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Conspiracy Theorists Respond to Evidence They're Conspiracy Theorists With More Conspiracy Theories

Posted on 26 February 2013 by John Cook

This is a partial re-post from The Huffington Post.  For the full article, click the link below.

In 2012, cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues surveyed more than 1,000 climate blog readers and observed a link between science denial and conspiracy theorizing. People who denied scientific propositions such as the link between AIDS and HIV or climate change and human activity were more likely to subscribe to conspiracy theories like Princess Diana was murdered or AIDS was created by the government. How did climate deniers respond to evidence associating science denial with conspiracy theorizing? With more conspiracy theories, of course!

The conspiracy theories directed toward the "moon landing paper" began small-scale, but grew in scope and intricacy. Now to social scientists, such a public response can mean only one thing. Data! I collaborated with Lewandowsky in documenting the various conspiracy theories and tracking their evolution over time. The analysis has now been published in the paper "Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation."

Conspiracy theorists exhibit a number of tell-tale characteristics. Almost ubiquitous is the accusation of nefarious intent. After all, people never conspire with benevolent intent (unless planning a surprise party). One theory promoted by climate deniers focused on the experiment design used for the "moon landing paper." The scientists emailed survey invitations to a range of climate blogs -- some endorsing the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming and others denying the consensus.

Climate deniers accused the scientists of lying about contacting denial blogs. A flood of bloggers came forward to say they hadn't received the invitation. Amusingly, five of those bloggers were the five who had actually been contacted. Irony overload was reached when one of those contacted went so far as to provide the email address of the lead author's university, encouraging readers to send allegations of misconduct.

Another trait of conspiracy theorists is the mentality that "something must be wrong." If a theory is shown to be demonstrably false, the conspiracy theorist can smoothly shift to another theory while maintaining an unshaken belief that "the official account must be wrong." After the names of the five contacted bloggers were released, conspiracy theorists transitioned to a spin-off theory: "obviously they never intended for the skeptic blogs to respond." New theory, same accusation of nefarious intent.

Click here for the rest of the story.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 58:

  1. Nicely done John.  Great to see this in HuffPost!

    You and Stephan can officially add Roger Pielke Jnr to your list of conspiracy theorists.

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  2. good article John.

    lately my conversations with denialists have been following this pattern...

    1. them showing me 'science' to support their view,

    2. me explaining the peer reviewed process and the concept of cherry picking; and then telling them to go back and look at the science again.

    3. them defending a conspiracy theory regarding the IPCC and/or the peer reviewed process.

    4. me saying thats nosense, and being met with silence or more conspiracy theories

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  3. 'nonsense' sorry

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  4. Look how long this post has been up and no conspiracy theorists have yet come here to argue. Clearly, the suggestion that climate science deniers tend also to be conspiracy theorists is invalidated by the lack of conspiratorial theorising on this thread: QED. I think there is a conspiracy, amongst conspiracy theorists, to confuse the climate change debate by not exposing conspiracies that they know must exist. Oh, no! Now I've exposed a conspiracy theory, thereby negating their attempt to hush it up! Where are my tin-foil underpants?

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  5. The new paper is based on one very important point that I completely failed to grasp on my first reading of the paper.

    It is completely unsurprising that many climate contrarians reacted with anger to the original ideation paper - and as a result that reaction provides no evidence of anything. The key point is that the anger reaction was expressed by constructing new conspiracy theories. That provides additional data which tends to support the original hypothesis.

    The new data is not without it's problems - there is no control test in this case. Steve Mosher correctly suggests that as a control we would compare the reactions of the consensus community to an attack, although calibrating the results would be problematic. I am doubtful of an exclusive link between conservative ideologies and conspiracy ideation - I gave up reading the liberal newsroll 'Common Dreams' after finding too many stories which sounded like conspiracy theories and did not survive fact checking.

    Oreskes' work is the outlier here. It is a conspiracy theory, but one which so far appears not to be born out of consipracy ideation and which survives fact-checking. Of course that does not mean that people of a liberal mindset cannot build it into their own conspiracy ideation. The issue has to be broken down into three separate questions:

    1. Does the conspiracy theory survive a skeptical analysis of the evidence? (Roughly, is it true?)

    2. Was the conspiracy theory born out of conspiracy-ideated thought processes?

    3. Does the conspiracy theory continue to propogate through conspiracy-ideated thought processes?

    These questions can have any combination of answers. My guess for Oreskes is that the answers would be yes, no, it varies. (Note: first answer corrected)

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  6. Further to Kevin C's point on the ideological independence of conspiracist ideation, I suspect conspiracist ideation tends to be more prevalent in people with more strongly authoritarian personalities, rather than being tied of necessity to specific ideological commitments.

    (In the US and most other English-speaking countries, it so happens that the majority of people with stronger authoritarian personalities tend to be clustered in what would be characterised as politically "right-wing" aggregates.)

    Based on the characteristics of authoritarian behaviour (see for example the research of Robert Altemeyer), as far as I can see people with stronger authoritarian personalities would be more likely than others to resort to unwarranted conspiracist ideation. In particular, strong levels of in-group/out-group identification (with resulting hostility to out-groups), higher levels of fearfulness regarding the world, and dogmaticism as the last-ditch defence of untenable convictions, strike me as the sorts of traits

    (I say unwarranted because, as Kevin C notes regarding Oreskes' work, and as we have seen from history, sometimes people do engage in conspiracies. I personally do not see these as being carefully organized - tobacco or fossil fuel conglomerates do not need to deliberately collude to organize misinformation campaigns; they could easily converge on such activities by virtue of independent or copycat action - or requiring nefarious intent, even if people recognize that their methods are questionable and so work to conceal them to a greater or lesser extent.)

    (I also say stronger authoritarian personalities because as far as I am aware everyone is in possession of some, most, or all authoritarian traits to some degree.)

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  7. Composer99@ 6: "see for example the research of Robert Altemeyer"

    FYI, Altemeyer's summary of his career of research is readily available as a free download (one large file, plus a couple of smaller updates) at his web site The Authoritarians.

    Chris Mooney also covers a lot of this sort of material. His two books The Republican War on Science and The Republican Brain make for good reading. He discusses Altemeyer's work in the second book (amongst much other research in social psychology). You'll have to buy or borrow (e.g., at a "library") the books.

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  8. Many of the comments to the HuffPost article demonstrate further recursion. It's turtles all the way down.

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  9. Granted that most conspiracy theories are nutty and the proponents nuttier still but that doesn't mean that there are no conspiracies.  People in power are always trying to gain an advantage by whatever means they can and if sufficiently insullated by their position, get a strong feeling of entitlement.  Madof and his ponsie scheme was an example and price fixing between two ostensibly competing super market chains another.  If there were no conspiracies, we wouldn't need much of our law to make these activities illegal and wouldn't need fraud squads in the police to catch them.  Best not to go to the other extreme and dismiss conspiracy theories out of hand.  All we can do is consider each one based on the weight of evidence and be ready to change our minds if different evidence comes to light.  The police criteria is not a bad start.  Was there motivation and oportunity. Healthy scepticism is what differentiates a scientist from a priest.

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  10. Not to add to the conspiracy theories, but incidentally it looked like Dr Spencer's blog just got hacked/taken down. These silly back and forth games on the internet aren't helping anyone.

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  11. If you are suggesting that this is a tit-fot-tat hacking exercise, you are posting on the correct thread for you. 

    It's conspiracies, like turtles, all the way down.

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  12. Wait, suggesting this at you guys? Lol, no. I don't think taking down websites really has that much organizational bent to it. It has to do with people having  an overly personalised view of the world, and seeing suppression of opinion counter to theirs as some form of defensive action. It's pretty obvious to me that such behaviour been heavilly directed towards pro-CC science urls, and a typical component of the mindset set appears to be focusing on specific individuals, and their supposed motives. I just find it really obnoxious regardless of the target.



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  13. It is interesting that "climate skeptics" are so angry at Lewandowsky for pointing out the obvious.  They are going to be apoplectic now that their anger at how they were originally portrayed is being studied as well.  

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  14. For another example of the conspiracy mindset in Australia, DeSmogBlog has a post titled Climate Change Conspiracy Theorist's Report "A Pile Of Horse Shit" Writes Environment Editor, about a recent report and activities by Malcolm Roberts, who is the volunteer project manager for the Galileo Movement.

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  15. The proprietor of this blog, John Cook, recently promoted a Facebook post written by Michael Mann via Twitter. The post claimed this post by Steve McIntyre contained talked of conspiracies, saying McIntyre:
    chose to invent an entire conspiracy theory involving not just me, but multiple scientists, the AGU, IPCC, etc.
    John Cook also favorably commented on the post, saying:
    I find it interesting that Steve McIntyre automatically lunges towards a conspiratorial explanation of events. Stephan Lewandowsky published a paper last year showing a significant association between climate denial and conspiratorial thinking. The response to the research from climate deniers was a host of new conspiracy theories. We document the originators of these conspiracy theories in the paper Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation: Lewandowsky_2013. The chief originator of conspiracy theories? Steve McIntyre.
    This associated the paper this post is about with Mann's claims, and that leads to an important question. What conspiracy did McIntyre supposedly allege? As far as I can see, he blames everything in that post on Michael Mann. That cannot possibly be talk of a conspiracy.Do you believe McIntyre's post an example of conspiratorial ideation as Mann claims? If so, what conspiracy did he discuss?
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    Moderator Response: [RH] Fixed link that was breaking page format.
  16. Ah, thanks. Sorry about that!
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    Moderator Response: [RH] No problem.
  17. Brandon...  Isn't that a little like asking what the conspiracy was behind the JFK assassination that conspiracy theorists claims?  It's not about the actual conspiracy.  They create a story line out of what they perceive to be inconsistencies.

    The point is the ideation of conspiracies, which is exactly what McIntyre engaged in.  Rather than attempting to look for a logical explanation, or even simply ask Dr Mann any questions, he went off in his own direction connecting dots to form a story line that had no basis in reality.  That's what conspiracy theorist do.  That is what McIntyre did in this case, as well.

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  18. RH, the "fixed link" now goes to an SkS page.  I think you will find this link is the one you are after:

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    Moderator Response: [RH] The link I fixed was the one going to the Lew_2013 paper.
  19. Brandon Shollenberger @15,

    1)  John Cook's comment referred to conspiracy theories developed by McIntyre with regard to Lewandowsky's "conspiracy" paper in 2012.  Referring us back to McIntyre's post on Mann's AGU presentation evades the point raised by Cook rather than adressing it.

    2)  As noted by Rob Honeycutt, Lewandowski's theory is about the presence of conspiracy theory ideation, ie, the types of thought patterns typically found in conspiracy theories, rather than the presence of conspiracy theories themselves.  McIntyre's post on Mann's AGU adress certainly contains conspiracy theory ideation, regardless of whether it contains an actual conspiracy theory.  In this case the conspiracy theory ideation consists of attributing to malice what should properly be attributed to laziness, or carelessness.

    On that topic, Mann's AGU presentation should have used updated data.  The updated data is readilly available and should have been replotted to avoid any possibility of accidental deception.  This is particularly the case given the fact that the updated data appears go against Mann's argument.  Further, Mann should not have used the land station only data.  The comparison was to a projection of global temperatures, so a global temperature index should have been used.  If I understand Mann's explanation correctly, he in fact sent a diagram containing both Land station only, and Land-Ocean data to his publishers, who tidied up the graph by removing the later.  Mann should have noticed that the wrong temperature series had been retained, although it is a natural mistake to not have done so.

    3)  McIntyre does not just criticize Mann, but also goes on to criticize Oreskes.  In fact, he does so in terms that suggest connivance between Mann and Oreskes, saying:

    "Mann's AGU Trick appears to have wrongfooted his mini wingman, Naomi Oreskes."


    "Oreskes’ starting point was that models had supposedly under-estimated relative to observations – a starting-point that seems oddly disconnected to the IPCC graphic shown above but, hey, Oreskes is an expert in manufactured disinformation. If Oreskes was not in fact wrongfooted by Mann, then one would like to know the provenance of her assertion that models were “underestimating” observed temperature increases."

    To clarrify, Oreske's is indeed an expert in analysing the manufacture of disinformation by pseudo-skeptics.  McIntyre's (at best) ambiguous phrasing suggests that she manufactures disinformation rather than analyzing that manufactured by others.

    Be that as it may, Shollenberger's claim that McIntyre "... blames everything in that post on Michael Mann", and that "That cannot possibly be talk of a conspiracy" are simply false.  McIntyre has alleged or strongly suggested that both Mann and Oreskes misrepresented data with an intent to decieve; and strongly hinted that they connived to do so.  That is a conspiracy theory, even if not as wide ranging as suggested by Mann.

    It is worthwhile noting that McIntyre completely misrepresents the basis of Oreske's talk.  As pointed out in comments, it was based on this recently published paper.  Contrary to McIntyre's suposition, it was not based on temperature data alone.  It was not based on analyzing Hansen 88.  It was based on clear assessments of earlier reports by later reports.  There is a certain audacity in McIntyre's suggestion that because Hansen 88 scenario B temperatures are running above observations; that therefore they are running above all projections of temperature increase since 88; and that a general claim that climate scientists have erred on the side of caution must be false because they have over estimated temperatures increases (if they have) regardless of how drastically they have underestimated the retreat of Arctic Sea Ice, Greenland melt rates and sea level rise.

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  20. Tom Curtis @18 is right. Somehow the second link in my post got malformed to have the Skeptical Science URL appended at the beginning. I have no clue how that happened, but you can get the right URL by stripping out the first part (or just following the link Curtis provided).I'm afraid I can't understand the point made by Rob Honeycutt @17. Michael Mann explicitly stated Steve McIntyre invented a conspiracy involving "[Mann], multiple scientists, the AGU, IPCC, etc." That's a very specific claim, and my point has been it is unfounded.
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  21. Tom Curtis @19 raises three points. He first claims discussing this example given by Mann "evades the point raised by Cook." This is untrue. Cook promoted this example by favorably commenting, associating his work with it, as well as by promoting it on Twitter. By implicitly agreeing Mann's claim was another example of what his paper found, he made Mann's claim perfectly relevant.Tom Curtis's second claim is McIntyre's post "certainly contains conspiracy theory ideation" because "it consists of attributing to malice what should properly be attributed to laziness, or carelessness." This is a red herring. McIntyre's attribution was not conspiratorial, whether or not it was right. Malice is only one part of such ideation. Moreover, even if one believed attributing malice is inherently engaging in conspiratorial ideation, that is not what Cook referred to. Cook explicitly said McIntyre "lunges towards a conspiratorial explanation of events." There was nothing conspiratorial about McIntyre's explanation.Tom Curtis's third point is just... strange. He says McIntyre suggests connivance between Naomia Oreskes and Michael Mann when he says Oreskes seems "to have [been] wrongfooted." Being wrongfooted requires one be mislead. Curtis's interpretation requires Oreskes be mislead by Mann yet intentionally play along with him. That's impossible. If Oreskes was mislead to believe a point, she was necessarily unaware the point was wrong.Stephen McIntyre alleged Michael Mann made decisions with the intent to deceive. He then argued it appears those decisions mislead Naomi Oreskes into believing untrue things. Right or wrong, that is not conspiratorial.
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  22. Brandon @ 20...  Your original post states, "Do you believe McIntyre's post an example of conspiratorial ideation as Mann claims?"  My following post is saying that, yes, McI's post is an example of conspiratorial ideation, per Lew 2013.

    Now your post @20 says, "Michael Mann explicitly stated Steve McIntyre invented a conspiracy involving "[Mann], multiple scientists, the AGU, IPCC, etc." That's a very specific claim, and my point has been it is unfounded."

    This was not in your original post and, in fact, you stated differently in each of the two posts.  Re-reading Mann's FB post, it's quite clear that he is referring to "conspiracy ideation" rather than a specific "conspiracy theory."  

    The overriding point remains, rather than looking for a rational explanation (or even bother to ask direct questions) McI takes it upon himself to create his own story out of whole cloth.

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  23. Sorry for the lack of paragraphs. None of my line breaks are going through, and I have no idea why.
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  24. Rob Honeycutt @22 suggests my comment have been inconsistent. This is not true. I asked two questions in my comment. It is true the question he quoted is not addressing the same point as my later comment. However, I asked a second question immediately after the first, "[W]hat conspiracy did [McIntyre] discuss?" That is the point I referred to in my comment @20. I asked the question I asked because my contention is there is no answer.Rob Honeycutt also claims "it's quite clear that [Mann] is referring to 'conspiracy ideation' rather than a specific 'conspiracy theory." I don't see how he came up with that interpretation. Mann explicitly referred to a specific conspiracy theory when he claimed Mcintyre, "chose to invent an entire conspiracy theory." It seems "quite clear" he was referring to a specific conspriacy theory rather than conspiracy ideation. Why else would he refer to a specific conspiracy theory?
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  25. I think I found out what the problem with line breaks was.  My browser blocked a number of scripts this page uses by default, and one of those scripts controls the comment box.  Without the script enabled, the comment box seemed like a mundane text box.  With it enabled, I have various formatting options available.  I bet something about that not having that script running caused my linebreaks to be stripped out.

    Hopefully that solves that mystery  And who knows, maybe that knowledge will help someone in the future.

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  26. Brandon...  You're grasping at straws.  You, yourself stated in your first post, "Do you believe McIntyre's post an example of conspiratorial ideation as Mann claims?"  (My emphasis.) Now you're saying that Mann isn't saying that and is making a statement of an actual conspiracy of some sort.  You can't have it both ways.

    You state that my statement is "not true" but I've not put any words in your mouth.  I've used your direct quotes.  You have made two statements in two posts that are internally inconsistent with the argument you're trying to present.

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  27. Rob Honeycutt, I never claimed you put words in my mouth.  Why would you bring that issue up?  Quoting words doesn't ensure you interpret them correctly.  That's especially true when you only quote some of the words.  In this case, youignored this question from my original comment, "If so, what conspiracy did he discuss?" 

    If McIntyre invented a conspiracy theory, he necessarily showed conspiratorial ideation.  When Mann claimed McIntyre invented a conspiracy theory, he necessarily claimed McIntyre showed conspiratorial ideation.  The one requires the other.  The most you can say is I was unclear when I asked if people agreed McIntyre's post was "an example of conspiratorial ideation" instead of being more specific.

    But I had already quoted Mann's exact words, and my very next sentence was, "If so, what conspiracy did [McIntyre] discuss?"  My intended meaning was quite clear.

    Speaking of clarity Rob Honeycutt, you said, "it's quite clear that [Mann] is referring to 'conspiracy ideation' rather than a specific 'conspiracy theory."  I explained why that seems to be untrue.  You didn't respond to my point.  Do you still believe what you said?

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  28. Brandon...  Again you're grasping at straws here.

    The point is, in your first post you accept that Mann is discussing "conspiracy ideation."  Those are your words (hence, I'm not putting them in your mouth).

    Then in your second post you try to back pedal and say that Mann is talking about a "specific conspiracy theory."

    Even here in your post #27 you're being completely inconsistent again.  In your first post you clearly state that Mann is discussing conspiracy ideation and now you state,

    "[Rob said,]"it's quite clear that [Mann] is referring to 'conspiracy ideation' rather than a specific 'conspiracy theory."  I explained why that seems to be untrue. [...]"

    So, which is it Brandon?  Is he or is he not discussing "conspiracy ideation?"  You have to state that you were in error in one of these posts because they are not consistent.

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  29. And Brandon...  With regards to: "My intended meaning was quite clear."  

    Your meaning is taken from your unequivocal statement saying, "Do you believe McIntyre's post an example of conspiratorial ideation as Mann claims?" (My emphasis.)

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  30. Rob Honeycutt, I offered an explanation.  As far as I can see, you haven't addressed any part of it.  You haven't even quoted or discussed the second question I asked in my original comment.  It would serve no purpose for us to continue repeating ourselves.  If there is a problem with my explanation, feel free to point it out.  Otherwise, I'll leave it to readers to decide if you've shown any sort of inconsistency in my remarks.

    In the meantime, I'll offer one thought.  Even if I were inconsistent as you claim, that inconsistency wouldn't make anything I said wrong.  All it would mean is I offered two different arguments.  The validity of each would still need to be addressed.  Finding a failing on my part wouldn't do that.

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  31. Brandon...  It seems fundamental to the issue where you actually stand with regards to your position.  Either Mann is claiming that McI is engaging in "conspiracy ideation" as you state in your first post, or you're claiming that Mann is saying that there is a specific conspiracy that McI is referring to.

    You're perfectly fine to say that you mis-stated your position in one of these posts.  There's no crime in making an error.  But to continue to claim that there is no inconsistency is to double down on your mistake.

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  32. Brandon...  I have to add, it's actually quite important to get this straight because it's the very basis of your position on the issue.  Only if we clear this us can we even begin to talk about the substance of your original post.

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  33. Shollenberger claims that:

    1)  Cook's acceptance of Mann's description of the case is the point of Cook's post.  To put that in context, this is what Cook wrote:

    "Thanks for the extra details, Mike. I find it interesting that Steve McIntyre automatically lunges towards a conspiratorial explanation of events.Stephan Lewandowsky published a paper last year showing a significant association between climate denial and conspiratorial thinking. The response to the research from climate deniers was a host of new conspiracy theories. We document the originators of these conspiracy theories in the paper Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation: Lew_2013. The chief originator of conspiracy theories? Steve McIntyre."

    By Shallonberger's interpretation, the section in italics is the point of the post, and the section in bold an irrelevant addition.  Given the relative length of the two sections, it is clear that Cook's main point in posting was to draw attention to the discussion of other conspiracy theories by McIntyre.

    Further, even if Shallonberger was correct in his interpretation, it then becomes bizzarre that he wants to discuss the views of a person who merely expressed agreement rather than the views of the person originating the theory.

    I think the more rational perspective is that Shallonberger desperately does not want to discuss Lewsandowsky 2013, which is after all the topic of this thread, and sees the potential in a bit of misinterpretation to spread some FUD without actually needing to engage in a battle he knows he will loose.

    2)  Shollenberger denies that McIntyre used conspiritorial ideation, saying,

    "McIntyre's attribution was not conspiratorial, whether or not it was right. Malice is only one part of such ideation. " 

    (My emphasis)

    Of course, he has given the game away because unwarranted attributions of malice are a form of conspiratorial ideation, as he admits.  It is not necessary for somebody to dispaly all types of conspiritorial ideation for them to display one type.

    3)  Somewhat bizzarely, Shallonberger argues that McIntyre did not think there was collusion between Mann and his "mini-wingman" because Oreskes was, purportedly, wrong footed.  By his interepretation, we must presume that Oreskes did not know the content of her talk, until after she had heard Mann's talk - a claim that is simply absurd given the long lead in to AGU conferences.

    In fact, the mataphor of "wrong footing" does not imply an immediate response, and hence in no way argues against the purported collusion.  Oreskes could have as easilly been "wrong footed" by information given her in the lead up to the AGU as by the lecture itself.

    In contrast, the metaphor of the wingman almost demands that there be cooperation between the two towards a predetermined goal; and indeed that there have been discussion of tactics beforehand.  It is only a metaphor, so McIntyre leaves himself some plausible deniability.  Never-the-less, the suggestions of collusion is fairly emphatic.

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    Moderator Response: [RH] Fixed link that was breaking page formatting.
  34. Tom Curtis @33 offers a bizarre interpretation of my comments and personality.  On the former, he claims I say one part of John Cook's comment is "an irrelevant addition."  I've never said anything of the sort.  Pointing out one part of a comment is relevant is in no way saying another part is irrelevant.

    Following from this, Curtis suggests the "rational perspective" of my comments is I "desperately [do] not want to discuss Lewsandowsky 2013," but rather want to post "a bit of misinterpretation to spread some FUD."  Not only is this an offensive accusation of dishonesty, it is completely baseless.  The reality is I'd happily discuss the paper, but I'm currently discussing a different issue.  Specifically, I want a simple answer to a simple question.  Asking for that before discussing a more complicated issue is perfectly reasonable.

    For his second point, Curtis merely misrepresents what I said.  He says I admit "unwarranted attributions of malice are a form of conspiratorial ideation."  I do nothing of the sort.  I said malice is only one part of conspitorial ideation.  That means you need more than just attributions of malice to exhibit such ideation.  Curtis has somehow conflated "part" with "form" to claim I've said the exact opposite of what I actually said.

    For his third point, Curtis claims my interpretation would require "Oreskes did not know the content of her talk, until after she had heard Mann's talk."  The only reason this would be true is if the only way Oreskes could have seen Mann's graph is to have seen his AGU presentation.  This is a peculiar assumption, one which is inconsistent Curtis's own argument. 

    Curtis says, "Oreskes could have... been 'wrong footed' by information given her in the lead up to the AGU."  If that's true, that information have led her to say what she said in her AGU presentation.  There is no reason she would need to wait until Mann's AGU presentation to know the content of her talk.

    Curtis's discussion of the wingman metaphor is no better.  He suggests an individual and their wingman would work together "towards a predetermined goal," thus Oreskes would have to intend to deceive.  That's a non-sequitur.  Mann and Oreskes could easily share a goal of conveying a particular idea or message, thus making her his mini wingman.  That doesn't mean they have the same beliefs about that message.  People supporting the same message often do it for different reasons.

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  35. I have wasted my time on a few occasions on McIntyre's blog. McIntyre is skilled at not saying anything while still saying it. He tolerates the worst accusations on his blog, to a point that certainly encourages collective conspiratorial thinking in his readers. I have seen how he made the maths in his paper on PCAS do exactly what he wanted it to do. I have read some Schollenberger's prior contributions on various blogs. Here is my personal opinion on this fake debate:

    McIntyre is a denier of the worst kind and he defines what fake skepticism is. Schollenberger is so full of it, one can wonder how he manages the breathe. Any attempt at engaging him in an intellectually honest discussion is futile. This is a clear case of DNFTT.

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  36. I think the real problem is that there may be a conspiracy to present conspiracy theorists as having  conspiratorial delusions in an attempt to invalidate their outings of conspiracies. They'll stop at nothing! I also realized recently that the tinfoil doesn't cut it, really. Fortunately, some large furniture store nearby also has nifty stainless steel bowls that nicely fit on my head. Stainless steel baby! Now I'm protected!! Seriously, Tom, John, and others. This is beyond grotesque. It's worse than the 2nd law thread stuff. It's worse than "Pluto is warming." It's really, truly,  not worth bothering with This is pig that will drag you down in the mud so low that no possible outcome is worth the effort. I know some of you love a challenge but gee...

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  37. In a related note, John Cook just posted this on Twitter:

    Latest conspiracy theory from - getting paid by Al Gore with Al Jazeera oil money


    What is the supposed conspiracy here?  Anthony Watts said "the SkS kidz are behind" a website, pondering how much Skeptical Science got paid for making the site.  Right or wrong, nothing about that idea is a conspiracy.  There is nothing untoward about hiring people to make a website for you.  Besides, the point of a conspiracy is to be secretive.  The entire basis for what Watts said was that the site was developed "through a collaboration with the website Skeptical Science."

    Watts said Skeptical Science was hired to do a job, and their involvement was openly acknowledged.  What about that idea involves a conspiracy?

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  38. Brandon @37,

    The following assertion is simply false:

    "Watts said Skeptical Science was hired to do a job, and their involvement was openly acknowledged. "

    SkS's support was acknowledged; SkS were not hired to do anything, period.  It is really that simple. Watts is embarking on a futile fishing expedition and smear campaign.  

    Watts is clearly trying to insinuate that there is something nefarious and secret going on behind the scenes between Gore, Al Jazeera and SkS. Goodness' knows what compelled Watts to dream up that ridiculous fantasy.  You see Watts is engaging in conspiracy ideation because his question reveals that he thinks/believes that something is going on behind the scenes between Gore, Al Jazeera and SkS.  One has to be incredibly naive (or biased) to think that Watts is not engaging in conspiracy ideation.

    Watts and his ilk seem unaware of the irony here given that it was in fact Watts who approached an AGW denier group (the Heartland Institute) for $88K to develop a web site. I don't think that was public knowledge until the Gleick affair, but I could be wrong about that.

    If Watts wants to continue to make a fool of himself then that is his decision. Likewise, people are free to make fools of themselves by trying to defend his inane and paranoid behaviour.

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  39. Brandon Shollenberger @34:

    1)  Shollenberger now claims,

    "The reality is I'd happily discuss the paper ..." .

    As it happens, however, he waited 9 days without commenting on the OP, but found he had to comment once he found a suitable distraction.  Further, he has now made 7 posts (excluding the posts dealing solely with administrative matters) without getting around to discussing the OP.  Indeed, his most recent post introduces, apropos of nothing, and entirely new topic without getting around to the original post.

    In this case, actions clearly speak louder than words.  He does not want to discuss the original post.  He is not simly clarrifying easier points before embarking on the topic of the OP, because his simple issues are not logically required for discussion of the OP.  He is simply throwing in red herrings to distract from the OP.  In short, he is spreading FUD.  

    And Shollenberger, you may find that description of your acts offensive.  I find, however, of necessity, the act itself must always be more offensive than the description.  If you dislike it when your actions are described truly, the remedy is in your power - stop spreading FUD.

    2)  Shollenberger is distressed that I have mistaken him as saying something true.  I apologize.  I certainly did not want to misrepresent him, and am happy to acknowledge that he said something false when he wrote:

    "Malice is only one part of such ideation" 

    I am not sure what he intends to claim, except that, apparently, malice is not an independent attribute of conspiratorial ideation.  On the contrary, however, it is one of six independent elements of such ideation identified in the Lewandowski 2013:

    "We derived six criteria from the existing literature to permit classi cation of hypotheses pertaining to LOG12 as potentially conspiracist (see Table 3). Our criteria were exclusively psychological and hence did not hinge on the validity of the various hypotheses. ...

    First, the presumed intentions behind any conspiracy are invariably nefarious ...


    A corollary of the fi rst criterion is the pervasive self-perception and self- presentation among conspiracy theorists as the victims of organized persecution. ...


    Third, during its questioning of an official account, conspiracist ideation is characterized by an almost nihilistic degree of skepticism" (Keeley, 1999, p. 125); and the conspiracy theorist refuses to believe anything that does not fi t into the conspiracy theory. ...


    Fourth, to the conspiracy theorist, nothing happens by accident (e.g., Barkun, 2003). ...


    Fifth, the underlying lack of trust and exaggerated suspicion contribute to a cognitive pattern whereby speci c hypotheses may be abandoned when they become unsustainable, but those corrections do not impinge on the overall abstraction that `something must be wrong' and the `official' account must be based on deception (Wood et al., 2012). ...


    Finally, contrary evidence is often interpreted as evidence for a conspiracy. This ideation relies on the notion that, the stronger the evidence against a conspiracy, the more the conspirators must want people to believe their version of events (Bale, 2007; Keeley, 1999; Sunstein & Vermeule, 2009). ..."

    It should be noted that McIntyre's theory exhibits not just the attribution of malice, but also the refusal to allow for accidental developments.  In this case, Mann's continued use of data from 2006 cannot be attributed to laziness (for example), but must be attributed to malice in McIntyre's account.

    3) I do not see any need to add to my prior points about "Wingman Naomi".  Shollenberger's interpretation is patently contrived, and only pursued (I suspect) to evade the embarassment of his claiming that only Mann was discussed when in fact McIntyre discussed two scientists in terms that strongly suggested collusion between them.






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  40. Tom Curtis,

    Let's not forget that the Auditor has associated another name than "Wingman Naomi":

    Update: As reader DGH observed in a comment below, Mann’s presentation at Rutgers also employed Mann’s AGU Trick to hide the divergence between Hansen Scenario B and observed temperature, not showing data after 2005. As noted above, not using up-to-date data in virtually identical circumstances was characterized by Pierrehumbert as “ugly” and “illegitimate”:

    Our emphasis.  Now, why would the Auditor mention Pierrehumbert if Mann alone was his sole target?

    The notion of virtual identity deserves due diligence.


    For memory’s sake, here was the Auditor’s line:

    All in all, it’s a French farce with the Chevalier often acting more like Inspector Clouseau than Hercule Poirot.


    Finally, please note that your interlocutor, which I call Chewbacca because of his fondness for the Chewbaccattack (think South Park), mentioned his pet theory over there:

    One can find an exchange I had with Chewbacca on the same page.

    An exchange that ended with crickets.

    Due diligence,



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  41. Brandon @ 37....   OMG.  You have got to be joking.  That has to be one of the worst conspiratorial twitter posts to ever come out of Watts and you're asking what's the conspiracy? 

    First of all, no one hired SkS to do any work.  Second, no one paid SkS any money.  Third, Anthony was told this and has still chosen to reject the facts and create a post to the contrary.

    Again, this is exactly what "conspiracy ideation" is.  It's following what one perceives to be inconsistencies and then connecting those dots to create a story line, regardless of any actual facts.  

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  42. In addition, how conspiracy ideation works is, when you get an answer that is contrary to your concocted story line, that is further evidence of the "conspiracy."  This is exactly what Tony's doing.  He's been told, upfront and honestly, what the facts are but is choosing to assume those facts are not the truth, but are a cover up for the "real truth."  And his "real truth" is the story that he's concocted.  

    It's a form of circular reasoning.

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  43. And how fascinating how on Lucia's site your true colors come out...

    Brandon Shollenberger (Comment #111119) 

    March 7th, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    John Cook continues the insanity by saying this quote from Anthony Watts is the:

    Latest conspiracy theory from @wattsupwiththat – @skepticscience getting paid by Al Gore with Al Jazeera oil money

    What about hiring people to do a legal job in an open manner is a conspiracy?

    I think this link should take you to the “tweet.”

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  44. Rob Honeycutt:

    I do believe that you are being a tad harsh in your criticism of Watts and his followers. Afterall, they live in a parallel universe where "up" is "down" and "right" is "left", etc.  A little kindness and understanding goes a long way, or so they say.

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  45. Albatross, I had guessed Watts was wrong the first time I read his comment.  I figured Skeptical Science helped in some way, but I figured they did it for free.  But being wrong doesn't make one conspiratorial.  That is true, for example, when you are wrong and say:

    Watts is clearly trying to insinuate that there is something nefarious and secret going on behind the scenes between Gore, Al Jazeera and SkS.

    Watts did not try to insinuate there was anything going on between "Gore, Al Jazeera and SkS."  Al Gore was recently part of a business deal in which he got a large amount of money from Al Jazeera.  Watts was referring to this, suggesting Gore paid SKS with money gotten from that deal.  There is no reason to interpret Watts as suggesting Al Jazeera was involved.  It was just a jab at Al Gore for taking money from Al Jazeera.

    Just think.  You based your description of Watts (on part) on such an simple misinterpretation.  If you can do that, surely you should at least consider cutting him some slack.

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  46. Tom Curtis @39 again accuses me of dishonesty in his 1, but he fails to address the fact he misrepresented my remarks while making this same claim just before.  That point has apparently been dropped.  I can only assume he has no explanation for his misrepresentation.

    He instead focuses on a different point: That I (supposedly) haven't discussed this paper.  The reality is I have discussed this paper with several different people, and I have spent a fair amount of time examining it.  The fact I haven't discussed it in this particular spot doesn't mean anything more than I want to focus on one issue at a time.

    Curtis even makes an issue of the fact I "waited 9 days without commenting on the OP."  This is a peculiar claim as until the day I posted on this page, I didn't even know it existed.  I did a search of this site to find a recent post discussing an issue that would make my concerns topical.  That was when I first saw this page.

    Put simply, Curtis's accusations of dishonesty, made in blatant violation of this site's Comments Policy, are baseless.

    For his 2, Curtis claims unnecessary attribution of malice is "one of six independent elements of such ideation."  An element is a part of something.  It is a component, exactly in line with me saying it is "only one part."  That means his remark actually agreed with what I've said.  I'll assume that was a mistake, and he meant to say each of the six elements are different types of conspiratorial ideation.

    In that case, I'll stress the work this post is about says its criteria are for classifying hypotheses "as potentially conspiracist."  Potentially.  As in, it may or may not be conspiratorial.  Curtis portrays the fact something meets one (or more) of the six criteria as making it conspiratorial, but that relies on misrepresenting the paper.  Meeting one or more criteria is necessary but not sufficient.

    For his 3, Curtis effectively says we've gone as far as we can on that issue.  I agree.  I will merely state I have posted in complete honesty, despite what Curtis may say.  We may be at a stalemate on this point, but it is not because I'm being dishonest.

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  47. Rob Honeycutt @41 and @42 says:

    Third, Anthony was told this and has still chosen to reject the facts and create a post to the contrary.
    This is exactly what Tony's doing.  He's been told, upfront and honestly, what the facts are but is choosing to assume those facts are not the truth, but are a cover up for the "real truth."

    When I looked at Anthony's site for posts about the issue, I found this site.  On it, Watts shows the exact opposite of what Honeycutt portrays.  He says he sent an e-mail to John Cook asking how much Cook was paid.  There is then an update that says Cook responded, saying he wasn't paid anything.  That is the opposite of what Honeycutt says. 

    Watts didn't know "the facts" before he made his post, and he accepted them once he found them out.  As far as I can see, Rob Honeycutt's description is completely false.

    As for him saying (@43) my "true colors come out" on a different site, I haven't said anything different on any other site.  The only thing I've done differently here is use a more moderate tone in respect for this site and its rules.  My views are well-documented.  There would be no point in me trying to hide them.  I couldn't if I wanted to.

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  48. Brendon...  If Watts didn't know the facts before making his post, then he's engaging in conspiratorial ideation.  You find out the facts before you make a post.  Not after.

    And, in fact, Watts has not recanted any of the errors he's put forth.  Not unlike how you have continually done here.

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  49. Brandon...  If I posted a comment on WUWT asking the readers how many people believe John Cook when he said SkS was not paid for the material, how many would say they believe it?  Think about it.  What about you?  Do you believe it?

    That is the essence of what I'm talking about.  

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  50. It might be time to ask Chewbacca if he recognizes that this claim is untrue:

    > Put simply, Steve McIntyre blamed everything in this post on Michael Mann.

    If we remove that untrue claim, his post at Tony's rests on snickers alone.

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