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The man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice

There is a man that the Royal Society has chosen to honour not once but twice: first with a Wolfson Merit Award, and second with his own volume of their flagship journal. This post is about that man.

The man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice wrote a paper claiming that global warming sceptics believed that the moon landings were a hoax. This was despite the fact that his survey data had been collected at stridently anti-sceptic blogs. Worse,  his data showed precisely the opposite of what he claimed (and leaving aside that only ten of his 1145 respondents believed in the moon hoax anyway). Yes really - the man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice wrote a paper the title of which was completely, utterly and obviously refuted by his own data. This is a man who lied about the participants in his survey, the people who had given their time for scientific research.

Similarly, the man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice reported that endorsement of free markets predicts the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer. This was despite the fact that his survey data showed that free market endorsers overwhelmingly supported both of these propositions.


The man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice performed his surveys under university ethical clearance he had obtained for a project about public understanding of statistical trends. After informing his university's ethics department of a "slight" change to the plans he proceeded with two completely different projects. His original ethical clearance was for anonymised surveys, but in one of the subsequent projects he purported to have identified "psychopathological characteristics" in named individuals. This despite the fact that this was a direct breach of relevant research policies. This is the man that the Royal Society has honoured not once but twice.

The man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice declared in the SI to his paper that a substantial body of global warming sceptics would have had access to the survey. This claim was based on analysis of the traffic at a website that he said was one of those that had hosted it. Subsequent analysis showed that the survey had never appeared there (a point confirmed here).

The man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice wrote another paper that claimed that those who reject scientific propositions "often" support conspiracy theories too. The correlation calculation with which he supported this claim of "often" was based on just 2 of his 1100 respondents. In the earlier paper the number had been 2 from 1145. The man the Royal Society honoured with his own volume of their flagship journal made claims based on sample sizes of two.

The man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice collected survey data from minors, without having ethical clearance to do so.

This then is the man the Royal Society honoured not once but twice.

Which leads us inexorably to this question. Does the Royal Society care nothing for its own reputation, or indeed for the reputation of science?


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Reader Comments (137)

Johanna +1. Ben Pile's contribution to this thread is outstanding.

Oct 17, 2015 at 11:33 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Golf charlie...most people probably won't believe I have the good fortune to go by alpha mike foxtrot!

Tango sierra.

Oct 17, 2015 at 11:36 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

thinkingscientist, I have done work for the military, and have also done a bit of sailing. I have had to achieve sufficient proficiency to satisfy various military establishments aswell as the Royal Yachting Association. Foxtrot Oscar has a universal usage equating to the negative, or cease carrying out your intentions, however in climate science 'faux outrage' seems more appropriate in certain contexts.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never posted here under my real name, and any confusion with other GC's is unintended.

Oct 18, 2015 at 12:01 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

One of the Divine Agatha's novels (A Murder is Announced) uses the old British codes as an integral part of the plot - pip emma, in this case.

I suppose that it makes sense for everyone to be on the same page about these things, but papa echo is nowhere near as stylish. And, working it into a murder mystery would be very challenging indeed.

Oct 18, 2015 at 12:42 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I have done work for the military...Yes
have also done a bit of sailing.......a little
I have had to achieve sufficient
proficiency to satisfy various
military establishments..........haven't we all
aswell as the Royal Yachting Association... umm not really.

Don't fret folks the time to worry is when Lego start exhibiting closed down steel plants.;-)

Oct 18, 2015 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Morse code was written into the music of Inspector Morse, originally identifying the murderer, until people found out, so dummy names in Morse code were used aswell, by Barrington Pheloung

My knowledge of British Sign Language does not extend to much more than the alphabet, but the ability to sign 'bullsh!t' silently with your arms crossed, in a meeting, has most satisfying consequences, assuming someone else present knows what you are signing.

Oct 18, 2015 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Martyn, I am able to recite the Nato phonetic alphabet, and simultaneously sign it in British Sign Language. In the context of communication skills, this is utterly pointless, just like climate science, if you think about it.

American Sign Language is not the same as British, and I have no idea about Australian or other parts of the English speaking world.

Oct 18, 2015 at 1:27 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf charlie, Australian Sign Language is different again. Having had dealings with the so-called Deaf community (activists) I can understand why.The last thing they want is to be mainstreamed, they are "special." What they want is for taxpayers to fund them being taught the other versions of sign language. A few trips to overseas conferences are always welcome.

Also, many of them oppose cochlear implants, because it takes away from their membership.

Victimology 101.

Oct 18, 2015 at 1:43 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Johanna, I only learned the basics of British Sign Language, much as I would try to learn the basics of yes/no please /thank you etc in any foreign language. Looking at my ancestry, I will suffer hearing loss, and have designed modifications to buildings for those with Disabilities. I have some practical experience of the practicalities of induction loops for those with hearing aids, and what they can and can't do.

Hearing loss is the invisible disability. Those born deaf are remarkably able, and frequently go unnoticed. For those whose hearing becomes progressively worse, especially with age, it is devastating, and for many, too late to try sign language, as there are so few opportunities to learn, and communicate

Russell Seitz's contempt for Anthony Watts did strike a raw nerve with me, and probably many others, especially given the visual impairment of the late Fred Seitz.

The UK's Disability Discrimination Act was supposed to fix everything, just like the Climate Change Act. DDA experts popped up everywhere, charged a lot, and vanished, leaving carers and the disabled to sought things out (with a bit of help from surveyors, engineers etc, prepared to work out the technical details!)

Oct 18, 2015 at 2:20 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

With profound apologies to The Borg.
'Resistance is futile'.

Oct 18, 2015 at 7:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

Didn't Paul Dirac (Feynman's hero) have a 1st class hons engineering degree from Bristol University?

Oct 18, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A:

Not only did Dirac hold a Bristol engineering degree, he was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. O tempora O mores.

Oct 18, 2015 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

Really, the only response to Lewandowsky is ... "So what?" His work make snot a blind bit of difference to anything except his won sense of self worth. It truly is utterly pointless.

Perhaps we should just ignore him?

Oct 18, 2015 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

"Erstwhile RS president, Bob May, translated the RS's motto as 'respect the facts', whereas it had earlier been understood to mean 'on the word of no one'." - Ben Pile

Quite so - and compare this with the BBC changing their requirement to be impartial to one to be balanced. Which are different things altogether, as they are all aware.

Given that these institutions have been sop horribly corrupted and compromised - what do we do about it? One wishes there were some way of turning our collective backs on them.

Oct 18, 2015 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

"His work make snot" ... his work makes not ... and quite possibly snot as well.

Oct 18, 2015 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Jeremy Poynton, everything Lewandowsky produces is snot reality. One big blow and a push, is all it takes

Oct 18, 2015 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

"One wishes there were some way of turning our collective backs on them." - Jeremy Poynton. There is - don't buy a BBC licence. If enough people do it they must get the message. Over to you ........

Oct 18, 2015 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

Did anyone ever refute Lew academically? If not, why if the errors are so blatantly obvious as you make it seem?
Note: I do not endorse Lew's work, but in this game it is nevertheless more useful to refute findings through the same channels it was promoted. A lot of the younger academics will play the "only published refutals count"-game until they grow up and get a bit of experience and that takes time. Quite a few of them never grow up.

Oct 19, 2015 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnders Valland


See post @ Oct 17, 2015 at 4:45 AM | Registered Commenter stewgreen

Oct 19, 2015 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered Commenteralan kennedy

anders valland, academics accepted Lewandowsky's rubbish academically, however Lewandowsky and his allegedly academic university's academics, were obstructive in refusing to cooperate with attempts to verify the technical and ethical merits of his academic research.

Whether it has been overturned academically, is a bit academic now, but climate science has never been proven right, so why should Lewandowsky challenge the accepted modus operandi in climate science?

A lot of academics reacted with recurrent fury, when a publisher withdrew his paper, proving that a consensus of academics thought there was nothing wrong with Lewandowsky's work.

Oct 19, 2015 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I think it's interesting to note how many academic disciplines -- and unreamarkable academics -- are rescued from obscurity by climate change.

It's not just the dusty old geography departments that now have shiny, sexy new state-of-the-art homes. Sociologists, moral philosophers, behaviourists (and plenty more besides) no longer have to struggle to demonstrate their 'relevance'. They simply have to apply their insight, such as it is, to the 'greatest challenge mankind has ever faced', forgetting their disciplines' histories of failed promises. The end-of-the-world story reanimates positivism's corposes, and sends them off to DECC as consultants.

But let's not single out academia -- end-is-nigh-ism saves the humble hack in all vocations. Melting ice caps give disoriented journalists a new moral compass. The plight of the polar bear rescues the investor from falling commodity prices. The self-serving politician, detatched from his constituency, and out of touch with his party's history, only needs to make carbon his enemy to find his public function re-legitimised. The thing they all have in common is mediocrity.

Oct 19, 2015 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Ben Pile,

A good point that isn't made nearly often enough. And what about politicians? See:

Oct 19, 2015 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

Alan Kennedy and golf charlie, thank you.

Oct 20, 2015 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnders Valland

Tony N.

A very interesting post from the vaults on 'risk free politics' -- bookmarked.

However, I think we need to point out that, in the long run, the risks avoided do mount up. Since your post, Miliband, Huhne and Davey have alll been and gone. The Lib Dems -- the climate champions who that year promised a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions, and the abolition of the petrol engine and nuclear power by 2050 -- have just 8 MPs and a single MEP. Perhaps Cameron has realised that the green brand is, in fact, toxic -- no more husky-hugging and trips to Greenpeace's rooftops for him. The question is how long it takes the rest of the HoC/L to wake up to the fact -- and of course, for the acres of civil servants to be sent the memo.

Oct 20, 2015 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Ben Pile

Yes, in fact it should be reassuring that that post seems a bit dated now. But is it really?

True, the LibDems are probably out of the game for a decade or so now, but what has filled the vacuum? In terms of seats, it’s the SNP, who arguably are every bit as dedicated to the fight against climate change. How can they justify their suicidal energy policy otherwise?

In terms of the popular vote, UKIP are the third largest party, and certainly show signs of climate scepticism, but can they be trusted to put that case convincingly and effectively? And are they likely to try in face of a vast multitude of immensely powerful and well-funded green NGO’s who will be out to discredit and destroy them?

I’m sure that there are people in all parties now who are becoming ever more concerned about where the crusade against climate change is leading. Recent headlines about the steel industry will no doubt recruit a few more. But what can they do? In a way it is like the seventies, when the unions were so powerful that no government would willingly risk confronting them. Just imagine what a united campaign from the eNGOs - with the BBC on side of course - could do to the electoral prospects of any party that actually takes a sceptical line on climate change. Some time ago I calculated that the combined budget of just three of the top ones, WWF, Oxfam and (I think) Greenpeace, was around half a billion pounds.

You can wreak a lot of political havoc with resources like that.

Oct 20, 2015 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

TonyN, if the SNP are to try and rescue the Scottish steel industry, and I wish them well, they may realise the damage done by the Climate Change Act, and other EU policies.

The current Labour leadership has yet to be asked their opinion, apart from the standard answer of blame the Conservatives, and the Trades Union Barons are still too pleased to have got Corbyn, that they don't want to rock the boat.

The field is open for any politician seeking good media coverage (apart from the Guardian)

Oct 20, 2015 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf charlie

If you were a politician, would you invite the kind of attention from the green lobby that would attract? A vast, very media savvy array with almost limitless resources and access to the private mobile number of just about any journalist you can think of. People who are dedicated to discrediting you in any any way possible? I wonder? Just think of the uncomfortable ride that Owen Paterson has enjoyed since he showed his head, pretty cautiously,above the parapet.

Oct 20, 2015 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

TonyN, I entirely agree with your concerns. It is just going to take a few more brave enough to speak out. The collapse of the UK's steel industry has even caused the BBC to mention high energy costs as a factor

The Green Blob has got used to intimidating journalist and politicians. They have become the school bullies, no one is prepared to take on, and have ostracised those scientists who have spoken out. That Mann can still claim he was cleared by the inquiries after Climategate, without ridicule in the press is farcical.

The timing of Tata steels closures to coincide with the arrival of the Chinese delegation is very fortuitous, for those wanting to blame a country short of UK friends.

The lack of publicity about the rush to get emergency diesel generators available, should be a minor scandal in itself. Admitting a foreseen power generation crisis could leave some embarrassing questions unanswered.

Both Labour and the Conservatives are badly exposed, should there be some crisis. UKIP could make some noise about it now, but may not be heard. An opportunistic Labour MP with ambitions, could speak out now and cause havoc now, on the basis of giving Labour a chance at the next election.

Politics is a dirty game, so is climate science. When politicians decide they do not want to play with climate anymore, it will be filthy, but the media have to be careful not to expose their own complicity. Very few of the current players can throw any stones, without getting caught in a return bombardment.

Someone like Owen Paterson, who has spoken out, could speak out again, but a bit louder. I do not know if he had his wrists smacked by No 10, the Whips or his constituency party, or even whether he is motivated enough to want to take a lead.

Climategate did not change anything at the time, but people (like me) who were not climate scientists, but had thought something was wrong, realised they were not alone. I grew up trusting expert scientists. In my own field I have experienced experts who were idiots, and have become fairly cynical as a result. All this talk of global warming, but I do not see spring bulbs or blackberries arriving any sooner.

In summary, I do not know what will happen, but in the UK, MP's speaking out now, have a few years to prove themselves correct to the electorate. Climate scientists have had 25 years and failed, and the public patience has probably run out. Nobody has actually asked the public to find out. Maybe The Sun will be credited after all.

Oct 21, 2015 at 12:20 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The reason for the Patterson sacking was spun as the failure of the experimental badger cull and his supposed failure to deal with the flooding of the Somerset Levels. In fact the badger cull was a leap in the dark and was useful to the extent of establishing that culling badgers is on a large scale is far more difficult than previously thought. So far as the flooding was concerned, Paterson acted quickly and decisively to reverse the Environment Agency’s policy of not dredging essential drainage channels. It’s true that the E.A. were responsible to him in the run-up to the flooding, but ridiculous to expect a minister to micro-manage its activities to an extent that would have prevented the problem.

As a countryman, who spends a fair amount of time talking to country people from all over, there was universal approval of Patterson, and from a lot of people who one suspected might not be Tory voting Telegraph readers. The universal opinion I heard was that he was the best ‘Min. of Ag.’ that anyone could remember. Can you think of any other minister in the coalition that level of approval?

There can be little doubt that Patterson was sacked because Cameron’s strategists knew that going into an election campaign with a cabinet minister who could easily be branded a ‘climate denier’ would be unwise, especially in the wake of Cameron’s own outburst about ‘cutting the green crap’. Any front line politician thinking of speaking out about climate change has seen what happened to Patterson, and rumblings from the back benchers who no longer expect preferment is unlikely to have much impact. I fear that the political landscape, and the attitude of the media to green issues, will have to change radically before there is any effective political opposition to the consensus line on climate change. Might a collapse of the Paris conference, and more energy intensive industries in the UK, trigger this? Who knows.

The relationship between the media and the ‘green blob’ is, I think, a very different matter and not, as you suggest, based on fear or coercion at all.

Oct 21, 2015 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

TonyN, I am really just a country bumpkin. I am not a farmer, but worked on farms during school/university holidays over 30 years ago.

It is about time country folk started lecturing townies how to live their lives, lecturing them on the health risks of the take away food lifestyle, and its cost to rates payers for litter clearance and vermin control.

Townies were looking for a fight over the badger cull, and had the media power to win.

Environmentalists have set themselves up for a bashing over misguided thinking over flood control. They had just about enough media control to weather one storm.

How about a list of things townies do wrong in running towns, prepared by country bumpkins? The townies won't like it, but they have been demanding country bumpkins run the countryside so it looks how they want it to look for their annual visit.

Apparently some townies have encountered cow pats without having to dial 999, declaring a public emergency, and having all watercourses deemed toxic.

Oct 21, 2015 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Golf Charlie,

A countryman's list of things townies do wrong in running towns could certainly be an amusing exercise in satire!

Oct 21, 2015 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

TonyN, go for it! Post a link here ......

Put in for Planning Permission for windfarms on Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath, how could a townie object?

Oct 21, 2015 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Re The Emperor's New Clothes and Peer review thingy
I believe the small boy's report was not peer reviewed. So by the Alarmist Spinmeister's mad logic the report of expert tailor1 PEER REVIEWED by expert tailor2 is the only evidence we should consider.

I think that is the main point of Ben Pile's lengthy post.
That mad logic is of course also the fallacy of appeal from authority

I am replying to the post made by

Micky H Corbett
// A common theme I see in the alarmist camp is that rebuttals only have merit if coming from "peer reviewed" papers, which makes sense if the rebuttal is a technical nuance or something deep and fundamental to the field.//


"The XYZ doesn't care about its reputation."
//I think what you really mean is, "Doesn't the XYZ care about truth and honesty and scientific objectivity?" Cal Ford//

substitute XYZ for the Royal Society, the BBC, the Guardian, the NGO etc.
But realise it's not the organisation that is speaking, but a small number of loons who have infiltrated key positions and hijacked the agenda.

Does Lews & RS BS matter ?
Yes #1 cos money is unwisely spent , it usurps the proper systems we have for the efficient allocation of resources to protecting the enviroment etc.
Yes #2 Malaysian schools are again closed this week as an idirect effect of Climate Loons pushing the SE Asia forest burning smog off the agenda as the WESTERN media bleat on about The VW particulate issue which has 1000 times less this REAL PROBLEM of TODAY is not dealt with.

Oct 22, 2015 at 6:26 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Sorry I am late to this thread. UKIP's energy policy is available on their website. Roger Helmer MEP is the UKIP energy spokesman. He takes a strong line on no subsidies, is in favour of shale gas and opposes wind "farms". Of course this is not publicised by the media but there is no bowing to the green blob by UKIP.

Oct 23, 2015 at 12:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie


Roger Helmer's views on the subject are well known to followers of Roger Helmer, but I don't remember Nigel Farage raising climate change as a major issue during the televised debates.

Oct 23, 2015 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

TonyN, Roger Helmer was reported in the Independent 30th Dec 2014, in the Huffington Post, in the Nottingham Post, on various consensus blogs and elsewhere. So no, his views are not just known by Roger Helmer's followers.

Are his, or UKIP's energy policy widely disseminated, by the BBC for example? Of course not. He is characterised as a "denier" so gets very limited exposure due to censorship. I made a suggestion. Go to UKIP's web site and find out. How difficult is that for people bothered to visit Bishop Hill?

Oct 23, 2015 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie


During the election TV debates, Nigel Farage had the opportunity to address a vast audience that would neither read the the Huffington Post and Independent, nor visit the UKIP website. He chose not to raise the issue of climate change in spite of the enormous influence this has on vast areas of current public policy.

The most effective mass media contribution from UKIP I have come across so far was on Any Questions? just after AR5 SPM was published. Nial Hamilton delivered a breathtakingly well-informed critique of the report so fluently that not even Green Alliance member and Any Questioins? chairman Jonathan Dimbleby could sabotage it by intervening. Sadly, by the time of the election, Hamilton had run into the kind of problems that make a politician an embarrassment rather than an asset.

So I must repeat that climate scepticism has no voice in mainstream politics, and it is difficult to see how this situation will change in the foreseeable future, particularly as there must be continuing doubts about UKIP’s willingness and ability to represent climate scepticism ‘convincingly and effectively’.

Oct 23, 2015 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

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