Conspiracist Ideation Falsified?

Posted: April 11, 2014 by tallbloke in solar system dynamics

Lewandowsky et al results analysis



A recent paper, based on an internet survey of American people, claimed that “conspiracist ideation, is associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested“. Analysis of the data reveals something quite different. Strong opinions with regard to conspiracy theories, whether for or against, suggest strong support for strongly-supported scientific hypotheses, and strong, but divided, opinions on climate science.


In 2012 I spent a lot of time looking at a paper “Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” – hereafter called LOG12. The follow up in early 2013 was the notorious Recursive Fury paper that has now been withdrawn (Here and here). When a new paper came out, by the same authors reaching pretty much the same conclusions, I had lost interest.

However, Barry Woods, a victim…

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  1. Ron C. says:

    I observe that Lew and his crew are practicing what psychologists call “projection” (different from the IPCC kind). In psychological projection you see things like:

    Claiming to be a victim of bullies, while at the same bullying others to get what you want;

    Claiming that others have conspiracy theories, while firmly believing in a vast right-wing denial effort financed by Big oil and the Koch brothers;

    Claiming that others are denying settled science, while agreeing with people who have trashed basic meteorology and atmospheric physics, not to mention biased statistics;

    Claiming that others are unethical, while subverting the ethical procedures of your own profession;

    And so on.

  2. manicbeancounter says:

    Accusing opponents of being a conspiracy theorist is becoming an acceptable term of abuse in some quarters. For instance Nick Clegg said of Nigel Farage earlier this month.

    He’s one of those people who see conspiracy theories everywhere! I wouldn’t be surprised if he tells us next that there wasn’t a Moon landing, Obama isn’t American, and Elvis isn’t dead!

    The implication is that if you believe in conspiracy theories, you can’t think straight, so should be excluded from any discussion. Lewandowsky claimed in the summary that US study data showed those with a “conspiracist ideation” tend to reject science. It seems plausible, but it is not backed by the data. I was quite surprised when I discovered this. How Lewandowsky has arrived at the opposite conclusion needs further analysis.

  3. craigm350 says:

    Pretty robust defense. Ethics indeed.

    For Frontiers, publishing the identities of human subjects without consent cannot be justified in a scientific paper. Some have argued that the subjects and their statements were in the public domain and hence it was acceptable to identify them in a scientific paper, but accepting this will set a dangerous precedent. With so much information of each of us in the public domain, think of a situation where scientists use, for example, machine learning to cluster your public statements and attribute to you personality characteristics, and then name you on the cluster and publish it as a scientific fact in a reputable journal. While the subjects and their statements were public, they did not give their consent to a public psychological diagnosis in a scientific study. Science cannot be abused to specifically label and point out individuals in the public domain.

  4. Aussie says:

    It is very interesting when one sees the actual propositions, because I disagree with the climate scaremongering, I agree that Judith Curry knows her stuff, and I reject most of the conspiracy theories, being neutral with regard to the death of Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales – do I think her death was deliberate? I do think there is evidence that it was deliberate, but the people behind the death? I have no idea!!

    Lewandewsky’s survey methods are total crap. He has broken most of the rules when it comes to what should be good survey techniques, including the collection of data. He came to a conclusion prior to doing his surveys and has tried to fit the data collected to suit his conclusions but as pointed out by the manic beancounter, Lewandowsky fails miserably.

    I have had experience collecting survey data for at least one market research company, including Roy Morgan Research Centre. I still reckon that the best surveys are those where people are interviewed face to face. I am not a fan of telephone surveys, and definitely not a fan of internet surveys where data is so easily manipulated.

  5. Gail Combs says:

    I agree. Often surveys are used to give ‘Scientific backing’ to a political position. A good example is the The Blair-Rockefeller poll – University of Arkansas: Tea Party Distinguished by Racial Views and Fear of the Future

    The Tea Party like UKIP was challenging the established (and corrupt) main parties and therefore had to be taken out. One of the main planks of the Tea Party is a smaller federal government and a second is the federal government should be severely limited in its scope as required by the US Constitution.

    The Pollsters knew this and designed the questions to take advantage by starting the inflammatory questions with:

    Do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure that…

    I do not have to finish the sentence to know the answer. It is just like asking a UKIP member:

    Do you think it is the responsibility of the European Union to make sure that…

    You can add all sorts of nice touchy feely stuff to the end of those sentences to get what ever type of portrait you want of the target group.

    If the pollster is bias the poll will be bias it is just that simple.

    That Blair-Rockefeller poll was then used by the propaganda arm Mass Media to spread the word that the Tea Party were racists. Loony Lew is using the same battle plan. Run a bogus/biased ‘Poll’ that can then be used by the MSM to smear the enemy. There was no real science involved in either of these smear campaigns just loyalty to ‘the Cause.’