In the blogosphere, the hoax paper by Lewandowsky, Oberauer and Gignac,  NASA faked the moon landing—therefore, (climate) science is a hoax was exposed soon after it came out  –  see blog posts by Jo NovaSteve McIntyre, Brandon Shollenberger, José Duarte and many others. Duarte’s comments are significant as he is a published researcher in the field, referring to the paper as a fraud and calling for its retraction.

The most concise explanation of the error/fraud is given at Kevin Marshall’s ManicBeancounter blog. The paper claims that belief in conspiracy theories predicts climate scepticism, yet of over 1000 in the sample, only 10 believed the moon landing was faked (rendering any statistical results completely meaningless) and of these 10 only 3 were sceptical about climate change. Despite the fact that the main claim of the paper and its title can be demolished in one sentence after simply looking at a table of the data, the journal concerned, Psychological Science, has taken no action.

Yesterday this story appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. As far as I am aware this is the first time it has appeared in the mainstream media. Kudos to their reporter Paul Sheehan, and also to the Quillette magazine for writing about it in December, and Lee Jussim for giving a talk about it at an academic meeting on social psychology.  Here is an excerpt:

Distorted universities need a reality check

Cultural sensitivity is turning into a victory for ideology over objectivity

… universities have become havens for intolerance, orthodoxy and unscholarly distortion.

My favourite example, which encapsulates all of the above, was provided by Dr Lee Jussim, a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University in the US. He dissected a paper published by a respected journal, Psychological Science, in 2013, and found that it was rubbish, and probably published because the journal’s editors shared the ideological bias of the article’s conclusion.

The paper was entitled “NASA faked the moon landing – therefore (climate) science is a hoax“. The abstract of the study states: “Endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science … This provides confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science.”

Note the term “conspiracist ideation”. The English language is being brutalised in the social sciences to create a false sense of rigour.

When Jussim checked the data, he found that of the 1145 participants in the study, only 10 thought the moon landing was a hoax. Of those who thought climate science was a hoax, almost all of them, 97.8 per cent, did NOT think the moon landing was a hoax.

The social psychologists who conducted the study had disguised the data and smothered it under a layer of obfuscation. No peer reviewer or journal editor took the time to check the raw data. Instead, the paper was published because it buttressed a pervasive ideological bias in the field…

This may provide some further embarrassment for the journal and its editors, particularly the remark made twice that the paper was published without questioning the data because its results fitted so well with their existing prejudices.

The editor of the journal at the time, Eric Eich, behaved fairly disreputably, as revealed by FOI correspondence, by responding to a question from Stephen McIntyre by getting Lewandowsky to respond and then including that response in his reply to McIntyre and declaring the matter closed (on a separate aspect related to ethics clearance).

The new editor, Stephen Lindsay, has recently written an editorial for the journal, Replication in Psychological Science, a subject that has been in the news recently.  He shows some understanding of the source of the statistical error discussed above, since there is a section on interpreting correlations in which he says it’s a good idea to draw scatter plots, but he doesn’t seem to understand the mechanism of the Lewandowsky hoax (find lots of people who think A and B are true, calculate a correlation, then falsely conclude that people who don’t think A also don’t think B, nicely illustrated by this plot of Lewandowsky’s data by Brandon).  Lindsay’s editorial article seems to lack real conviction – he just says he “encourages” authors to provide scatter plots. Worse still, there is no requirement to produce the raw data, he merely praises his predecessor Eich for instituting a system where authors who do provide raw data are rewarded with “badges”.  If these people were serious about tightening up their field, it would be a condition of acceptance that all raw data was produced before publication and not just made available but attached to the paper in some way.

At the end of his editorial Lindsay writes “If you have other ideas as to how to enhance Psychological Science, please e-mail me about them”. I’ve done that and drawn his attention to the Sydney Morning Herald piece and this post.




  1. The only way to enhance Psyc Science’s reputation is to retract Moon Hoax..

    I have been told Lew has given evidence to Erich Eich /Alaun Kraut (APS) that he did survey Skeptical science to their satisfaction, yet I’m not allowed to see it!. Despite a contributor and moderator of Skeptical science (and wayback machine) categorically stating that he survey never took place..

    making the whole claim of a diverse survey audience, high traffic and 20% prevalence of sceptics unsupported by any evidence. Stephan appears to be taken their word for it!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There is a new book about to be published titled:
    The Social Psychology of Morality, which is to be published by the Psychology Press:

    from a chapter: (Lee Jussim et al)

    The Curious Case of Condemning Climate Skeptics as Conspiracy Theorists (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013)


    “Into this mix stepped Lewandowski et al. (2013) with a paper titled, “NASA Faked the Moon Landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax” – which strongly implies that people who doubt global warming believe bizarre conspiracy theories. As Lewandowsky et al. (2013, p. 622) put it, “… conspiratorial thinking contributes to the rejection of science.”

    One possibility is that this was true – that a disproportionately high number of people who disbelieve climate science also believe in something as silly as the faking of the moon landing. Another, however, was that this was essentially trumped up in order to cast those who are most skeptical of the climate science as fools.

    The implication that climate skeptics believe in the faking of the moon landing is another phantom fact. Out of over 1145 respondents, there was a grand total of 10 who believed the moon landing was faked. Among the 134 of participants who “rejected climate science,” only three people (2%) endorsed the moon-landing hoax. The link asserted in the title of the paper did not exist in the sample.

    Understanding when people are and are not persuaded by science is an interesting and important area of research. But this curious case highlights the threat to scientific integrity that can stem from high moral missions. The notion that skeptics believed something so silly as the faking of the moon landing is yet another myth essentially concocted by the researchers”

    Lee’s publications are here:

    the chapter:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kevin, thanks, I removed the duff link and will replace it with a suitable one from Climate Audit.

    Jonathan, thanks, I should have mentioned your published comment.

    And Barry, thanks for reminding me of the Jussim book chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In future years I hope that Universities will refer to the work of Lewandowsky as a case study of how not to conduct opinion polls. People deride the opinion polls before the General Election last year. But these pollsters try to eliminate bias from their results. They recognize the importance of eliminating bias in the questions and in the sample. Even so, they know that even a truly unbiased sample (which they never know if they have achieved) will have only a 95% chance of being within 3% on a sample of about 1000. Since last May there has been considerable efforts to learn from the errors, like there were after more basic issues generated flawed opinion polls during the 1992 General Election campaign.
    Lewandowsky’s survey questions have built in bias and they were solely placed on extremely partisan blogs of a single viewpoint, where other points of view are shut down or castigated. Rather than admit that the Conspiracist Ideation and the Free-Market Ideation hypotheses were contradicted by flawed surveys, Lewandowsky et al. dug themselves into a deeper hole by reviewing the comments and failing to accept that there can be valid points of view that contradict their own. This is to defend publicly funded research in democratic societies that aims to shut down opposition to extremist beliefs by projecting opponents as being blinkered in their views.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wait a minute, was that a 97% consensus I just saw? 97.8 reject the moon landing hoax theory…


  6. I hope that no warmists are reading this but I’ll state something the rest of you already know – A lot of the public think AGW is all a hoax because warmists keep telling them that’s what deniers say. In their eagerness to make out we’re a bunch of idiots, they create the very thing they’re trying to stop.

    Despite being childishly obvious the more warmists try to dismiss sceptics, the more they raise our profile. The Moon Hoax paper is so clearly dishing the dirt that even some warmists must have winced at the crude manipulation. For those with mild tendencies for climate scepticism it would have acted like petrol on a fire. For most adults it’s the kind of goad they last fell for when they were six.

    It’s technique that only works when the group to be ostracised is small. Already substantial, I’d bet that scepticism is larger than the polling figures suggest. Like shy Conservatives people don’t hold their hand up to being ‘evil environment hating loonies’. It doesn’t stop them being closet sceptics.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. TINYCO2 says: “Already substantial, I’d bet that scepticism is larger than the polling figures suggest.”

    Here you go, out in the real world, the CAGW hoax is losing credibility fast.

    Public support for a strong global deal on climate change has declined, according to a poll carried out in 20 countries.

    Only four now have majorities in favour of their governments setting ambitious targets at a global conference in Paris.

    In a similar poll before the Copenhagen meeting in 2009, eight countries had majorities favouring tough action.

    The poll has been provided to the BBC by research group GlobeScan.

    Just under half of all those surveyed viewed climate change as a “very serious” problem this year, compared with 63% in 2009.

    The findings will make sober reading for global political leaders, who will gather in Paris next week for the start of the United Nations climate conference, known as COP21.

    The 2015 United Nations ‘My World’ global survey of causes for concern currently covering 9,717,345 respondents shows ‘action on climate change’ flat last, 16th of 16 categories.

    Crying “WOLF!” can only work for so long, and as not a single one of the catastrophic predictions of the Warmist religion over the last 3 decades has actually happened – in fact in the majority of cases such as hurricane landfall frequency and polar ice disappearance they have been diametrically wrong – their credibility is rapidly approaching zero. Of course, the more obvious becomes the more strident and hysterical they become, thus damaging their cause even further. That’s what you get when you don’t believe in human nature.

    The real problem is that these scammers and the credulous bedwetters that unquestioningly support them are destroying the credibility of real science – and not just in the field of climate either, and just as in the fable, when a real wolf does come – and it will, sooner or later, nobody will believe them.


  8. “The Moon Hoax paper is so clearly dishing the dirt that even some warmists must have winced at the crude manipulation.”

    I was about to write something similar, TinyCO2. Even Michael Mann should be embarassed by his association with Stefan Lewandowsky. That the Royal Society has chosen to promote Lewandowsky is beyond laughable. It is scary.

    I’ll also put in a +1 for Brandon Shollenberger’s blog posts on this matter.


  9. Very nice post, Dr. Matthews. The SKS kerfuffle proves the survey was not as represented in the paper. That comprises clear academic misconduct.
    Essays a High Stick Foul, By Land or by Sea, Shell Games, and Burning Nonscience in my newest ebook provide five other clearcut examples of academic misconduct concerning global warming compared to paleoclimate, sudden sea level rise, and co2/warming’s biological impacts on corals, oysters, and plant ecosystems. Plus many other examples of ‘knew or should have known’ negligent science raising possibly deliberate false alarms. Essays No Bodies, Greenhouse Effects, and Cause and Effect show clearcut scientific malfeasance that does not rise to the level of traditional academic misconduct.
    The whole subject matter area appears as poorly done as Mann’s thoroughly discredited hockey stick.


  10. “The SKS kerfuffle proves the survey was not as represented in the paper. That comprises clear academic misconduct.”

    Ordinarily, Ristvan, yes but not necessarily in this example. It was unfortunate that the Good Doctor made up that bit about having data from a non-existent SkS survey but does that really matter?

    As a, or even the, leading academician in his field in addition to his deep understanding of matters climatic he, to put it into the crude vernacular “Don’t need no stinking evidence”. Rest assured that if he had actual data it would have been no different from that which he was able to surmise; he is a psychologist, doncha know.


  11. Here is the email I sent to the editor:

    Dear Professor Lyndsay

    I note that at the end of your editorial Replication in Psychological
    you invite comments by email.

    I write to draw your attention to an article “Distorted universities need a reality check” in the Sydney Morning Herald,
    which highlights your journal and one particular article.

    If you are to improve the low regard in which your field is held, particularly by many in the physical sciences, you will need to take more concrete action than award “badges” to authors who provide full raw data and “encourage” authors to produce scatter plots. You also need to address the political bias embedded in the field highlighted by the SMH article.

    I have writtten a blog post about this at which you would be welcome to comment.


    I had a short reply saying that he agreed we should be careful about bias and that if I wanted to write a comment he’d make sure it got a fair hearing.


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