Learning from the pros: reframing the issue

If the controversy on the use of the Lubos_Motl handle by John Cook was interesting enough, the response of Skeptical Science was even more interesting.

This is how they introduce the issue to the readers:

A number of peer-reviewed studies have observed a link between climate science denial and conspiratorial thinking.

Hey, I know where this is going! Seemingly they want to frame their opponents as conspiratorial thinkers on the basis of these “peer-reviewed studies”.

I thought this was pretty funny. Didn’t one of those “peer-reviewed” studies had some Neatherthaler (aged 32,757 years) in it who filled in their survey and seem to be familiar with contemporary subjects? 🙂 Not detected by peer-review, by the way.

Wasn’t there also one toddler (aged 5 years!) who, despite its very young age, had a strong opinion on climate change? Kids mature quickly these days, sir. 🙂 For some mysterious reason the reviewers glossed over that one too. And if toddles are mature enough to fill in a survey, then a bunch of minors certainly are! Apparently also not caught by that magical peer-review.

Even worse, weren’t there some calculations done with this clearly questionable data and conclusions were drawn on it. The reviewers apparently were sleeping over that one.

It didn’t end there, didn’t one of those peer-reviewed studies had a title that was not exactly in line with what the data said. In fact, it was the EXACT OPPOSITE of what their own data showed. Peer-review wasn’t able to detect that one either.

There were still other problems with those studies. I remember for example the questionable way the survey of one of those papers was conducted, but the above shows that huge question marks should be raised about those papers, their alleged conclusions and the role of (or absence of critical) peer review.

Those obvious errors still aren’t corrected until now. So far for the honesty of the creators of those papers. There was however one of those studies that was retracted, because of ethical reasons (also not caught by that famous peer-review).

So their claim that “studies have observed a link between climate science denial and conspiratorial thinking” should not be taking serious.

The response continues:

The most prominent examples are the conspiracy theories extrapolated from quote-mined excerpts of stolen private correspondence of climate scientists, in the episode known as climategate.

That’s odd. Climategate does learn us a lot of things, but as far as I know a conspiracy is not one of them… In fact, there is no need for a conspiracy, because the current situation is perfectly explainable otherwise. Most skeptics are telling that over and over again. On the other hand, it are the alarmists who tell skeptics are conspiratorial thinkers, probably because that is the only way they can make sense of it, based on a fundamentally misunderstanding of the skeptical position. At least that is my opinion.

After these two misleading arguments, those who have no background of the actual situation will equal those opponents as a bunch of loonies and critical thinking is shut down or diminished. Nicely done. They seem to have done this before. That’s when Skeptical Science finally could frame the issue their way:

A similar conspiratorial episode spun from quote-mined stolen private correspondence was published by Lubos Motl this week, and has been uncritically propagated by other online commenters.

I had a laugh with that last part. I don’t have the impression that one of the reactions actually had read the Motl article. If they had read it, they would then see that, although Motl used the term ‘identity theft’, he did it in a humorist way, not in an accusing way.

To me the real issue was their little “experiment” in which they fabricated a (non convincing) skeptical post and comments (using the Lubos_Motl handle), later analyzing the effects. Sounds like being judge, jury and defense by the very same person. That is not science, not even close. That is ANTI science. It doesn’t learn us anything new about skeptics, unless how they are viewed by the other side. If that is what the context of the experiment was, then they obviously came to the wrong conclusion.

One commenter had even the audacity to say (in the article linked in the first comment):

Watts has no idea what the context of the comments were, how they were used, or what was being researched. I can tell you that it’s going to be really embarrassing for Watts when the paper comes out, as what Watts is speculating here is not even close to what happened (which is rather obvious with the explanation Cook provided).

What!?!? The paper has not come out yet in the 5 years that past this conversation in 2011!

Hey, if it still going to be published, I can’t wait until it comes out!!!

With me probably a big part of the skeptical blogosphere, who are going to have quite a field day having this background information…

4 thoughts on “Learning from the pros: reframing the issue

  1. clivere

    Quite like your previous article re Lubos. Not so sure about this one which reads more like a mild rant and some good observations are obscured as a result.

    On a point of detail you reference to a post by Brandon S concerning the public availability of the comments. You are mixing up 2 separate incidents.

    The Brandon post is concerned with the details of the 97% paper which were left on a publically available server.

    The release of the SS forum details was a separate incident where a zipped file was made available at Tom Nelsons blog. It is unclear if this was down to poor security or a hacking. The SS people put up a series of posts describing a hack but it is convoluted. There was a lot of technical discussion at the Blackboard (Lucia’s blog) about the SS posts with no clear conclusion.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      Thanks for passing by and commenting.

      It is certainly not my intention to rant in my posts. Sorry to hear it looked that way.

      Indeed, these seem to be two separate incidents that I have mixed up. Mea culpa. It was not crucial to the post so I removed that paragraph.

      Your comment is most appreciated!


  2. clivere

    The Lewandowsky conspiracy papers can be criticized in a multitude of ways. There is a huge amount already written such that it can be very difficult to know where to start. I feel you would have been better referencing one or two of the better posts which provide some level of overview rather than the Neanderthal and kiddies stuff where you have provided no back up reference.

    In my opinion the best overview is one by Bob Denton that you may not have seen which addresses the “EXACT OPPOSITE” theme as well as many others..


    In support there are the posts by Jose Duarte and Steve McIntyre that cover the ethical issues in depth




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