Lewandowsky Nails his Faeces to the Door

by | Feb 21, 2014

Over at Lewandowsky’s lair, Shaping Tomorrow’s World, the academic-psychologist-turned-propagandist has set out his values…

Part of my research is considered controversial by some people because I examine why individuals choose to reject well-established scientific findings, such as the fact that the Earth is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s a bad opening shot from the professor. Lewandowsky does not ‘examine why individuals choose to reject well-established scientific findings’. Few that Lewandowsky has claimed ‘reject’ the claim that ‘the Earth is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions’ in fact reject the claim at all. Lewandowsky’s research invariably depends on the idea that any criticism of any aspect of climate change, from science through to policy, is a rejection of the claim. But this is misleading. Moreover, and has been observed here many times, the claims that ‘the Earth is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions’, is not scientific. It lacks any precision. It can mean anything from an inconsequential amount of warming, through to changes that will bring about the end of civilisation. Lewandowsky’s propagandising has to omit any sense of proportion, because admitting that climate change is not just a matter of degree, but matters of degree on matters of degree precludes the possibility of making polarising statements and moralistic claims, which are his intentions.

I believe that science has served us well during the last century or so. For example, the number of lives that were saved through research into HIV/AIDS is staggering—a fact tragically highlighted by the unnecessary death toll in South Africa when the government of then-President Mbeki rejected scientific medicine and preferred to treat AIDS with beetroot and garlic.

And here we already see the problem emerge. What role can psychology play, in trying to understand why Mbeki would make such a statement? I don’t believe it can shed any light on it at all. And Lewandowsky sheds not one single photon on this, or any other question he seems to have tasked himself with. What does Lewandowsky know about Mbeki, and the complex politics and history of South Africa? For that matter, what does Lewadowsky know about climate change sceptics? He won’t respond to their criticisms, and it is evident from his work that he doesn’t even read them. His refusal to understand the debate he comments on even leads him to put mainstream climate scientists into the same category as ‘deniers’.

Nonetheless, science takes place in a social context and is not value neutral. For example, I do not share the values of the late Dr. Edward Teller, an advocate of using nuclear devices to build harbours in Alaska (among other things), who possibly inspired the movie character Dr. Strangelove.

Congratulations to Lewandowsky for recognising the fact that ‘science takes place in a social context’. Might climate sceptics, and Mbeki not also exist in a social context? And might climate science, which is, after all, a very soft science, also exist in a social context?

He doesn’t say. But what are Lewandowsky’s ‘values’?

I value freedom of speech. In most instances, “bad” speech should be countered by good or better speech rather than being suppressed. It is for this reason that I have not taken action, thus far, against the clearly defamatory content of various internet blogs.

‘Thus far’, sounds like a threat. But it is as empty as his claim that ‘”bad” speech should be countered by good or better speech rather than being suppressed’. Lewandowsky has not responded to criticism of his work, and refuses to.

His second ‘value’ is:

I value academic freedom. This entails the freedom to publish research that some people find controversial or inconvenient. It is the responsibility of scientists to be rigorous in publishing and attempt to eliminate all errors and identify weaknesses in their work. Where these persist in published articles, it is the job of peer-review to correct those via published rejoinders.

Academic freedom is not damaged in any way by members of the public calling ‘bullshit’ on Lewandowsky’s claims. Academic freedom does not suffer when members of the public can see the work better than the peer-reviewers and the editors of a journal. And academic freedom is not undermined when people suggest that the paper be retracted. It is the point of peer review that poorly conceived and poorly executed research should not make it to publication.

Lewandowsky is complaining here about the attempts to obtain the raw data from his research, and about the questions raised about his method in recent papers. These problems have not been answered by Lewandowsky, nor by his publishers. Yet they are aware of the problems with his research. They have been told, but have ignored the criticism.

Lewandowsky’s statement of his ‘values’, then, amount to nothing more than an excuse.

Science is debate, and I have been participating in this debate for 30 years. I therefore welcome any critique of my work that survives peer review or is cogent in other ways or addressed through proper channels.

Here, Lewandowsky says that the only legitimate way of challenging his work is publishing criticism in academic journals, or some other ‘proper channel’ not explained. It is as if criticism of the claim that 2+2=5 could only come from another journal, not by anybody with a rudimentary grasp of arithmetic.

Lewandowsky wants to influence the public debate, both with his research and in his blog posts and other non-academic articles. Yet he then wants to hide behind the walls of the Academy when any of that work is criticised.

Because I value freedom of speech and academic freedom, I oppose and resist the bullying and intimidation employed by some opponents who refuse to engage in scientific debate by avoiding peer review. My thoughts and experiences are summarized in an article on the Subterranean War on Science.

Lewandowsky is not in a position to complain about bullying and intimidation. Many of Lewandowsky’s able critics do not have access to journals, nor to the academic resources usually necessary to publish in them, and much less the time. Lewandowsky’s argument is that only academics may criticise him — that the masses outside the academy have no legitimate argument to make. That is bullying in its simplest form, made worse by the fact that it is these individuals that Lewandowsky has made objects of his ‘research’. When they complain, he says ‘you’re not an academic, **** off’. The philosopher king holds himself in high esteem.

Inspired by some philosophers of ethics, I consider the rejection of climate science to be at least morally negligent and sometimes actively immoral. There is a crucial distinction between skepticism, which expresses itself in the peer-reviewed literature, and active rejection of scientific facts, which expresses itself in other fora and which does not seek peer review. People are entitled to question everything in good faith, but I do not believe they are entitled to spread disinformation or intentionally mislead the public. Opinions have ethical consequences.

‘Opinions’ having ‘ethical consequences’, only the privileged may possess them. Rank elitism hides behind scientific objectivity. It can’t be the case, on Lewandowsky’s view, that people who criticise him or the courses of action he wants to advance, do so in good faith, because they have a different understanding of The Science.

But as we have already seen, Lewandowsky does not have a sufficient grasp of climate science, or counter-positions to mainstream climate science, to say that others have an inadequate grasp. Hence, he has to reduce the scientific consensus to something meaningless — like ‘the Earth is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions’ — which is not even a contested claim.

Lewandowsky’s argument is not ‘ethics’, but is on the contrary, the total absence of ethics. ‘Science’ is a fig leaf.

I therefore perceive a moral obligation to conduct research into why people reject well-established scientific facts, be it climate change or the utility of vaccinations. This is my personal conviction, which other scholars are free to share or disagree with. To illustrate my position, Dr. Lawrence Torcello, a philosopher at the Rochester Institute of Technology, put it succinctly: “… Some issues are of such ethical magnitude that being on the correct side of history becomes a cipher of moral character for generations to come. Global warming is such an issue. History inevitably recognizes the moral astuteness of those loudly intolerant of ignorance and corruption. Those who offer polite hospitality to injustice must learn from history that they are complicit to the harms they enable.‎”

Only scholars are free to take issue with Lewandowsky, of course. Trying to find out why people do take a different view on all kinds of things, including science, is a worthwhile end. But that is not what Lewandowsky does. Instead, his work attempts to belittle people who take a different view to him, to say they are mad, or ‘conspiracy theorists’, without a full set of faculties, or are contaminated by ‘motivated reasoning’.

That is the opposite of finding out what people disagree about things. It’s just shouting at people who do disagree, albeit from the high walls of the academy.

If Lewandowsky was genuinely interested in why people take a different view on climate change, he wouldn’t attempt to understand them through bullshit and easily manipulated surveys on the internet, on sites hosted by his colleagues and comrades. He would instead ask them: ‘here’s what I think, why do you disagree?’

It’s called debate. Through he course of debate, the points of disagreement are discovered. That is the point of debate. There is no need for psychologists here.

In no way do my values suggest that debate should be curtailed: I merely insist that a scientific debate should take place in the scientific literature and that the public be put in a position where it can make an informed judgment about the voices that are opposing mainstream science on crucial issues ranging from climate change to vaccination.

Let us see more closely what Lewandowsky has said:

1) “In no way do my values suggest that debate should be curtailed…”

And then…

2) “I merely insist that a scientific debate should take place in the scientific literature…”

… and…

3) “and that the public be put in a position…”

verb: curtail; 3rd person present: curtails; past tense: curtailed; past participle: curtailed; gerund or present participle: curtailing
reduce in extent or quantity; impose a restriction on.
“civil liberties were further curtailed”

Arguments 2 and 3 are explicitly for a curtailing of debate absolutely, viz. the debate should only be between the anointed, and that a passive public only be exposed to its outcome- NOT allowed to take part in it.

All that remains to be said about Lewandowsky is that, if he isn’t liar, he is master of self-deception.

Either way, it is bad faith that motivates his ‘reasoning’.


  1. Charles Johnson

    I think this article really does give a good dissection of what is happening. It is my “opinion” that any climate change that is occuring is due to forces way out of the control of puny humans. We would be best served by adapting, learning what needs to be done to adapt and spend money on that as required. The idea that we can change the climate by simply reducing CO2 emissions seems a tad far fetched to me and I have seen no empirical evidence to support that. From what I understand CO2 emissions increase yearly but the climate (temperatures) have not moved for quite a few years now. I would be inclined to think the sun has more to do with any changes rather than CO2 which is, after all is said and done, plant food that all life needs to survive.

  2. SayNoToFearmongers

    “Some issues are of such ethical magnitude that being on the correct side of history becomes a cipher of moral character for generations to come.”

    Many generations – say a thousand years perhaps? Lewandowski is clearly channeling Mein Kampf here.

    Totalitarian fruitcakery, psychological projection – and this idiot gets Royal Society recognition?

  3. hunter

    Lewandowsky is doing a Capt. Queeg, but dangerously for us all some of the jury seems to like the sound of clacking ball bearings. He is caught lying, but like Peter Gleick does not seem to care. He makes circular, infantile arguments dripping with bad faith yet few if any of his peers are willing to do anything about it. He is clearly projecting some apparently very deep issues that need treatment yet is a psychologist. He writes dreck but is apparently an acclaimed researcher.
    Queeg was an honorable man who finally broke under stress after years of unnoticed service. Perhaps I am being harsh on Capt. Queeg in comparing Lewandowsky to him.

  4. Sundance

    Lewandowsky states that peer review corrects/limits the mistakes of science. That is no longer a given and he misses the reason why peer review is now come under fire for not being as transparent as it should be. If scientists are unable/unwilling to make all data and code available, they should expect to be rejected by the public. Did Richard Tol ever receive the entire set of data that John Cook used to construct his 97% paper? In order to validate the process and conclusions? Since there is no update at Tol’s blog I’m assuming Cook has not released the missing data. So much for academic freedom when data and information is held hostage.

  5. Kevin Marshall

    Lewandowsky’s claim about only allowing debate in the peer-reviewed literature is interesting given that many of arguments are outside the peer-reviewed literature.

    A recent example (rather long) that undermines his claims:-

    A major argument of Lewandowsky, is that critics of climate change are a bunch of conspiracy theory-loving nutters. At “The Conversation”, a taxpayer funded blog for Australian and British academics to sound off, Prof. Lewandaowsky stated

    While consistency is a hallmark of science, conspiracy theorists often subscribe to contradictory beliefs at the same time – for example, that MI6 killed Princess Diana, and that she also faked her own death.

    This was from a peer-reviewed study, that stated

    In Study 1(n= 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered.

    Steve McIntyre, with some difficulty, obtained the data. There was a reason for the author being a bit circumspect. McIntyre said

    Within the Wood dataset, only two (!) respondents purported to believe that Diana faked her own death. Neither of these two respondents also purported to believe that MI6 killed Princess Diana. The subpopulation of people that believed that Diana staged her own death and that MI6 killed her was precisely zero.

    The reason that the authors, the peer-reviewers and Prof. Lewandowsky failed to pick up on this is that they failed to do basic check on the data, using pivot tables. Instead, they rely on sophisticated statistical tests that Lewandowsky himself has used in his hoax paper. (The reason for the failure was succinctly expressed by Brandon Shallonberger in the comments) Ben Pile also used simple pivot tables, and eloquent language to completely demolish Lewandowsky’s 2012 hoax paper.

    This example demonstrates three things
    1. Lewandowsky does not stick to his own peer-reviewed rules.
    2. Peer review can fail spectacularly.
    3. Alternative opinions of data are possible, and the best analysis does not necessarily come from the most sophisticated techniques on the whizziest computers.
    3. Lewandowsky swallowed misinformation because it accorded with his beliefs and lack of expertise in interpreting statistics. As a psychology professor studying misinformation, who is also “an award-winning teacher of statistics”, this is far less excusable than any trivial mistakes by the people he attacks.

  6. Mooloo

    Lewandowsky is a publicity-seeking hog, who pushes his “science” in every possible medium.

    So when he says “I merely insist that a scientific debate should take place in the scientific literature…” he is telling a massive lie. His own blog is testament to that. Along with every magazine article, interview and opinion piece.

    As well as his blog, he works through others. Those blogs are full of postings that are not academic in nature. They allow contributors to comment who are not academics. He does not condemn his colleagues who attack opponents in a personal manner. Indeed his friendship with Cook would suggest that he is not bothered in the slightest about such things.

    Maybe we should write to him and suggest that we agree with him. That his science should be debated only in the peer-reviewed literature. And that he has to adopt the same attitude too, and forbid discussion of it on blogs. Then at least we wouldn’t have to read any of his crap again.

  7. Barry Woods

    Subject: Substantial Factual Error in the methodology of LOG12 – Psychological Science, requiring a correction – the LOG12 survey was not posted at Skeptical Science.com

    Dear Stephan

    I wish to formally report to you (as lead author and contact) a substantial factual error in the methodology of one of your papers -“NASA faked the moon landings – Therefore [Climate ]science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” by Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, Gilles Gignac – Psychological Science [LOG12]

    I have also reported this factual error to the Chief Editor of Psychological Science.

    The factual error is:
    The LOG12 methodology states that the survey was posted at the SkepticalScience website, when in fact the survey was not posted at the Skeptical Science website.

    This has the following implications for LOG12, which will require corrections to the paper:
    The methodology of LOG12 states that the survey was posted on the website http://www.SkepticalScience.com (1 of 8 websites) This claim appears to be falsified.

    The methodology also states that the survey was potential visible to 390,000 visits from readers, including 78,000 sceptical visits at the http://www.SkepticalScience.com website. This is a key claim of the paper that the survey was potential viewed by a large, broad audience, (with a 20% sceptical audience) representative of the wider general public. As the survey never appeared at the http://www.SkepticalScience.com website this claim is falsified

    Additionally, the content analysis of http://www.SkepticalScience.com is used to assert that there was a diverse representative audience across the other 7 blogs that linked to the survey. As the survey was never show at http://www.SkepticalScience.com the claim of diverse and wide readership for the whole survey, based on a content analysis of http://www.SkepticalScience is now unsupported by the evidence in the supplementary material.

    New content analysis will be required for the other 7 blogs, including readership traffic volumes as well.

    Tom Curtis a Skeptical Science regular author and contributor (like yourself) appears to have established beyond doubt that the survey for LOG12 was not posted at the Skeptical Science website. Tom Curtis wrote to Steve McIntyre (who had made a similar analysis ) publically confirming this in April 2013, following the publication of LOG12 in the Psychological Science journal. To put the importance of Skeptical Science into context, the Skeptical Science website, is by far the most well known, with the highest traffic of the all blogs surveyed.

    If you recall, I requested evidence that the survey had been linked at Skeptical Science on July 31st 2012, and at the time you stated to me that you had had the url for it, but had lost it, and perhaps that John Cook had deleted it, (this would also be against UWA policies for data retention I believe)

    From: Stephan Lewandowsky
    Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 11:00 AM
    Hi Barry, the survey was done about 2 years ago, and I don’t have the link to SkS: I worked with John Cook directly at the time and he posted it (and I made a note of it), but I don’t have the actual URL to the survey dating back to the time when he posted it. I suspect he removed it when the survey was closed because then the link would have been dead.

    Regards Steve

    John Cook has since rather ambiguously stated that he did post the survey (to Geoff Chambers), but can provide no evidence for the survey ever being posted at Skeptical science. Tom Curtis (also from SkepticalScience) has publically completely contradicted this, as does the evidence in the Wayback machine web archive for the Skeptical Science website. It appears John Cook merely tweeted it from his personal twitter account (at a time when he had a mere 1000 twitter followers) and these tweets did not appear at the Skeptical Science website.

    This is a substantial factual error in the methodology of the paper and not a simple matter of scientific debate or interpretation, the survey was either posted at Skeptical Science website or it was not. I suggest that the authors now confirm the fact that the survey was not linked at the SkepticalScience website this for themselves by checking with the owner John Cook.

    I then expect that the authors will then seek to quickly issue a correction to the methodology of paper. This will presumably require new content analysis for all the seven remaining blogs, as the Sceptical Science website content analysis cannot apply, due to the fact that the survey was not posted at the SkepticalScience website

    I do believe this situation originally arose due a simple innocent error in email miscommunication between yourself and John Cook in August 2010, where you believed that John Cook was going to post it on the Skeptical Science website.

    I do think it is in the best long-term interests of the journal and authors, (due to the fact that the paper has seen wide media attention), if they were seen to quickly make the relevant corrections to the paper, following formal reporting of this substantial factual error about the papers methodology to the authors and journal.

    Best Regards

    Barry Woods

    (Tom Curtis has publically stated that he contacted the authors and John Cook about this issue via email in September 2012 (see Tom Curtis writes, link below) but he did not state whether his emails had been acknowledged)

    I have also raised this error with Chief Editor of Psychological Science in more detail, but it simply comes down to whether the survey was posted at SkepticalScience website or not.

    [Also Tom Curtis] http://bybrisbanewaters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/skeptical-science-and-lewandowsky-survey.html


    I attach a copy of the paper and supplementary material for convenience.

    Authors & Contributors at Skeptical Science:
    Stephan Lewandowsky – http://www.skepticalscience.com/posts.php?u=2541
    John Cook – http://www.skepticalscience.com/posts.php?u=1
    Tom Curtis – http://www.skepticalscience.com/posts.php?u=3591

    The Skeptical Science Debunking Handbook – John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky

  8. hunter

    It is clear that in reality Dr. Lewandowsky has been spreading his faeces everywhere he is able to for quite sometime…….

  9. stefanthedenier

    Lewandowski, same as all the rest, is working on planet without oxygen & nitrogen, In reality: O2&N2 are regulating the ”overall” heat in the atmosphere to be always the same – by expanding those two gases when warmed / shrinking when cooled – they regulate the heat content — horizontal and vertical winds: http://globalwarmingdenier.wordpress.com/climate/

  10. Rick Fehlberg

    I remember, even clearer now 20yrs later, when I was studying Electrical Engineering at University doing Philosophy 101. We were the first year that had philosophy added to the course with the intention to opening the eyes of potential engineers to a frame of reference for the decisions we may one day make as engineers.

    The topics I remember were:
    • Value judgments, how our personal values influence what’s right
    • The energy crisis – over reliance of fossil fuels
    • Global warming, The Greenhouse effect, man-made CO2 emissions
    I very much enjoyed the Value judgments topic. Why do we make bridges only 2.5 times stronger than their maximum loading? What makes your decisions and values more important than others? Does it take into account the potential of natural disasters? Excellent stuff!
    The Energy Crisis topic didn’t make as much sense to me. So many loaded learnings. We weren’t philosophizing, we were being brain washed. I could understand that fossil fuel is a finite resource but I also knew, at the same time I was being brain washed, the constant discovery of more and larger deposits that technology was helping us find were being discovered. We were being told to use Nuclear energy, solar, wind, tidal, etc. etc. This only had me think, what is the environmental cost of those resources? Why aren’t we discussing those in philosophy rather than being brain washed? I was sure, even without evidence, the environmental cost of making solar panels was likely to be expensive. Not only were fossil fuels required to make them but how much processing and environmental damage? I knew we weren’t being encouraged to think, but to agree. Anyway, so what if I don’t agree?
    Then the topic of Global Warming. I can’t tell you why, it must have been instinct but the whole topic did not sit right with me. Maybe because it was so accusational? It was our fault! And therefore it was our responsibility to fix it. Nope! I didn’t have anything to do with our current position at 20yrs of age. I knew it wasn’t me, and I was feeling uncomfortable about the whole delivery of this brain washing. I immediately agreed, we probably should stop polluting the planet and reduce our use of fossil fuels but the rest was rubbish.
    I was not happy and there was a lack of scientific evidence. And then, the evidence that was produced? Well it was a chart of the earth’s temperature related to the suns radiation. I don’t have a copy any longer, all these years later and I can’t find it online. What I saw, at least in my mind was a direct correlation between the suns output compared to the earth’s temperature. It was as clear as day for me. I wanted to find evidence to support my gut feeling and the only piece of evidence that seemed to matter, but there was none. Keep in mind the internet wasn’t what it is today. The best thing about the internet at that moment in time was the release of Netscape, so I got to see boobs on the computer. Yes indeed, remember the very first steps into the World Wide Web? I do.
    Needless to say, I failed philosophy. I would not spew their lies. I still say, I have never learned more than I did when I failed philosophy.
    All these years later I have found a growing movement of educated and intelligent people who share my suspicion towards the global warming lie. Ok, I better clarify that comment. The lie that global warming is due to man-made CO2 emissions.
    I encourage everyone to research this for themselves. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I refer you to a community I am involved with SuspiciousObservers.
    Here is Ben’s latest conference which is a great start and overview. Watch this if nothing else. Ben Davidson: The Variable Sun and Its Effects on Earth | EU2014
    Their website contains a wide variety of brilliant information including:
    • Starwater – water comes from stars and every planet has water
    • C(lie)mate – the global warming lie
    • Agenda 21
    Check out the daily SO news on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/Suspicious0bservers
    See weather presented from a space perspective.
    It’s bigger than you think.



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