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Discussion > Grauniad: Are climate change sceptics likely to be conspiracy theorists?

Well Geoff, to be fair to Adam he has been open minded enough let my last comment through - and I imagine that means he'll respond in some way.

I'm sure we're never going to agree on this - but I think this business of activist academics has to be dragged out into the open for all to see clearly.

From your last post at Adam's blog, you've obviously spotted what Lewandowsky is up to and been happy to expose it - why give Adam a pass for doing the same?

Aug 3, 2012 at 3:15 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Reply posted in response to Adam Corner's statement on his Talking Climate blog:-

Adam, thank you for taking the time to respond to my earlier post.

I’m afraid how­ever that your response seems to raise more ques­tions than answers.

The point at issue is your clear and unam­biguous state­ment to the politi­cians and policy makers at the PE forum that — “I am a researcher not a campaigner”.

You now state — “In my per­sonal time — when I do not rep­resent anyone but myself — I have taken part in many cam­paigning activ­ities, and I plan on con­tinuing to do so”

So you are, and intend to remain, a campaigner.

You follow this by — “I stand by my opening com­ment at the Policy Exchange event — because all I was intending to convey was that I am not, and have never been to the best of my know­ledge, a paid campaigner.”

I think we all under­stand that the vast majority of polit­ical cam­paigners are not paid and, as far as I’m aware, no one has ever alleged that you were a “paid cam­paigner”. What you are doing here is simply trying to soften your admis­sion by using a rather obvious “straw man” argument.

You say on COIN — “I appre­ciate you see COIN as some kind of rad­ical organ­isa­tion, but to me.. it is only a cam­paigning organ­isa­tion in the very mildest sense of the word. In any case, i don’t do any campaig­ning for them … it just aims to com­mu­nicate cli­mate change better… COIN is a cam­paign group for cli­mate change only in the way that the Science Media Centre is a cam­paign group for sci­ence. Only if you think that pro­moting public engage­ment with cli­mate change, and encour­aging people/organisations to con­sider what steps they could take to reduce their carbon foot­prints is con­tro­ver­sial, would you think that there is any­thing even vaguely con­ten­tious in the work I do for COIN.”

Again, no one ever sug­gested that COIN was par­tic­u­larly rad­ical or con­ten­tious — simply that it was a cam­paigning organisation.

I’ve had another look at their web­site & clearly IS a cam­paigning organ­isa­tion — run by a guy who cheer­fully boasts — “George has twenty years exper­i­ence in research and cam­paigning and out­reach for envir­on­mental and indi­genous rights organ­isa­tions. He has worked as a senior cam­paigner for Greenpeace and the Rainforest Foundation…….Before joining COIN George was one of the founders and co-ordinators of Rising Tide, a national net­work of grass­roots cli­mate change cam­paign groups.”

So, in sum­mary, you have told us that you are and intend to remain, a cam­paigner both per­son­ally and as a dir­ector of a cam­paign group — but you “stand by” your state­ment that “I am not a campaigner”.

I’ll leave it to others to draw their own con­clu­sions from that.

On the sub­ject of your Guardian art­icle, repeated above — per­haps you could cla­rify for us whether you regard this as part of your cam­paigning activ­ities or your research work.

If the former — well I guess it’s about par for the course in the Graun.

If the latter — I’m frankly mys­ti­fied by the basic concept.

I’m a reg­ular vis­itor at most of the “pro-science” blogs Lewandowsky used and, as Barry has remarked, genuine sceptic posters are rel­at­ively rare there.

The oddest thing, though, is that I have never seen anyone on the scep­tical side of the argu­ment make any ref­er­ence at all to any of the classic “con­spiracy” issues Lewandowsky and your­self have chosen to high­light in your “research”. I’ve lit­er­ally never hear a scep­tical com­ment­ator on any blog com­ment on the Apollo moon land­ings, Kennedy’s assas­sin­a­tion or 9/11 con­spiracy theories.

I have, how­ever, reg­u­larly heard com­ment­ators of a cli­mate act­ivist per­sua­sion accusing scep­tics of being “believers in con­spiracy the­ories”. The alleged belief is usu­ally por­trayed as “why would all the world’s sci­ent­ists ganging up to invent a scare story”.

I’ve haven’t ever actu­ally heard that argu­ment employed by a sceptic — but it’s a “straw man” argu­ment much used by cli­mate activists.

Most psy­cho­lo­gical and soci­olo­gical research on the nature of cli­mate “den­iers” has tended to identify them as middle aged to older white males, often with higher than average tech­nical edu­ca­tion, retired from pro­fes­sions involving busi­ness and engin­eering and with strong con­ser­vative and free market views. I wouldn’t argue with much of that since it fits my own pro­file — but I’m mys­ti­fied by the intel­lec­tual leap that assumes that this demo­graphic includes those prone to con­spiracy theories.

In my exper­i­ence con­spiracy the­ories usu­ally flourish among rad­ical extreme left and anarchist groups. The com­monest place to find them in the UK is among the CIF com­ment­ators at your own dear Guardian where the belief that George Bush got his busi­ness bud­dies to wire the WTC with explos­ives, stopped the CIA from invest­ig­ating known ter­ror­ists and stood down the air force inter­ceptors is common currency.

Taking note of what Barry Woods and Geoff Chambers have dis­covered above — it’s pretty obvious that the gen­esis of Lewandowsky’s “research” was as follows:-

He and his buddy & co-author John Cook, who hap­pens to run Australia’s main cli­mate act­ivist blog, started dis­cussing “cog­nitive work” on “den­iers” in 2010. John offered to help by “coding” his “denier” con­trib­utors in some unspe­cified way.

Quote -
“I only assign bias if its obvious from the com­ment. I haven’t done any­thing with that data yet, I’m not even sure why I’m doing it other than my obsessive com­pul­sion to col­lect data. The other day, Steve Lewandowsky (cog­nitive sci­entist) asked if I had any num­bers on the ratio of skep­tics to warm­ists so I dove into the data­base and counted up around 100 assigned skep­tics and around 400 assigned warmists.”

and -
“I’ve been having some intriguing con­ver­sa­tions with Steve Lewandowsky who’s throwing cog­nitive exper­i­ment ideas at me to see what’s tech­nic­ally pos­sible. Having a sig­ni­fic­antly sized group of people clas­si­fied as skeptic or proAGW makes all sorts of inter­esting exper­i­ments possible.”

Followed by -
“What’s inter­esting is Steve Lewandowsky has done some research showing there is a high cor­rel­a­tion between con­spiracy the­or­ists and cli­mate den­iers. This is a theme that could be explored further.”

So, Steve designs an “exper­i­ment” whereby he sticks a ques­tion­naire, with loaded ques­tions of his own devising, exclus­ively on blogs con­trolled and pop­u­lated by his co-activists — and even they are incred­u­lous — “Yeah, those con­spiracy theory ques­tions were pretty funny, but does anyone think that hard­core den­iers are going to be fooled by such a trans­parent attempt to paint them as paranoids?”

Steve makes no attempt to con­trol or identify responses — other than excluding duplicate IP’s and the most obvious jokers (age 95).

These uncon­trolled responses to his arbit­rar­ilyy loaded ques­tions, from anonymous posters, exclus­ively on 8 fan­at­ic­ally anti-sceptic blogs — con­vince Steve that cli­mate scep­tics gen­er­ally believe that the CIA shot Kennedy, Bush blew up the WTC and NASA never got to the moon.

As I said above, Adam — if you wrote this in your act­ivist role we can all shrug and move on.

If you’re put­ting it for­ward as the fruits of ser­ious sci­entific research — you’re in danger of making your­self a laughing stock.

Aug 3, 2012 at 8:44 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Foxgoose
95 year-olds were accepted, as were 10 year-olds. Only those aged 96 or over or 9 or under were excluded. Together with respondents who tried to post more than once, that accounted for 17% of the sample who were excluded as “jokers”. There was obviously no way of checking whether the others were responding seriously and honestly.
I’m wondering whether the blogs known to have posted the survey had sufficient traffic to generate the 1000+ responses that Lewandowsky claims, since only at Tamino’s were there more than a handful of comments. It’s most odd that the survey wasn’t posted at Skeptical Science, since Cook and Lewandowsky were discussing how to use Cook’s database of 500 commenters who had already been identified as warmists or sceptics. Yet Cook is quite clear in private correspondence that Lewandowsky’s denier / conspiracy theorist survey was something separate from the schemes he was cooking up with Lew.
One possibility is that he contacted the commenters directly by email. This would be better survey practice, since it prevents commenters from exchanging views, as happened at Tamino’s, and also would avoid any possible bad publicity. Would it be considered unethical?
The whole survey is a fuss about nothing, in my view. Of course people who are sceptical about one thing are likely to be sceptical about another. So what? As possibly the only atheist in the world who believes that the Turin Shroud is a True Likeness of Christ, and that the Vatican is involved in a massive cover up, I say: the official version is always wrong. Make up your own mind.

Aug 3, 2012 at 11:16 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I've been trying to think of an analogy for Steve Lewandowsky's eccentric view of the scientific method and the best I could come up with was this:-

I am (hypothetically) a young, gay Australian academic. I have a lot of young, gay friends with similar interests and concerns – one of which is equal treatment of gay people under the law.

We all believe that gay people should be allowed to get married in exactly the same way as straight people and we are distressed that a vocal group of mainly conservative, religious older people are opposing this.

I don't like these sort of people. I think they are smug bigots – they also tend to be fat and play golf.
I don't actually know any of them because, I mean, honestly who would want to hang out with creeps like them?

I feel so strongly about this issue I decide to use my academic position to do some research into exactly what makes these people into the kind of narrow-minded pompous fools they so obviously are.

I discuss my plans with my buddy John who runs the local gay bar. He says he very occasionally gets a few of these old conservative, religious bigots in there and agrees with me that they are pretty nasty types.

I decide the best way to expose the truth about these indescribably unpleasant people is to find out what they think and write a paper about it. To find out what they think, I'll use the well proven technique of getting them to fill in a questionnaire.

I grab a clean sheet of paper and sit down to design my questionnaire. What sort of questions should I ask to get to the truth about these revolting characters? It's a bit tricky since I don't actually know any of them – but I've got a gut feel for the sort of things they might get up to.......

1.Do you believe in God?
2.Do you regularly play golf?
3.Is your waist size in excess of 38 inches?
4.Have you stopped beating your wife yet?
5.Have you ever wondered what it would be like to put a cute little kitten in the microwave?
6.Have you ever been tempted by the thought of sexual intercourse with farm animals?
7.Do you ever think that Hitler might have had a point after all?

I'm pretty happy with that – seems to cover all the bases – now to decide where to distribute it.

I take a bunch of them along to John's club and put 'em on the bar. It's always pretty busy in there so they should be no shortage of takers.

A few of the regulars pick one up and read it. They seem to find it quite funny and snigger a bit – but I decide, as a serious scientist, I should ignore sniggering.

I take a stack of them round all the other clubs where I'm a regular and leave them.

A couple of weeks later, I go round and collect all my questionnaires, take 'em home and read them. As I read them, I feel a strange mixture of emotions. Horror – because these people are obviously just as evil as my worst imaginings – but also a warm glow of satisfaction because my diligent academic research will finally expose them for what they really are.
I write up my paper, scattering the raw meat of the questionnaire replies with a seasoning of the statistical formulae and algebraic notation that's the internationally accepted mark of a true work of science. Then I send it off to the publishing journal.

In due course of time, a few thousand miles away on the other side of the planet, a naïve young scientist who shares my interests spots the synopsis of my paper on the internet and reads it.

He is horrified – his worst suspicions are confirmed. He picks up the phone and calls a friend, who happens to be an editor at Gay News. “I've just read this awful piece on the internet that says people who oppose gay marriage also beat their wives, roast kittens, have sex with animals and support Hitler”.

His friend is a bit less naïve, but does have a paper to fill “Are you sure about that – it sounds a bit, sort of, OTT?”.

The young scientist delivers his killer blow “It's all true - it's in a published scientific paper”.

How can the editor refuse such an impeccable source - “OK zip me over 5000 words and we'll get it in”.

Meanwhile, a few thousand miles away in the other direction, deep in his dark and malodorous tomb, the body of the long dead Professor Feynman rotates so fast that pieces of his putrifying corpse rattle onto the inside of the rotting casket.

It's science Richard – but not as you knew it.

Disclaimer – I once wrote a piece of whimsy on Bishop Hill that included references to witch doctors, natives with spears and a met office official with a pretty young assistant. The forces of political correctness rained down on my head for about a week with allegations of racism, sexism and all possible combinations thereof. I want to point out therefore that this piece is just a puny attempt at satirical observation of the phenomenon of confirmation bias. I have no knowledge of, or opinion on, the sexuality of anyone involved in the episode referred to – or indeed anyone else.

Aug 4, 2012 at 3:44 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Contributor 'katabasis' over at Jo Nova's site has obtained a copy of the raw data from Lewandowsky.
He says anyone who wants a copy can email him via his blog.
http://i-squared.blogspot.co.uk/

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

This is fun. I’ve been over at
http://joannenova.com.au/2012/08/lewandowsky-shows-skeptics-are-nutters-by-asking-alarmists-to-fill-out-survey/#comments
looking at comments on the Lewandowsky paper “NASA faked the moon landing -Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science”.
Commenter Katabasis has got hold of the raw data and kindly sent it to me. I’ve just been squinting at an Excel document for the first time in my life, and have discovered this: the number of respondents who believe the moon landing was faked: -six. Out of 1145. The number who believe that AIDS was spread deliberately - three. And so on.
I can’t tell how many are defined as sceptics because there are 5 climate related questions and I don’t know exactly how Lewandowsky split his sample between sceptics and non-sceptics. But his claim is based on answers by three, four, five, six people out of 1000+ .
I’ve left a comment over there, but it’s 2 o’clock tomorrow morning in Australia.

Aug 30, 2012 at 4:58 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

It gets better and better. Out of 64 respondents who agree with the statement that: “The claim that the climate is changing due to emissions from fossil fuels is a hoax perpetrated by corrupt scientists who wish to spend more taxpayer money on climate research”, just two believe that the moon landings were faked. That’s 3%, a higher percentage than for those who didn’t agree of course, but hardly a strong basis for claiming that climate sceptics are moon landing sceptics. In fact, hang, on, let me do the maths. If I’m not mistaken, 97% of climate sceptics believe in the moon landings! Now where have I heard that figure before?

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:38 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The abstract (or the press release) defines the findings, the data are immaterial.

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:48 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

I don’t agree Rhoda. The data tell us things, things that Lewandowsky doesn’t want us to know.
In a footnote to the “climate change is a hoax” question I quote above, Lewandowsky says:

This item was not entered as manifest variables to estimate the conspiracist ideation latent variable because it referred to a conspiracy relevant to the scientific proposition being queried. People might therefore endorse this item because it represents a convenient way to justify a rejection of climate science actually motivated by other variables.
I don’t know what he means by that, but I suspect he doesn’t want us to know a) that it was endorsed by a far greater number of respondents than the other conspiracy theories, and b) that the correlation between it and the other conspiracy theories is so weak.

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:59 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Assuming the “climate change is a hoax” question was scored on the same 5-point scale as the other questions, it seems to me that it provides definitive proof that there was NOT an organised attempt to fix the survey by warmists giving false responses, since all 64 people who agreed ticked “agree” and no-one ticked “strongly agree”. If someone wanted to skew the findings in a certain way, surely they’d choose the strongest position? This hasn’t happened.

Aug 30, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Something odd. The questionnaire posted by a commenter (at Joanna’s?) had a five point scale: “Strongly agree”, “agree”, “don’t know”, “disagree”, “strongly disagree”, but on the spreadsheet I can’t see a single score of 5, or a blank space indicating a “don’t know”. So all my conclusions above are doubtful. Sorry. The paper says: “Raw correlation matrices and summary statistics are reported in the online supplemental material”. Anyone know where that is?

Aug 30, 2012 at 6:31 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Lucia at "The Blackboard" has a post up with an excellent proposition for skeptic blog hosts re: Lewandowsky

Tweet your permission for Lewandowsky to ‘out’ you

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:15 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Judging by the large number of 3s for the more doubtful questions (like whether McVeigh had outside help for the Oklahoma bombing) it looks as if the codes in the cells (if you have the raw data provided by Katabasis) are as follows:
1 strongly disagree
2 disagree
3 don’t know
4 agree + strongly agree
So my conclusions above hold, except for the one at 6.04pm. That there was no organised conspiracy to skew the survey is demonstrated however by the tiny number of believers in certain conspiracy theories.
Two believe that Lady Di was killed by the British royal family. Eleven believe in a 9-11 plot.

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:38 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff - many thanks for your analysis and for saying that the dataset was available. I've also been looking at the data (thanks to Katabasis).

I think that the questions were on a 4-point scale as described on p26 of the paper. "Unless otherwise noted, all items used a 4-point scale ranging from Strongly Disagree (1) to Strongly Agree (4)."

This was also mentioned by some of the commenters on the blogs where the survey was posted - they complained that there was no neutral or 'don't know' code.

I don't know why there are differences from the survey questions posted by ManicBeancounter which are clearly closely related, but have a 5-point response scale.

For a survey that supposedly aimed to question skeptics, it's interesting that 86% of the responders agree or strongly agree that "Human CO2 emissions cause Climate Change" and 78% "believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has caused serious negative changes to the planet's climate."

Aug 30, 2012 at 10:32 PM | Registered CommenterDR

since all 64 people who agreed ticked “agree” and no-one ticked “strongly agree”. If someone wanted to skew the findings in a certain way, surely they’d choose the strongest position? This hasn’t happened.

Why do you think someone wanting to skew would pick the strongest position? They might. Or they might not.

Can I have the data? I'm interested in the IPs. I created a kiwisurvey and was able to answer from behind "hidemyass"'s free proxy. I'd be a bit interested to see if we can determine if the IPs had any significant number of servers, proxies etc.

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterLucia

DR
Many thanks for the correction. Apologies to everyone for my false reasoning above.
So he’s got between 14 and 22% sceptics in his survey, depending on which of the two questions you quote he chooses to use to define them. That sounds a reasonable proportion, and, with approximately 150-250 “contrarian” respondents, that’s enough to do his correlation significance tests. It’s still a rubbish way to survey sceptics, given that there’s no guarantee of their honesty or representativeness.

I notice that strong agreement with the conspiracy theories tends to turn up in clusters in the list, presumably reflecting respondents from the same blog. That does suggest, if not conspiracy, a tendency for specific blogs to attract conspiracy theorists, which is odd.
Lucia
Ignore my previous posts. I’ve sent the data to His Grace

Aug 31, 2012 at 12:08 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I notice that strong agreement with the conspiracy theories tends to turn up in clusters in the list, presumably reflecting respondents from the same blog. That does suggest, if not conspiracy, a tendency for specific blogs to attract conspiracy theorists, which is odd.

Assuming survey security was good (which it almost certainly was not) it's not surprising that different blog attract people with differerent views. At best, this survey would have been answered by skeptics who hang around Deltoid, Tamino etc. That's not necessarily the same as skeptics that decided it wasn't worth the time to hang around there. (Or who got banned from one or another of those sites!)

Aug 31, 2012 at 12:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucia

someone has looked at the data. and the conclusions and title of the paper are utterly fraudlent. ie 45 out of 48 those that reject climate science REJECT the moon landing conspiracy theory

Looking at the data, those that most strongly ‘reject’ climate science, ALSO strongly reject ALL the conspiracy theories…

extract below:
http://manicbeancounter.com/20.....y-element/

So what of the conspiracy theory that most the moon landings were faked? The one in the title “NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science“

45 out of 48 of those who dogmatically reject climate science, also dogmatically emphatically reject the conspiracy theory. The two who score 4 are rogue results.

In fact, the response is pretty emphatic in every group. Consider the abstract.

We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings, above and beyond endorsement of laissez-faire free markets.

Let me be quite clear. The title of the paper makes a false claim from authors with an agenda of silencing opponents. It is entirely without any proper evidence.

The other eleven results are below
————————–

well worth a look at al the pivot tables in the above link

Sep 2, 2012 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

link:
http://manicbeancounter.com/2012/09/01/lewandowsky-et-al-2012-motivated-rejection-of-science-part-3-data-analysis-of-the-conspiracy-theory-element/

Sep 2, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

this maybe of interest (has a good point about what about the fossil fuel denial machine conspiracy as well) found in the comments of WatchingtheDeniers (I get about a bit!)

—-
http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/watts-explains-why-lewandowsky-paper-on-conspiracy-theories-is-wrong-its-a-conspiracy-between-john-cook-and-the-prof/#comment-14459

With regards the comment about Lewandowsky and Federal Government Funding, those interested may like to look at his University CV at http://websites.psychology.uwa.edu.au/labs/cogscience/documents/SLvita.pdf

Here Lewandowsky proudly details his $4.4 million in grants. Which includes $762,000 specifically related to Climate Research funding in the last year or two, and none of that includes the $6 million the Federal Government provided him and a few colleagues to found and run ‘The Conversation’ which provides a substantial forum for his ‘Climate Change position’.

I have looked and I haven’s found an example of a skeptic who receives funding like that from any source. Yet if you want to talk conspiracy theories, Prof Lewandowsky is always claiming that skeptics are funded by ‘big oil’ or ‘fossil fuel’ but has never offered any evidence of that.

Sep 13, 2012 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Thanks Barry
It’s important not to let this story wither away, leaving no trace but the slanderous accusation against sceptics, which is the only purpose of this pathetic apology for a scientiific paper.
Many BH regulars have ben active in pursuing this story on a number of blog posts, not least Lewandowsky’s own (8 blogs in 11 days!). Some regulars have said: Why bother with such an unimportant figure as this West Australian professor of cognitive psychology?

Here’s why bother.

Another fascinating nutty professor type I’ve been interested in is Steven Emmott, Microsoft professor of computational science at Oxford. He’s a bigger fish than Lew,since his job description includes nothing less than:

developing a new kind of natural science, new kinds of computational methods and scientific (software) tools to underpin such a science, and a new generation of new kinds of scientists able to spearhead it.

He took time off to present his theory of life the universe and everything at the Royal Court Theatre, where he promised to bring his message of green gloom to the widest possible audience.
Alex Cull and I spent a few hours googling and managed to demonstrate that his message is total nonsense, and said so here
http://www.climate-resistance.org/2012/08/it’s-a-fct-we’re-fcked.html
Emmott is back in the news with an interview here
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/12bc1ee0-f6f8-11e1-9dff-00144feabdc0.html#axzz26PjBuDjs
in which Emmott says he
is likely to do something similar but bigger next year. “I’ve been approached by several documentary film makers,” he says. “The issue is how to enable the largest number of people to hear the message.”
The message was summed up in the play’s punchline “we’re f*cked”. In the Financial Times interview, he adds this ray of hope:
“Radical behaviour change is needed more urgently than anything that science and technology could provide.”
So how might this be achieved? “It requires mass action at a societal level as well as government and businesses. But I’m not a social scientist,” adds Emmott in an unusually defensive moment.
Which is where Lewandowsky comes in. The green movement has failed politically, and is turning to authority figures: a top Oxford / Microsoft boffin to tell us we’re doomed, and social scientists like Lew to get us to learn to live with it.
These bastards are dangerous.

Sep 14, 2012 at 6:42 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

"The green movement has failed politically, and is turning to authority figures: a top Oxford / Microsoft boffin to tell us we’re doomed, and social scientists like Lew to get us to learn to live with it."

On that theme, I just found an article by broadcaster Tom Heap in the BBC's Focus science mag (June 2012) where he has a column called "The Eco-sceptic":

The answer to climate change? It's all in the mind.

Let the polar bear shed its tracker and Earth observation satellites burn up in the atmosphere: the cutting-edge of climate science is the human brain.

Noticing that increasing physical proof of man-made made global warming is having a dwindling impact on politics and practice - the fact that global CO2 emissions recently rebounded to hit a record high is a case in point - some climate scientists are switching their talents to working out why facts don't get through our thick skulls.

Chief among them is Prof Chris Rapley who, as Director of the Science Museum, was shaken by the furore that greeted attempts to educate visitors on climate science. Now as Professor of Climate Science at University College London, he has decided to peer inside our heads to find out exactly what's going on.

If past research is anything to go by, 'motivated inference' - forming beliefs based on goals and emotions rather than facts - is likely to be a significant factor. If you distrust 'big government' but like big cars, you might well reject science that supports a carbon tax. There's also the neurophysiological explanation that the subconscious is self-interested and overrides logic.

First impressions from Rapley's research suggest that dissolving denial is such a long-term task we should simply avoid trying to do it. In other words leave the belief, change the behaviour. When you hear a known environmentalist saying we should go green for the sake of British jobs and energy security - while swerving [sic] any mention of climate change - you know they are preaching to the unconverted.

For Rapley, a physicist who spent many years running the British Antarctic Survey, it's a brave step from the solidity of 'number' science into the murky mental world. But to turn facts from ice cores into action on the ground, you need to drill into the mind.

Sep 15, 2012 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

Last 2 survey links found:

http://web.archive.org/web/20101026063929/http://climate.uu-uno.org/blogs/
ANOTHER POLL
Here is a Poll on Attitudes Towards Science, sponsored by the University of Western Australia.

I doubt if anybody saw that.(sceptic or warmist)

And John Cook tweeted it, near midnight on August the 27th 2010:


John Cook‏@skepticscience
Help UWA research attitudes about science – fill out this online survey http://bit.ly/aZ7Znv
11:17 PM – 27 Aug [2010]

Sep 16, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Not exactly a skeptical site, uh, Barry...

ps Geoff: how is it going with Corner? It seems he is obviously too intelligent to understand anything about the Lew kerfuffle.

Sep 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Alex - Rapley doesn't seem to have yet come to his senses, after being shell-shocked by me doing a live microblogging of one of his presentations. Perhaps a trip inside the murky mental world will help raise his self-awareness.

Sep 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos