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The Royal Society celebrates a hoaxer

The Royal Society has doubled down in its support for notorious scientific hoaxer Stefan Lewandowsky, inviting him to speak at the Royal Society at the end of February.

Following the recent Paris Climate Summit, countries from around the world have backed climate science and committed to reducing emissions. But for years, public and political uncertainty has delayed cooperation and action. Why has uncertainty had such a powerful psychological effect on us and why is it so damaging?
Join cognitive scientist Professor Stephan Lewandowsky to explore where climate change and human cognition collide and discover the science behind uncertainty.

Details here.

Rumours that the Royal intends to awarding a Queen's medal to Hwang Woo-Suk are said to be unfounded.

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Reader Comments (44)

Inviting that pillock to speak before the RI is rather revealing, not that I am at all surprised because, advertising, this once famous institution merely continues on its long march out into the backwoods of scientific and intellectual insignificance.

Jan 4, 2016 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Piltdown Mann has a Nobel Prize on his wall, so why not ?

Jan 4, 2016 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

RI? - RS maybe.

Jan 4, 2016 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

That's strange, I thought the science behind uncertainty, was uncertain!

Jan 4, 2016 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Happy New Year Bishop Hill bloggers. ..... A 'reasonal' pantomime for 2016

Jan 4, 2016 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterfenbeagle

What's a 'cognitive scientist'..?

Is that someone that THINKS they are a scientist..?

Jan 4, 2016 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Doesn't RS now just stand for Religious Society'?
Would that some other Fellows in the psycho field would show their contempt for the man's work.

Jan 4, 2016 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

He reportedly proved skeptics were frauds by submitting anonymized climate data about the pause to economic experts.

Jan 4, 2016 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

Attending this event

Free, no registration required
Doors open at 6pm, seats allocated on a first come first served basis

Jan 4, 2016 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Must be embarrassing for a lot of their members to have a charlatan invited.

Jan 4, 2016 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterSwiss Bob

Nursey & Co. are determined to get their money's worth out of their expensively imported antipodean skeptic tormentor. He's fireproof too - since if you've never had any credibility you can't loose any.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:07 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I would suggest that that the 'any questions' section will be carefully 'controlled' if for no other reason that Lew paper has show himself unable to deal with 'difficulty questions' without letting his massive ego get in the way something that often , like Mann, causes harm more harm then the questions.

Given that the RS was instrumental in bringing him over , including handing him some fat cash, I suppose this was always going to happen. So the best we can hope is , as with Bristol University, is for someone to remind them that actions have consequences and those that support people with poor ethical and scientific practice , are in no position to lecture others on these issues.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

"public and political uncertainty has delayed cooperation and action" is a profoundly wrong premise so even if they hadn't invited a numpty to speak, nothing useful could be said a priori.

All delays in 'action' are in reality due to the very obvious fact that prosperity and fossil-fuel-use are in lock-step so reducing one reduces the other. They all know this but just prefer not to say it out loud lest they be excluded from the planet-saving, free-holiday club.

The Paris agreement to do nothing except observe business-as-usual achieving less than 2K temperature rise is perfect gesture politics where only the productive in society ever lose out. After many more failed predictions, job exports and nice junkets the professional leeches will eventually claim their asinine policies prevented the temperature from rising just as they currently claim the non-problem of acid rain was cured by SO2-reduction policy.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Jan 4, 2016 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Cognitive scientist = Witch Doctor =Climate scientist = Social Worker. Any more?

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Constable

RH has a new activist facebook page (I don't mean Russel Harty)

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:18 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Well, I think we can all agree about one thing: science is a process of reducing uncertainty about our knowledge of the natural world.

However, some conduct science by experimenting, collecting data, evaluating and modifying hypothesis, etc. Others listen to a "cognitive scientist" to "discover the science behind uncertainty."

When is this madness going to end?

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

I don't think it's free actually. I think you will find it is free to get in, but they charge £100 to get out

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

I like to think there was once a time when the Fellows would have welcomed the prospect of such a preening windbag (noun, informal derogatory a person who talks at length but says little of any value) heading their way as an opportunity for a little sportive play in the early evening.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:19 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Maybe it's an opportunity to expose the fraud and show how 'balanced' the RS is! Sorry, I'll wake up some time soon.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Martin Fleischmann for RS President?

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

People refusing to admit their problems are largely self inflicted often turn to quacks for a magic solution.

Dr Lew offers them the hope the public can be psyched into massively changing their lives if only the pesky scientists would stop admitting the uncertainty - by which they mean a lack of evidence for thermogeddon.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

When was the last time a previously respected bureaucracy so badly misunderstood the facts on the ground? I'm groping for metaphors here. Nicholas II of Russia? Nicolae Ceaușescu?

The good thing is, I was taught science by people who understood that it isn't done by bureaucrats. I was never taught anything about the so-called "Royal Society" and whether they had jack-shit relevance to the advancement of science. They don't. They are scientifically irrelevant. It's politics.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Like stout Balboa's
First gaze at that maddened face.
False the looking glass.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

@Steve: Martin Fleischmann died last year. I worked with him once; a Jewish child emigrée who became a brilliant physicist rooted in experiment. No IPCC pseudoscience for the likes of him.

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

So will Lewandowsky get the bus to the Royal Society or will it he be driven in a gas guzzling chauffeured limo.

Jan 4, 2016 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Join cognitive scientist Professor Stephan Lewandowsky to explore where climate change and human cognition collide and discover the science behind uncertainty.

"Collide" seems to be the right word for the interaction between Lewandowsky's "cognitions" and climate reality. However I think it would be better if the Royal Society paid more attention to the uncertainty in the science rather than trying to discover science in the uncertainty.

Jan 4, 2016 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

I think a study of certainty is far more interesting and would give insights on something that over the decades has proven much more dangerous to people around the world: Absolutists who dismiss and dehumanize by all means available those who disagree with the Absolutist's focus of belief.

Jan 4, 2016 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

@Eternal Optimist

There is a rude limerick on the same lines,

"There was a young lady from Crewe.... "

The rest available on popular request.

Seriously, I'm surprised that a uni that produced Dame Julia Goodfellow, who I knew once upon a time, would give credence to this obvious shyster.

Jan 4, 2016 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBritInMontreal

Question to raise at end of presentation: "Dr Lew, is it true that your 97% papers were paid for - in kind - by the RS and various governments as a way to allow them to claim an unassailable strategic position in the climate change debate, and that your refusal to produce your data and methods to support your work is ignored by the RS and is a slander put about by your enemies - or is that just a conspiracy?"

Jan 4, 2016 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

There is hope yet for Astrologers to be admitted to the Royal Society.

The Royal Society might even be more scientific, if it relied on known planetary orbits, rather than political fashion.

Jan 4, 2016 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

@golf charlie: there is talk that the RS is about to change its stance on the Heliocentric model of the Universe and to place a series of racks in its basement to 'persuade' doubters that they should accept official diktat. Paul Nurse has been appointed Torturer in Chief, apparently.

Jan 4, 2016 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Jose Duarte has one of the most complete takedowns:

Jan 4, 2016 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligula Jones

What Lysenko spawned.

Jan 4, 2016 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

NCC 1701E, this is not the only Royal prefixed Society that has been modifying it's belief system in readiness for the future King's approval.

Jan 4, 2016 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Hunter says: "I think a study of certainty is far more interesting and would give insights on something that over the decades has proven much more dangerous to people around the world: Absolutists who dismiss and dehumanize by all means available those who disagree with the Absolutist's focus of belief."

Good point. I watched a brilliant vid of Patrick Moore over the break giving an illustrated address where he quoted Michael Crichton's words (from memory) I am certain there is too much certainty.

Jan 4, 2016 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

This could be important. You can find his position in a number of papers and articles by googling “uncertainty is not your friend”.
Whereas his conspiracy theory papers are simply cheap propaganda using bad methodology bad statistics and bad faith, his pseudo-philosophical musings on the effects of increased uncertainty of fat tailed skewed distributions of sensitivity estimates are five star Madame Blavatsky-style bonkers – numerology with knobs on - which should be evident to anyone with a bit of intelligence and therefore to at least some of the Fellows of the RS.

The philosophical absurdity of claiming that juggling with a graph can tell you something about the real world is obvious enough, but it would require a certain effort by competent mathematicians and philosophers of science to demonstrate it clearly. If anyone could do this and publicise it before February 22nd it might just make waves. “Royal Society Speaker accused of talking Bollocks” is the kind of headline that even the most obtuse science correspondent could hardly ignore.

Jan 4, 2016 at 7:40 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

We should remember that Lewandowsky's treatment uncertainty are is fundamentally different from how most people here would expect. These views are contained in two papers co-written with Australian Climatologist James Risbey published in April 2014.
Argument is basically that there is a convex cost function for global warming of the form
CGW= f{K^x} where x>1
The form for this cost function is unknown, but Lewandowsky believes it can be estimated from the warming and damage costs so far. With no real evidence of climate damage costs from the little warming so far, means the cost curve so far is flat. If the curve is convex (x>1) then that means instead a quadratic function (i.e. x=2 as Nordhaus's DICE models assume), the curve could be a quartic or a quintic function. The uncertainty is increased as we have little or no clues from current data as to the nature of the costs. For Lewandowsky et al. a secondary source of uncertainty is the disagreement between the experts.
Where Lewandowsky and I depart how we treat the lack of evidence. For me short-term predictive failures is a sign that the long-term predictions of catastrophe should be given far less weighting. (see here), just as estimates of lower climate sensitivity also reduces the likely costs of warming. But for Lewandowsky, and other believers, catastrophic global warming is an a priori truth so prophetic failures have the reverse effect of those with a scientific disposition. It is like with most small children, who are told if they are naughty the bogeyman will creep up on them in the night and meet out punishment. Most children after a couple of sleepless nights will cease believing, but a minority will become traumatized.

Jan 4, 2016 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Kevin Marshall
I thought I understood the stuff about the convexity of his curve when I read it a few years ago in his articles at Shapingtomorrowsworld but I've forgotten since.

What jumps out from the abstract of the Risbey / Lewandowsky article you link to is this:

“The analysis also extends to “second-order” uncertainty; that is, situations in which experts disagree. Greater disagreement among experts increases the likelihood that the risk of exceeding a global temperature threshold is greater.”
What this means is that the state of our knowledge can affect the thing we claim to know (or not know) about, not at the quantum level but in ordinary life. If you don't know what the temperature is going to be, then it's a mathematical truth that it's going to be worse than you thought it was. This is philosophical bollocks and proof that Lewandowsky is not only a liar but a charlatan. Anyone, even a fellow of the Royal Society, can understand this. Therefore those who invited him to speak are also charlatans.

I suggest a well formulated letter making this potentially libellous accusation, signed by a few hundred BH readers and addressed to the RS might have some effect. Anyone got a better idea?

Jan 4, 2016 at 9:05 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

A "Cognitive Scientist" is one who empirically knows that he/she is correct, irrespective of what the real data actually shows.

Jan 4, 2016 at 10:25 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

The applicable ramification of photosynthesis is that CO2 is necessary for the initial step for all life on the planet and always has been. For life on land as we know it to have evolved there had to have been substantial CO2 in the atmosphere for more than 542 million years. If CO2 made the planet warmer it would have been doing it cumulatively for 542 million years. But average global temperature (AGT) has gone up and down over the eon. The only way this could consistently result is if CO2 has no effect on temperature and temperature change is caused by something else. Documented in a peer reviewed paper at Energy & Environment, vol. 26, no. 5, 841-845.

Further discussion of the compelling evidence CO2 has no effect on AGT and identification of what has caused AGT change for at least the last 300 years are at Only one input is needed or used and it is publicly available. The match is better than 97% since before 1900.

Jan 4, 2016 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDan Pangburn

Cognitive science would come in the category Hayek called scientism : “…a false understanding of the methods of science that has been mistakenly forced upon the social sciences, but that is contrary to the practices of genuine science …” (Wiki).
Lewandowsky’s “… uncertainty implies that the problem is more likely to be worse than expected in the absence of that uncertainty …” is a piece of nonsensical reversal and inversion worthy of Lewis Carroll.

Jan 5, 2016 at 5:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

It's missing the point to discuss whether Risbey & Lew are right or wrong about uncertainty. Their pseudo-science is likely no worse than the recent paper by Gavin Schmidt et al. trying to tell us that climate sensitivity is actually worse than we thought despite the obvious facts that models are running too hot and that natural variation has been underestimated thus far. There will always be motivated people arguing black is white!

But the real issue is the continued repetition of the meme that inaction by governments is caused entirely by scepticism funded by the oil industry and not by the (you'd think obvious) fact that we don't actually have a ready replacement for fossil fuels yet. Why these RS luminaries don't understand that simple point would be my question to them.

Jan 5, 2016 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

"Join cognitive scientist Professor Stephan Lewandowsky to explore where climate change and human cognition collide"

We know that already. Somewhere far up the professor's fundament.

Jan 5, 2016 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Cognitive scientist = Witch Doctor =Climate scientist = Social Worker. Any more?

Jan 4, 2016 at 3:17 PM | John Constable
Pillock springs to mind...

Jan 5, 2016 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

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