the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Yellow Science

Posted by Jeff Id on January 16, 2013

Reader Skiphil has left a link to some incredible commentary by our good friend Stephan Lewandowski who apparently holds a PhD in bovine scatology.  There is nothing wrong with being educated in scatology, however, Stephan’s propensity to practice his chosen craft publicly leaves one wondering if anyone actually believes his nonsense.  Still, the Journal of Psychology took the time to interview this obviously dimwitted man, and then publish his answers under the guise of “observations”.  What grabs my attention about his (and his coauthors) “work” is the delusional self-referencing that the paper and commentary glosses right over.  The full paper is linked here.

The gist of the paper, which must seem complicated to the authors, is that information repeated, is assimilated better than information that is not.  Also, information which “makes sense” to you,  is more likely to be accepted by you.  Haha… who would have guessed.   Unfortunately, they took this basic concept of psychology and turned it into a highly biased political article which tells us more about the authors than about the population they allege to study.

From his interview:

Your paper indicates that social networking is a contributor to misinformation. Do you think that social media can also act to counter misinformation?

In principle, yes. And indeed there are some terrific science blogs with large numbers of twitter followers (e.g., that have made it their mission to combat misinformation in specific arenas, such as climate science.

Now we all know that Skeptical Science is nothing but a political propaganda outlet designed to attack any reasoned discussion on global warming, which doesn’t support the alarmist agenda.   Not just the science, but the agenda, and like politicians “helping the poor”, the blog’s name has nothing to do with its intent.

Do mainstream media outlets care about retracting misinformation?

In my experience, sadly, not always. Some media outlets are better than others, but in my experience some media outlets act quite irresponsibly with far-reaching consequences: There is fairly good data to suggest that, overall, viewers of Fox News are the most misinformed across a range of crucial issues whereas listeners of National Public Radio are the least misinformed.

It seems to me that in the past year this sort of commentary on Fox News being a disinformation outlet has become a commonly repeated theme in the leftist dialog.    Although, I get my news from all sources, I strongly disagree with Stephan’s claim because Fox is the only source which doesn’t require a full blown dissection to remove the biased nonsense, not that some parsing isn’t required.  Each time I watch/listen to a leftist news outlet like CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, or National Public Radio, I hear literally dozens of twists and half-truths and it leaves me wondering just what kind of uneducated people don’t recognize that they are being repeatedly lied to.   Compound that with the nearly 100% leftist print media, and the entire globe is saturated with repeated left-wing dogma.  Hell, China state news is more conservative than the New York Times.  So then Lewandowsky, with obviously extreme political views, writes that Fox news viewers are misinformed, in a paper which purports to be analyzing the difference between reality and endlessly repeated misinformation.   It is a funny world when lies have changed places with truth even in science.   It has become a modern fact that yellow journalism is empowering yellow science, and to me the government/media/science collaboration can only lead only to very bad places.

The paper is rife with similar points for which their veracity can be discussed ad-naseum:

In one study, retractions of nonfictitious misperceptions (e.g., the mistaken belief that President Bush’s tax cuts in the early 2000s had increased revenues; the idea that there were WMDs in Iraq) were effective only among  people whose political orientation was supported by the retraction (Nyhan & Reifler, 2010). When the corrections were worldview-dissonant (in this case, for Republican participants), a “backfire” effect was observed, such that participants became more committed to the misinformation.

I mean, isn’t the issue of taxation/revenue more complicated than a snapshot statement.  After all, the economy lags any impetus by some amount of time. Bush inherited a recession, so the question becomes did the tax cuts create more revenue than the government would have received from the point they were enacted to the far future, not whether they immediately gained more.   Still, it is stated here as though lost revenue from tax cuts were fact.  It is a true irony that this “fact” of lost revenue is heavily repeated in left-wing media outlets and comports with the authors worldview.  While the revenue of the federal government shows an initial drop in the 9-11 recession (blue line below), they quickly rose upward until the 2008 recession.  Certainly, this alleged “fact” deserves some proper discussion, yet it is presented as a known reality in their paper.  What’s worse is that economics are also polluted by the same “cash for results” feedback which exists in climate science.  More economic tax papers are blatantly leftist than neutral or conservative, and like Steig’s Antarctic work, it is not because of their superior accuracy.

Lewandowsky’s left-saturated mental state seems to penetrate every aspect of his thoughts.

Is there a correlation between misinformation and education?

Not necessarily. In fact, when it comes to global-warming misinformation, there are data to suggest that education can have an ironic effect. Specifically, for Republicans, increasing education translates into a decreasing concern with climate change and a greater willingness to accept misinformation over the true state of the science—so worldview trumps facts, and education can increase that disparity.

This paper is chock full of half-truths and blatant falshoods.  I compare it to a MSNBC report on climate change or  listening to  an Obama speech on gun control.  To read it properly, you must check every sentence for accuracy or exaggerated meaning.  For example:

Similarly, people who oppose climate science because it challenges their worldview may do so less if the response to climate change is presented as a business opportunity for the nuclear industry (cf. Feygina, Jost, & Goldsmith, 2010). Even simple changes in wording can make information more acceptable by rendering it less threatening to a person’s worldview. For example, Republicans are far more likely to accept an otherwise identical charge as a “carbon offset” than as a “tax,” whereas the wording has little effect on Democrats or Independents (whose values are not challenged by the word “tax”; Hardisty, Johnson, & Weber, 2010).

So the first sentence indicates that most people who understand the really obvious anti-industrial bias in climate science, and further recognize that the proposed “green” solutions are malarkey, also recognize that nuclear energy is the only economically and physically functional improvement we can technologically do that can even dent the issue.  Lewie twists it into something else entirely. The second sentence indicates to me that either that the language in the questionnaire tricked some people, or the study is statistically biased as government funded left-wing studies so often are.  Yellow science stated as fact.

For other examples of the disease penetrating government science, Obama is about to legislate more funding for gun control studies.  Does anyone really question whether these government funded studies will garner more left-wing authors than conservatives or what these studies will conclude?   How many will tweak the stats, and how many citations will they get from Lewandowsky?  The same is true for the fake second hand smoke studies which have been repeated so often that left-saturated people like Madonnna flip out on stage at the sight of  a cigarette.   These ideologically saturated actors and musicians do heavy street drugs, yet are panicked about second-hand smoke at a distance!  All caused by government funded yellow science.

I like to make controversial statements here, in case you didn’t notice, so I’ll add another.   The yellow journalsim, misinformation and yellow science are far more prevalent in the left-wing agenda than the conservative.   This fact occurs just for the reason stated in Lewandowsky’s paper.   The leftist-version of “facts” are repeated over and over in the global media so often that they cannot be escaped by the public and retractions are not even considered.  Higher tax = more revenue, business = anti-little guy, global warming = doom, etc…  Additionally, their thought process is based on central government control of every aspect of the population empowered politicians are the beneficiaries of the groupthink and are all too  happy to provide funding for more of the same.   It is an obvious feedback loop which I don’t expect we can escape from easily.   In my opinion, Lewandowsky is just an unknowing halfwitted cog in the human grinding machine.  The function of his cog to use taxpayer money to create yellow science that promotes the left-wing central planning agenda.





20 Responses to “Yellow Science”

  1. omanuel said

    Thanks, Jeff, for your insight.

    Society is deeply troubled – split into warring factions that point their fingers at the defects in others. Unfortunately the members of each group can see the flaws in others – but not the flaws in themselves.

    Many – if not all religions – teach that is the way humans are constructed and their brand of religion is the solution to this social problem.

    The pseudo-conflict between modern science and religion has enhanced self-centeredness in mankind and made the problem more accute.

    This image of the creator, destroyer and sustainer of life – an image that is compatible with both modern science and religion – might help us get right-sized and capable of living together in a manner that would benefit everyone.

    • omanuel said

      From E.M. Smith’s blog: “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

      We separated church and state, and then used public funds to create a scientific community that is even more dogmatic and closed-minded than the religious community.

      Modern scientists claim truth can only be realized by experimentation and observation. But the best experimental data and observations [1] revealed the same reality that ancient religious leaders realized by contemplation, meditation, and prayer.

      After 1945, scientists purposely falsified information about the creator, destroyer and sustainer of life – the same source of energy that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Aug 1945 and compelled world leaders to

      _ a.) Establish the United Nations on 24 Oct 1945 and
      _ b.) Employ scientists to falsified information about the Sun.

      The enemy is instinctive fear and self-centeredness (the survival instinct) and lack of ability to grasp that a Higher Power controls everything through a combination of

      _ c.) Obvious cause-and-effect (science)
      _ d.) Unknown coincidence (spirituality)

      The solution is a merger of science and spirituality to reduce egoism and re-establish contact with the RTG (Reality, Truth, God) that can be realized by:

      _ e.) Experimentation,
      _ f.) Contemplation,
      _ g.) Observation,
      _ h.) Meditation,
      _ i.) and Prayer.

      This image is compatible with the best available experimental observations of modern science [1] and with the teachings of most – if not all – religions.

      This image helps us get right-sized so we can live together peacefully.

      [1] “Yes, the Sun is a pulsar,” Nature (submitted 12 Dec 2012)

      Click to access Yes_the_Sun_is_a_pulsar.pdf

  2. Gösta Oscarsson said

    Correlation between education and information on the real world:

    Prof. Hans Rosling, the man behind the site Gapminder, which decribes what actually has happened with birth rates, economic development, population development, etc in the countries of the world, says the following: “When I question my students on the situation of the world they are allmost systematically wrong, which means that the more education you have and the more you follow (in this case Swedish) media the less you know of the real world.” He gave the same questions to a monkey who chose either the banan to the left or to the right and animal was right 50 % of the time, wheras the students were right some 25 % of the time.

    Give yourself the treat to study his site!!! GAPMINDER. And his lectures are marvelous, held in good Swedish English.

  3. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Jeff, I think people like Lewandowski are attempting to campaign for a set of policies based on what they hope is showing that those opposed to those policies are misinformed and somehow that makes the policies that they endorse and advocate more correct. That process circumvents the direct discussion of the facts of the matter and legitimate reasons for opposing policies that they favor.
    I find most of these endeavors a big waste of time to read and I have not read Lewandowski’s paper linked above.

    The approach is usually to concentrate on the political group you oppose and ignore the misinformed in your own political camp. The best that could be said for these analyses is that it will show that there are misinformed people who might take any position on any of these issues. Concentrating on that evidence, however, is to avoid a reasonable debate on the issues that deals with the facts of the matter.

    • Jeff Condon said

      I agree Kenneth, and would add to your analysis that the reasonable debate becomes so muddled with nonsense that must be continually refuted that no forward progress can be made. The discussion with Tom is a good example. No matter what was written, GDP was still income and taxes were still low so all points stood because that is the repeated line of the party. There is always another side point which has been repeated enough that people believe it. I know that I learned several things by downloading the actual numbers. I took the time to go state by state on taxes too, that was pretty interesting.

  4. Tamara said

    The Left/MSM/warmists know that branding trumps facts every time.
    Conservatives/alternative media/skeptics are trying to combat the branding machine with logic and truth.
    The Sheeple can only absorb so much info, so they know the world has a fever, Republicans want dirty air and water, etc.
    We need to get better at our own branding. Look at blog names: Skeptical Science – well it’s right there in the name, so of course we should trust them; Real Climate – has kind of an MTV, reality TV coolness to it; Watts Up With That – is that for electricians?; Air Vent – could be anything from aerospace to air conditioning; Climate Audit – ooh, who likes audits? 🙂

  5. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I think also that when discussing who is and is not informed one must know precisely what “informed” actually is connoting. I would suppose that the Red Guards spouting the sayings of Mao and the party line, like their counterparts in other Communist and Nazi regimes spouting their party lines would appear to be “informed” and particularly so by other party members. Similarly and at a level perhaps better understood in our country one could be “informed” by reading Civics 101 in our public schools that represents politicians and their motivations in, let us say, a more idealistic way than they actually operate. The antagonist who was more in touch with reality on this issue might well be considered “uniformed” at least by the standards presented by the party line.

    The truly concerned persons in these matters would be interested in people thinking for themselves or learning to think for themselves and not who is “informed”, by repeating what they are told.

  6. JeffID, I think if you actually get to the paper that points out how education can help entrench one’s belief, the authors did not determine a difference betweeen Republicans and Democrats. They found this is a human behavior. In other words, Lewandowski is supporting the correct understanding of this work by confirming his bias using his knowledge and research. The irony is hillarious. Reading his statements carefully indicates he understands what the research showed. Another issue is that this research went to effort to make sure that what was being tested was tested correctly. Yet, Lewandowski’s work was so bad that those who are familiar with methodology of comparisons or measurements, not the subject, could recognize just how poor Lewandowski’s work was.

    One of the failures in measurement is the confusion caused by linking policy with the science. What has been helpful is that with the pause in apparent warming that is going on, the “alarmists” are having to come back and admit to the problems of using temperature as a metric rather than enthalpy.

    It is unfortunate that this misunderstanding may carry over into the conslusion that better science educated Republicans used motivated reasoning to deny the science. I think I am going to find that it cuts both ways. Yes, the better science educated Republicans and the better science educated Democrats are using their knowledge to support their position, and unfortunately the study is biased from not realizing this and taking this into account in formulating how the study was to be conducted wrt to what is really known to be true about climate change.

    It may be what we see is that Republicans overweight the uncertainty, Democrats overweight the policy implications, and neither have a lock on truth nor partisanship. And Lewandowski is shown to be another leftist political hack (no suprise.)

    • Alan D McIntire said

      ” Is there a correlation between misinformation and education?

      Not necessarily. In fact, when it comes to global-warming misinformation, there are data to suggest that education can have an ironic effect. Specifically, for Republicans, increasing education translates into a decreasing concern with climate change and a greater willingness to accept misinformation over the true state of the science—so worldview trumps facts, and education can increase that disparity.”

      Here’s a link to the paper Lewandowski was referring to:

      “As respondents’ science literacy scores increased,
      their concern with climate change decreased (r = -0.05, p = 0.05). The difference is small—but neverthe-
      less inconsistent with the science-illiteracy theory prediction that those who scored higher in science lite-
      racy would be significantly more concerned.”

      There was a NEGATIVE correlation between scientific literacy and concern about CAGW. The authors, sympathetic to CAGW, couldn’t let the paper end there, with the negative conclusion about CAGW- they added

      “The cultural cognition theory also generates a testable prediction. This theory posits that persons
      who subscribe to a “hierarchical, individualistic” worldview—one that simultaneously ties authority to
      conspicuous social rankings and eschews collective interference with the decisions made by individuals
      possessed of such authority—can be expected to be skeptical of claims of environmental and technologi-
      cal risks. Such people, according to the theory, intuitively perceive that widespread acceptance of such
      claims would license restrictions on commerce and industry, forms of behavior that Hierarchical Indivi-
      dualists value. In contrast, persons who hold an “egalitarian, communitarian” worldview—one that favors
      less regimented forms of social organization and greater collective attention to securing individual
      needs—tend to be morally suspicious of commerce and industry, which they see as the source of unjust
      disparities in wealth and power. ”

      Another way of wording this is ” Those who favor freedom and liberty are opposed to authoritarian controls to control climate “risks”. Those in favor of
      Communism (“egalitarian, communitarian” worldview) FAVOR totalitarian controls.

  7. Jeff Condon said

    It’s like I can see the future, Obama demanded more “studies”.

    “Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”

  8. Skiphil said

    Thanks Jeff, excellent commentary as always. I think the correct name of the journal is ‘Psychological Science’ (sic)

    As though anything from Lewandowsky merits the word ‘science’…..

    The interview seems to refer to a related journal ‘Psychological Science in the Public Interest’ — I’m not clear on whether that is any academic journal or (probably) more of a newsletter publishing puff fluff such as the Lew interview.

  9. ianl8888 said


    Sorry, but I really think you underestimate Lewandowsky

    He knows *exactly* what he’s doing – deliberately poisoning the well of informed dissent for the generally uninformed populace

    In Aus (yep, I’m an Aussie) we have a particularly vicious and spiteful election campaign for later this year, about late November I would think. Tax on CO2 emissions is a big factor. If he can help achieve 50.1% of the vote to keep the tax, he will claim he helped with his surveys – in short, he’s engaging in an early campaign endeavour. It may work, too

  10. j ferguson said

    I liked his “less misinformed.” Hadn’t seen it before. Good post, Jeff. Thanks.

  11. Brian H said

    The appropriate “hook” to approach public opinion with may be success and failure of predictions.
    Who ya gonna believe?

  12. M Simon said

    What is truly amazing is that the right knows that gun prohibition can’t work and the left knows that drug prohibition can’t work.

    I’m still waiting for the obvious general conclusion “prohibition can’t work”.

    I wonder why most people can’t jump from their particular understanding to a general understanding.

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