Sunday, April 6, 2014

The paper they don’t want you to read!

The climate change denialists are a bit thin-skinned; they’ve also been exposed as a bit on the wacko side. The journal Frontiers in Psychology is about to retract a paper that found that denialists tend to have a cluster of weird beliefs (NASA faked the moon landings, the CIA was in charge of the assassination of political figures in the US, etc.) because the denialists screamed very loudly.

This outrage first arose in response to a paper, NASA faked the moon landing–Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (pdf) which analyzed voluntary surveys submitted by readers of climate science blogs, in which the respondents freely admitted to having a collection of other beliefs, in addition to climate change denial. That paper found something else interesting, and was the primary correlation observed: a lot of denialists are libertarians. Are you surprised?

Rejection of climate science was strongly associated with endorsement of a laissez-faire view of unregulated free markets. This replicates previous work (e.g., Heath & Gifford, 2006) although the strength of association found here (r ~.80) exceeds that reported in any extant study. At least in part, this may reflect the use of SEM, which enables measurement of the associations between constructs free of measurement error (Fan, 2003).

A second variable that was associated with rejection of climate science as well as other scientific propositions was conspiracist ideation. Notably, this relationship emerged even though conspiracies that related to the queried scientific propositions (AIDS, climate change) did not contribute to the conspiracist construct. By implication, the role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science did not simply reflect “convenience” theories that provided specific alternative “explanations” for a scientific consensus. Instead, this finding suggests that a general propensity to endorse any of a number of conspiracy theories predisposes people to reject entirely unrelated scientific facts.

Oh, how they howled. Even libertarians seem to be embarrassed at being affiliated with libertarians, I guess. And conspiracy theorists, too? Why, the accusation itself is clearly evidence that there’s a conspiracy out to get them. They protested that because the respondents to the survey all found it through mainstream science blogs, all the responses were false flag operations put out by Big Climate.

What they didn’t realize was that they were generating more data to support the hypothesis. The authors of the first paper then wrote a second paper, the one that is now being retracted by the cowardly publisher, called Recursive Fury: Conspiracist Ideation in the Blogosphere in Response to Research on Conspiracist Ideation, in which they scanned public posts and comments on the first article, and analyzed the text for evidence of conspiracist tropes (it’s a nefarious scheme, they’re out to get us, it’s an organized movement to defeat us, etc.) and found that yes, conspiracist reasoning was quite common on climate change denial blogs.

They also rebutted some claims. The claim that the authors never bothered to contact the denialist blogs to host their survey was shot down pretty easily: they had the email, and further, they had replies from denialists who later claimed they never received any request to host the survey.

Initial attention of the blogosphere also focused on the method reported by LOG12, which stated: “Links were posted on 8 blogs (with a pro-science science stance but with a diverse audience); a further 5 “skeptic” (or “skeptic”-leaning) blogs were approached but none posted the link.” Speculation immediately focused on the identity of the 5 “skeptic” bloggers. Within short order, 25 “skeptical” bloggers had come publicly forward9 to state that they had not been approached by the researchers. Of those 25 public declarations, 5 were by individuals who were invited to post links to the study by LOG12 in 2010. Two of these bloggers had engaged in correspondence with the research assistant for further clarification.

Those emails were also revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request.

The squawking reached a new crescendo. Steve McIntyre wrote a strongly worded formal letter demanding that the defamatory article be removed, and accusing the authors of malice. Further, they complained that analyzing the content of blog posts and comments, public, openly accessible work, was an ethics violation.

Ludicrous as those claims are, Frontiers in Psychology is apparently about to fold to them. For shame.

You know, my university had a meeting with our institutional lawyers yesterday — I was called in to attend the information session for some reason, like having a reputation as a trouble-maker or something — and I was impressed with their professionalism and their commitment to actually defending the faculty and staff of the university. I guess not every organization is lucky enough to have good lawyers of principle.

Oh, well. All I can say is that, thanks to the denialist ratfuckers, now everyone is going to be far more interested in reading the two papers by Lewandowsky and others. I recommend that you read Motivated rejection of science (pdf) and Recursive fury(pdf) now, or anytime — they’re archived on the web. You might also stash away a copy yourself. You make a denialist cry every time you make a copy, you know.

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