the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Lewandowsky’s Mess – A question of misrepresentation and scientific integrity

Posted by Jeff Id on July 15, 2015

With the endless continuation of Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky’s attacks on those skeptical of the conclusions of activist climate science, I don’t think I’ve made something clear enough in the past.  In his Recursive Fury article, Lewandowsky published a derogatory statement as a scientific fact, completely contrary to the facts he had in his possession (generally a scientific no-no)and I can prove it fairly convincingly.  The article in question was taken off line immediately in response to my complaint, the reference was changed to something else equally inaccurate but less derogatory and the article went back on line.  Others were still affected by the slash and burn tactics and the paper was eventually retracted in its entirety due to numerous complaints about ethics and statistics.  Now Lewandowsky is on line with the same ridiculous conclusions of his retracted article still boldly stated, and he is making as much publicity of it as he can yet the names of the subjects studied removed.  Below, I have clarified what Lewandowsky published inaccurately about me and what information he possessed at the time he published this retracted article.

In our first run in with Lewandowsky here he published a scientific article titled “MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science”, citing my name and ascribing a belief to me which I do not hold.  Citation of a subject by name, while ascribing what is basically a mental pathology to them as a form of diagnosis, is clearly unethical thing to do in a psychology paper, but that is beside the point I am trying to make.  I contacted him directly,  explained my beliefs and requested a retraction.

His inaccurate claim was:

Thus, AIDS denial has been linked to the belief that the U.S. Government created HIV; the tobacco industry viewed lung cancer research as an \oligopolistic cartel,” and climate deniers believe that temperature records have been illegitimately adjusted to exaggerate warming (e.g., Condon, 2009).

While the claim is inaccurate , it could be potentially interpreted as an honest mistake by an uncareful researcher.  I wrote the following to Lewandowsky personally by email which he received and responded to.  Basically he cannot claim to not have knowledge of this matter.

Surprisingly and unfortunately, your recent paper has garnered a lot
of attention in press which has created concerns on my part.  Besides
obvious ethics issues with respect to intentionally damaging the
reputations of those you “study”, you should be aware that upon
review, you have used my name and reference in this paper in
demonstrably misleading and libelous manner.  Your recent article has
falsely represented me as a global temperature trend denier amongst
numerous other inaccurate characteristics.  Specifically, you have
referenced an on-line article that I wrote about access to data (not
the result) to represent that I hold an anti-science position.  In
other words, your reference does not support or even address your
conclusion. Leaving the other ugly implications in this publication
aside, it is only a complete ignorance of station adjustments which
could legitimately lead you to conclude that my mention of these
substantial corrections was “anti-science”.  Had you contacted me, I
would have explained you that these large adjustments to temperature
are real and necessary, but every working scientist questions their
magnitude to varying extent.

My email continued:

Admittedly, it was rather shocking to be attacked with such stunning
inaccuracy when I have so often argued in support of the reality of
anthropogenic warming.  There are hundreds of examples of my
scientific opinions on line.


I never have “denied” global temperature trends or the
anthropogenic component and have often argued their unequivocal
existence in print.

Lewandowsky acknowledged my email with a short reply that acknowledged the problem.

I don’t believe I cited you inaccurately given the context of what I was saying and referring to—although I agree that your  name was listed in a sentence with the noun “denier,” thereby creating a tacit association that was in fact not intended on my part. All I wanted to do is to cite an example of criticisms of adjustments that—like it or not—often involve conspiracist ideation.

Again, this of course does not appear to reach the level of intentional misrepresentation.   He’s arguing some kind of sophmoric nonsense possibly out of embarrassment and despite his apparent reasonableness in his first email, I eventually had to go to Eric Eich to get the matter resolved for THIS article.  As you can see, Lewandowsky was fully informed of my work and my opinions on the matter of global temperature trends by email.  He had plenty of time to check the veracity of my claims online if he somehow doubted my email and I had clearly stated my own belief in global warming directly to him personally.

So then a short time later Lewandowsky published another paper, this one claiming to study the supposedly irrational response of people to his fake Moon Landing article — “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation.”

The paper contained the statement I believe we can accurately classify as intentionally misrepresenting his data:

“Conspiracist ideation is arguably particularly prominent on climate blogs, such as when expressing the belief that temperature records show warming only because of systematic adjustments (e.g., Condon, 2009) …..”

A more dishonest representation of my own repeatedly stated opinions is hard to imagine.  Dr. Lewandowsky was clearly aware of my blog as he linked two times to it and he had my opinions by email.  So those are the basic demonstrable facts (data in terms of a soft Psychology paper) which Lewandowsky had in his possession.  Since the facts directly contradict his scientifically published assertion, we can hypothesize as to the reasons for his repeated misrepresentations.   Ironically, the good doctor may have diagnosed his own condition in his recent republication (sans names) of the previously retracted recursive fury paper:

Several of those hypotheses were based on what we call unreflexive counterfactual thinking; that is,
the hypothesis was built on a non-existent, counterfactual state of the world, even though knowledge about the
true state of the world was demonstrably available at the time.

However, a second, somewhat simpler explanation is plausible.  Knowing Lewandowsky’s outspoken political extremism against free market capitalism, it could potentially fit our current state of knowledge about his reasoning as well (from here):


A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.

I suppose we will never know the truth.

After this unpleasant experience, I do wonder though if even that can reach the limit of an ‘ethical violation’ in some of these psychology journals. Considering that Lewandowsky, a government funded psychologist who is very much active in promoting governmental solutions, would publish and republish attack papers only loosely disguised as science without negative consequence to his reputation and continued funding, is a matter we should all be concerned about.  That multiple psychology journals have now carelessly passed several unethical and scientifically inaccurate articles of this type through their peer review process without negative consequence to their own reputation and funding is simply beyond comprehension.

18 Responses to “Lewandowsky’s Mess – A question of misrepresentation and scientific integrity”

  1. “a government funded psychologist” – six letters too many in the last word!

  2. omanuel said

    Climate science involves a large number of physical variables that are difficult to quantify.

    Lewandowsky is not a physical scientist and does not have the training to understand that the best available experimental data and observations from the Nuclear and Space Ages

    Show that EARTH’s HEAT SOURCE, the Sun . . .

    is inconsistent with the SSM (Standard Solar Model) ASSUMED in all AGW models.

    Probably no physical scientist would pretend the ability to predict the future for the Sun’s pulsar core, but recorded history of Earth’s climate and sunspots suggests that global cooling is more likely now than global warming.

    • omanuel said

      Lew probably does not realize that precise experimental measurements of isotopes in samples of lunar soil samples collected in the SUCCESSFUL 1969 MOON LANDING revealed that nine theoretical stages of solar mass-fractionation have successively enriched the lighter atoms in elements at the top of the Sun’s atmosphere before discharge into the solar wind:

      That is why the top of the Sun’s atmosphere is 91% H and 9% He, although the deep interior of the Sun is Fe, O, Ni, Si and S, . . .

      Just like ordinary meteorites and rocky planets that orbit close to the Sun.

  3. mpcraig said

    You really have to wonder what kind of discussions go on between Lew and his superiors. I’d take a guess but I’d probably be accused of being a conspiracy theorist.

    Regarding his first paper, I just love the irony that the only scientist to walk on the Moon is a skeptic. I guess that’s why he avoided the moon landing hoax in his subsequent work.

    In general, I think science journals and even committees of scientific academies have been taken over by green ideologues who can justify questionable ethics under the umbrella of “the end justifies the means.” And we all know the various ways that could turn out.

  4. Another Ian said

    Might be useful

    And another gem, from an Anon:

    Sociology: The study of a group of people who do not need to be studied by a group of people who do.”

    Jul 13, 2015 at 1:15 PM | Registered Commenter Robert Christopher”


  5. D o u g   C o t t o n  said

    If you want to know why planetary surface temperatures are what they are, then read my three comments starting here and feel free to discuss on that thread.

  6. Stephen Pruett said

    Aside from the statistical and ethical flaws that others have identified in Lewandowsky’s conspiracist studies, his studies are flawed because they have failed to consider a key alternative hypothesis, which is both simple and testable: skeptics find the evidence for CAGW unconvincing or they find too many examples of data that seem inconsistent with the CAGW narrative. Their belief in conspiracy theories has nothing to do with their opinion on CAGW. If results supporting this hypothesis were obtained, the existence of conspiratorial ideation (regardless of its nature and type) would be irrelevant. For example, I am skeptical of the CAGC narrative in part because climate scientists cannot adequately explain how previous drastic climate changes (in times before human beings existed or before they existed in sufficient numbers to impact climate) occurred by non-anthropogenic causes and how they can be sure that recent changes in climate have not been mediated by some of the same natural causes. There are many, many examples of brilliant scientists, mathematicians, and inventors whose work in their particular field was based on solid, objective data and methodologies, but who at the same time had beliefs on other issues that would now be viewed as unscientific (or just plain bizarre). Newton believed in alchemy; Ramachandran (famous Indian mathematician) had eccentric dietary beliefs and practices that probably shortened his life; Steve Jobs almost certainly died because he rejected research-based advice to treat his cancer as soon as it was discovered, but instead elected to wait 6 months while exploring “alternative” treatments. Thus, even if it had been demonstrated by Lewandowsky’s work, conspiratorial ideation or compartmentalized bizarre beliefs of any type in CAGW skeptics seems irrelevant. Unless, of course, Lewandowsky wants to do a much larger study determining whether bizarre beliefs of any type correlate with poor, average, or exceedingly brilliant scientific accomplishments. Which of course raises the question, how do we define bizarre?

    My favorite conspiracy theory is that Lewandowsky picked some bizarre ideas and tried to find some methods that seemed at least slightly scientific to demonstrate that some CAGW skeptics believed some of these bizarre ideas. Whether my conspiracy theory is correct or not, Lewandowsky failed, and even if he had succeeded the results would have signified nothing.

    • Jeff Id said

      Well said. What I find even more bizarre is how editors and reviewers are willing to pass on his articles to publication. It isn’t hard to see what these papers are intended to do and their contribution to scientific understanding doesn’t even try to exist.

      I wrote someone recently that Lew is basically the special Olympics of climate science.

  7. stevefitzpatrick said

    Why did you not simply hire a lawyer and file a defamation suit? It is hard to imagine a more willful misrepresentation of fact, indicating a clear intent to do harm.

  8. Retired Physics Educator and Climate Researcher said

    Jeff (and others)

    There is absolutely NO (warming) sensitivity to carbon dioxide or water vapor. There’s enough water vapor for us to see by measurement that more moist regions have lower mean daily maximums and minimums, as my study with data from 15 inland tropical regions on three continents showed to be the case.

    All planets and moons have inner regions (lower troposphere, mantle, core etc) which are maintained at higher temperatures than the effective radiating temperature. This requires an input of thermal energy to those lower regions, but that energy does not mostly come from direct solar radiation, let alone back radiation. It comes from the non-radiative mechanism about which you can read here and that is confirmed by a correct application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is all about entropy maximization and nothing else.

    You cannot prove me wrong on this. Your discussion of so-called “radiative forcing” is about a totally imaginary process which simply does not happen because all that back radiation can do is slow the rate of radiative cooling, not the rate of non-radiative cooling. But the Sun’s direct radiation cannot explain the existing surface temperatures on Earth or Venus, just for starters. So the rate of cooling is irrelevant. You think in the wrong paradigm altogether because you have been gullible enough to believe James Hansen and his cronies who simply do not understand entropy and the related thermodynamics.

  9. Related but not exactly to this post I have just posted on my blog the following and I would appreciate feedback, Jeff I used one of your numbers from a post you made in 20011 with credit to you.

  10. Greg Cavanagh said

    RE: “Conspiracist ideation is arguably particularly prominent on climate blogs, such as when expressing the belief that temperature records show warming only because of systematic adjustments (e.g., Condon, 2009) …..”

    Jeff; I’m surprised you missed the part about Conspiracist ideation being most prominent on climate blogs. One would have thought that it would be most prominent on conspiracy blogs. Admittedly I’ve never looked, and bet a very large value that Lewandowsky never thought to look either.

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