Misplaced email in the climate wars? Not again, please!

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Posted on 4 September 2012

It has come to my attention that one of the individuals who initially denied—yes, folks, that's the correct word, look it up in a dictionary—having received an invitation to post a link to my survey on the rejection of science on his blog, has now found that email.

This is laudable, if entirely unsurprising, and I bear no grudge against that person for having had such trouble finding a message from two years ago among mountains of other correspondence—anyone who has ever had to respond to frivolous FOI requests can share that pain.

Should any others want to continue searching their correspondence, it might be helpful to know that my assistant has just re-read old correspondence from some time ago (e.g., from Thu, 23 Sep 2010 08:38:33 -0400) with considerable amusement in light of the frivolous accusations flying about the internet that we may not have contacted those blogs with a request to post a link.

One of the many tourist attractions in southern Western Australia is the town of Mt Barker, famous for being the gateway to the Porongorups. The Porongurups offer multiple recreational opportunities, among them some multi-pitch granite slab climbs (250 m, Rock Gibraltar) that I highly recommend because they make the climate wars look boring. Mt. Barker also features nice wines, and perhaps most famous of all, it is the home of the world's best free-range eggs.

There are lots of eggs left in my fridge.

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Comments 51 to 59 out of 59:

  1. Foxgoose @49,

    I'm still not sure what your point is. Everyone agrees that Lewandowsky was still seeking more participation. Therefore, at the time his results would have been considered "preliminary". But since he wasn't able to get any more responses, they were "finalized" when he published his paper. You say:

    "In Lewandowsky's August 23rd Monash presentation he gave the number of responses as 1100 and stated the same conclusions as he drew in the eventual paper (although we now know the data didn't support those conclusions anyway)....

    "So on the day he presented his "preliminary" results and conclusions (which happen to exactly match his final ones) - he could have had no idea whether McIntyre would post the questionnaire and bring in a much higher number of responses from genuine climate sceptics - possibly completely overturning his conclusions."

    So, why is it a problem that he interpreted the same results (i.e., he wasn't able to get any more) in the same way from August 23rd onward? (snip) you find a conspiracy in the fact that he interpreted the same results in the same way twice?

    As I have said all along, your problem seems to be that you don't approve of Lewandowsky talking about (i.e., describing and drawing preliminary conclusions from) preliminary results. But as I explained over and over, that's common practice among scientists. Yes, when scientists discuss preliminary results, they feel perfectly free to draw preliminary conclusions from them.

    Look, if the preliminary results were statistically significant, then why was it a problem to talk about them? Why would anyone expect the main conclusions to change much with a bigger sample, if you had already established statistical significance with, say, 95% confidence? In fact, that's one reason why we do the statistics in the first place--so we don't have to collect an endless number of samples to satisfy every (snip) who thinks the magic pot of gold that would change all our conclusions is just around the corner.
    Moderator Response: Snipped inflammatory
  2. Watching the desperate attempts of the "skeptics" (and a self-styled "auditor") to shout the equivalent of "squirrel!" to try and distract people from their bad behaviour and conspiracy theories surrounding this is highly entertaining.

    Mr. Stephen McIntyre likes asking questions and demanding information of authors. Here are some questions for Mr. McIntyre (other contrarians can feel free to answer too):

    1) Is the theory of human-caused climate change a hoax?
    2) Is there a conspiracy afoot by governments and scientists around the globe to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor?
    3) Is there a conspiracy by scientists around the world to artificially inflate the thermometer temperature record?
    4) Is there an attempt by certain interest groups and individuals to try and undermine the credibility of scientists, or to try and undermine their results, or to fabricate and inflate doubt, or to intimidate and harass them?
    5) If your answer to #4 is "yes", can you name any such groups and/or individuals?
    6) Are you going to apologize to Dr. Lewandowsky?

  3. stevemcintyre @ 52 said:

    "Dozens of people submitted written submissions to the UK committee."

    The number of submissions made makes no difference at all.

    stevemcintyre @ 52 said:

    "That doesn't constitute "testifying" to the committee and would not warrant mention in an article."


    "All such declarations, spoken or written, offered in a legal case or deliberative hearing."
  4. Mr. Stephen McIntyre, the esteemed John Mashey has a message for you.


    That would be the plagiarized Wegman report ;)
    Moderator Response: Snipped extensive quote
  5. I have more specific and more fundamental questions for Steve McIntyre:
    a)Given that the Lewandowsky paper "only" concerns a small and modest self-reported survey, why, oh why, are you and so many others in the sceptic/denialist/contrarian camp getting SO upset about it? I mean, it's not like it's fundamental climate science, an astounding new scientific finding that could sway scientific or public opinion one way or the other is it? Dan Kahan's group at Yale has done fascinating work in this field - it's legitimate research and may just hold the key to bridging the discord that characterizes the public debate.
    So why have you, Mr McIntyre, as such a prominent member of that camp drawn so much attention to it? By your continuing presence here responding in this comments section, why are you continuing to feed a rumour mill?
    Let me guess - you'll say something along the lines of smelling a rat, that Lewandowsky has ulterior motives, that the study is junk science designed to get a media headline (and of course it is your noble duty as a statistician to audit and expose such shenanigans wherever you may find them). Can't you see - I mean, really, not see - that this is an example of they very thinking that Lewandowsky is trying to study and understand?
    Know what I think?
    Methinks your camp doth protest way too much.
    This paper's findings hold the kernel of an insight into one aspect of your mindset (conspiratorial ideas)that you really don't like having attention drawn to. It hits a nerve because it's true. Ergo, shred the paper, shred the man, search desperately for squirrels.
  6. 57#

    if I may adress why so 'upset'

    this paper had been discussed about on some sceptical blog, back in July and very early August, no-one was particulary 'upset' but very curious about the data.

    You will find a discussion at the psycologist Dr Adam Corner's blog - Talking Climate and Geoff Chambers and myself and others commenting.

    Dr Adam Corner had written about the paper- pre-press release in the Guardian.

    THEN, a month later, we had the Telegarph headline based on the press release of the paper:

    Telegraph: Climate change deniers 'are either extreme free marketeers or conspiracy theoristsí

    this headline was then tweeted and retweeted across the twittersphere, and got a loy more attention and a lot more peple became aware of it.. ie George Monbiot, Michael Mann, Alice Gray (Telegraph) Sunny Hundal (UK political blogger) all tweeted it. agreeing with it..

    Then Jo Nova ran with it, over a month after sceptics being aware of it,

    Thus, I gues very many sceptics had a very serious look at it..

    And I might ask, and I think others agree across the 'lines', the main problem, is the title of the paper's abstract, and the newspaper headline, as it is based on 3 respondents in the survey that were 'sceptical' of which, at least 2 according to many people (including Tom Curtis - at Skeptical Science) say was just spam..

    Imagine if someine had written that the more concerned about climate, were more likley to beelive in a 9/11 conspiracy, or WMD conspiracists!! which using the flawed' thinking of the paper, and its data, could equally have been the headline...
  7. curious but not 'upset'
    July 29th:
    August 2nd
  8. Just curious? Oh Barry, you're being much, much too kind. When such widespread ridicule, sneering and baseless allegations of fraud and academic misconduct are being bandied about as freely as they are, I think "upset" is as polite as I can be about it. You think the media tweeting and retweeting was over the top? The retort has been tenfold and the roles played by some prominent sceptics/denialists/contrarians have been utterly shameful in my view. One saving grace of it has been to see the anatomy of a conspiracy being pieced together before our eyes. It is astounding.
  9. Tomas M Vorhert at 19:38 PM on 11 September, 2012
    As an atmospheric physicist familiar with the climate blogosphere, I have read the draft of the Lewandowsky study referred here.

    Clearly serious methodology questions have to be asked so I decided to ask them here.

    Everybody familiar with the climate blogosphere knows what are the editorial convictions of leading blogs ran by scientists.
    For instance
    - skeptics (WUWT, Reference Frame, Jo Nova ...)
    - "luke warm" (Climate Etc, Blackboard, Climate Audit ...)
    - alarmist (Deltoid, Tamino's ...

    The survey has been apparently run only on alarmist blogs with 1 exception. I understand that 4 luke warm or skeptic blogs have been contacted but their participation (or the one of other blogs of the same category) has not been obtained for whatever reason.

    What was the author's expertise with the climate blogosphere? Did he post and read in a regular way some of climate science blogs?

    What attention has been given to problems due to a possibly biased blog sampling?

    As the respondents to the survey belonged to regular readers of alarmist blogs, there is a very high probability that they shared their editorial policy themselves. How significant is then an attempt at correlation studies targetting specifically skeptics when skeptics generally do not visit these sites?

    But perhaps the biggest concern is the relevance of sampled data. How was it made sure (with a reasonable uncertainty margin) that some respondents did not complete the survey with answers which didn't reflect their opinions?
    F.ex an alarmist describing himself as a skeptic or a skeptic describing himself as an alarmist?
    Given the editorial policy of a blog like Tamino's the probability for this to happen might be rather high.

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