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« Large-scale temperature trends | Main | John Stuart Mill on carbon taxes »

Piling on 

Ben Pile eviscerates Stephan Lewandowsky in an article at Climate Resistance. This is a must-read.

I won’t attempt to discuss Lewandowsky’s workings here, because his opening statement on the third of his posts — quoted above — is sufficiently… well, mad… to make my point. I hope that others may want to take a closer look, and I suspect that each of the paragraphs on each of the three posts could be the basis of an entire blog post, so stuffed full with presuppositions, special pleading and prejudice that they are… A case study in the mechanics of climate alarmism. So let’s visit the above quote, line-by-line…

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Reader Comments (24)

Comments are open on the three Lewandowsky articles linked by Ben. The articles are worth reading. There are no comments yet on the third article, which is at

Jun 5, 2012 at 8:05 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Ah, Stephen Lewandowsky! He is the eco-psychologist from University of Western Australia who collaborated with John Cook's Skeptical Science website to run an 'experiment' on blog comments on readers' comprehension.

John Cook and his team got to write the skeptical (real skeptical not SkS type of 'skeptical') arguments against the case for global warming. They had a jolly good fun doing it apparently but the question remains: why didn't Lewandowsky use arguments by real climate skeptics instead of getting John Cook and his team to write up imaginary ones.

A paper was supposed to be issued following the experiment but when I checked Lewandowsky's publication record at the time of the SkS tree-hut docs revelations there was none.

Now, I'll go and read what Ben Pile has to say. Ben is a bit high-brow and I find his prose a little convoluted sometimes, but I guess it's a matter of getting used to his style.

Jun 5, 2012 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx


Ben is a bit high-brow and I find his prose a little convoluted sometimes
He calls Lewandowsky a bullshit artist, which may be praising him with faint damns, but is hardly highbrow.
Ben does something different from what His Grace and his flock do - dismantle the philosophical underpinnings of Big Green, stripping away the verbiage to expose the mental in environmentalism.
It is tough going sometimes, but more far-reaching in its effects. If your logic is exposed as total b*ll*cks, you can’t turn round, as Rob Wilson does, and say “Let’s wait ten years ad see who’s right”.

Jun 5, 2012 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

In this case Ben's prose is a little convoluted because of the subject he is trying to deal with.
Lewandowsky appears to be luxuriating in his verbal expertise as a psychologist.
I actually found what Lewandosky was saying quite amusing. He's so busy tripping over his own verbal shoe laces he can't see just how much of a prat he is being.
As geoffchambers so elegantly (?) puts it, he's a bullshit artist and one well-versed in the art of "bullshit baffles brains".
Keep your eye on the pea at all times but in this case start off with a strong stimulant to keep you awake!

Jun 5, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Here's good place to go for materials on climate extremism and Australia(ns):

She has several posts on Lewandowsky:

He is another person in a position of prominence spouting forth in a decidedly unimpressive way about climate. What is it about extremism that it gives such people an apparent licence to take to the stage and try to frighten and impress us with the fruits of their vivid imaginations?

Jun 5, 2012 at 10:45 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

I was thinking of sending Prof Lewandowsky a brain for Christmas, but I have now realised it would be lonely.

Jun 5, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Heyworth

Lewandowsky's other refrain is that CAGW 'deniers' are afflicted with mental ... errr ... disabilities which prevent them from seeing the One True Way. Given the bizarre statements in the post Ben Pile quoted, I'm guessing there is a bit of projection going on there.

Jun 5, 2012 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna


Mate, I don't have anything particular against highbrow, except that I am not used reading highbrow stuff on the blogosphere. The late Christopher Hitchens, perhaps the greatest English essayist in my life time, was almost invariably highbrow and would occasionally get convoluted as well. But he wrote for Vanity Fair, not for some godforsaken blog written and edited by god himself, who has a choice to be or not to be highbrow.

Steve McIntyre also has a talent for explaining things in dry complicated fashion. That's why I never visit his blog until Mr Watson tells me so. Where is Ben Pile's Mr Watson?

Serious stuff and blogosphere never go well together just as Twitter and a serious conversation never do.

Jun 5, 2012 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Alex Heyworth
Are you sure? I was certain that Lewandowsky was one of those that had two brains already. Or does he just come across like that?

Jun 5, 2012 at 12:20 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

As far as I know, Mike, he isn't a Tasmanian.

Jun 5, 2012 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Heyworth

Mr Lewandowsky (that's always a cut and paste) talks about uncertainty but that's not what he really means. To him increased uncertainty means "consequences could be worse", which is not uncertainty at all: your knowledge that "it could be worse" must have a sound scientific basis which is itself prior knowledge which increases certainty.

Jun 5, 2012 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Lewandowsky's approach is merely in-line with the idea that AGW skeptics must be either mad or bad , the idea their rational and actual base their views on good judgment is simply not possible to proponents the given that AGW is self evidential true . Of course its BS wrapped badly up in far to many words , but they that is the norm for Lewandowsky's area . Were once you get past the word overkill you see their actual case is very poor and often self-contradicted.

Jun 5, 2012 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

So your saying that because you dont know how bad its going to be
You therefore have to assume the worse and prepare for it ,No how matter how much its gonna cost .
Oh thank you very much

And we ,re saying that if you dont know, and cant tell us, therefore you cant be very good at your job and what are paying for , Guesswork.
You,ve heard of Mystic Meg now have Mystic Lewandowsky
Put in a claim normally most Insurance companies ask for 3 estimates
Theres no actual scientific term for "ere it could be really bad"
Donald Rumsfeld called it The known unknown unknowns
Or otherwise known as Not having a scooby Doo
Sorry to dissapoint you mystic but Climate Change has been" a no show" so far

"We have seen that greater uncertainty about the evolution of the climate should give us even greater cause for concern."

How ever well you put it, not a sign of great understanding just a sign of your technical incompertance.
Dosent inspire confidence
Nobody ever got paid for what they dont know mystic

Jun 5, 2012 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

I find it interesting that Lewandowsky, in claiming that increased uncertainty means that "things will be worse than we thought" doesn't acknowledge in any way, shape or form that equally "things might be better than we thought"... Isn't that what "uncertainty" is all about?

Jun 5, 2012 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPogo

Lewandowsky's imbecilic outpourings are dispiriting indicator of the plunge in standards of logical rigor that many up-statused "FE college lecturers" in over-expanded academic institutions display. Emboldened by their titles and inflated sense of self worth - they feel qualified to hold forth on so many things of which they self evidently know little - only to be echoed by a similarly ignorant media.....

Thumbs up to Ben Pile for being annoyed enough to dismantle the prat - although, what is worrying is - is he applying the same fractured and fantastical reasoning inside his own supposed field of expertise ?

I think we should be told, but shudder at what I suspect is the probable answer.

Jun 5, 2012 at 7:17 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Lets consider a very simple mathematical model. We have a predicted outcome of say 30 cm sea level rise over 100 years. The uncertainty is stated originally as, say, +/- 10 cm (95% confidence).

Now lets say that our estimate of the uncertainty doubles to +/- 20 cm (95% confidence).

Lewandowsky states "We have also seen that greater uncertainty means that the expected damages from climate change will necessarily be greater than anticipated, and that the allowance we must make for sea level rise will also be greater than anticipated. All of those results arise from simple mathematics, and we do not even have to resort to any economic modelling to understand how greater uncertainty translates into greater risk."

Lewandowsky states "that greater uncertainty" means the damages will "necessarily" be greater than anticipated and that "those results arise from simple mathematics".

Not in the real world they don't.

The expected value of the prediction is unchanged by an increase in the range of the uncertainty. The uncertainty function is symmetrical. To suggest the expected value of the prediction changes because there is greater uncertainty is absurd.

And if the uncertainty range in the example were increased to say +/- 35 cm (95% confidence) then the concept of sea level rise over the 100 year period would no longer be statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. In other words, as you increase the range of the uncertainty to exceed the magnitude of the expected value the outcome is in fact the complete opposite of what Lewandowsky claims: ie statistical significance of sea level rise would be refuted.

I would like to name this Lewandowsky's Absurdity.

Jun 5, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

As I see it Stephan Lewandowsky's argument boils down to to an "if, but, maybe" dirtribe so beloved of climate alarmists, because the predicted catastophes are not happening.

Jun 5, 2012 at 9:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

The average bloke in the street in the Antipodes knows that Leandowski is a twit of the first order who only opens his mouth to change feet. Why the Australian branch of academe takes him seriously is beyond understanding anywhere in the world.

Jun 5, 2012 at 9:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Apparently in climatology if you think you have any idea what is going on, you aren't paying attention.

Jun 6, 2012 at 4:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

Lewandowsky: "We have seen that all other things being equal, greater uncertainty means that things could be worse than we thought."

I believe this assertion could be carried to the logical conclusion that complete uncertainty includes the possibility of complete catastrophe, i.e. the absolute worst case scenario. So would that make the assertion wrong or useless or both?

My initial opinion is that the assertion is useless. Perhaps somebody with better logical reasoning can show it to be wrong as well (or instead rendering by default as useless).

Jun 6, 2012 at 4:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

Would I be right in thinking that there is a greater disconnect between academia and the general public in Australia, simply because most people have a practical approach and prefer to deal directly with the vicissitudes of life, leaving the dons to gaze at their navels and generate even more nonsense than they do here to justify their existence?

Jun 6, 2012 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"complete uncertainty includes the possibility of complete catastrophe"

It includes all possibilities, including the most probable one, that whatever was originally posited is complete bollocks. Most Australians would intuit that immediately!

Jun 6, 2012 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

A superb article indeed .... I am particularly impressed by such lines as ....

"Let’s be far too fair to Lewandowsky: he is nothing more than a bullshit artist." .... and .....

"and the entire torrent of turgid crap produced by Malthusians such as Paul Ehrlich over the last half century."

Finally someone articulate calling it as it is.

Jun 6, 2012 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterImranCan

I am sorry, as I read the debunking and comments I became more and more annoyed, Many have spent hundreds of words on complete balderdash. If some wish to spend effort and treasure mitigation the possible invasion of giant green lizards from let them, count me and all sane society out

MFG omb

Jun 7, 2012 at 2:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterombzhch

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