AGW is 90% in a George Mason University (GMU) Center for Climate Change Communication survey.  That was up from 82% in 2011.  Of the 90%, 74% believe man is at least 50% responsible.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2015/04/14/study-broadcast-meteorologists-increasingly-convinced-manmade-climate-change-is-happening/

     

    So it appears things are evolving in that arena.  

     

    Still, wouldn't consulting a meterologist be a long way off form a scientist who's work is directly connected to some aspect of climate science?  

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fixed link - but please DNFTT

  47. ryland @19:

    1)  The statement at the prior URL of the paper is the official statement.  Any later blogpost by the editors can only be considered as commentary on that statement.  It does not supplant the official statement unless it specifically states so.  Further, if the official statement has been supplanted, it ought to have been corrected.  It was not.

    2)  Given that we have a statement and a commentary by the editors, we ought to interpret them as compatible if we are able to do so.  In that regard, the statement says, "This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study."  Ergo, unless the commentary explicitly states there were ethical issues, we should not interpret it as saying there were.

    3)  The statement does talk about issues with rights and privacy, but rights can be either ethical rights or legal rights.  Absent any statement to the contrary, in order to interpret the statement and blogpost compatibly we are able to, and therefore ought to, interpret them as refering to legal rights.

    4)  Privacy is also a legal issue.  The only violation of privacy involved in the paper is that from the excerpts of quotes it is possible to employ a search engine and identify the authors of those quotes.  Absent that ability, no possibility of libel exists, and hence no legal can possibly be raised by the paper.  With that possibility, arguably the paper libels the authors of the quotes.  (I don't think it does, but it is something a lawyer could be paid to argue.)  Ergo, the mention of privacy in the comment does not contradict the claim in the statement that there were no ethical issues with the paper.

    5)  Many people have interpretted the comment as referring to ethical issues, as contradicting the statement.  Those people have not included the editors of the journal, however, so their misinterpretation does not constitute evidence.

    6) There are several cogent arguments publicly available that no ethical issue was raised by the paper, including by neuroskeptic and by jgnfld above.  In neuroskeptic's case, arguing both that there was no ethical issue and that the journal made an error on that issue, when the journal's most clear statement on the issue contradicts the claim that the decision was made on ethical grounds is incoherent (at best).  I assume so many people leap to the conclusion that the editors contradicted themselves because they assume that there are only ethical rights, or that legal rights only protect ethical rights (and hence that a legal right implies an ethical right).  Both claims would be mistaken.

    7)  The best that can be said for your point of view is that the editors in their statement cultivated a deliberate ambiguity to deflect criticism of the journal.  If that is the case, they display a disgraceful level of intellectual cowardice.  In support of their point of view is their failure to answer Barry Bickmore's question in the first comment on their blop post:

    "Your original retraction statement for "Recursive Fury" said that there were no ethical concerns with the paper--only legal concerns. Are you now saying that there were, indeed, ethical concerns? Or are you saying that the privacy of human research subjects is not an ethical concern (i.e., only a legal concern)?

    Also, did you at any time inform the authors that your "legal" concerns about the paper were about the possibility of being sued for violating the privacy rights of human subjects? Or did you actually tell them the "legal" concerns were about something else?"

    Right from the start, the editors had the possibility to clarrify any ambiguity but declined to do so.  But equally right from the start it is clearly recognized that an ambiguity exists in the blopost (even as regards privacy); and given that and the failure to clarrify, the clear statement in the retraction notice stands.


    8)  As a minor point, if the blogpost had claimed there was an ethical issue, and given that by their own statement their own investigation had found no ethical issue; then the blogpost would have libelled the authors.  As they were clearly aware of legal issues, and the widespread criticism of the retraction; it is highly unlikely that they would have put themselves in such a tenuous position.  The only tenable argument to the claim that the issues identified are legal issues is the claim that they deliberately chose words that woud be interpreted as suggesting an ethical issue but could be defended in court as only clarrifying the nature of the legal issue.  On that basis, the best that can be claimed of the blogpost is that it does not disagree with the retraction, but does exhibit intellectual cowardice.

    I will not comment further on this issue unless you raise new evidence rather than simply preferring to interpret an ambiguous statement as contradicting a direct statement when there is no requirement to do so.

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  48. OMG! Silly me, I misread Ryland's writing! It is even less relevant than I thought. A lot of "other scientists" wihtout the appropriate expertise that would, as explained above, ensure that the basics are covered and the odds of being badly wrong are reduced, are less convinced. Well that sure makes a difference that, using your words, I would qualify as stunning. What a pathetic joke. I get a more productive exchange when I ask an intubated patient to squeeze my fingers. Post after post continues to prove that you lack the intellectual honesty to engage into any kind of meaningful conversation. It is becoming evident that you are only interested in argumentative rethoric for its own sake. DNFTT indeed. I should have known better.

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  49. funglestrumpet @49, quite some time ago I had a look at Truther theories.  I found the argument, for example, that a building was collapsing in free fall massively unconvincing given that the video used to prove that "fact" showed large debris that had fallen clear of the dust cloud falling faster than the collapse rate of the building.  The bit about the VMO of planes was new to me, so I did a bit of research.  Perhaps most interesting was the views of the 911 Truther who suggested a subsidiary conspiracy theory that the VMO arguments were "a possible disinformation campaign to distract the public from the real questions and to discredit our movement in general"; and who then went on to prove that the VMO arguments were a load of bunk.  

    The fact is that actual conspiracies exist.  The CIA, for example, conspire to obtain confidential information from foreign governments.   People may have conspired to ruin the reputation of work colleagues.  Nixon conspired to eavesdrop on Democratic party campaign strategies.  What distinguishes these genuine conspiracies is that they are restricted to a small number of people (necessary for secrecy) and they do not have overly ambitous aims (necessary for success).  People who believe in such conspiracies are not called conspiracy theorists, and do not exhibit the irrational argumentation typical of conspiracy theorists.  In that way they are distinct from the conspiracies dreamed up by conspiracy theorists - including 911 truthers.

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  50. Tom Curtis @ 49

    As I point out in my comment, NIST themselves concede that WTC 7 fell at free-fall acceleration for 105 feet. I choose my words with care because at the technical briefing held to discuss their draft report on the collapse of WTC 7 prior to final release they tried to convince the reader that it fell at 40% less than free-fall. It was due to the work of David Chandler that they changed their position. There is video of this meeting found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6JN9cwY_OE. Their demeanor is worth noting. As a mechanical engineer (retired) I find it impossible to watch WTC 7 collapse and believe it is anything other than controlled demolition. I am not alone.

    Perhaps you should take another look at 9/11, especially the work of AE9/11truth, a group of architects and engineers, and their affiliates, who are waving a big BS flag about 9/11. (Explosive Evidence, Experts Speak Out is particularly informative.) I got the VOM information from Pilots for 9/11 Truth. The aircraft speed is taken from local radar and FDR. When it comes to misinformation, there is a lot involving 9/11 (mini nukes, ufos, directed energy weapons, HARRP etc. the list seems endless.)

    Tom, all the truth movement is calling for is a fresh investigation. Considering that Kean and Hamilton, the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, state in their book, Without Precedent The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, that they believe that "they were set up to fail." Considering just how much influence 9/11 has had on our lives, surely that fact alone should be sufficient to justify another investigation. This time one with power of sub peona and free from external influence, features sadly lacking in the first one.

    What worries me about the sks position on conspiracy theories is that it reinforces the MSM meme on the topic. If any site should be countering MSM, it is surely this one. The reason that the public are so ill-informed on climate change is in large part down to them and their misinformation.

    Finally, I note that you do not explain how the top 12 floors of WTC 1 fell through the damage zone onto the 92 intact floors below and managed to demolish all of them. You cannot get more fundamental science than Newton, can you? Try watching videos of Verinage demolition for examples of what happens in such circumstances.

    (snip)

    If sks withdraw this comment, please forward it to Tom.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Skeptical Science is definitely not the proper website to engage in WTC/911 conspiracy discussion. Please cease and desist. Further discussion will be deleted. If you have another website where you think it is appropriate to have such a discussion you can post a link so those who are interested can follow you to that location.

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