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 Now Lewandowsky is on line with the same ridiculous conclusions of his retracted article still boldly stated, and he is making as much publicity of it as he can yet the names of the subjects studied removed.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what Lewandowsky published inaccurately about me and what information he possessed at the time he published this retracted article.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.