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back to article Climate denier bloggers sniff out new conspiracy

Climate skeptic bloggers the world over have a shiny new conspiracy to obsess about: whether a University of Western Australia psychology professor "faked" a research study. In a deliciously recursive fury, the research – which looked at correlations between belief in "climate change conspiracies" as associated with other " …

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What if....

How 'bout a study along the lines of "Capitalism is evil, therefore global warming is real"? We'd get the same kind of conclusions.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What if....

Yes, but this is different, because capitalism is evil and global warming is real.

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Facepalm

Re: What if....

Well, the thing is, most sane people believe in facts.

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FAIL

This is one of the most horribly written articles i've ever read on El Reg.

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WTF?

META-FAIL

This is one of the least helpful comments on El Reg.

So, would you care to say *how* it's horribly written?

Long, excessively adjectival, self-indulgently luxuriant run-on sentences?

Or sentence fragments?

Or too many short paragraphs?

Or is it just that you don't like the suggestion made by the researcher who is the subject of the article?

One thing you can say for the pure laissez-faire outlook of "The world will be better off as a whole if each individual agent acts in accordance with its own interests" is that it's a blanket statement, and essentially unfalsifiable. Things not working out? Must be over-regulation. There'll always be enough of that evil regulation in any real country or financial system to save the LFers from ever having to admit that the market failed. Everything that moves markets in crazy ways is short-term noise, everything that moves them in a sane ways is the eventual, inevitable correction by the Invisible Hand of the Market, assuming everyone gets sufficiently the #$(@ out of its way. It's a powerful, sustaining faith with little room for doubt or nuance.

As for the links between that and "conspiracist ideation"... they are probably best uncovered by conspiracist ideators.

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Re: META-FAIL

This is one of the least helpful comments on El Reg.

I may be wrong but judging by your post history you either don't visit El Reg, or at least the comments sections, very often do you? ;)

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Re: META-FAIL

Looking at a lot of commentators history's a lot of astroturfing going on, guess they've been sent over by the PR site DeSmogBlog.

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Facepalm

This just in;

"Conspiracy theorists hatch new conspiracy", Film at Eleven.

Funny thing with these types, it's only not a conspiracy if it can be bent to follow their favorite conspiracy, if it doesn't fit into their favorite conspiracy, then obviously, it's a conspiracy!

(Obviously, I'm part of a conspiracy for posting that... I think?)

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Trollface

Re: This just in;

You're only thinking that way because of all the mind controlling chemicals you've absorbed from eating Monsanto foods and breathing air tainted with chemtrails.

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Pint

Re: This just in;

"Funny thing with these types, it's only not a conspiracy if it can be bent to follow their favorite conspiracy, if it doesn't fit into their favorite conspiracy, then obviously, it's a conspiracy!"

Quite. Only last week some loon on this very website accused me of being a member of the government being paid to spread pro-government disinformation (about the frikkin' Vienna Convention of all things) on this website.

Check this site out:

http://vigilantcitizen.com/vigilantreport/the-occult-symbolism-of-the-2012-olympics-opening-and-closing-ceremonies/

Yes: They're seriously considering that Wenlock and Mandeville were both named that way because the ceremonies were intended to release the anti-christ, and they couldn't resist making "WE UNLOCK MAN DEVIL" merchandising. I tried pointing out a few fallacies in the comments, but oddly, all my comments were deleted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This just in;

Psyx,

Fuck you, I just snorted perfectly good coffee out of my nose reading that- put a giant health warning in next time please :)

(Not reading any more on that site, in case we get into the "Obama is an alien" territory- proper tinfoil and teabagger bizniss on there)

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Re: This just in;

Have you seen Obama's Earth Certificate?

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Re: This just in;

Obama isn't an alien, he's a lizard. He was born on Earth though so can't be an alien.

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Re: This just in;

Hah. Just what a stinking government Vienna-Convention-distorting agent provocateur would say. We're on to you, Psyx.

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NOTHING TO SEE HERE

MOVE ALONG PEOPLE

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Anonymous Coward

Re: NOTHING TO SEE HERE

So YOU say...

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Linux

It's real!

The moon is made of green cheese.

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Re: It's real!

And how do you feel about Iraq as a conspiracy theory. One of the questions in the survey reads:

"The Iraq War in 2003 was launched for reasons other than to remove WMD from Iraq..." and asks you to rate the truth of the statement.

So if someone thinks just maybe WMD (I'm sure we'll find some soon) wasn't the reason, they're a "conspiracy theorist" and lumped in with people who don't believe in the mood landings?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's real!

I believe in mood landings, I had a right strop at the top of the stairs the other day.

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Re: It's real!

"I believe in mood landings, I had a right strop at the top of the stairs the other day."

Bloody Daleks.

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Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

Googling Lewandowsky tells you this paper has caused quite the scandal and should be retracted. He is being accused of academic fraud for his methods and blatant political agenda.

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Boffin

Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

Having read a few articles by R Chirgwin I have come to the conclusion that he is a bit of a luvvie.

He tells us that 1100 were polled but fails to mention that there were only 10 responses.

http://joannenova.com.au/tag/lewandowsky-stephan/

Apparently it "survived the peer review process" though.

What that is worth in these days of "Science is the new religion" is debatable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

"Googling Lewandowsky tells you this paper has caused quite the scandal and should be retracted. He is being accused of academic fraud for his methods and blatant political agenda."

....which once again illustrates the fact that psychology is among the softest of the soft sciences, and I use the word "science" advisedly.

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Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

I'd never use the word psychology and science in the same sentance

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Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

Psychology is a fairly broad discipline. You *can* use scientific methods (controlled experiments, double-blinds, etc.) to explore how people behave. Perhaps the main difference is the extent to which you can get published *without* having done these things.

This paper would seem to be a case in point. I couldn't begin to enumerate the uncontrolled variables in this experiment. It is distressing that anyone claiming to be a scientist would ever think it was worth trying. Even the terms aren't rigorously defined. Different people have different reasons for "behaving in ways that cause *other* people to classify them as climate skeptics" and then disagree with them about whether they are or not.

That's beyond soft science. That's vacuous rhetoric.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

Also, you'd apparently not use the worse "sentence" in the same sentence as "psychology" and "science". I know who inspires more confidence so far.

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Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

"'I'd never use the word psychology and science in the same sentance [sic]."

Popper's objection to Freud's theories, that they are not open to falsification, appears to be losing validity.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120604181847.htm

So maybe the realm of science really does increase with time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

I think somewhere in the production staff they figured letting him in would provide "balance" for Orlanksi and Lewis. Unfortunately, they forgot that even the people who disagree with them agree they at least write entertaining articles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

Freudian 'theory' is a blight on Psychology. It's the equivalent of chemists still believing in phlogiston.

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Re: Who the hell let Chirgwin write for the Register?

"Googling Lewandowsky tells you this paper has caused quite the scandal and should be retracted. He is being accused of academic fraud for his methods and blatant political agenda."

Does this accusation not confirm Lewandowsky's hypothesis?

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This could've been an interesting take on the story...

But it wasn't. It was so full of promise to begin with, yet it ended up playing "got your nose" with El Reg readers as if they're a 4-year-old.

It was almost orgasmic to read your wickedly insightful link between those who were crying foul over being labelled conspiracy theorists by claiming this study was a conspiracy. A delicious irony if ever there were one.

But this El Reg hack must think we're idiots. Labelling someone a conspiracy theorist isn't a legitimate way to shout them down. It's the equivalent to putting your hands over your ears and singing "My Favourite Things".

Your article could've done more than defend Lewandowsky's refusal to hand over names of blogs asked because that would breach protocol. It could've asked how any meaningful conclusions could be drawn from a sample size of 10 who said the moon landings were faked.

Dig a little deeper and there's perhaps an even more delectable twist of irony. Of those 10 who thought the moon landing was staged in a Hollywood studio, only four answered the rest of the survey in a way indicating they were "denialists".

The other six were "alarmists".

Surely the lesson to be drawn is that more alarmists believe the moon landing was faked than do denialists. No?

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Boffin

Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

"sample size of 10"

vs

"drawn on a questionnaire completed by more than 1,100 individuals who completed a questionnaire linked to various science Websites, include:..."

?

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

They sent out 1100 surveys and got 10 back.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

Lewandawsky's attention-grabbing headline was an express link between "climate change deniers" and "moon landing deniers". Or as he put it so well for roll-out in the media:

NASA faked the moon landing, Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

He may have received 1100 responses in total, but according to his data, only 10 responses came back with "somewhat agree" or "strongly agree" that the moon landing was a hoax.

Firstly, that's a rubbish sample size.

Secondly, when tracking those 10 responders' answers, it reveals only 4 "denied" Lewandawsky's version of the consensus. The other 6 agreed with (or strongly agreed with) his version of the climate consensus.

But of course, you can disregard all of this because it must be written by a conspiracy theorist.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

He seems to have also had an interesting approach to choosing who to send the surveys too, with a lot of mainstream AGW-skeptic sites checking and confirming that they aren't aware they were ever contacted. So it seems he may have deliberately picked fringe sites to contact as well.

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Meh

Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

I agree that the headline bears little similarity to the actual conclusions, but I'd question your reasons for doubting the statistics. 1100 responses is a perfectly reasonable number for a survey like this. The fact that 10 thought the moon landing was a hoax is a depressingly large proportion but that is not in itself a reason to assume the 1100 sample was somehow skewed. The correlation between doubt about the moon landings and doubt about climate science depends _not_ on the raw number of climate change doubters in the subset of 10, but on the difference between this ratio and the ratio in the other 1090 samples. If I had a spare envelope I could knock up some confidence figures for the hypothesis ... but I'd be surprised (or rather "appalled") if these aren't given in the full paper.

(in fact, I just checked the paper itself and all the pertinent figures and calculations are included)

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

Wowsers! I love this one:

7. The Iraq War in 2003 was launched for reasons other than to remove WMD from Iraq

1 S Agree 2 Agree 3 Disagree 4 S Disagree

Unlike most El Reg Posters, I support the 2003 Iraqi invasion, and even I'd Strongly agree with that statement. Saying anything else would be to focus on a single sentence out of 100s from the UN speech. Certainly doesn't make me a conspiracy theorist.

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Re: reasons for doubting the statistics.

If the questions are garbage, the statistics are irrelevant. I just read the survey, and the questions are garbage. The head shrinkers had an axe to grind, so the survey will produce that result.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

Granted it's about the difference in ratios, but when 0.9% of your sample report believe the moon landings are a hoax and 6 out of those 10 also agree with the author that burning fossil fuels over the last fifty years has increased the atmospheric temperature to some measurable degree, then you're on very dodgy ground in making your headline conclusion that AGW-skeptics believe the Moon landings were faked. More of the believers in hoax also believe that CO2 raises temperatures than don't believe that.

Now what you're saying is that it can still support that conclusion if you are looking at the ratios. I.e. if 40% of people who think CO2 has no effect disbelieve the Moon landings, but just 20% of people who do think CO2 has an effect do, then disbelievers of CO2 causing warming are more likely to be disbelievers of Moon landings.

That's potentially true, but there are some serious problems with it. The first is that the sample size actually is too small. You say that 1100 responses is reasonable, but that is the number of total responses. The number of applicable responses as any good statistician would immediately pick up on, depends on which question you are asking - in this case whether you believe the moon landings are faked correlated with belief in AGW - which in this case is just ten people. I'll illustrate. If I ask a thousand people to rate Lady Gaga as a musician as Good or Bad, that could be a decent sample size (we'll ignore selection bias for now, just as the author of this study has). But if that group there are 10 Muslims and 7 of them say she's Good, then whilst my selection group for how "people" think might be 1000 respondents, my selection group for what muslims think, is ten. Not 1,000. But ten. The reason is because there are 2bn muslims in the world and 10 is a non-representative sample. Think of it as a Venn diagram where whatever you want to test has to fall into the intersection of both groups. The moment you start restricting the set of people you're talking about, you have to start discarding some of your responses. That's a slight simplification, but good enough for non-Statisticians and essentially true. There's nothing that really changes that basic principle.

The sample size really is too small to draw the conclusions drawn from it and the way it is presented, is very far from suggesting to people that of the respondents, only 0.9% who believed the Moon landings were faked; and that of them, 60% were actually believers that CO2 increased global temperatures. The stated conclusions and headline are horribly misleading to the point that I call them wilfully disingenuous.

And the whole thing is flawed from the outset not just because of the framed questions and ropey analysis, but because it has the selection bias from Hell.

Disraeli said there were 'lies, damnded lies and statistics." I wouldn't even dignify this paper with that last one, just the first two. It knew what it wanted to prove and by Jupiter, it would do so! I wonder how many of the commentators here actually have the survey and the results spreadsheet open and have looked at it. I have, and it's rubbish. If I can poke holes in it, then any competent statistician would (and will) rip it to shreds. This thing is a blot upon the whole field of statistics. Sorry that I worked my way up into a rant, but however cynical I may become, an academic should be better than this.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

@Goat Jam

They got 1147 surveys back. 10 of them were completed by people who think the moon landings were a hoax. Read the paper itself rather than relying on the bizarre slants of that blog or this blog.

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Re: reasons for doubting the statistics.

@Tom 13

Garbage questions was not the reason given by the poster I was responding to.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

@harmony

That's an awful lot of words. Unfortunately, the first few lines of the third paragraph are nonsense so I didn't bother reading the rest. It simply isn't true that a small subset of a larger sample immediately qualifies as "too small". Sticking an "any fule kno" clause in there doesn't magically make that the case. As I said in my previous post, the relevant figures and calculations are all detailed in the full paper - which is available as a pdf linked to in the article. I can't see anything unusual in there. Can you point out the problem you see with the statistics in the actual paper?

The valid criticisms of the paper are that the questions are arguably loaded and the headline conclusions don't seem to represent the detailed conclusions. Those are valid criticisms of a disturbingly large proportion of this sort of survey. The statistics themselves seem fairly uncontroversial.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

"That's an awful lot of words. Unfortunately, the first few lines of the third paragraph are nonsense so I didn't bother reading the rest"

That's a good start.

"As I said in my previous post, the relevant figures and calculations are all detailed in the full paper - which is available as a pdf linked to in the article. I can't see anything unusual in there. Can you point out the problem you see with the statistics in the actual paper?"

I have both the report and the raw data used for it open right now. If you had bothered to read my full post, you would find the information you requested already posted.

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WTF?

Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

OK. I have now read the rest of your previous post and it contains not one single reference to anything specific in the paper. I have no idea why you're pretending that it does.

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Anonymous Coward

@h4rm0ny: Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

"This thing is a blot upon the whole field of statistics."

But for pop psychology, it's rather typical.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

"OK. I have now read the rest of your previous post and it contains not one single reference to anything specific in the paper. I have no idea why you're pretending that it does."

Well there was the specific reference to ten of the respondents disbelieving the Moon landings and the specific reference to the sample size of 1100. That's about all I needed for my point. If you want the specific column references and labels for the relevant questions, they are 'R / CYMoon', 'Y / CYClimChange' and 'AC / Cause CO2'. But that's hardly necessary or germaine. So I have no idea what "specific reference" omissions you feel are undermining my argument.

It's an explanation of why ten respondents are the applicable sample size for talking about whether or not AGW-skeptics are more likely to disbelieve the Moon landings, not the total 1100 respondents. You could ask a thousand people what they thought of Lady Gaga but if only ten of the respondents to the survey are muslims, then your sample size for what muslims think of Lady Gaga is not 1100, but 10. The point is basic and understandable.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

"the specific reference to the sample size of 1100"

The sample size wasn't 1100. You haven't read the paper. I genuinely don't know why you are pretending that you have.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

"The sample size wasn't 1100. You haven't read the paper. I genuinely don't know why you are pretending that you have."

There were 1,147 respondents. If you think someone using common short-hand of knocking off a couple of digits to make a more human-readable number is grounds for accusing someone of lying, then I pity you. Yes, it's quicker to say: "eleven hundred" than it is to say "one-thousand, one-hundred and forty-seven" and I type as I talk, typically. I gave easily understandable criticisms and explained in layman's terms why your comment about sample size was misleading. And you choose to respond by saying because I wrote 1,100 instead of 1,147 I am "pretending".

Insulting and contrived.

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Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

Oh, and amusingly in an earlier post of your own you write:

"1100 responses is a perfectly reasonable number for a survey like this"

So it's okay for you to round off 47 respondents, but the moment someone you disagree with writes the same thing, they are are lying and it shows what they write is flawed? I don't suppose you're going to apologise, are you?

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Facepalm

Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

Oh, and I guess while I'm dealing with the absurdities of your attack on my integrity, I might as well ask you if you yourself read the entire 33 page paper before commenting here? Because the point that I was making was a basic and uncontroversial one about sample size, for which simply downloading and looking at the actual raw data (which I did), was sufficient. You are the one that claimed to have evaluated and found flaws in the paper itself. I have skim-read it and pretend no more than that. But if you're going to write accusations like "you haven't even read the paper" or suggest that you have greater insight into it, then I want to know if you're actually claiming to have read those 33 pages of small-size text before telling me I'm wrong. Because if not, you just sound like you're trying to argue by sounding knowledgable, rather than actually pointing out anything that is wrong in my argument.

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