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Lew Unblocked

Back when I was allowed to comment at the Conversation on their articles about Climate Change (and French and Italian politics, modern dance and veganism), their second- and third-most prolific authors were Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook, with forty-odd articles apiece.

Lew’s forty articles span April 2011 to August 2016, followed by a long “pause” (or “hiatus” as we literary critics say) until August 2018, when he came back with this:

There’s a psychological link between conspiracy theories and creationism

The article starts with a critique of teleology:

Ask a three-year-old why they think it’s raining, and she may say “because the flowers are thirsty” … But .. rain clouds do not drop water with an outcome in mind… Take teleology one step further, and you get Donald Trump, who thinks that global warming is an invention of the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive.

And then:

Teleological and conspiratorial thought share a number of features in common. Core to both ways of thinking is the act of giving things a purpose. Flowers supposedly produce delightful perfume in order to attract pollinators, and climate scientists supposedly invent a hoax known as climate change at the behest of the “world government” or George Soros.

And:

It is tempting to think that giraffes needed long necks to reach leaves at the top of the trees, and so evolution provided them with those long necks. This teleological notion is in conflict with the fact that natural selection had no such goal in mind. There was natural variation in the population and those animals with longer necks had greater reproductive success in an environment with tall trees. So the giraffe evolved and longer necks became standard.

(I’d have liked to come back to the subject of teleology, but it was quite well covered in the comments, to which Lewandowsky replied in a civilised fashion—which he had elsewhere promised to do as soon as substantive critics like me and Paul Matthews and Barry Woods and Foxgoose had ceased to comment at the Conversation. We were all identified in his “Recursive Fury” article as mental retards, and Lewandowsky is on record as stating that there is no point in discussing with people like us.)

Lewandowsky’s first substantive claim in this article is that:

“There is growing evidence that indulging in conspiracy theories predisposes people to reject scientific findings, from climate change to vaccinations and AIDS

Note the four links in the above claim. The first link to the “growing evidence” is to the paper: “Relationships among conspiratorial beliefs, conservatism and climate scepticism across nations where, in the abstract, we read:

the weak relationships between ideology and climate scepticism in the majority of nations suggest that there is little inherent to conspiratorial ideation or conservative ideologies that predisposes people to reject climate science.

So his first claim of “growing evidence that indulging in conspiracy theories predisposes people to reject .. climate change” is supported by reference to an article whose abstract says the opposite. Pure Lew. He has lost none of his flair.

The link to the magic words “climate change”—the first scientific finding rejected by conspiracy theory indulgers—goes to none other than NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax,” the paper which, in support of its thesis that people who question the sanity of Professor Lewandowsky and his friends also believe that Princess Diana is both alive and was murdered by her father-in-law, cites in its bibliography a couple of articles about the attitudes to AIDS of heterosexual South African males who indulge in same sex sex.

(Well, I assume they were males. I haven’t read the articles in question, and am currently viewing my access options, which will probably involve an outlay of quite a lot of of euros, when there’s so much available on similar subjects on the internet for free, if you know where to look.)

More importantly, the paper by Lewandowsky cited by Lewandowsky was not a study of “people,” as such, but, in its own words, a study of “denizens of climate blogs” or, more accurately, of “denizens of mainly Australian climate blogs devoted to countering the views of denizens of climate blogs who question the scientific theory of climate change.”

But never mind.

The link to the second scientific finding rejected by conspiracy theory indulgers—vaccinations—goes to:

Correction: The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science (Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, Klaus Oberauer) 

which reads in part:

This Correction is being published to provide a clarification regarding ethical approval for the inclusion of minors in this study, and to address concerns regarding the inclusion of age outliers in the dataset and some analyses that were discovered by a reader. The authors thank the reader for drawing this problem to our attention. In addition, the authors discovered a slight error in the specification of the single-indicator latent variable model for Conservatism, which necessitated an update of the fit statistics for two of the models and a slight change in the reported regression weights and correlations.

The dataset included two notable age outliers (reported ages 5 and 32,757) … Inspection of these two records indicated nothing unusual that would suggest or mandate their exclusion. The two outliers did not affect the summary statistics for Age but did affect that variable’s correlation with other indicators, as detailed below…

The reader thanked (but not named) for drawing attention to the fact that Lewandowsky and his fellow authors hadn’t bothered to look at the data they were reporting on is of course Jose Duarte, the heroic social scientist who is the only voice from within academia to my knowledge who has pointed out that Lew is a liar, a fraud, and a total asshole.

Nothing about vaccination there. I assume Lew linked to (Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, Klaus Oberauer) because it was his other survey-based paper designed to link conspiracy ideation with science denial, but the journal’s al-go-rhythm takes us automatically to the correction bolluxing the paper.

The link to the third scientific finding (I’ll huff and I’ll puff…) rejected by conspiracy theory indulgers is about countering AIDS denial, a brick-built scientific edifice if ever there was one. It goes to Still Crazy After All These Years: The Challenge of AIDS Denialism for Science by Nicoli Nattrass of the AIDS and Society Research Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa. It’ll cost you 42 euros to read the whole thing. I’ve read the abstract and the bibliography and the keywords, which are “Demographic Model, Western Cape Province, Boundary Work, British Broadcasting Corporation, Medical Hypothesis.” Nothing there about “indulging in conspiracy theories.” Nor is there anything in the fifteen works cited in the bibliography to suggest that the author is the slightest interested in conspiracy theories.

So, to summarise, in the first sentence of his article which makes a substantive claim, Lewandowsky supports this claim with links to four other sources, one of which is a paper written by himself which is generally agreed to be one of the worst papers ever to have been published in the social sciences; one of which is a humiliating correction made by himself to one of the second worst papers ever written in the social sciences; and the other two of which don’t seem to be world shattering additions to human knowledge, but which either contradict or don’t support the point he’s making.

He goes on with his discussion of a study into teleological thinking for a couple of more paragraphs, with a link to the excuse for his article, which is an article by some people from the University of Fribourg entitled “Creationism and conspiracism share a common teleological bias.”

It can be yours for six hours for the knockdown price of $3.99, which is a bargain when you compare it to the price of finding out what heterosexual South Africans get up to in their spare time. (What’s that fancy Greek word for people who hire out their special talents by the hour?)

And he sums up thus:

Conventionally, the use of conspiracy theories to reject scientific accounts has been explained as a way to avoid accepting an inconvenient truth.

Which is an obvious lie, since conventionally nothing of the sort has been done, unless by “conventionally” is meant “by Lewandowsky and his associates.”

And the link at “has been explained” is to “Motivated Rejection of Science” by Stephan Lewandowsky and Klaus Oberauer, which I can access for one whole day for $35. A snip, if you like that sort of thing, and you have the stamina. Here’s the abstract:

Some scientifically well-established results—such as the fact that emission of greenhouse gases produces global warming—are rejected by sizable proportions of the population in the United States and other countries. Rejection of scientific findings is mostly driven by motivated cognition: People tend to reject findings that threaten their core beliefs or worldview. At present, rejection of scientific findings by the U.S. public is more prevalent on the political right than the left. Yet the cognitive mechanisms driving rejection of science, such as the superficial processing of evidence toward the desired interpretation, are found regardless of political orientation. General education and scientific literacy do not mitigate rejection of science but, rather, increase the polarization of opinions along partisan lines. In contrast, specific knowledge about the mechanisms underlying a scientific result—such as human-made climate change—can increase the acceptance of that result.

Six sentences with six explicit claims. With the proviso that the authors’ implicit definitions of certain ill-defined terms (“scientifically well-established results,” “scientific findings,” rejection of science,” “scientific result”) are open to interpretation, a reasonable person can reasonably agree with the six claims made in the abstract of (Lewandowsky, Oberauer 2016.)

If you’re living in the kind of world described by Orwell in “1984,” where the official propaganda is that “truth is lies” and “war is peace” then, objectively, you can be brought to agree that, yes, in the context in which words are being used here, war really is peace, and truth really is lies. But that doesn’t mean that Big Brother is objectively loveable. Merely that the system is such that we are being encouraged to love Big Brother.

Luckily, our world isn’t that described by Orwell, but nearer to that described by L. Frank Baum, full of straw men and cowardly lions. And the Wizard of Oz, despite his gold medal from the Royal Society, is not Big Bother.

Where’s Toto when we need him?

 

42 thoughts on “Lew Unblocked

  1. But .. rain clouds do not drop water with an outcome in mind… Take teleology one step further, and you get Donald Trump, who thinks that global warming is an invention of the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive.

    Because crediting the Chinaman with purposeful agency is like attributing that power to rainclouds. Absurd.

    Because the fallacy is so common it even has a name: anthropomorphising.

    Because a (N=1) skull discovered in the Gobi Desert shows that the Chinaman’s ancestor had such a prominent ideational lobe that, between it and the ideological gyrus, there was almost no volume left over for the cognitive cortex. As paleontologist Richard Seepy concludes in his widely-believed book Leakage, “homo hancestor must therefore have been a climate-denying mongoloid.”

    Because to him who says phrenology is dead, I say: yeah right. My frenum it is.

    Because a chorus of vocal “skeptics” thought nothing of dedicating a year of their lives to threatening the publishers of Leakage with legal language like “factually incorrect” and “crock of… not true.” All with the apparent aim of getting the author to admit, as he eventually did, like any good scientist would, that he’d made a mistake and that the skull never existed.

    Because these “skeptics” proceeded to crow loudly and illegitimately about their “victory” on non-peer-reviewed blogs.

    As if one data point proves anything!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Geoff,

    “(What’s that fancy Greek word for people who hire out their special talents by the hour?)”

    πόρνη. Is that really what you meant? It’s not as “fancy” as the Latinate prostitute but it has given us some good roots.

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  3. “The first link to the “growing evidence” is to the paper: “Relationships among conspiratorial beliefs, conservatism and climate scepticism across nations where, in the abstract, we read:”

    Why bother reading the Abstract when the authors are so pignorant that they get “conspiracist” and “conspiratorial” mixed up?

    Lew must be one of the few academics capable of making mistakes in the title of his papers. “NASA faked the moon landing, therefore I’m statistically more likely to be a believer than a denier, if anything.”

    But it’s hard to object to this title, which tells us more than Lewandowsky seems to realize:

    “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science (Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, Klaus Oberauer)”

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  4. “Rejection of scientific findings is mostly driven by motivated cognition:”

    Rejection of scientific findings is mostly motivated by driven cognition.

    See, I can play Random Article Generator too.

    “Teleological and conspiratorial thought share a number of features in common.”

    Well, thank God they don’t share a number of conflicting features. I hate when that happens.

    Perhaps Lew would be happier in a job that didn’t require the use of wurdz. Wurdz r hard.

    Brad

    PS Please don’t tell Lew that teleology is the study of goals, not the attribution of goals to things that don’t actually have any.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Why Oh why did you employ the title you have? Why deliberately use the word “unblocked?” Now for the rest of the day I shall be haunted by a vision of a fatberg shaped like Lewandowsky.

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  6. Alan

    In one of the threads where a number of us were discussing Lew in tedious detail, someone (an Australian?) interjected:

    “What a floater.”

    Another image you won’t get out of your mind easily.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “Circular reasoning”, “prejudicial and inflammatory”, and of course “infantilism” all come to mind when one reads Lewandowsky.
    It seems like he really targets his market to speak to their expectations and especially their capabilities.
    It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to see him clearly.
    But then climate extremism is a progressive disorder, damaging more and more areas of thought to sustain the core belief.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hunter,

    this may be the understatement of the debate:

    ” But then climate extremism is a progressive disorder, damaging more and more areas of thought to sustain the core belief.”

    Indeed. Our enemies (sorry Andy; our opponents) are walking stools who don’t have a leg to stand on, but rather than admit it they’ve proven willing to sabotage anything civilization holds dear, from logic to the scientific method to to… well, after that, what else is left?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The good prof. clearly cares about CAGW, & does not recognise that could cause a lack of objectivity. You might as well get a vegan prof. to investigate why carnivores think those irrational things that they do (like that the slab of flesh they are troughing came from an animal which had a happy life gambolling about in buttercup-sprinkled fields).

    He mentions creationism as if it is an intellectual flat earth, but I presume he is happy to allow general belief in an interventionist god, the kind that was disproved by Darwin a century & a half ago. The other two items are so far out there that climate scepticism seems to have been shown a black hankie for stealing a loaf of multigrain bread.

    But, like a slipper-wielding ogre running around the kitchen, he holds the centre ground. No-one is likely to listen to the roaches hiding under the fridge.

    I can’t explain to acquaintances about these psychological shenanigans without them glazing over. Nor can I get them to latch onto the idea that you can generate a hockey stick by ex-post selection of random structured noise. If I tell them that renewables are, alas, never going to power an industrial nation, the response is polite but I can hear the cogs whirring, and the computer is spitting out a bit of tape that reads “everyone else thinks they can, this guy has forgotten his tin-foil hat.” If I say there was this guy who pretended to be someone else to get these documents, & was disappointed by what they said, & sexed them up, & got found out (but went for the ol’ modified limited hangout confession), & who has now won a prize – well, it’s too far into the weeds. A noble band of sceptics are obsessed by these things, but no-one else is.

    What sceptics need is a Darwin, someone to make it respectable to be a sceptic. At the moment the d-word has been extended to people who actually accept most of what the IPCC says, if mebbe low-balling the ECS. Somebody of standing would make the difference – crack the whole edifice. At the moment I would prefer Radio 4 to play the rustling of a gang of terrified Blatta to interviewing Lord Lawson.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. JIT

    we’ll never have a Darwin in the true sense because Darwin had a unifying theory. We don’t. Neither did the doubters of eugenics. We just know the fashionable paradigm is gangrenously wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. JIT

    Lewandowsky “clearly cares”? I don’t know about that.

    He strikes me as an opportunist with no a priori affinity for the CAGWist ideology. If we were the side that had the cultural power to jeer and defame and silence the other side, he’d join us in a heartbeat, I suspect. If I had to place a wager on who’s sincere about CAGW, I would NOT back the guy who artlessly blurted out that “life has become an endless series of airline tickets.”

    Nor would I bet on any climate scientist’s sincerity, for the reason I recently put to Andy West: they’re scientists and must know better.

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  12. The thought that he might not get high on his own supply had never entered my head. No-one would make such accusations about people unless they really believed they were irrational… or would they…?

    No, we’ll never have a Darwin, & that is wishful thinking. I’d settle for a scienced-up Robin of Loxley.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Geoff,
    Thank you for pointing out how it takes a deeply damaged culture to support the Lysenko of climate science.
    Although to be fair, Lew produces his work to silence and limit thought.
    Lewandowsky is not clever enough to actually do climate science.
    But he is clever enough to do really bad work dressed up as science.
    And the damaged culture laps up Lew’s output like dogs to offal.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. JIT (11 Nov 18 at 7:06 pm)

    I can’t explain to acquaintances about these psychological shenanigans without them glazing over… I can hear the cogs whirring … “this guy has forgotten his tin-foil hat.” If I say there was this guy who pretended to be someone else to get these documents… – well, it’s too far into the weeds. A noble band of sceptics are obsessed by these things, but no-one else is.

    What sceptics need is a Darwin, someone to make it respectable to be a sceptic.

    I can’t recommend highly enough “Darwin A Life in Poems” by Ruth Padel. This 140 page poetic biography was made possible by the fact that Darwin left a huge body of unpublished notes and letters, and that his prose is crystal clear and can therefore frequently be quoted verbatim within the structure of a poem – which doesn’t detract from Ruth Padel’s achievement in turning it into what I think is a great work of art.

    I’ve often thought that a long poem might be the best form to put the sceptic case. You can be very crude in a long poem, (see Christopher Logue’s translation of the Iliad, or Ezra Pound’s splendid dirty joke in Canto 12) and since Pound you can put Chinese characters or musical notation, so why not mathematical formulae or URLs?

    There are other forms too which one might imagine. Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was made into an opera. Another possibility might be a monologue along the lines of Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman” or Nijinsky’s diary. The problem there is that you’d probably have to really go mad once you’ve written it. I’ll give it some thought.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The Metamorphosis, except our hero wakes up as a climate scientist? Or a species of Freaky Friday, where a climate scientist and a den1er bang heads in a lift & swap bodies? I’m not much into opera, saving the overtures – prefer prog rock. But while it is easy to make a prog album about the end of the world, it is not so easy to make a prog album about the end of the world not happening.

    You could fit the readers of poetry on the Clapham omnibus. No doubt having read the Epic, they would then commandeer the bus and drive it to Downing St, demanding answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. JIT (12 Nov 18 at 9:50 pm)

    You could fit the readers of poetry on the Clapham omnibus.

    So you could. I’m a big believer in keeping in mind questions of scale. When Lewandowsky talks about “climate deniers”, he never bothers to define whether he’s talking about the few billion inhabitants of the planet who, according to opinion polls, distrust the consensus, or the few hundred thousand “denizens of climate blogs” who recognise him for the charlatan he is.

    Similarly, there’s a decision to be made about whether you want to grab immediate attention by producing the YouTube video which gets a million views tomorrow, or win the longterm argument in thirty years’ time by appealing to those mythical Clapham dozen denizens.

    [I once saw Samuel Beckett on the top of the bus (number 13?) from Golders Green to Baker Street. He got off at St John’s Wood. Only later did I read that he was a passionate fan of first class cricket, and was no doubt on his way to Lord’s. Michael Mann is not the only Nobel Laureate who has his frailties.]

    Your comment that we need a Darwin struck a chord, because my tentative efforts to find an explanation for the mass hysteria which is climate “science” leads me to explore in an amateur way the different ways scientific (scratch that – “intellectual”) advances are received over time.

    When Darwin published there were perhaps only a few hundred people in the world capable of commenting intelligently on his ideas, and a few thousand with the intellectual capacity and social authority to be heard, a significant number of whom were in the church.

    When Freud published his theories, there were already millions of people capable of understanding them, including the whole of educated Vienna. Within a few years, and despite an intervening world war, the few hundred thousand artists and intellectuals whose opinions counted had formed an opinion thereon, and the world followed suit.

    If you have an original idea today, several hundred million people across the internet will be delivering their thumbs up or down within hours. “How many NGOs does the Pope have?” asked Stalin. (Well, he didn’t. But if he had done, he might not be where he is now.)

    On top of a Clapham Omnibus, at least you’re above the fray.

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  17. Geoff. So much more erudite than I could ever manage. Jit mentions a Clapham omnibus load of poets and you come up with a mini essay relevant to our task of climate commentary. An effort capped by a reference to Samuel Beckett. I, on the other hand, am reminded of Cliff Richard in “Summer Holiday”, but fortunately for you lot, I couldn’t figure a link to climate apostasy (until now).
    But then, how many people remember Samuel Beckett as opposed to the “Livin Doll”.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Geoff:

    The speed / reach (increased by writing, then printing, then in more limited ways telegraph, then the internet), and scale (increasing with population), and to a partial extent balanced (you need more reach to address the same proportion of a much bigger population), are not fundamental to understanding what’s going on (similar phenomena have occurred in all eras with all the above technologies, and before). As an example there was no internet when eugenics rose up in the early twentieth century and, allied with other cultural narratives not originating in science, resulted in very major downsides (and in this case it rose on a similar timescale to the social phenomenon of CAGW too). The explanations for the ‘mass hysteria’ and the entanglement of science issues with culture, are invariant of speed and scale (group-think occurs at any scale from a handful of people upwards, probably with no upper bound, although due to polarizing effects, also no group-think concept captures the entire of any population). Which is not to say that each technology as it comes along doesn’t have a major impact as it ripples out in society from it’s first deployment, upsetting prior balances that may take a very long while to reach some new kind of equilibrium.

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  19. Geoff,

    “Your comment that we need a Darwin struck a chord, because my tentative efforts to find an explanation for the mass hysteria which is climate “science” leads me to explore in an amateur way the different ways scientific (scratch that – “intellectual”) advances are received over time.”

    Here is some light reading for you (pdf available to download):

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249802596_A_General_Theory_of_ScientificIntellectual_Movements

    I do not necessarily endorse the theory, but I recognize its relevance to your interest.

    Like

  20. ANDYWEST2012 (13 Nov 18 at 10:52 am)

    The speed / reach… and scale… are not fundamental to understanding what’s going on (similar phenomena have occurred in all eras with all the above technologies, and before)…

    The explanations for the ‘mass hysteria’ and the entanglement of science issues with culture, are invariant of speed and scale (group-think occurs at any scale from a handful of people upwards, probably with no upper bound…)

    I expect you’re right, but that means we lack an explanation as to why some cults take off and others remain minority interests. The fact that you can draw interesting parallels between the views expressed at the summits of the UN, Royal Society, WHO etc. and the behaviour of a dozen hippies sitting on a mountain top clutching a Mayan calendar is interesting, but of no help, either in understanding how we got up there, or how to get back down again.

    I suspect that the reasons for climate alarmism (I mean reasons for its near 100% acceptance at all levels of society) have little to do with the arguments made by experts, but have deep roots in our social (or collective) unconscious. Something is acting over the very long term which we can only just perceive and which is beyond all logical explanation. It’s like the irrational urge to invade the Middle East every so often, or to take some absurd action over the Crimea to teach the Russians a lesson, as in the 1850s and the 1920s. Perhaps the British determination to lose yet another war in Afghanistan is because we confuse them with that other eccentric mountain tribe, the Welsh? And the ludicrous high speed train link between Birmingham and London – what is that but the desire to link Mercia (the most important of the seven Saxon Kingdoms) with the North Sea? The hysteria provoked by the millennium bug of 1000 A.D. was also accompanied by strange portents in the sky.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Geoff:

    “I expect you’re right, but that means we lack an explanation as to why some cults take off and others remain minority interests.”

    Well we’re not completely in the dark, but for sure there is a very long way to go. Because these are emergent phenomena in a wicked system, rather like the climate we can understand the underlying mechanisms fairly well yet still get completely wrong which of many potential storms will strengthen next and to what extent. And we don’t yet understand the mechanisms that well either. The more existential a cultural narrative comes across, the more it will spread, yet also they can create their own existentiality (e.g. sin and final judgement), so why do some create it better than others? The more authority they infect, the greater their consequent chances (and science is a great authority source). The better a cultural narrative can re-brand old memes in a shiny new and highly emotive package, the higher its chances. The more it can hide behind unresolvable uncertainties, the better for it, and beyond a certain threshold it will have structures in place that heavily impede any resolution. But I guess the biggest issue to prediction is that the winners likely exploit a direction society is primed for anyhow (e.g. maybe we were primed for monotheism due to increasing group sizes and weaknesses in most of the multi-god systems for coping with same).

    I think the mechanisms are deep (via gene-culture co-evolution, rooted in DNA), but not the reasons for any particular case. I’d guess that the longevity associated with the Crimea and the Middle East is that these are still the cultural and geographical nexuses / flash-points they were centuries and millennia ago respectively, not anything inside us. So the urge to get involved probably only reflects our generic urge to still swing our weight about despite being about 60 years and more post empire.

    “…which is beyond all logical explanation.”

    I don’t think anything is beyond logical explanation 🙂 However, this doesn’t mean we necessarily get to find out something specific in our lifetime, or many lifetimes 0:

    “The hysteria provoked by the millennium bug of 1000 A.D. was also accompanied by strange portents in the sky.”

    Well for sure we can quite quickly believe in any old guff as a herd. But there is a hierarchy too. In the end the millennium bug was but a flicker compared to the social phenomenon of CAGW, which is still not much more than a flicker compared to say Catholicism so far, albeit that one is now in its winter.

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  22. Like religion, socialism, anti-semitism and ecologism in the past, Lewandowsky has given the world a powerful meme, which works like a virus on the brain. Only real scepticism is a good antidote again such a meme that takes over rational thinking.

    Lewandowsky is poison.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Consider, climate alarmism may already have deployed several “Darwins”, or perhaps even a “James Hutton”.

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  24. Has Dawkins ever had the… er… reproductive equipment to take an *unpopular* stance? Being an atheist climate alarmist is the definition of the path of least resistance in the UK today.

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  25. ‘BTW Dawkins is a climate alarmist.’

    Yes. Deeply ironic. There were many names put forward over many years before he won the competition with his great label ‘memes’. However, quite apart from the climate thing, his ‘militant atheism’ appears to indicate poor grasp of the higher level structures which memes support, including religions, which he is opposing without apparent regard for why people are adherents and the deeply embedded communal thinking that humans engage in, and in a manner that also risks the same mechanisms hi-jacking the atheism he promotes. And too it seems, not seeing that these same mechanisms can support ‘secular religions’ too, per the climate domain. He ‘despises’ religion, but if you try and fight a culture with it’s own methods, not only will you soon be involuntarily within your own culture (presumably not at all what was intended), you’ll likely lose anyhow, because in the early part of the fight where you are still trying to do this consciously, culture has about 100 million years start on you (when primates first arose).

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  26. Andy,

    I wouldn’t assume Dawkins wants to “win” the war on religion. Maybe he does—but then who would there be to sneer at?

    It reminds me of an argument I had with an alarmist who struck me as rather too fond of the fight to risk winning it:
    ____________________

    “It’s not about convincing deniers – most of them have long been bought & paid for.”

    You’re alleging the best-kept secret ever in the history of massive conspiracies. You’re alleging that hundreds of millions of people (most deniers) have been bought and paid for, and that this colossal bribery campaign was carried off so successfully that none of them has ever broken ranks and admitted its existence.

    No-one has ever admitted it. Anywhere in the world.

    Your theory is what psychiatrists would call a specific bizarre psychosis.

    “It’s about not letting them derail the efforts to mitigate global warming by controlling the debate and confusing the uninformed.”

    But your efforts to mitigate global warming couldn’t possibly be derailed by anything I say. If you believe there’s a problem, then cut your own damn fossil fuel use. If you’ve got half the population’s support then you can practically halve the species’ carbon footprint overnight, which would more than meet every political target you keep setting. Problem solved.

    The fact that you don’t simply do this, when it would be the easiest thing in the world, is quite revealing.

    It tells me that you don’t really believe there is a problem.

    “That’s a fight that’s been going on a long time and is far from over.”

    But isn’t the climate going to start getting worse? Aren’t extreme weather events going to start becoming more severe and frequent? Isn’t water shortage due to global warming going to cause an increase in African armed conflict?

    When that happens you’ll win hundreds millions of converts to climate alarm overnight.

    So what makes you so pessimistic? Again, the answer is obvious: you DON’T genuinely believe that the Earth has a fever or that the atmosphere is going to go to hell any time soon. You say you believe this, but you’re not even convincing yourself, so what makes you think you can convince me? Unlike you, I have no great desire to believe in the apocalypse. The thought isn’t attractive to me, as it is to you.

    “We’re all in this together so there’s only so much mess I can mop up while you’re still shitting on the floor.”

    That scatological allegory makes no sense. You don’t HAVE to clean up anyone else’s mess, you just have to refrain from MAKING any yourself. (You and the rest of the 50% of people who agree with you, I mean.) Then the floor will become 50% less shitty overnight—the cleanest it’s been in decades.

    Again, problem solved.

    You don’t want to do this, though, do you? You’d rather use the existence of people like me as an excuse for your own inaction. After all, as long as “climate denialism” is a major force, it (somehow) makes your own sacrifices futile—which is convenient, because as long as they’re futile, they’re unnecessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Hans,

    Thank you. I left a comment at Andy’s excellent site about it. Perhaps I should have addressed it to present company.

    But it reminds me: I was blocked at Tamino’s site (after it became clear I was only going to embarrass him) for the made-up offence of “nitpicking” vis a vis denial vs denialism. That was too pedantic for an allegedly university-educated blogger to handle.

    These people are to English what… well, they are to science.

    Like

  28. For the record, I have no problem admitting to denial (of the things I deny), whereas denialism is an insulting allegation because it implies disbelief for the sake of disbelief.

    It won’t surprise anyone to learn that the concept is used exclusively by believalists (the equal-but-opposite insult).

    Like

  29. Brad:

    My much neglected blog has answered. Everything goes to flag approval there as I did’t really expect much traffic and didn’t set up an algorithm. It’s also missing some posts I meant to mirror, and needs a complete change of template (WordPress no longer support its template for modern handheld devices).

    Like

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