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Climate Hustle

AGU Fall Meeting sessions on social media, misinformation and uncertainty

Posted on 16 July 2012 by John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky

We have proposed several sessions for the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco on 3-7 December: on social media, misinformation and uncertainty. AGU members are invited to submit abstracts for the sessions - the deadline to submit an abstract is August 8. Details of the sessions are:

PA013: Social Media and Blogging as a Communication Tool for Scientists

Session Abstract:
Social media and the Internet has become an increasingly indispensable tool for scientists and communicators. This session will feature key figures in the climate blogosphere who have adopted novel and effective methods of communicating climate change science on the Internet. They will discuss the risks and rewards of new media, covering issues such as the challenges and advantages of crowd sourcing, viral marketing, Internet marketing and traffic generation, the use of smartphones, the management of online communities and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Convenor: John Cook

Invited Speakers:

  • Michael Mann
  • Michael Tobis
  • Peter Sinclair
  • Zeke Hausfather

ED042: Understanding & Responding to Misinformation

Session Abstract:
Scientists face many challenges in effectively communicating science to the public, not the least being the presence of misinformation. However, there are actually positive educational opportunities available in the correction of misinformation. This session will explain the psychology and origins of misinformation, the cognitive processes at play when correcting misconceptions and recommended approaches to effective myth debunking. The session will be relevant to scientists seeking to explain their science, to communicators wishing to effectively outreach to the public and educators who may need to respond to misinformation in the classroom.

Convenors: Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook

Invited Speakers:

  • Daniel Bedford
  • Max Boykoff

GC014: Construing Uncertainty in Climate Science

Session Abstract:
Uncertainty forms an integral part of climate science, and it is often cited in connection with political arguments against mitigative action. However, the implications of uncertainty are not always well understood. In particular, uncertainty is often misunderstood to imply that the risk from climate change may be minimal, whereas in fact greater uncertainty translates into greater risk. This session will examine how uncertainty can be misconstrued, how such misconstrual can be avoided, what the implications of uncertainty are for risk management, and why the notion of uncertainty plays such an important role in cognition and decision making as it relates to climate change.

Convenors: John Robert Hunter, Stephan Lewandowsky, James Risbey

Invited Speakers:

  • Naomi Oreskes
  • Gerard Roe
  • Paul Baer
  • Mike Raupach

AGU Members, click here to submit an abstract for either session.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 155:

  1. Eric,

    A brief Google of Lewandowsky shows he has over 100 publications and is an expert at surveys of this type. Your own quote says "The issue of whether or not to offer a midpoint has been disputed for decades" my emphasis. You then conclude Lewandowsky incorrectly formatted the questions. Obviously experts dispute your conclusion. Your conclusion is wrong according to your own quote.

    The survey was people who responded to a link online. This is described in detail in the paper. You appear to have not read the paper you are criticizing. Lewandowsky had a number of additional questions that were dropped from the paper. Perhaps he did exactly what you describe. You have offered no evidence to support your position, only uninformed speculation. Your hand waving is not sufficient to argue with a peer reviewed paper. You must provide specific examples of what you think is incorrect and expert opinion that it is not correct. If experts disagree it is obviously acceptable to use the format.

    In this thread unsupported opinion has run rampant. Please support your assertions with peer reviewed data. Unsupported hand waving can be dismissed with a hand wave.
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  2. From what I've read, most people do not have an issue with the paper itself (except for Tom's wife). Apart from expressing 'miffness' that some blogs say they were not invited to post a link to the survey, their main concern is the title. The complaint is that, while the title reflects what the study was investigating, it does not adequately reflect what was found.

    I have a couple of suggestions for the title that should be more acceptable:

    No Market is 100% Laissez-Faire - Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

    Alternatively:

    Many societies elect Governments - Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

    Either of the above would more closely reflect the actual findings. (Variations could include: I don't want to pay tax therefore...; or similar.)
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  3. After all the kerfuffle, 'skeptic' blogger McIntyre finally found his invitation to post a link to the survey. He said he ignored it.
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  4. sout #53
    McIntyre says he received the request from Lewandowsky’s assistant 6th September, (a week after the survey had been posted at Tamino, Deltoid etc) and a follow up request two weeks later. That brings us to 20th September. 23rd of September Lewandowsky gave a presentation at Monash University in which he anounced the results of the survey, with the current sample size of 1100 (i.e. after the elimination of false data and duplicated IPs). So three days after asking for cooperation in fieldwork, he’d processed the results and written his conclusions and announced them.
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  5. Geoff,
    So Lewandowsky processed his data as he received it. When McIntyre turned him down he announced what he had collected. What do you think would be better, for Lewandowsky to sit on his data forever waiting for a response from the skeptics?

    Your entire premise is that there was a conspiracy to prove that skeptics believe in conspiracies. Your position proves that you believe in conspiracies. Your posts are in violation of the comments policy. You are wasting our time. Go cry somewhere else.
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  6. I'm with michael sweet on this point.

    Any competent researcher will have established a priori his statistical analysis methodology - in fact that's a fundamental assumption of any experimental protocol. His/her spreadsheets would have been constructed, populated with dummy data, run, examined, and refined until all s/he need do is to drop in the real data as it comes, with the results returned almost immediately after the last entry.

    All the more so if s/he's an old hand at the process.

    With progressive data entry, there should be no surprises by the end: only the establishing of the final few decimal places.

    geoffchambers is looking for reds under the bed.
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  7. Agree with BernardJ and Michael. I do a lot of internet surveys. Interim results can be virtually instant if you've set up your analytical software in advance.

    Had McIntyre posted a link when he got the first or second request and his visitors had responded, then given the numbers of responses recorded, the main difference would more than likely have been that N would have been higher.
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  8. #55 Michael Sweet
    No, I don’t think it was a conspiracy, simply a poorly conceived survey, with much to criticise in the questionnaire, the methodology, the analysis and the conclusions.
    Following the statement from the moderator that I should contact John Cook directly, I received a cordial email from John Cook yesterday offering to answer my questions. I wrote back briefly, asking simply when he posted Lewandowsky’s request, when he deleted it, if there had been any comments, and whether they still existed or had been deleted too.
    That was just over 24 hours ago. I’ll post his response here when I receive it.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "I’ll post his response here when I receive it."

    Not unless it is explicitly made clear that the contents of the email are for public dissemination.

  9. You can already see it coming: "Surveygate" :-)
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  10. There is no such thing as a 'perfect' survey. Methodology always plays some part in determining the results. Self selecting internet surveys and small sample sizes layer several additional concerns on top of those standard problems. However, Lewandowsky seems to have acknowledged these issues in his results, stated that the results were limited to a specific sub-group of skeptics, discussed the uncertainties, et cetera.

    It is not a perfect survey because it cannot be. No such thing exists. That said, it seems adequate to its task.

    I'm surprised by the hub bub. When I first heard of these results my reaction was along the lines of, 'Yes... and the Earth revolves around the Sun and the sky is blue.' The findings of this survey fall into the category of 'blindingly obvious'. Of course there is a correlation between internet GW 'skepticism' and free-market ideology / belief in conspiracy theories. Half the stuff we see from these people is about how the evil scientist cabal is faking data and any sort of CO2 regulation would destroy the economy and usher in world communism. Go to any of the blogs complaining about the survey and I guarantee you will find plenty of examples proving it redundant.
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  11. @metzomagic #59:

    Such alredy exists in Ostrichville which, by the way, is a gated-community.
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  12. Tom Curtis writes:

    I was talking to my wife about the Lewandowsky paper yesterday. She noted two points in particular. First, the absence of a neutral (I don't know/I know nothing about it) option in the questions was a serious methodological flaw. This is particularly the case for the conspiracy theory questions, in which at least one of the conspiracy theories are obscure (IMO), and not inherently implausible:


    I can partially answer this question with the cited literature.

    Belief in Conspiracy Theories, Ted Goertzel, 1994 cited by 81


    The respondents were then asked their opinions about nine other conspiracies which had been in the news lately. A four point scale was used, ranging from "definitely true" and "probably true" to "probably false" and "definitely false." "Don't know" was not offered as an alternative, but was recorded when the respondents volunteered it. This question wording encouraged respndents to give their best guess as to the truth of a conspiracy, while relying the distinction between "probably" and "definitely" to distinguish between hunches and strong beliefs.


    Now let me be clear that it does not fully answer the question of how a respondent would be able to show that this conspiracy was an "unknown". Perhaps the answer lies in the ability of an online survey vs a phone survey (as was the case in Goertzel 94). But it's a good question for Stephan L to answer nonetheless.
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  13. First, the absence of a neutral (I don't know/I know nothing about it) option...

    A neutral response is not the same as a 'don't know' response.

    The former is the mid-point on the (Likert) scale (eg option 3 of 5 options or option 2 of 3 options). The 'don't know' option is basically the same as not offering a response and is separate from the choice scale itself.

    There are differing views among experts on whether to force a response (eg have a four point scale) without a neutral mid-point or whether to allow neutral and/or don't know responses. And some people use different scales and choices in some circumstances but not others.

    I expect Dr Lewandowski has a reasonable amount of experience in surveys and would certainly have access to literature on the topic.
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  14. sout #63:
    “There are differing views among experts on whether to force a response (eg have a four point scale) without a neutral mid-point or whether to allow neutral and/or don't know responses”.
    Agreed. But this was a survey designed to attract sceptics, and be used by sceptics. A sceptic is someone who suspends judgement until he knows all the facts. This definition goes back at least as far as Pyrrho of Elis in the 4th century BC and maybe further (Anyone got their Diogenes Laertes handy?)
    Lewandowsky, in an interview on a University of Western Australia site, makes much of the fact that he received responses from Australia; the USA; the UK and elsewhere. (That’s how we have to piece together the demographics of this survey, because nothing is revealed in the paper itself). I, an Englishman, know nothing about the Oklahoma bombing. How much does the average American know about the death of Princess Diana, or the average Australian about the US policy on interning extraterrestrials? We sceptics are likely to be doubtful and unwilling to commit ourselves. So we get chucked out of the survey for refusing to answer, in other words, for beng ... sceptical.
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  15. Clarifications

    Apparently my comments have caused a stir in the blogosphere, and require some clarification.

    First, apparently some people are treating my comments as representing an official view of Skeptical Science. They are not. I have only spoken for myself; and will never speak as an official spokes person of Skeptical Science except in my limited role as a moderator. Nothing I say or write outside of moderation boxes on SkS represents any view other than my own, although other SkS authors may agree with me to a greater or lesser extent.

    Second, I have not called for the retraction of the Lewandowsky paper. My understanding is that the paper is accepted for publication, but not yet printed. As such it can be withdrawn from publication to allow time for a re-write to correct what I consider to be major flaws. If, however, it has already been printed, it should not be retracted. Retraction is an admission of fraud, or of completely unscientific practice, neither of which have occurred here. If the paper has already been printed, the appropriate course, should Lewandowsky become convinced of the existence of major flaws, is the printing of a correction.

    It has been suggested in private correspondence that calling for the withdrawal of a paper is a major insult. It was certainly not my intention to insult Lewandowsky and his co-authors; and I regret any offense that they have taken. It has further been suggested that calling for withdrawal is equivalent to saying, "Your work is of such shameful quality that it needs to be removed at once." In my view this is an absurd interpretation. In my view it is equivalent to saying, "Your work as it currently stands is likely to mislead, and as I accept that you are a person of principle, I expect that you do not want to do that, even inadvertently, and will act accordingly".

    My full response on this point, minus an introductory and identifying comment, was:

    "Unless it is acceptable practise for scientists to knowningly allow falsehood to be published under their name, on hearing of a significant flaw in their paper, the paper must be re-written if there is time; withdrawn and re-written if there is not time for a rewrite before going to press; or have a correction published if it has gone to press. Because these are minimal standards of proper conduct, suggesting that an as yet unprinted paper be re-written or withdrawn is no more offensive than suggesting that it contains major flaws. The only way my suggestions can be considered offensive is if it is insulting to suggest major flaws in somebodies paper. Such an ettiquette is, however, entirely inconsistent with the vigourous review that is the sin qua non of science.

    Such an ettiquette may have grown up among scientists by custom; but in that event it is irrational and I will not pander to it."


    Third, lest there be any doubt, there is no reasonable suggestion of fraud or other scientific wrong doing here. At most Lewandowsky has been too casual in screening for gamed responses; and slightly over interpreted the results. That represents a major flaw in the paper (if I am correct); but has no implications whatever about Lewandowsky's integrity as a scientist.

    IMO, Lewandowsky's choice of a title is, and should be, far more damaging to his reputation as a scientist than the other flaws (IMO) in his paper.
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  16. GeoffChambers @54 and foxgoose @65, if there is a problem with announcing preliminary results, it is at most that it might bias the returns from "skeptical" sites should it be heard of. This is only a problem if the survey did not have a deadline for completion prior to Sept 23rd, 2010.

    Should Lewandowski have received a large number of responses after announcing the preliminary results that changed the outcome, he would merely have to have corrected the announced result.
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  17. A reply to #64:
    A sceptic is someone who suspends judgement until he knows all the facts.
    I haven't seen much evidence of that at many 'sceptic' websites about climate science. Instead, there's copious evidence of people uncritically accepting any old rubbish so long as it appears to contradict the consilience of evidence on climate change.

    One week there'll be an argument saying CO2 rise is natural, the next week CO2 won't be rising; the week afterwards, CO2 is rising but it's not warming; after that, it is warming but it's all natural; after that it's UHI; after that, the scientists are making everything up; but after that CO2 won't be scattering IR radiation and warming the surface (somehow); after that, the hockey stick is broken (except when it shows a large MCA, in which case palaeoclimate evidence is perfect); after that, it's all the Sun, which is odd if it's not warming! And of course it's always cooling, because 'sceptics' don't seem to be able to understand the difference between signal and noise! There's precious little real scepticism being shown by so-called "climate sceptics".

    So many of these arguments are either contradicted by the full body of evidence, or contradict themselves (e.g. "it's not warming" and "warming is natural"). There's no coherent hypothesis to explain the existing evidence. Not one "sceptic" has come up with such an hypothesis, despite years of this so-called debate.

    "Scepticism" would be a great deal more believable, and less like a conspiracy theory if climate sceptics could come up with a coherent hypothesis to test. But I'm not holding my breath. The real 'sceptics' are scientists, who test their hypotheses to breaking point all the time, and have thus come up with the theory that CO2 is the biggest control knob on climate, one we're turning right now, a theory that fits the physics, the observations, the palaeoclimatic evidence and the models. Please come up with a better theory! I want the science to be wrong on this. But I need strong evidence to do this, not a hodge-podge of mutually contradictory and easily falsifiable ideas with precious little evidence to support them.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Fixed text.
  18. I would have to say that the modern sceptic/skeptic movement is not as passive as the ancient Greek version.

    I am here thinking of the skeptics that organize JREF, or who form the blogging collective Skeptic North, or similar outfits.

    Rather than simply deferring judgement on phenomena or claims until all the facts are in, the modern skeptic behaves in a manner similar to the professional scientist: accepting caims proportionately to the evidence that can be mustered to support them.

    At any rate, whatever definition one uses, skywatcher's point that self-styled skeptics of climate science are, in their uncritical acceptance of dubious contrary claims in the face of an enormous body of consilient supporting evidence, definitely not behaving in a manner consistent with skepticism, stands.
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  19. Composer and skywatcher,

    Ironically, the self-styled "skeptics" seem to not understand what it means (or involves) to be a true skeptic. What we have here, on this very thread, are examples of the behaviour of what is more accurately called fake skeptics. Perusing the thread quickly exposes the fake skeptics.

    To the fake skeptics I say, please stop abusing and soiling the term "skeptic" by associating it with your misguided and ideological belief system.

    Stephan has enough material following this fiasco to write a paper on a case study of fake skeptics confirming the very hypothesis that they are railing against. Too funny for words.
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  20. Getting back to the focus of the OP, some pretty good responses to misinformation can often be found on the same "skeptic" site that publishes the misinformation, down in the comments. It is true that it can be buried in noise, that comes with the audience. The social media acceptance of dissonance, contradiction and noise is a hallmark of this debate, popularity does not often come with quiet rational discussion, but popularity has its advantages.
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  21. @geoffchambers - the study found that extreme right wing ideology was a strong predictor of rejection of climate science.

    The number of conspiracy theorists who responded was very low (unsurprisingly). Conspiracy theorists were separated from 'skeptics' in the analysis and the attempt to analyse them found not as high a correlation with science rejection as with 'skeptics' in any case. So I don't know why you are going on and on about the conspiracy side of things.

    As for 'skeptics' not seeing the survey. A 'skeptic' such as you've described would be bound to visit a broad range of websites and not huddle on 'skeptic' websites. Therefore the chances are that some of them would have seen and responded to the survey. As comments on mainstream climate science websites (such as this one) illustrate, even 'fake skeptics' visit here and elsewhere. This is borne out by the survey responses.

    The study findings should not be surprising to anyone, whether they are a fake skeptic or someone who seriously wants to know facts.

    The reaction baffles me. As anyone who visits climate science blogs and anti-science blogs knows, many 'skeptics' claim climate science is a left wing hoax. Yet there seem to be a lot of 'skeptics' who want to dispute the finding of this survey, that having a more conservative bias, particularly at the extreme end, is a predictor of rejection of science.

    The reaction of 'skeptics' seems to me to be contrariness taken to absurd lengths.
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  22. sout #71 says:
    I don't know why you are going on and on about the conspiracy side of things.

    The first article annoncing this survey in the mainstream media was Adam Corner’s in the Guardian with the headline: “Are climate sceptics more likely to be conspiracy theorists?” More recently, Britain’s most popular serious paper, the Telegraph, covered the story in an article with the headline: “Climate change deniers 'are either extreme free marketeers or conspiracy theorists’”. Lewandowsky’s paper is headlined: “NASA faked the moon landing - Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax”.
    The survey is all about linking scepticism of climate science to belief in conspiracy theories.
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  23. Tom Curtis at 08:50 AM on 5 September, 2012
    (-Blockquote of entire comment snipped-)

    Well, we know from Steve McIntyre today that his reminder email asking him to post the questionnaire came on August 23rd, the exact day of Lewandowsky's presentation - so I guess you'll agree there is a problem.

    You seem to be a fair minded chap, Tom - can you honestly say you believe that, if Stephan had received later responses from sceptics blogs which invalidated his "preliminary conclusion", he (-snip-).

    (-Snip-)
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Presumptions of intent to deceive snipped. Further willful violations of the Comments Policy would be ill-advised.
  24. Foxgoose - The facts of the matter are that McIntyre did not respond, and that Lewandowski announced based on the data he had.

    You are also, IMO, making an unwarranted assumption that McIntyre's responses would have materially changed the results - that's merely speculation on your part. And as Tom Curtis noted, any response from McIntyre now would be inevitably biased by the preliminary results.

    ---

    My impression (my opinion only) is that the complaints by GeoffChambers and Foxgoose are driven more by the results of the Lewandowski study than the methodology. Which, in itself, is supportive of Lewandowskis conclusions...
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  25. Very scientific, Foxgoose. "I think things might/might not have been different, if something else was different."

    A concrete case if ever there was one.

    As the wag on Lewandowsky's site remarked and extending the point, if McIntyre spent more time reading his own mail and less time burrowing into email not addressed to him, McIntyre's acolytes could have been part of the survey and then we'd be able to see your speculation resolved.
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  26. Geoff wrote: "The survey is all about linking scepticism of climate science to belief in conspiracy theories."

    How can being 'skeptical' of an entire branch of science, conducted by thousands of scientists over the course of centuries, not in and of itself constitute belief in a conspiracy theory? The only way you can arrive at 'skepticism' of the overwhelming balance of data is by imagining a vast scientific conspiracy.

    Heck, Foxgoose is advancing a conspiracy theory about what Lewandowsky hypothetically would have done had 'skeptic' blogs responded to his request and provided different results.

    Face it. Lewandowsky's survey just stated the obvious.
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  27. Correction to post 73.

    "August 23rd" should of course have been "September 23rd"
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  28. CBDunkerson at 02:56 AM on 6 September, 2012

    How can being 'skeptical' of an entire branch of science, conducted by thousands of scientists over the course of centuries, not in and of itself constitute belief in a conspiracy theory?


    I don't think anyone is sceptical of any "entire branch of science".

    A great many people are sceptical, however, of the politically led and inspired "science" which grew out of the UN inspired IPCC.

    As far as I'm aware, there has never been a precedent in free democratic societies for science to be politically directed to reach a specific conclusion - although there have been several precedents in totalitarian societies.
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  29. Further to CBDunkerson, it's not just one branch of science that's supposedly included in the conspiracy.

    As knock-on effects of geophysics reverberate into biology and numerous other arenas of inquiry, researchers in those fields who notice and then remark on observed changes are dragged down into to the mental pit being dug by the conspiratorially-minded sect of ostriches. They have to be, because in order for the plot to make sense in its own hermetic way the envelope of inclusion needs to be expanded to accommodate and explain away new findings.

    As Lewandowsky's case shows, things become really interesting when social scientists become intrigued by climate change. We're now seeing the emergence of something of a Klein bottle or the like in the way of conspiracy thinking; the conspiracy is being folded back on itself into a weird and tortured topology order to explain away the conspiracy itself.

    There's really no end to it, except increasing embarrassment for everybody.
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  30. A great many people are sceptical, however, of the politically led and inspired "science" which grew out of the UN inspired IPCC.

    But let's be clear, not a conspiracy. Sounds like a conspiracy, has the same effect as a conspiracy, but is not a conspiracy.
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  31. This is perhaps the most amusing thread I have ever read at SkS.
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  32. doug_bostrom at 03:16 AM on 6 September, 201

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    Moderator Response: [DB] Further block quoting of entire comments will result in summary deletion of your comment. Adherence to the Comments Policy is not optional, waivable by personal fiat. Your continued posting privileges are not a right.
  33. As far as amusing threads go, I think the "waste heat" threads are in close competition, especially as they've also got the feature of built-in irony.
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  34. Foxgoose, your claims regarding climate science & the IPCC are completely and unequivocally false.

    (I originally wrote 'as far as I can see' but decided upon review to omit that qualifier as it appears unnecessary.)

    I might add they are quite off-topic for this thread. Searching for 'IPCC' in the search box will lead you to an appropriate thread where you can further develop your claims if you wish.

    If you wish to persist, please demonstrate, with reference to methodologies, techniques, and data analysis, that a significant fraction (say, 5%) of papers contributing to any given IPCC report are inadequate, and that these inadequacies follow from the IPCC's "politically led and inspired 'science'", on an appropriate thread.

    I have seen claims similar to yours advanced in the past (such as by Donna Laframboise), and such claims inevitably end up being so much hot air for lack of substantiation.
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  35. Foxgoose, I wonder if you're familiar with the Monnett case? As an exercise, could you indulge us by diagramming the path of apparently undetectable yet simultaneously powerful and specific political direction leading from the United Nations down to the level of Monnett?

    Perhaps you can think of another example to show.
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  36. Doug, there's built-in irony here, too. Consider the intense scrutiny of Lewandowsky on the one hand and the complete lack of scrutiny of the "climategate" allegations. As gallopingcam . . . err . . . Geoff Chambers (sorry, mixed the two threads) said, the damage is already done in the public mind. So too with climategate. Does GC think we'll be hearing about Lewandosky in the climate-related comment mainstreams, perhaps to the same extent that climategate is mentioned? Not a chance, even though the basis in reason for the SL paper is much more sound than that of the climategate allegations. Has Bishop Hill, WUWT, CA, or any of the usual suspects ever issued a standing statement of rejection of the climategate allegations (and reminded the garbage floating in their comment streams)? If not, nitpicking over the SL paper does seem slightly . . .

    Foxgoose, are you suggesting that the hundreds of scientists of the IPCC who are summarizing the work of thousands of climate scientists (a whole branch of science) are twisting that science to meet a pre-defined (by politicians) conclusion? And all while none of the scientists whose work has been used are making substantial complaints about that twisting?

    Or is it that the scientists had been coming to that conclusion for decades and only recently have politicians decided to what sort of consensus and consequences might be at hand?
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  37. Foxgoose @73&77, McIntyre did not receive the email requesting that he post notice of the survey on the 23rd of Sept as you claim, but on the 6th of Sept. He received a follow up email "two weeks later", which is vague enough that it may have been the 23rd, but equally, may have been as early as the 17th.

    It seems to me that you are fishing for problems rather than observing the facts for problems that actually exist.
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  38. This would funny if it wasn't also pathetic. It is also somewhat typical. In the absence of anything they can latch on in the real science that would lead to a serious revision of the consensus model of Earth' climate, so-called skeptics make a target of one tiny, marginally relevant item and try to show all the possible evil they can think of in that item. With passionate self-righteous outbursts to boot. A hurricane in a thimble.

    And the inevitable acusations against IPCC, of course. These are so self defeating as to defy how any intelligent person could even go that route.

    Let's think about where the political pressures could come from in IPCC: China, Russia, US, the emerging nations? Russia, a huge producer/exporter of fossil fuels, is already drooling all over the opening Arctic Ocean. China, with enormous reserves of dirty brown coal that they're so glad to have as it dispenses them from importing too much from, say, Australia. The US, a gargantuan powerhouse of fossil fuel burning, where lobby groups for coal, oil and natural gas spend millions of dollars and maintain full time crews to influence the political process. Let's think of who else is in he UN: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Indonesia, etc, etc. How about Europe? Which one of the European countries does not have a huge infrastructure geared for fossil fuel use? Which one has an agriculture that isn't on a lifeline of fossil fuel?

    But all of these countries together exercise political pressures in a direction pointing to the eradication of the industrial scale use of fossil fuels. That makes perfect sense. The immense green conspiracy has managed to gather more means and more influence than industries generating billions of dollars in profit every month. They've thwarted the KGB, CIA, overwhelmed Exxon Mobil and Koch brothers, while developing that stupendous power all in secret. Of course, perfectly plausible. How could such a theory not be true?

    The idiocy of it all greatly reduces the entertainment value...
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  39. "As far as I'm aware, there has never been a precedent in free democratic societies for science to be politically directed to reach a specific conclusion"

    Very funny. Now where is your evidence to support that assertion at all? The IPCC summaries science, it does not fund nor does it direct. I can state catagorically that no scientist in my institution working on climate-related science was directed by anyone to reach a particular conclusion. Your belief that this is so seems to rather confirm Lewandowsky results.
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  40. I have followed up on my analysis, with the following results:

    First, as regards the possibly scammed nature of the two outliers, I split the data into three groups based on responses to the climate change questions. The groups are the rejectors of AGW (mean score less than 1.34), the undecided (mean score greater than 1.34, and less than 2.67), and the acceptors (mean score greater than 2.67). The distributions for all responses, and for each of the various groups are as follows:


    {-SD {Mean }Mean }+SD }+2SD }+3SD }+4SD }+5SD }+6SD
    Total 203 473 319 104 34 8 1 1 2
    {1.34 18 23 18 5 4 0 0 0 2
    1.34-2.67 15 42 41 11 7 3 0 1 0
    }2.67 170 408 260 88 23 5 1 0 0
    (Note:I have used { to mean less than, and } to mean greater than to avoid problems with html code.)
    In each case, the mean is the arithmetic of all responses to conspiracy theory questions, excluding YClimateChange; and the SD is for the all responses likewise.

    We can expect outliers, but we expect most outliers in the groups with the largest populations, and with the broadest distribution. We do not expect the two most extreme outliers in the smallest group, especially when that group has a narrow distribution. Given this more detailed analysis, I must continue in my belief that the to most extreme outliers are the results of attempts to game the survey.

    This is particularly the case given that adherents to conspiracy theories tend to follow conspiracy theories favourable to their ideologies, so that adherence to some conspiracy theories will be negative predictors for adherence to other conspiracy theories. My limited reading in the professional literature, and extensive experience debating conspiracy theorists leads me to believe that a conspiracy theorists who strongly believes all of 14, not closely connected conspiracy theories are rare. The belief that two such rarities decided to grace the survey with their presence lacks any warrant.

    Second, as regards whether the two outliers have an impact on the results, I split the data into three bins as above and determined the mean acceptance of conspiracy theories for each bin. It is not clear to me whether a large number of agreements, or a few number of strong agreements should be given more weight on this issue, so I repeated the analysis using the the Arithmetic, Harmonic, and Geometric mean. In all cases, as can be seen below, rejectors were less accepting of conspiracy theories than the undecided. More importantly, if the two outliers were included, rejectors where more accepting of conspiracy theories than acceptors, but if they were excluded, rejectors were equally or less accepting of conspiracy theories than acceptors.


    N= 1.34- N= 1.34-(Excl) N= 1.34-2.67 N= 2.67+
    ArithMean 70 1.6 68 1.53 120 1.66 955 1.53
    Harmean 70 1.42 68 1.35 120 1.48 955 1.37
    Geomean 70 1.5 68 1.43 120 1.56 955 1.44
    (Note: in this and the following table, x- should be read as less than the number, x; while x+ should be read as more than the number x.)

    On a hunch I repeated the experiment for the arithmetic mean only, and using only two bins (less than 2.1 and more than 2.1). In the two bin case, the group least supportive of AGW also had the greater propensity to accept conspiracy theories. I suggest that this result is an artifact of the very small number of true rejectors (N=70) relative to the number of undecided (N=120) and supporters (N=955).

    N= 2.1-(Excl) N= 2.1- N= 2.1+
    154 1.6 156 1.63 989 1.53

    It should be noted that among the undecided, those that lean towards rejecting AGW (N=86) significantly outnumber those that lean towards accepting AGW (N=34). Therefore slight changes to the binning algorithm may have significant affects on the apparent acceptance of conspiracy theories by AGW rejectors, and also on the robustness of the result. However, the acceptance of conspiracy theories by the undecided leaning towards rejection is almost identical to that of those leading towards acceptance. Therefore any signficant changes in this result as a consequence of changing the binning algorithm is likely an artifact of the very disparate sizes of the various groups.

    N= 1.34-2.1 N= 2.1-2.67
    86 1.67 34 1.63

    All in all, I cannot see how this data supports the claimed correlation between rejection of climate science and acceptance of conspiracy theories. Certainly it supports far better the more interesting result that firm opinions about climate science in either direction are negatively correlated with acceptance of conspiracy theories. There is, however, no discussion of that fact in the paper.

    For those people trying to find a conspiracy in this incident (geoffchambers; foxgoose), it seems far more likely to me that the "errors" in analysis in this paper are the result of insufficient care in allowing for the very disparate numbers between acceptors and rejectors of AGW in the responses. I place "errors" in inverted commas as it is still not certain that Lewandowsky cannot explain why his result in fact follows from the data, although I am dubious that he will be able to do so.

    Thirdly, with regard to surveys with no neutral option. Speaking as a taker of surveys, there is no doubt I feel manipulated whenever the neutral option is denied to me. My strong impression is that surveyors taking that option are not interested in my actual opinion, but only in forcing me into their own predetermined categories. The logical fallacy of the excluded middle does not magically become sound because it is used as a survey technique.
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    Moderator Response: TC: This post contains a substantial error, which has been corrected @100 below. Most important is the correction to the tables for section 2. The corrected tables are as follows: The corrected table for part 1 is as follows:
  41. Tom@87:

    Well, to be fair, Foxgoose did say "reminder" in his first comment about McIntyre's receipt of the email. Only Foxgoose knows why he wanted to use the later date of the reminder, instead of the date of the original email. He appears to have known exactly what he was doing, though.

    The comments policy prevents me from expressing my opinion as to why Foxgoose might have done that. Other readers can draw their own conclusions.
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  42. Tom Curtis #87
    McIntyre has now stated that he received the reminder on 23rd September, the day that Lewandowsky was announcing his results at Monash University. The questionnaire attached was not the one publicised on the “pro-science “ blogs, but another one.
    Lewandowsky has never mentioned the existence of a second questionnaire; all his statements, in the method section of his paper and in his blogs, imply (without expressly saying so) that sceptic blogs were to be part of the same survey.
    In his paper, Lewandowsky says “Links were posted on 8 blogs”. According to Graham Readfearn at desmog blog, who has interviewed Lewandowsky “Some eight "pro-science" blogs agreed to post the link”.
    Conspiracy? No, simply shoddy science.
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  43. So..."skeptic blogs" are not then a subset of "pro-science blogs"?

    Got it.
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  44. Tom Curtis #90
    Thanks for the intelligent and well explained analysis. I’m still not sure why you, like manicbeancounter, choose to divide your groups in this arbitrary way by scoring the climate questions. As you say, what you get is bins, instead of well-defined groups assenting to or denying well-defined propositions. If instead you had chosen those who agreed or disageed with one or other of the climate propositions, you would have two coherent well-defined groups, instead of a population spread out over an arbitrary scale. I suppose it must have some statistical justification which escapes the understanding of us ordinary mortals.

    Your remarks about the excluded middle and the improbability of one person believing in the whole range of conspiracy theories need to be repeated again and again.
    Would you consider reposting this on one of the sceptic blogs where this is being discussed? I can promise you, from my experience discussing research into climate scepticism with the psychologist and green activist Adam Corner, that the experience of trying to make contact across the nomansland which separates the two sides is a fascinating one. (Foxgoose thinks I’m an idiot to try, but that’s just our little personal difference).
    You could drop the accusation that Foxgoose and I believe that this affair reveals a conspiracy. We don’t. We say so again and again. We have never accused Lewandowsky of being party to a conspiracy. My belief (I can’t speak for Foxgoose) is that those who believe that every criticism (of Lewandowsky or the IPCC or whatever) is an accusation of conspiracy have a naively oversimplified vision of how society operates.
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  45. geoffchambers @92, there is a very simple reason for using multiple surveys. Peoples answers to questions in surveys have been shown to vary depending on the order of the questions. To eliminate this effect, it is not unusual to use multiple surveys asking the same questions, but in different orders. That is a good practice, and is designed to eliminate bias.

    I do not know that that is what Lewandowsky has done. However, it is a plausible explanation; and no evidence exists which suggests anything more than that.
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  46. geoffchambers @94, the reason for using bins is that no single question clearly demarks those who accept AGW from those who reject it. Taking the "acceptors" under my definition. They must have answered three of the global warming questions with a 3, and a third with a 2 at minimum. Somebody who does that is certainly broadly accepting of AGW, but if we used the question that happened to answer with a 2 as a benchmark, we would mis-classify them. Thus, the use of bins is more robust than basing the classifications on a single question.

    Having said that, I notice that my bins screen rejectors more rigorously than they screen acceptors. That is an error, which I will correct within the next two days.
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  47. Your remarks about the excluded middle and the improbability of one person believing in the whole range of conspiracy theories need to be repeated again and again.

    I'm sure we can all count on it; it'll be thrown right in the same "stone soup" as Geoff's chronological numerology, stirred relentlessly, consumed with gusto regardless of whether anybody understands what Tom's talking about or the relative merits of survey methods versus blog science astrology.
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  48. People can and do believe in a whole range of conspiracy theories at the same time. One discussion board I visit demonstrates that fact. Thing is, how many of those people visit mainstream climate science blogs? (Not many, going by this survey.)

    See here, for some examples of the mental contortions of some people (as if this thread weren't enough):
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120126152134.htm
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  49. Incidentally, the discussion board I referred to is not a conspiracy theory site - it presents itself as a 'normal' discussion board.

    For some reason it attracts a lot of extreme right-wingers, many of whom are able to hold regular jobs (even quite senior jobs) but are also wacko conspiracy theorists. (At least one of the moderators is a conspiracy theorist along the lines of Jo Nova - gold bug, one world government etc, which may explain its tolerance of wacky and sometimes downright ugly posts and threads.)

    The main topic of the board also attracts rational people.
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  50. Further to my comment @90 and @96, here is are the tables for my second point @90 after correcting for the error. The error I made was that, contrary to my intention, the bins where not symmetrical in terms of the number of possible responses that could fit in a bin. That biases the result. Once corrected so that the three main bins are of equal size in terms of possible responses, the results differ from what I first thought them to be.

    Specifically, as can be clearly seen below, acceptors of AGW are less prone to accept conspiracy theories than either rejectors or undecided. This is so whether or not the two outliers are included. However, the undecided are still more accepting of conspiracy theories than are either acceptors or rejectors. Further, with the two outliers included, rejectors are very similar to the undecided, but without those outliers, they are far closer to the acceptors.



    Given these more accurate results, it is seen that a key point of my analysis @90 was incorrect. Never-the-less,the conclusion that Lewandowsky's paper misses important detail, and overstates the relationship between rejecting climate change and acceptance of conspiracy theories are still substantiated.
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