Alarmists have no shame

Our old friend Stephan Lewandowsky is at it again. He has a piece over at The Drum talking about misinformation.

The rapid spread of misinformation and its subsequent resistance to correction routinely inflicts contemporary societies …

There are several ways in which the effectiveness of a rebuttal can be enhanced, three of which are particularly noteworthy.

People can disregard misinformation if they are suspicious of the motives underlying its introduction. …

Alternatively, a correction must be accompanied by an explanation of why a piece of information was incorrect. …

Another tool for effective rebuttal involves the use of graphs …

Perhaps he could spend some time explaining why climate change ‘deniers’ are not paedophiles.

ROBYN Williams: NOW what if I told you pedophilia is good for children or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthma? Or that smoking crack is a normal part, and a healthy one, of teenage life and to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths again and again in recent times, distorting the science (of climate change).

Stephan Lewandowsky: There seems to be something about an extreme free-market ideology that prevents some people from accepting scientific evidence. I think there are some spokespeople out there for anti-scientific positions who claim to have a left-wing Marxist background, but when you look at the population at large in a large sample of people, then you don’t find them. And that probably means one of two things. Either the numbers of these people are so small that you just have to be extremely lucky to find one, maybe one in a hundred thousand, or that their claimed political affiliation is not as left-wing as they make out.

Extra credit for using graphs.

Then there is his “research” into faked moon landings and other things.

It seems though, once you scratch the surface of Lewandowsky’s paper, that it is nothing more than a journal sanctioned smear of climate skeptics based on not only faulty data, but data gathered with a built in bias.

But who are we to criticise? Lewandowsky tells he “was awarded a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award by the Australian Research Council in 2011.” The criteria for that is:

The DORAs provide opportunities for mid to late career research-only and teaching and research academics. There are no restrictions in relation to time since award of PhD, and selection is based on the needs of the project in addition to the excellence of the researcher.

The Project? A cool $765,000 over three years for:

Project Summary
Intelligence is correlated with learning but uncorrelated with most aspects of expertise. Why is this so? Why does the role of intelligence diminish as one becomes more expert at a task? This project examines a broad range of cognitive tasks to provide a concise mathematical description of how intelligence relates to expertise.

A mathematical model of learning by doing.

Then there is this bit of hypocrisy:

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, a researcher of climate change denial at the Cognitive Science Laboratories at the University of Western Australia, said the premature leak of the report was “dishonourable.”

“Science is one of the most transparent endeavours humans have ever developed. However, for the transparency to be effective, preliminary documents ought to remain confidential until they have been improved and checked through peer review,” he said in an emailed comment.

“The leak of a draft report by a reviewer who has signed a statement of confidentiality is therefore regrettable and dishonourable.”

To be transparent documents must be confidential? It is dishonourable to leak? Here is his defence of Peter Gleick.

But it does mean that one’s ethical concerns should consider competing actions and outcomes rather than focusing on an individual’s chosen action in isolation.

Gleick has apologised for his use of subterfuge. His actions have violated the confidentiality of a think tank but they have also given the public a glimpse into the inner workings of the climate denial machine.

Had he not done so, no one’s confidentiality would have been violated, but then the public would have been kept guessing about the internal workings of one of the world’s most notorious serial impersonators of science.

Here is the Bunyip’s take down of that nonsense.

When it comes to Lewandowsky do I follow his first principle:

… disregard misinformation if … suspicious of the motives underlying its introduction.

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63 Responses to Alarmists have no shame

  1. If you’re going to have someone come in to chat about misinformation, you may as well get an expert.

  2. JC

    I agree with whisperer. “Lew” is the best person to discuss misinformtion, generalized lying, biased research, which in old days used to be called propaganda and stiffing the taxpayer. I think you have this one wrong Sinc. 🙂

  3. Sinclair Davidson

    JC – I agree he is an expert is misinformation (and what does his own research then say about his intelligence 🙂 ).

  4. “Here is the Bunyip’s take down of that nonsense.”

    I just followed the link. Seriously, you couldn’t invent a face like that even if you were trying to concoct the worlds greatest buffoon.

  5. Poor Old Rafe

    On the topic of people “who claim to have a left-wing Marxist background, but when you look at the population at large in a large sample of people, then you don’t find them…Either the numbers of these people are so small that you just have to be extremely lucky to find one, maybe one in a hundred thousand, or that their claimed political affiliation is not as left-wing as they make out.”

    “Progressive left” and Marxist ideas and misconceptions like the horrors of ‘unrestrained capitalism” and the need for militant trade unions to control nasty managers have spread so widely that they infect most people of all political denominations.

    So it is hard to get support for good policies in the non-Labor parties.

    That is why a top prioritiy is to cut off the flow of indoctrination and disinformation in the classrooms of the nation.

  6. Rafe, I support public education and hospitals, so wouldn’t that make a no more than centre-right, being social policies after all. Yet I would expect to be labelled a “far-right neocon extremist” by the left if I was a politician. That would make them far-left neomarxist extremists to hold such views, am I right?

  7. Make “me”, dammit. Stupid iPhone spellchecker…

  8. Greg

    Lewandowsky says graphs change people’s minds but chooses carefully the one to use- a prediction without history. How convenient.

    But like a dog returning to its vomit, the IPCC tries to Hide the Decline once again

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/30/ar5-chapter-11-hiding-the-decline-part-ii/

  9. Tom

    What needs to be examined carefully are the hundreds of thousands or millions of taxpayer dollars this Kmart academic charlatan (in my opinion) has gamed from the ARC gravy train. I am astonished that other academics at UWA in disciplines that have to fight for every dollar of research funding don’t press for a formal UWA inquiry into his shonky amateur-hour research, not to mention the fact that he has turned UWA’s reputation into that of a hicksville TAFE.

  10. Bruce of Newcastle

    Another tool for effective rebuttal involves the use of graphs …

    He has no idea. The problem for the CAGW people is the graphs tell the exact opposite story of what they want them to say.

  11. DaveF

    Is it possible to plagerise yourself? Or is it lazy thinking to repeat a messaging phrase ad nauseum.

    The Drum article

    Denial that distracts from the fact that the recently-leaked IPCC draft report concluded that it is now virtually certain that warming is caused by human activities. Virtually certain means 99 per cent certainty – that’s up from 90 per cent in the previous report.

    A Conversation article he links:

    Prof Lewandowsky said that the report’s statement that humans have caused global warming was a “virtual certainty” meant it’s authors had 99% confidence in that view.

    “That’s up from ‘very high confidence’ (90% certain) in the last report published in 2007,” he said.

    He compares the climate models to the Law of Gravity btw. This guy…

  12. Rod Clarke

    That is why a top priority is to cut off the flow of indoctrination and disinformation in the classrooms of the nation.

    Rafe is there anywhere in the nation where kids can get a proper classical education following the Trivium at primary, secondary or tertiary level? Or anywhere in the USA for that matter?

    The brainwashing that goes on in our education system is scandalous.

  13. DaveF

    Bob Brown just described Paul Watson as “the greatest environmentalist of the last hundred years”.

    That would be Paul Watson the Sea Shepherd pirate.

    FMD.

  14. William Bragg

    Amusing that, in accusing another of shamelessness, you re-raise the William’s pedophile point. Your own shamelessness on this matter is clear to all with an open mind and post-primary school English.

  15. Biota

    At the Bunyip site there is a link to a great example of settled science being unsettled. The case of quasi crystals that the great Linus Pauling dismissed a figment of the researcher’s imagination.

  16. Sinclair Davidson

    you re-raise the William’s pedophile point.

    I’m going to keep raising it.

  17. William Bragg

    As I said, shameless.

  18. JC

    Why wouldn’t he raise the attempt by Williams to equate sceptics to pedos, Braggs. That’s what the commie’s son tried to do.

    Anyways you were left a question the explain the budget last evening, so stop focusing on pedos and deal with the answer.

  19. Bruce

    WB – Oh good grief! You do know what ‘insinuation’ means don’t you? Humans have been doing this since Herod topped both his sons due to it.

    Williams’ problem is the data does not equate with his religious leanings. If I wanted religion I wouldn’t listen to Science Show I’d listen to Compass.

  20. William Bragg

    Sin wouldn’t raise it again if he were capable of appropriate shame unless he first acknowledged his error is saying that Williams’ “called” deniers pedophiles and “equated” deniers with pedophiles. Were he to acknowledge that error, he could then quite respectfully criticise Williams for the actual analogy he used.

    Alas, like The Australian and many other blinkered right-wingers, Sinc verballed Williams and has spent way too long being hot and bothered, attacking a straw man. You too, JC, conveniently misconstrued William’s remarks, but no one would ever expect you to stick to the facts. Higher standards are expected of Sinc.

  21. old bloke

    I wonder if the UWA will soon announce the establishment of a chair in Systematic Musicology. There is a certain Professor in that field who may be seeking reemployment from the University of Graz.

    What is the value of a UWA degree these days?

  22. Biota

    Lefties have this wierd condition where they can cast aspersion but not recognise it at the same time.

  23. JC

    Braggs

    The son of those communist filth equated sceptics to pedos which is basically saying they are the same. In other words Sinc is perfectly fine to suggest that the communist scum’s son is an appalling sack of dirt.

    You’re just trying to save that piece of shit’s arse because he agrees with your totalitarian views dealing with da climate.

    You shameless dirt pile Braggs. You have no standards accept when you apply them to others.

    Disgusting hypocritical asshat.

  24. JC

    There is a certain Professor in that field who may be seeking reemployment from the University of Graz.

    Judging by the uni boss’s letter he’s in deep shit. Lets hope it’s a good Xmas present.

    Austrians are seriously hypersensitive to that stuff and so they should be.

  25. Harold

    State of the Climate Change debate:

    1. In the context of global climate, 15 years is too short a period for a warming trend to rise from the noise. This is why the current lull in warming (15 years) should not be seen as a reversal of the long term warming trend.

    2. Weather-related disasters have nearly _tripled_ in the past 30 years — an insurance company tells us (and Lew) — and we’re reliably sure that temperature increase due to climate change has contributed to this.

    Are those two statements compatible? I can’t see it.

  26. entropy

    Of course they aren’t consistent, but, shut up!

    But I see your point, particularly as
    1: the lull seriously reduces the future growth in temperatures out to 2100, or at the least requiring serious revision of the models
    2: confusion of the cost of natural disasters (plus insurance company rent seeking), mainly as a result of population change and wealth, with the rate of natural disasters, which if anything, has declined.

  27. Jannie

    What is the value of a UWA degree these days?

    Its still a thing of value to some insiders, government departments etc who get free money spend on sympathetic science.

    Not sure about all Departments, but the Law School is a hostile place for anybody stupid enough to get outed as a conservative. Its post post modernist, post Orwellian. Kind of like the ABC straight into the artery.

  28. Gab

    Weather-related disasters have nearly _tripled_ in the past 30 years

    I’m calling BS on that unless someone can prove otherwise….unless you were just stirring, Harold…which is possible 🙂

  29. Harold

    I’m second post on the convo article right now. Too bad replies are closed.

  30. Gab

    And Williams is disgraceful for likening people who disagree with his religious beliefs to ped0philes.

    What kind of sick mind thinks about ped0philes in the norm anyway?

  31. Harold

    Someone IS stirring but it ain’t me!

    This is Lew at The Conv:

    With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years already, it takes a considerable leap of faith to hope, let alone claim, that future warming will have beneficial effects overall.

    This is Lew Too (Lew cites Lew):

    Let’s begin by counting the number of weather-related disasters around the globe during the last 30 years: They are represented by the increasing function in the figure below (taken from Neumayer & Bartel, 2011). There is no doubt that this number is increasing—in fact, the frequency of weather-related disasters has nearly tripled in the last 30 years.

  32. Jannie

    William Bragg attempts to be a provocative troll, but succeeds only in being an uninteresting troll.

    What is interesting is that he manages to provoke a response from some posters. Every time he obtains a response, friendly or hostile, he claims another victory.

  33. Alx

    Harold, do you know on what basis he says they’ve trippled? Nominal cost? No of insurance claims (more wealth = more people with insurance)? Cost of insurance claims? Number of events? People affected?

    Unsubstiantiated pseudostats are a classic misinformation tactic.

  34. Gab

    Oh it was Lew? Well then no point taking any notice of his spurious claims.

    Climate scientist is he, eh?
    Had to laugh at the title of his missive:

    Disasters that Come and Go—But They Will be Back

    He really ought to be sporting a sandwich board declaring “The end is nigh. Repent! pay your carbin taxes!” while harassing the populace on the corner of Hay & William sts, Perth.

  35. Alx

    I took too long write my comment! Seems like you’ve already cleared that up!

  36. Harold

    Funnily enough his ShapingTomorrow article is all about the need to be cautious interpreting such data, but he’s happy to cite that as “3 times, boo yah!”

  37. Alx

    Yes, after all, they found that “normalised” insurance losses were stable or decreasing over the same period depending on the methodology used.

    He then states:

    The issue of normalization of disaster losses is tricky and cannot be considered resolved. We urgently need research to quantify and account for the effects of better mitigation technology that has—so far—kept losses from disasters manageable compared to historical precedents.

    Absent such quantification we can be sure of only one thing: If those variables had been accounted for during normalization, the observed loss trends would have been greater—how much greater is unknown at the present time, but greater for sure.

    Ha ha ha. Yes, give me a grant for $750,000 and I will tell you how much worse things could have been in a fantasy world.

  38. DaveF

    Harold I noted a similar thing at 12.33

    He uses talking points.

  39. Grey

    Rafe, I support public education and hospitals, so wouldn’t that make a no more than centre-right, being social policies after all.

    Agree, but I would add banks to that list or at least some banks.

    Kiwibank in New Zealand has been an excellent example of a low cost state owned bank beating down local interest rates.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwibank
    It was only introduced because the Labor government was forced to go into coalition with a break-away Red-Green Alliance group who made that demand as a condition for governing.

    Jim Anderton revealed in his valedictory speech that after spending three hours trying to convince then Finance Minister Michael Cullen, Annette King told Cullen ‘Michael, Jim’s beaten back every argument against the bank we’ve ever put up. For God’s sake, give him the bloody bank.’ Cullen replied ‘Oh, all right then.'[2]

    Probably gives Kiwis on average a quarter of a percentage point savings on their mortgages compared to Australians. Of course the idea of ordinary folk saving on their mortgages due to Government intervention would cause much gnashing of teeth amongst libertarians. It is blatant case of the people robbing the banks of their justified fat margins.

  40. JC

    Kiwibank in New Zealand has been an excellent example of a low cost state owned bank beating down local interest rates.

    Dickhead, why would you want to be squeezing bank profits? What is the motivation?

  41. Tom

    If there’s one thing I hate more than people who lie to my face it is pissant zombie trolls who play pedantic word games in defending people like Robyn Williams whose misuse of his professional position to achieve brazen, extremist political objectives on my dime is beyond belief.

  42. Grey

    Dickhead, why would you want to be squeezing bank profits? What is the motivation?

    Errr….greater competition and cheaper mortgages? Don’t worry JC,you could pay your bank extra if you like. I am sure you asked your bank and said you wanted to pay an extra 0.25% on top of the standard variable rate they would be delighted to agree.

  43. Fisky

    Austrians are seriously hypersensitive to that stuff and so they should be.

    An Austrian calling for his opponents to be executed. Nothing chilling about that. No siree!

  44. MattR

    Haha, yes let’s all go to a government owned bank to save a ‘whopping’ .25% on our mortgage.

    Now, let’s see some things like time on hold when calling, time in queue, efficiency of online banking system, cost to taxpayers to subsidise the mortgages of landholders (baring in mind that development is severely restricted in NZ pushing huge upward pressure on land prices in the short term, increasing volatility and instability in the long term) and all those other ‘great’ things that government owned businesses are famous for.

    “It’s cheaper, therefore it must be better!” Yep, sure thing buddy!

  45. Fisky

    Doktor Obergruppenfuhrer Richard Parncutt has posted some updates on his website.

    Richard Parncutt has been a member and financial supporter of Amnesty International for 18 years (14 in Austria, previously 4 in the UK). He opposes the death penalty in all cases and without exception.

    ..

    The following extract from the text was intended to apply to the entire text: “Please note that I am not directly suggesting that the threat of execution be carried out. I am simply presenting a logical argument. I am neither a politician nor a lawyer. I am just thinking aloud about an important problem.”

    What lying, squirming c*nt. The reality is, he does support the death penalty for his political opponents, and his apology will never change that. All that really happened is the mask slipped for a moment and we saw what lay beneath it. And it wasn’t pretty.

    Never believe these c*nts when making “retractions”. Sometimes they are forced to hide or delete their policies, but we all know they never intend to renounce them.

  46. Grey

    Now, let’s see some things like time on hold when calling, time in queue, efficiency of online banking system, cost to taxpayers to subsidise the mortgages of landholders

    Actually the 0.25 reduction are the rates offered by the major banks, if you go to Kiwibank you get even a lower rate.
    Kiwibank pays a dividend to the taxpayer of 80 million last year
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/financial-results/7525365/Record-profit-for-Kiwibank
    Admittedly it doesn’t compare to the profits that the Commonwealth bank makes. But who is it that funds those profits?

  47. Fisky

    Parncutt did not just call for the execution of global warming skeptics. This from his original article:

    There is a clear causal relationship between the Vatican’s continuing active discouragement of the use of condoms and the spead of AIDS, especially in Africa. We are talking about millions of deaths, so according to the principle I have proposed, the Pope and perhaps some of his closest advisers should be sentenced to death. I am talking about the current Pope, because his continuing refusal to make a significant change to the church’s position on contraception (more) will certainly result in millions of further unnecessary deaths from AIDS in the future.

    So Parncutt is saying that the Pope should “perhaps” be sentenced to death for opposing contraception.

  48. Gab

    I am just thinking aloud about an important problem.

    – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf .

  49. Fisky

    If there is anyone who is inclined to believe Parncutt’s “apology”, take a look at the conclusion from his original article. It is obvious that this is a very sincerely held belief that he won’t genuinely drop just after receiving a few emails of protest.

    If my argument is correct, it has clear political consequences. Here is a scenario for what might happen if my argument is broadly accepted, both democratically and politically.

    -The proposed legal change would be announced and widely publicized for an extended period before it came into force. During that time, GW deniers would have a chance to change their ways and escape punishment.
    The police would start to identify the most influential GW deniers who had not responded to the changed legal situation. These individuals would then be charged and brought to justice.

    People will be saying that Parncutt has finally lost it. But there is already enough evidence on the table to allow me to make the following prediction: If someone found this document in the year 2050 and published it, it would find general support and admiration. People would say I was courageous to write the truth, for a change. Who knows, perhaps the Pope would even turn me into a saint.

    This disgusting piece of garbage should be arrested for incitement to murder, stripped of his qualifications and superannuation, and thrown in prison for the rest of his miserable life.

  50. MattR

    Hey if people want to take their money to a state owned bank I have no problem with that. It’s their money.

    Just saying I work with privately owned banks and they are a complete pain in the ass to deal with. Can’t imagine what it would be like to have to deal with a state owned one. Perhaps labotomy would be preferable.

    Also, losses will occur eventually, this is 100% guaranteed. Either through an operating loss of through stupid lending practices (aka Freddie Mac and Fannie May). Then taxpayers, as always will be on the hook.

  51. C.L.

    In all seriousness, I agree that he should be arrested.

  52. Fisky

    No question about it. That he could openly say this without shame in itself gives you a real insight into what these people are saying privately in their university cafes and lounges when they think no one is watching. People like that don’t just come out with such stuff, especially in the humanities, unless they know there will be virtually no reproach or social consequences. I bet the majority of his peers were quietly cheering him on.

    It is important that an example be made of these people before this goes too far down the road.

  53. Dan

    So he wants the police to even further stretch resources and spy on people making comments on the Internet, or publishing scientific papers.

    Your low carbon future, where the only jobs are candle stick makers or in the police force.

  54. blogstrop

    In Europe you can get busted for holocaust denial. What do you get for holocaust promotion?

  55. mct

    I particularly likled this :

    I am talking about the current Pope…

    Well, looking on the bright side, he’s not calling for the execution of past (dead) Popes. So there’s hope, or something.

  56. blogstrop

    Pervak just cleaned up Wozniaki, and Sam Stosur’s on tonight in the Brissy International.

  57. johanna

    Fisky said:

    An Austrian calling for his opponents to be executed. Nothing chilling about that. No siree!

    ————————–

    Embarrassingly, Fisky, this purveyor of criminal lunacy is Australian, currently employed in Austria. He’s a pal of Lewandowsky’s.

    As he’s been called in to explain himself by his appalled employers, unfortunately we may soon have him back again.

  58. John A

    Lewandowsky tells he “was awarded a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award by the Australian Research Council in 2011.”

    So this would be a “Discovery Outstanding Research Citation” then. I love new acronymns…
    🙂

  59. Fisky

    Embarrassingly, Fisky, this purveyor of criminal lunacy is Australian, currently employed in Austria. He’s a pal of Lewandowsky’s.

    Doesn’t surprise me. Australian Leftists are notoriously the most retarded in the world. But Parncutt does sound vaguely Teutonic. Were his parents Austrian? I’m sure they would have looked very dapper in their uniforms back in the day.

    As he’s been called in to explain himself by his appalled employers, unfortunately we may soon have him back again.

    What could he possibly say to them? “Oh, I’m so sorry, boss, for saying what I really believe. You’d be shocked how many colleagues agree with me.

  60. johanna

    Parncutt is an English name, with origins to before the C7th.

    http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Parncutt

    The man himself is a former denizen of the University of Melbourne.

  61. manalive

    Another tool for effective rebuttal involves the use of graphs …

    The most fantastic piece of nonsense since this.

  62. Fisky

    http://joannenova.com.au/2012/12/parncutt-death-threat-uni-of-graz-shocked-monckton-gets-it-withdrawn-with-apology-john-cook-says-nothing/

    Christopher Monckton threatened to report Parncutt to the authorities if he did not renounce his murder-inciting material. Incredibly, none of Parncutt’s academic contemporaries were prepared to unconditionally condemn or distance themselves from what he said. This is more evidence that they really do believe in executing AGW skeptics, but are only embarrassed that it has come out before they had the tools to carry out executions.

    I repeat, not one prominent AGW advocate has come out and unconditionally condemned Parncutt.

  63. Gerry

    “…. Why does the role of intelligence diminish as one becomes more expert at a task?….”

    Perhaps doing a task actually confronts the intelligent academic with reality …as temperature measures confront temperature models eg …..surely his definition of intelligence needs to be revised if its confronted by reality …the knowledge gained by doing something should be what our intelligence is based on I would have thought …

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