Climate denial a “warmist” hoax?

Understanding people means to have a Theory of Mind. A model of other people’s thinking.

This may come as a surprise to some who mistakenly consider models to be something science should do without. Not only are models central to all scientific inquiry—ever heard of the heliocentric model of the solar system?—but without a model we could not understand other people, and not even ourselves.  

This Theory of Mind is a collection of beliefs of what other people believe or know, what they want, and how they most likely will act. If you have ever sat next to someone on a plane who’s telling you all about Barney’s last summer holiday, oblivious to the fact that you’ve never met or heard of Barney before, then you will understand the importance of a Theory of Mind and how its integrity is central to human interaction.

What does this have to do with our recent paper on the motivated rejection of science?


We already established that if potentially “suspect” outlying observations are removed from our data, the correlations of greatest interest, between conspiracist ideation and rejection of science, retains its significance. So far, so good, but now we need to discuss the far-from-trivial issue of why anyone would consider those observations “suspect” (other than by their magnitude alone).

This brings us to the issue of “scamming”, the hypothesis that people completed our survey by “faking” their responses.

It turns out that any decision about “scamming” is a cognitive choice that rests on a model in one’s mind about other people’s behavior.

Let’s consider this hypothetical response profile:

4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4  … 1 1 1 1 1,

where the 4’s stand for endorsement  of conspiracy theories and the 1’s for rejection of climate-related items.

One might be tempted to conclude that this respondent was a “warmist” who “scammed” our survey by faking endorsement of conspiracy theories, perhaps in order to make “deniers” look like “nutters” (I am using caricaturizing labels in quotation marks, such as “warmist”, for succinctness; the discussion is impossible without succinct labels.)

Crucially, we must recognize that the judgment just made was a cognitive judgment that relies on a model—a model of what a response pattern would look like if someone faked the data. This cognitive model rests on (a) the tacit premise that no one could possibly be serious when endorsing all conspiracy theories, and it would include (b) the further deduction that anyone who does this must be faking the response. A further deduction (c) could be added that this faking was done in order to cast aspersions on people who reject (climate) science.

So, a cognitive model with one premise and at least one auxiliary assumption indeed suggests that this response pattern represents a “scammer.”

The crucial point is this: Identification of presumed scammers is a model-based inference, and there is no escaping that fact (e.g., trap questions don’t help because they could equally be scammed).

Moreover, because identification of “scammers” rests on a model-based inference, it should come as no surprise that there are multiple other cognitive models of at least equal plausibility that would lead to different conclusions: For example, the above response pattern is equally compatible with the model that (a) no one in their right mind would endorse all conspiracy theories, and therefore (b) some “deniers” are really “nutters” (again, caricaturizing labels are used for succinctness.).

We therefore come to opposing conclusions about the putative “scamming” responses based on two opposing models of what respondents were thinking while they were completing the survey.

There is no easy way to adjudicate between the two models.

It is for that reason that we removed all those responses to which one or the other of those cognitive models might apply. Given that the removal of “scammers” (or true “nutters”, on the alternative model) makes no difference to the significance of our correlations, we fortunately do not have to expend much further energy on this issue within the narrow context of our survey.

However, it is worth taking a broader view at the notion of “scamming” and the implications of various different cognitive models by considering other manifestations of climate denial (or endorsement) on the internet. Blog comments, after all, are potentially as anonymous as survey responses and they are therefore subject to precisely the same model-based interpretation as the response patterns in our data.

So let’s apply the above models to a few comments and other material harvested from the internet.

We begin with this one, reproduced verbatim below:

“Here is some photographic analysis for Apollo 11 showing that the moonwalking was in fact staged. There is nothing to oppose this analysis and no getting around it. If it conflicts with your irrational beliefs see a psychiatrist. But don’t be getting about running cover for the criminals that push these fraudulent and expensive undertakings on the public. These networks haven’t gone away and they are busier then ever. The CO2-warming scam is scientific fraud. And its a far bigger, more ambitious, and more expensive scam then the moon hoax ever was.

Applying the same cognitive model that suggests that participants scammed our survey, this comment was clearly written by a “warmist” who “scammed” the comment to make “deniers” look like “nutters.”

Some instances of climate denial, by the same logic that some have applied to our survey responses, are a “warmist” hoax.

Moving from comments to blog posts, here we have a certain Oliver Manuel:

“In 1972 I became uneasy about the politicalization of science, but I could not grasp the problem until Climategate emails and documents were released in November of 2009. … I have tentatively traced this back to secret, fear-driven agreements by the winners of the Second World War in 1945 and later by Kissinger, Zhou En-Lai, Chairman Mao, Brezhnev and Nixon in 1971.”

The same individual also recently sent me an email, which opened with: “On The Eleventh Anniversary of the 9-11-2011 Tragedy — Events leading to Climategate in Nov 2009.

(Disclaimer: O. Manuel did not design our survey items.)

So is this individual a “nutter,” or is he a “warmist” posing as a “nutter” to make “deniers” look bad? On the cognitive model that some people have applied to our survey responses, the latter possibility should be favored.

Lest one think that Oliver Manuel is just a lone individual of questionable mental competence, it must be noted that climate “skeptic” Ian Plimer relies on Manuel’s bizarre theory, that the sun is largely composed of iron, in his principal work of fiction Heaven and Earth. This recent article opens up a door to a sordid and bizarre network of Manuel and associates whose responses to our survey are readily predicted.

Of course, they are all just “warmists” doing their stuff to make “deniers” look bad.

But why stop at blog posts?

Let’s examine some public utterances of well-known alleged climate deniers and see if they might be warmist scammers in disguise, doing their best to make deniers look like nutters.

A leading candidate for scammer-in-chief is Lord Christopher Monckton. Although he is commonly perceived to be the Vaudevillian poster boy of climate denial, some very serious questions about his true identity have been raised on Australian national TV.

Those questions hint at the possibility that Mr Monckton might be a scammer, an impression buttressed by his public concerns about President Obama’s place of birth.

Further evidence for Mr Monckton’s warmist mission to pose as scammer is provided by his public claim that NASA blew up its own satellite to prevent the climate hoax from being uncovered. This seems likely, given that NASA has had ample opportunity to hone its skills with the so-called “moon landing.”

We conclude that there is clear evidence that Mr Monckton is a warmist scammer trying to make climate denial look nuts.

And Mr Monckton is not alone; there appears to be a considerable number of such scammers out there, given that warmists-faking-nutty-denial-theories of exploding satellites can be found elsewhere.

Looks like they all scammed our survey.

We are convinced now.

Climate denial is a warmist hoax, perpetrated by the same scammers who faked our survey.