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The Lew roll

You turn your back for a few hours and all hell breaks loose!

I return to my desk to find that Desmog blog has published the University of Western Australia's correspondence relating to the Lew Paper - in other words all the complaints by sceptics. I'm hearing on the grapevine that some of them are missing however.

Meanwhile Lew himself has written about the takedown of the paper here, and there is a long video here if you have a strong stomach.

Meanwhile, Retraction Watch's coverage of the affair can be seen here.

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Reader Comments (71)

I clicked on the "comment" button on Desmog, hoping to see if there were any comments extant. Without any further input from me I was told that I'm not authorised to make comments. I've rarely visited the site before and never made, or tried to make, a comment. I'm not on a fixed IP address. Have I been singled out, or is it just that nobody outside a small circle is allowed to comment?

Mar 21, 2014 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBob MacLean

When the broughah breaks
Juggernaut argot naughty;
Rock a bye, baby.

Mar 21, 2014 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Egad - Lew is a whiner, isn't he? It's always someone else's fault, it seems... still, I suppose it means he's going to take his massive and unstable ego somewhere else for a while. I hope.

Mar 21, 2014 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterElftone

Meanwhile his side kick is already trying to rewrite history at the Guardian, that this paper made a series ‘mistakes ‘ and it authors made a series of claims bordering and over bordering libels, gets no mention of course. But then scooter boy never let facts or what people ‘actual wrote ‘ in the way of his BS
Given the amount of time he gives to CIF , his ‘evil fossil fuel employees’ seem to be rather generous in what they allow him to do at work.

Mar 21, 2014 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Heh, the fault risks tipping Bristol into the sea.

Mar 21, 2014 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Elftone: Some of the 'somewhere else's we already know. Seldom have I had such a urge to attend the BIG Green Week Festival as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas on 18th June (h/t Geoff Chambers). Wouldn't it be fun to hear the spin put on this week's developments by the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holder and even, perhaps, to ask a question about them? And my Mum and sister now just down the road. A summer of delights awaits?

Mar 21, 2014 at 3:36 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Popular Technology has written extensively about the De Smog Blog:

Seems to me, the Lew paper has found an appropiate home there.

Mar 21, 2014 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

I don't waste my time on Lewsers

Mar 21, 2014 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeadless Chicken

.. and Steve M joins in the fun

Mar 21, 2014 at 4:18 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

You couldn't make it up.

Mar 21, 2014 at 4:27 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

‘evil fossil fuel employers’

Do Tetratech know they have a viper in their bosom? Perhaps they do, and just letting him have more rope...

Mar 21, 2014 at 4:54 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp


We couldn't, but Lew can.

Mar 21, 2014 at 4:54 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

For those on the verge of throwing out their transistor radio I suggest having it to hand next to an open window facing the garden hopefully range of the local squirrel population later this evening.

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Lew lends itself to sooo many possible one liners.

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Lew and The BBC all in one year is enough for me let alone a day. Aaaarrrrggghhhh

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Yeah, the Looney Dowser Paper.

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Delusional, just plain delusional.

But the great thing is (as the Irish would say) that just when things might have settled down, another hornet's nest has been stirred, courtesy of them. Fancy poking a stick at Steve McIntyre, Barry, Shub, Geoff and all the other people who they intensely annoyed last time around.

All they need to do now is to engage Mark Steyn to complete the assembling of all their enemies ... which in a way has already happened.

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:19 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I've started transcribing the video, since few will have the stomach to watch it. Here's the story so far:

Hi, I'm Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol. Thanks for tuning in. What I want to do with you today is take you on a scientific and personal journey into the land of global warming and its denial. Now according to the National Academy of Sciences, Global Warming is a fact. According to the vast majority of scientific papers published in this area,, there's absolutely no doubt that we are warming the planet and it's owing to greenhouse gas. This consensus is shared by every scientific academy in the world, and it refers to the fact that as we speak right now the planet is accumulating energy at the rate of approximately four Hiroshima bombs every second. Now that energy is going to be around for a very long time..
He then links anti-semitic emails he's received with Roy Spencer's (apparent) comment about climate policies possibly risking more lives than the Holocaust, and accused Steve McIntyre (without mentioning him by name) of trying to elicit a smear campaign by publishing the email address of an UWA official.
His account of the matter of the contacts with Sceptical blogs is peculiar, missing out his initial refusal to name the blogs contacted and his sneering taunts at ShapingTomorrowsWorld. True statements by sceptics are quoted anonymously, with no attempt to refute them.
He cites Wood et al 2012, who famously got a positive correlation with a sample of zero.
After summarising briefly the findings of Recursive Fury, without mentioning the existence of this non-paper, he goes on to discuss “the Dark Side”, the “Subterranean War on Science”

(22'20”) And in addition, and I think this is particularly serious, systematic attempts were made after the paper was accepted but it was in press to suppress its publication. Now that's already known. The APS Observer had a piece on that, and beyond that I don't want to comment on that much except to point out one angle that I think it's important for people to know about, and that is the use of Freedom of Information requests in order to either harrass academics of suppress their work. In my case there was until now one of many FOI requests which revealed that the study had been done with ethics approval. Of course it was done with ethics approval. However the existence of this approval led to a further attempt to suppress publication by the editor being approached with the claim that I did not obtain an informed consent, based on the documents that showed that I had complied with ethical guidelines, which of course the university asserted, and these attempts failed. Now importantly this is not an isolated occurrence […]
He goes on to mention McIntyre's (?) FOI request for dates and times of blog postings, relating to Lewandowsky's claim to priority in revealing the identity of sceptical blog posters who failed to identify the (effectively anonymous) requests for his survey to be publicised. And once again he links McIntyre to one of his conspiratorial criteria without naming him.
Then (27'35”) he gets on to Recursive Fury:
Now I've taken you through some of the theories, speculations in the blogosphere out there. There was a lot more, and we ultimately published a paper that performed a narrative analysis of these events, where we concluded that maybe the response of the blogosphere confirms that there might be some involvement of conspiratorial thinking in the rejection of science, a finding that aligned well with previous research. Now that article is the most popular article in psychology as far as we can tell using their online interface in that journal, with about thirty thousand abstract views and ten thousand downloads, and it was covered among other places in the New York Times. So now let me take up a few issues, a few questions about this research, and what I'm doing here. Why is this important? Well it's important for a number of reasons. Here [Delingpole article] is a mainstream newspaper in the United Kingdom in which it was speculated not too long ago that one of the world's most respected climate scientists Michael Mann should be given the electric chair. Now that kind of material, that kind of discourse demonstrably originates in internet blogs and is then picked up by the media and from the media it goes to politicians. And sometimes the blogs go straight to the politicians […]
From there we go to study showing the connection between sadism and trolling,, defined as “behaving in a deceptive or destructive manner on the internet”.
Then there's a slide headed “In Whose Hands the Future?”:
So given the fact that we're accumulating heat at the rate of four Hiroshima bombs a second [that's the third time he's said that] I think you have to contemplate what is going on out there and we should understand it better. Now one could raise some objections to our work which I'd like to take up.

And here he reports on some new research he's done showing sceptical blog comments (he doesn't say which ones or cite any examples) to a random sample or respondents, and demonstrating that they rate us high on “attributing questionable motives” “suspicion” and “something must be wrong”.
He then dismisses the possibility of discussion with sceptics, citing a truncated contextless dialogue and a quote from the sceptic which he's deliberately paraphrased in order to prevent identification on Google.
Now back to Recursive Fury, the most popular paper in psychology published by this journal. Well, a couple of weeks after it came up it was pulled down, and the journal said that “this article has been the subject of complaints. Given the nature of these complaints we've removed the link provisionally while these issues are being investigated”. That was a year ago, and now they have concluded that “no significant issues with the academic and ethical aspects of this study” Well, that's gratifying, they confirmed our academic and ethical integrity. But for legal reasons, because the legal context is sufficiently unclear, they have decided to retract that article. Now this raises some questions for science in my opinion. And here are some of those questions [Heartland Unabomber poster] If somebody puts up a billboard in Chicago that compares people who accept the science of climate change to the unabomber, can philosophers or ethicists talk about this in the scholarly literature without interference? Can sociologists catalogue the nearly one billion dollars a year that is demonstrably being spent on the denial of climate science and other things? - not the whole bilion goes to climate science, it also goes into tobacco. Or, if an Austrian politician is giving a speech that is arguably latently anti-semitic, can researchers do a discourse analysis of that? If the tobacco industry is trying to suppress research by tobacco researchers for decades, can that researcher comment about these events in the peer reviewed literature. And if we're accused of punitive psychology, as it was used in the Soviet Union – at least it was not the Nazis – and if our research is seen to involve not just the University of Western Australia but also the Australian Research council, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and possibly even the government, can we provide scholarly analysis and comment on those events?
Well, I think so, but Frontiers judged the legal risk to be too great. I have nothing to say about that other than to say they're entitled to that judgement, of course they are, but that doesn't mean it has to be universally shared. And in particular the Australian Psychological Society says that they share my dismay at this outcome, at this retraction of a peer-reviewed article and they suggest that they would like to be kept informed about developments, and they also mention what I think is very important, namely that psychological science can come with some social responsibility, in particular in relation to the myths and realities around climate change. And finally the University of Western Australia has assured me – and I'm entitled to cite this - “I'm entirely comfortable with you publishing the paper on the UWA website. You and the University can easily be sued for hurt feelings or confected outrage, and I'd be quite comfortable processing such a phony legal action.” That's Kim Heitman the General Counsel of the University of Western Australia, and the paper we're talking about here is available at that link down there. And I'll leave you to ponder this question: In whose hands do you want your future? Download the paper, have a look, and decide for yourself.

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:24 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The desmog post includes this little snippet:

In McIntyre's complaint letters (seen as item numbers 95 and 99 on the FOI document release), the Canadian blogger uses quotes hacked from a private forum of the Skeptical Science

They screw up, someone notices, but of course it's the other guy's fault.

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

Geoff, thanks for that.

As in the old joke about the mosquito in the nudist camp, I know what I want to do, but don't know where to begin!

It reminds me of those late night televangelist shows on TV.

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Heh, 'confected outrage'. Let 'em eat cake.

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

5:11 PM Paul

fortsooth! it raineth! the BBC run a climate program that involves seventeenth century literature ... Shakespeare's take on cloud albedo, were Don Quixote's windmills aesthetically better than modern ones, what would Samuel Pepys made of an electric car? - there's so much material... Chuck in Noah too...

A small step for man, but possibly not a giant leap for mankind. I am wondering if the arrival of Noah might, after all, be of some use here. A leader who must ignore the sceptics and take powerful unpopular action to save the planet has to have real backbone to see it through. Maybe it's not just Russell Crowe who needs God's voice in his ear.

Glad I've no radio in the house at the moment

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:49 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I've started transcribing the video, since few will have the stomach to watch it.

I didn't yet have the stomach but those excerpts are a tremendous help Geoff. Holocaust scholars call the process radicalisation and hack academics were always at the forefront of it. I know that view might seem merely to create two equal and opposite Godwins but I have to say it the way I see it. We do see development in Lewandowsky's poisonous worldview and it isn't good development. Thanks a bundle for keeping a handle on it. And thanks johanna for the mosquito analogy. Bite away!

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:54 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

So, after all the Nazi revelations at SkS, the taking apart of Lew's papers by McIntyre and now the effective retraction of the Recursive Fury paper but with spin to make it look like climate deniers are bullies. After trying to claim that climate deniers are suffering from some kind of mental illness and that they harber sympathies with other conspiracy theories such as the moon landings were hoaxed, Lewandowsky prepares a self-indulgent 42 minute video seeking to justify his actions in psycho-babble language. You just couldn't make this stuff up, could you?

And he thinks we are crazy? Lewandowsky - take a look in the mirror. You really do need help. And you need to find friends on-line who don't have a penchant for pasting their own pictures onto Nazi images. In secret forums.

Mar 21, 2014 at 6:09 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Do you have questions about NASA Faked the Moon Landing - Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax?

Eventbrite wants to know. Please don't disappoint them - now or on 18th June.

Mar 21, 2014 at 6:16 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard - Perhaps Tamsin Edwards will attend and send us a report?

Mar 21, 2014 at 6:21 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Turney and Lew
Do we have some sort of nutter-exchange arrangement with Australia

Mar 21, 2014 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Steve M thoughts now up at CA

Mar 21, 2014 at 6:50 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

thinkingscientist: I have the impression Tamsin stays clear of Dr Lew, as a subject and as a colleague, and I would understand if she had. But it is Bristol's 'Festival of Ideas' after all. Some deserve to be shot down from all sides.

Mar 21, 2014 at 6:50 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Do we have some sort of nutter-exchange arrangement with Australia

I think it's a competitive sport. "We see your Turney and raise you a Lewandowsky." (Old country folds amidst mutual cries of "Unfair," "Suck it up Pommies," "Just as bad as bodyline" etc.)

Mar 21, 2014 at 6:55 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

'You turn your back for a few hours and all hell breaks loose!'
There is also quite a kerfuffle over an article Roger Pielke wrote for Nate Silver's 538 web site, Judith Curry has a post on this issues.

Mar 21, 2014 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

Mar 21, 2014 at 5:24 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Sorry Geoff, no help. Weak stomach.

Mar 21, 2014 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Richard Drake: if you and any other BHers are really likely to attend the Bristol Big Ideas event, I would definitely like to go too, not only to see Lew (with a sort of horrid fascination), but also to meet any BHers that might be around (I live in Bristol and don't find it easy to get to your other pub get togethers). i will invest in a ticket anyway. i'll bring my Josh calendar for identification!

Mar 21, 2014 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaroline K

Caroline: Consider it an increased probability! Any good pubs in Bristol for a debrief afterwards? (I think I remember some. My climate scepticism began with some Rio Tinto geologists shooting the breeze in a Bristol cafe in the early 1990s. Happy days.)

Mar 21, 2014 at 8:08 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Drake:

I'm sure there are some down round the waterfront. Am not too familiar with them, but will reconnoitre. have already bought my ticket for the event! so will go, even if no-one else does. but i hope there will be some back-up!

Mar 21, 2014 at 8:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaroline K

Richard Drake

There was a scrumpy pub of about 400 years tradition that I met on a long ago brief visit

Mar 21, 2014 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Ian

Thanks for the transcript Geoff.

It whetted my appetite enough to devote 42 minutes of my remaining life to the video.

I can't say it was wasted time. I think I learned a lot about psychology from Prof Lew - but possibly not in the areas he intended.

It's odd to think he's living, breathing, hating & ranting only half an hour away from where I'm sitting. I even have a vulnerable young relative studying there at the moment.

Suddenly the world seems a stranger place.

Mar 21, 2014 at 10:02 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Did he just stand in his room in front of a webcam and record his speech?

Mar 21, 2014 at 11:09 PM | Registered Commentershub

Yes Fox, sadly I know exactly how you feel.

But no worries, the latest Prof Lew 42 minutes is far from being an answer to anything!

"It took "Deep Thought" 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42!"

Mar 21, 2014 at 11:24 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand


He appeared to be declaiming to an empty office - but did you notice the deafening wild outbreak of applause at the end?

Did he have the combined Bristol membership of Greenpeace, FOE and WWF crammed into a corner of his office - or did he fake it in traditional TV sitcom fashion?

Either would be just as weird as his script.

Mar 21, 2014 at 11:47 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

You can figure out when he shot the video by the Hiroshima clock.

Mar 22, 2014 at 12:11 AM | Registered Commentershub

Yes, that's what he did. And it didn't cost him a cent. I had to register with Vimeo to comment there, and it turns out to be free vanity film-making for the hard up. The last time I transcribed Lew I was fascinated by his accent, which wanders from Oklahoma to Strine to Ivy League in each sentence, with the occasional shriek like that of the White Queen in Alice when she discovers that time runs backwards and she's about to make a prick of herself. There were traces of received English this time, but I didn't notice any Bristaouw.

From the spelling on the slides, I think he was talking to an American audience.

The news is the announcement near the end about new research he's done which involves showing sceptical comments from the “Recursive Fury” affair to members of the public, who apparently agreed with Cook and Marriot's analysis that we are all paranoid fruitcakes. They were also shown material prepared by PhD students pretending to be paranoid fruitcakes, but apparently they were considered less barmy than the real thing (us). Once the paper is published it will be time to demand the prompt material, identify its authors and complain to Bristol University about unauthorised use of it and of the indoctrination of PhD students.
If the sceptic quotes used can be attributed to their owners, their unauthorised use would likely be defamatory. If not, then the research is worthless, the work of a charlatan. I can't wait to find out which it is.

Mar 22, 2014 at 12:14 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

It comes to saying Lewandowsky made the video ~ 27 days back. Does it sound right?

Mar 22, 2014 at 12:40 AM | Registered Commentershub

Thanks to geoffchambers for the transcription. Lew, speaking on behalf of Frontiers says: "Well, that's gratifying, they confirmed our academic and ethical integrity." Really?

I was struck by the statement from Frontiers: “This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study.” That doesn't even qualify as "damning with faint praise." Notice they did not say, "This investigation found no issues with the . . . etc" or "This investigation found no issues that cast doubt on the ethical or academic aspects of the study." Or, to use Lew's words and state it without a negative, "This investigation confirmed the academic and ethical integrity of the study." These people are writers. The word "identify" is purposefully ambiguous. It could mean they actually found some "issues" but chose not to "identify" them publicly or even privately in their report.

Of course I'm exhibiting two of the six aspects of conspiracist ideation here--Nefarious Intent and Nothing As It Seems, so Lew and his deranged followers can immediately reject what I say.

The possibility must also be considered that Lewandowsky, given his excitable nature, could have sued Frontiers for spiking the paper-- insufficient cause, damage to his reputation and all that. By phrasing things imprecisely, or rather precisely to create a false impression, they give Lew something --the ability to claim exoneration by an "investigation" and retain his so-called "professional" reputation-- that allows them to avoid a suit by him.

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that they spent weeks coming up with the wording on that sentence alone.

If anyone wants to know why the paper was retracted, all they have to do is read Steve McIntyre's letter to Frontiers and UWA.

Mar 22, 2014 at 2:42 AM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

This is a long and, already, tedious song but I can't remember who mentioned Dante but, with Solzhenitsyn, I, we are all, am in the 'first circle, the 'virtuous pagans''. Damned but virtuous. What did Nietzsche say about Dante? A hyena on graves. Not that he should have the last word but the honest and signing pagans might. The mighty of thought, condemned by a great but, ultimately, superficial poet. How do you know, or deal, with the sting of a mosquito? By scratching it. Don't scratch. Please, don't scratch.

Mar 22, 2014 at 4:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane

Simon of Australian Climate Madness tracks down the UWA legal counsel ... and guess what he finds ?
Lewandowsky: UWA general counsel a Greenpeace supporter

Mar 22, 2014 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

Are they revealing names of writers when they publish the FOI stuff? If so they may well be in breach of the Data Protection Act in the UK. If you notice, all requests in the UK, at least from proper organisations who know what it takes to comply, will have names and identifying details, including gender pronouns, redacted.

Mar 22, 2014 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

Sherlock Holmes would have pointed out that the most interesting thing to come out of Brother Lew's 42 minutes of hellfire preaching was "the dog that didn't bark".

He addressed, with some vigour, all the evil atrocities and calumnies that we sceptics have heaped upon his long-suffering head, with one notable exception - the direct accusation that he never posted the LOG 12 survey at SkS and then lied about it.

Surely, accusing a senior academic of faking his results and lying to cover his tracks is a bit more serious than sending him a cheeky email asking if his PhD came out of a cornflake packet.

Those who have followed the Lew saga closely will have noticed that he never mentions, refers to or defends himself against the most serious, and potentially libellous, attack that has been made on him.

It's almost as if he's pretending it didn't happen.

Now that Recursive Fury has crashed & burned - we need to keep the pressure on to get the truth out on LOG 12.

Mar 22, 2014 at 10:15 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose


If anyone wants to know why the paper was retracted, all they have to do is read Steve McIntyre's letter to Frontiers and UWA.

That link doesn't work (for me, at least). Try this one:

Mar 22, 2014 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterosseo

NOT all th ecomplaints to UWA and Frontiers have been inluded. I aware of some to Frontiers, that were not released by UWA.

My emails to Frontiers are in the FOI material.

My emails and complaints to UWA directly are NOT part of the release...

If one of Prof Lewandowsky's students asked him. Did you post the LOG12 survey at Sceptical Science or not?

I wonder what he would say?
But I bet not even ANY of his colleagues at Bristol (or any psychologist, or journals in the field) have asked him that question - Cowards. - they are the problem for allowing activist psychologists to abuse psychology to attack their own critics,

Mar 22, 2014 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

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