Tag Archives: Stephan Lewandowsky

A New Consensus Paper, at First Blush

Today I wasted $15. I had seen this tweet by Skeptical Science team member Andy Skuce:

So naturally, I took a look at the paper he's promoting. The paper begins with two quotes:

“CO2CO2 keeps our planet warm ....”
— Ian Plimer, Australian climate “skeptic”, Heaven & Earth, p. 411
“Temperature and CO2CO2 are not connected.”
— Ian Plimer, Australian climate “skeptic”, Heaven & Earth, p. 278

It makes hay of how these two quotes are contradictory and a perfect example of how "contrarians" will believe multiple, contradictory things at the same time. This is a commom meme people like Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook have been trying to spread, and There is history with them using completely bogus "evidence" to make their case.

Given that, I decided to check the quotations for myself. I needn't have bothered though. It turns out the issue here is exactly what you would likely expect. So you don't have to spend $15 yourself, I'll explain.
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A New Secret Skeptical Science Paper and a New eBook

Hey guys. Today's post is an interesting one. As you guys may know, I've been accused of hacking Skeptical Science on occasion, and while it isn't true, I have had a history of finding things they post in publicly accessible locations which they would like nobody to see.

I've done that again. This time, I found a "CONFIDENTIAL" manuscript (archived here) the Skeptical Science group has apparently submitted for publication with a scientific journal. I don't know if the manuscript has been accepted, rejected or is still under review, but the fact they posted it in a publicly accessible location when it was supposed to be kept confidential is rather amusing.

I also found a copy of John Cook's PhD thesis (archived here), which I find incredibly lackluster. If it can earn him a PhD, then I don't think PhDs mean much of anything. I imagine he'll update it and improve it before actually submitting it, but I can't imagine any way in which it could be made not to... well, suck. And that's not just because he's wrong in a lot of what he says in it. Even if I agreed with his conclusions, I'd still say it was unimpressive.

In any event, this latest discovery has given me the motivation and material to finish an eBook I've been wanting to publish for a while now. You can find it here:

It's a bit more personal than the last two eBooks I wrote, as I was directly involved in much of what it discusses, but I'd like to think I found a good balance to keep it from just being a mini-biography. I hope you'll agree. If you don't want to risk 99 cents to find out, you can download a free PDF copy here.

Now like my last two eBooks, this one is ~10,000 words long, so it shouldn't take too long to get through. Unlike the last two, it doesn't really cover any technical subjects so it should be easier to follow (though I'd like to think the others were easy enough to follow). It also doesn't cover everything as there are tons of topics and points I'd have liked to discuss but only so much room. I'd like to think I hit the most important points though.

Of course, with me having only recently discovered the latest paper by the Skeptical Science group, this eBook doesn't cover all the issues it might have. Because of that, I highly recommend people check out the paper themselves. The author list alone should prove it will be interesting:

John Cook1,2,3, Naomi Oreskes4, Peter T. Doran5, William R. L. Anderegg6,7, Bart Verheggen8, Ed W. Maibach9, J. Stuart Carlton10, Stephan Lewandowsky11,2, Andrew G. Skuce13, Sarah A. Green12, Dana Nuccitelli3, Peter Jacobs9, Mark Richardson14, Bärbel Winkler3, Rob Painting3, Ken Rice15

The normal Cook et al group is there, but so are people like Ken Rice, also known as the blogger Anders and Stephan Lewandowsky, famous for finding global warming skeptics are conspiracy nuts by taking basically no data and just assuming the lack of data proved his preconceived beliefs.

But what makes this paper truly remarkable is what these people say. For instance, while the Skeptical Science group had previously portrayed their consensus findings as being based on people having only read the title and abstracts for various papers, this paper now admits:

During the rating process of C13, raters were presented only with the paper title and abstract to base their rating on. Tol (2015) queries what steps were taken to prevent raters from gathering additional information. While there was no practical way of preventing such an outcome, raters conducted further investigation by perusing the full paper on only a few occasions, usually to clarify ambiguous abstract language.

The raters cheated. They looked at information they weren't supposed to look at when doing their ratings. They openly discussed having done so in their forums, with neither John Cook nor any other author of the paper speaking up to say it was wrong. And then, for years, they pretended this never happened.

But now, they insist everything is okay because the raters only cheated a few times. They offer no evidence for this claim, and it would be completely impossible to know the claim is true. Even so, they want to publish this under with expectation people should just trust them.

Similarly, they both acknowledge and distort another issue:

Raters had access to a private discussion forum which was used to design the study, distribute rating guidelines and organise analysis and writing of the paper. As stated in C13: "some subjectivity is inherent in the abstract rating process. While criteria for determining ratings were defined prior to the rating period, some clarifications and amendments were required as specific situations presented themselves". These "specific situations" were raised in the forum.

The raters didn't just talk to one another about clarifications and amendments. That's an obvious misrepresentation anyone who actually read what they said to one another in their forums would know is false. On a number of occasions, raters simply asked one another how they would rate papers, not saying a word about wanting any standards or guidelines clarified.

But even with that distortion in place, this admission is huge. The original Skeptical Science consensus paper stressed that the raters were independent of one another. That's a huge stretch given they were all members of the same activist group, were mostly friends with one another and were in direct communication with one another. It's an impossible stretch, however, once you admit they were talking to one another about how to perform the ratings they were supposedly doing independently.

What's perhaps most interesting, however, is Table 1 of this new paper. It lists a number of papers supposedly finding a consensus on global warming, and in it, there is a column for "Definition of consensus." This would have been a perfect opportunity to highlight and contrast the various definitions of the global warming consensus, explicitly stating what Cook et al had found. It doesn't. Instead of giving any explicit definition, they just copy the rating categories:

1. Explicitly states that humans are
the primary cause of recent global
warming
2. Explicitly states humans are
causing global warming
3. Implies humans are causing global
warming.
4a. Does not address or mention the
cause of global warming
4b. Expresses position that human’s
role on recent global warming is
uncertain/undefined
5. Implies humans have had a
minimal impact on global warming
without saying so explicitly
6. Explicitly minimizes or rejects that
humans are causing global warming
7. Explicitly states that humans are
causing less than half of global
warming

Intentionally not explaining what consensus definition you get when you combine these categories. This is interesting mostly because if one looks at the rest of Table 1, they see no other paper gets a 97% consensus without using a weak definition or arbitrarily limiting what portions of its results to use. Instead, you get values as low as 40% or as high as 93%. In many ways, this paper shows there is no meaningful 97% consensus.

Of course, its authors would never say so. They'll try to spin everything they find to support their consensus message, even if that means trying to excuse what were basically lies about the methodology of papers. Cook's PhD thesis is perhaps worse, with it repeating a number of falsehoods and even re-using at least one quote he knows fully well has been fabricated.

But to be honest, the thing I find most fascinating is I found these documents in the exact same way I found the Skeptical Science consensus paper's data. The Skeptical Science group called me a criminal who had hacked into their server to get that data. If what I did then was hacking, why would they still allow anyone to do it and find new material? Why are they posting "CONFIDENTIAL" material in publicly accessible locations then handing out the URL to that material?

It's mind-boggling. I'm sure some people will claim I've "hacked" Skeptical Science again, but come on! It's been over a year since I described exactly how I found the secret material last time. Why can I still find more secret material in the exact same way?! That the consensus message is being crafted by people this incompetent is dumbfounding.

Anyway, feel free to give my new eBook a look and tell me what you think. It's fine even if you want to tell me it is complete garbage. I think most writers tell themselves the same thing plenty of times about most things they write.

Fuller's "Pogrom"

A common topic in blog discussions is tone. It's usually a waste of time. People complain about what name a person calls them, how people phrase their criticisms and all sorts of other stuff that's just... boring. It's so bad there's a phrase for it, "tone trolling." You may remember this came up during a funny Twitter exchange where after I said:

The blogger Anders responded:

My response to Anders shows how bad things have gotten. People have gotten so used to complaining about and hearing complaints about tone they just expect it all the time. I was actively insulting Anders during our exchange, and he still somehow managed to believe I was complaining about his tone. And the truth is, many people would.

That's what I want to highlight today. Thomas Fuller, a blogger whose book I recently criticized with some harshness, recently banned Anders from his site. Visiting the post where he announced this, we find:

You’re a KKK member looking to kneecap your policy opponents no matter what they believe about the science.

That's pretty vile. I get why a blogger would ban users who write comments including remarks like that. I don't think tone is all that important for discussions, but even so, I accept there are lines. Calling people KKK members is inexcusable.

The problem is Fuller said that, not Anders. Anders was banned for bad behavior by a person who said, "You disgust me" while calling him a KKK member. Apparently Anders had a reason to think I might complain about his tone while insulting him.
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The Absurdity of "Science's" Defenders

The tagline for this blog is "Thoughts on This Insane World." I don't emphasize it that often, but I believe the world is completely and utterly insane. I often feel like a battered wife, frightened and rendered helpless by a seemingly schizophrenic world able to function because of a thin mask of civility and sanity everyone can see through but chooses not to.

I don't emphasize that much though because there's really not much more to say than that. Today, however, I'd like to take a minute to discuss an example of why I feel that way. It's a great example because it shows how things which are utterly absurd are accepted in this world without question or hesitations.
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There's a Conspiracy, I Tell You

As many of you may know, Stephan Lewandowsky's retracted Recursive Fury paper has found new life in a paper titled Recurrent Fury. I haven't written about this yet because there is a lot of material, especially in the backstory, and at this point I don't see any need to rush. I had planned to wait a couple weeks to let some things develop before posting anything about the subject, but then I saw something too dishonest to ignore.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's okay. You don't need to know anything about the backstory or context for this one. All you need is some basic reading skills and about five minutes of time.
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Contrarians Suck for Making Scientists do Science

This post is going to be a quick one because the paper it's about was supposed to be published today but apparently hasn't been published yet. I'm not sure what's going on with that. I'll probably have more to say once the paper is actually published, but in the meantime, I'll just discuss the press release.

The paper is the newest one from Stephan Lewandowsky. Everyone here should know Lewandowsky for his previous work which says since people who believe in global warming don't believe in conspiracy theories, global warming skeptics must be conspiracy nuts. Yes, he seriously argues that. In scientific journals. And he gets paid by universities to do it. And yet, this newest paper may be even crazier.
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Communication with Michael Wood concerning his Dead or Alive paper

A while back, I e-mailed Michael Wood about his paper Dead or Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories.  He has now indicated he will no longer respond to me.  As no further progress can be made in our dialogs, and I am quite dissatisfied with them, I am willing to share them. Continue reading