Several commenters (Jaime Jessop, Ristvan, ROY) have suggested that it’s a waste of time analysing the output of Lew and Co. Best treat it as a joke. I’ve given the matter much thought, and decided that I don’t agree. We have to beat them at their own game by providing a serious thoughtful deconstruction of their theses. Hence I’m going to propose a thorough critique of the article for publication at Synthese. (Gosh, imagine if I could get published in a prestigious philosophy journal, fifty years after scraping through a philosophy degree at a university that boasts Christopher (‘Chris’) Rapley as Professor of Climate Science!) Here’s my draft. I hope I’ve hit the right note.
The abstract to this article identifies a group of critics of climate science:
“People who oppose this scientific body of knowledge because the implications of cutting GHG emissions […] threaten their worldview or livelihood..”
“oppose whatever inconvenient finding they are confronting in piece-meal fashion, rather than systematically”
and whose discourse is therefore full of contradictions, such as:
“claims that the globe ‘is cooling’ [which] can coexist with claims that the ‘observed warming is natural’ and that ‘the human influence does not matter because warming is good for us’.”
The abstract goes on to observe that:
“Coherence between these mutually contradictory opinions can only be achieved at a highly abstract level, namely that ‘something must be wrong’ with the scientific evidence in order to justify a political position against climate change mitigation. This high-level coherence accompanied by contradictory subordinate propositions is a known attribute of conspiracist ideation, and conspiracism may be implicated when people reject well-established scientific propositions.”
The idea that “mutually contradictory opinions” can become “coherent” “at a highly abstract level” is not immediately clear to this reader. However, the authors go on to explain what they mean:
“…namely that ‘something must be wrong’ with the scientific evidence in order to justify a political position against climate change mitigation. This high-level coherence accompanied by contradictory subordinate propositions is a known attribute of conspiracist ideation, and conspiracism may be implicated when people reject well-established scientific propositions.”
To summarise: The article claims that there are:
“People who oppose this scientific body of knowledge because the implications of cutting GHG emissions […] threaten their worldview or livelihood..” who contradict themselves, and who resolve the contradiction by attacking the science, thus revealing themselves to be “conspiracy ideationists”.
In the introduction to the article this group is further defined as:
“..a small but vocal group of contrarian voices [existing] mainly outside the scientific community—that deny that greenhouse gases cause climate change or that dismiss the risk of adverse consequences, [whose] dissent almost never finds expression in the peer-reviewed literature, and when it does, the research typically does not withstand scrutiny. Instead, the staging ground for climate science denial tends to involve internet blogs and other social media.”
The article continues:
“…there is growing evidence for an involvement of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of climate science, both in public discourse and on internet blogs…”
The sole sources cited for this “growing evidence” are three articles by Stephan Lewandowsky et al. In at least two cases, [the Springer site is currently down, so I can’t check the third] it seems that no-one has ever cited these articles, except Stephan Lewandowsky.
The article continues:
“In this article, we broaden the enquiry of conspiracist ideation to an analysis of the (pseudo-) scientific arguments that are advanced against the scientific consensus on climate change, and how they contrast with the positions of the scientific mainstream.”
In fact, there is no “analysis of the (pseudo-) scientific arguments that are advanced against the scientific consensus on climate change” in the sense of a discussion of the truth or plausibility of the arguments. Instead, there is a detailed list (section 1.3: “Alice-in-Wonderland states of denial”) of seven pairs of purportedly contradictory statements which are unattributed, but stated (without reference) to be “found in contrarian discourse.” This is followed by Table 1 which lists nineteen other pairs of unattributed contradictory statements, and Table 2, which lists nine pairs of contradictory statements made by the same person.
The nineteen pairs of statements in Table 1 are not quotes from named individuals, but brief summaries of possible positions which are either clearly not contradictory, or so vague that it is impossible to say whether they are contradictory or not.
The nine pairs of statements in Table 2 are quotes attributed to specific individuals, namely Professor Ian Plimer (three times), Professor John Christy (once) Anthony Watts (twice) and Chrstopher Monckton (three times). None of them are prima facie self contradictory. They are from varying sources. A statement in an article of which Watts is a second co-author is claimed to be in contradiction with a statement by Watts in a TV interview.
Here appears a major flaw in the paper. At no point is any evidence produced to indicate that Anthony Watts, Christopher Monckton, Professor John Christy, or Professor Ian Plimer are “people who oppose this scientific body of knowledge because the implications of cutting GHG emissions […] threaten their worldview or livelihood..”. There therefore exists no logical connection between the thesis proposed and the evidence produced to support it. The paper is therefore worthless.
Which is perhaps just as well, since such an accusation aimed at Christy, Monckton, Plimer and Watts would be patently false, and therefore defamatory. Two of the authors, Lewandowsky and his boy Cook, have already had a paper retracted because of its false and defamatory allegations against numerous individuals, including Watts.
Having presented the evidence, the authors, before outlining their findings, quite correctly, consider a possible objection to their thesis:
“Our analysis was performed at the aggregate level; that is, we considered the incoherence of collective argumentation among a “community” of like-minded individuals as if it were a single intellectual entity. It is possible, therefore, that individuals within this community would only hold one or the other of two incoherent views, and that each person considered in isolation would not be incoherent. In that case, one could argue that there is merely a heterogeneity of views in the ‘community’ of denialists, which might in turn be interpreted as being an indication of ‘healthy debate’ or ‘scientific diversity’ rather than incoherence.”
Indeed one could argue thus. And one does. That’s how we argue at Cliscep.com. That’s how Socrates argued, and that’s how Karl Popper argued in “The Open Society and Its Enemies” when he advocated “critical dualism”, or the necessity of distinguishing between the laws of science and the arbitrary rules of primitive societies, tyrannical jobsworths, fascists and religious fundamentalists.
The authors continue:
“We reject both the possibility and its hypothetical implication.”
Well, you would, wouldn’t you, you slimy little shits. Because the very idea that people might have differing views is such anathema that you think that merely demonstrating that some of the people who think that you’re a bunch of pathetic arseholes sometimes say things that are not in accordance with what some other people say (who also think that you’re a bunch of pathetic arseholes) somehow proves that you’re not a bunch of pathetic arseholes. And that by adding the names of Watts, Monckton, Christy and Plimer to a rehash of a blog article by Nazi crossdresser Cook and using the good offices of philosopher and female orgasm expert Lloyd to get published in a journal of epistemology you can further your nasty fascist project of keeping scepticism out of the public eye.
Well it doesn’t and you can’t.
This article is a disgrace to an International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science. The editors and reviewers who passed it should sack themselves. Since academic independence is one of our most precious guarantees of freedom of thought, Lewandowsky Cook and Lloyd should be allowed to remain at their posts at their respective prestigious universities, to be ridiculed and jeered at until their retirement as the pathetic establishment-arse-licking charlatans that they are.
Dear Synthese, An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science,
I would appreciate it if you would publish this correction, prior to your retraction of Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J. & Lloyd, E. Synthese (2016). My fees are 500 US Dollars per thousand words, but I’ll settle for four hundred if you’ll put in a plug for our site cliscep.com. Thanks in anticipation,