A new paper, Science and the Public: Debate, Denial, and Skepticism, has appeared in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, whose URL psychopen may be interpreted in more than one way.
The authors are award-winning charlatan Stephan Lewandowsky and widely-respected fraud Michael Mann, with Nicholas Brown and Harris Friedman on board to give the venture some credibility. (If it achieves nothing else, the exercise will go down as a model for how pseudoscientists might fruitfully work with experts from outside the pseudoscience world.)
Alas, the article itself is basically a vehicle for Lewandowsky to increase his self-fertilisation index while regurgitating the familiar prejudices. It adds precisely zero to the climate conversation—something of a personal best for Steve, who’s better known for subtracting from it. As such we doubt this particular piece will be retracted. That it will be universally detracted, however, is on the cards.
The article climaxes with a patronizing list of guidelines for members of the public on how to communicate with academics. This is followed by a less-patronizing version for academics in case they ever wish to communicate in the other direction for some reason.
The authors put the central problem thus:
How can scientists facilitate debate but resist denial?
In other words: How do we host a big debate without risking the Negative team showing up?
In order to achieve this delicate balancing act, which has eluded science’s worst minds for days, the authors apparently turned to the world of blog censorship. From there they lift a number of constructs that will be all too familiar to victims of online climate deletionism. Phrases like constructive criticism and legitimate grievances (which can be put up with) are opposed to bad faith criticism and trolling (which can’t, because scientists are cowards). Further research is urgently indicated to determine what, if anything, these nebulous idioms mean; in the meantime we’ll just have to guess.
One gets the feeling—how to put it nicely?—that the authors didn’t think this through particularly well. Their Conclusions, for instance, begin with the inadvertent admission that
Science is debate.
I’ll be sure to remember this equation next time someone says “there’s no real debate in the climate literature” or climatologists “are no longer debating.” Algebra just got fun!
In terms of own-goals there’s an embarrassment of riches here.
Michael Mann on FOI, 2007:
I would not respond to this. They will misrepresent and take out of context anything you give them. This is a set up. They will certainly publish this, and will ignore any evidence to the contrary that you provide. … I have been talking w/ folks in the States about finding an investigative journalist to investigate and expose McIntyre, and his thusfar unexplored connections with fossil fuel interests.
Michael Mann on FOI, 2016:
Scientists should assume that requests for data or clarification are made in good faith and are reasonable. Scientists should also generally not be concerned about the motives of the requestor as simple disagreement must not preclude access to data.
Stephan Lewandowsky on the skeptical community, 2011:
Engagement, in my view, is not a solution but just an enormous waste of time.
Stephan Lewandowsky on the increasingly-skeptical community, 2016:
Scientists should assume that a constructive dialogue with an interlocutor is possible. We believe that most members of the public who approach a researcher do so with the intention of constructive dialogue.
Lord, make my enemies ridic—oh. Never mind.
If you enjoy Science and the Public: Debate, Denial, and Skepticism there’s a whole stack of other skepticism-promoting literature we can lend you.