Lewandowsky et.al versus the “We’re not conspiracy theorists but…” brigade (part 1)

Latest scandal to rock sceptic blogs brings out their best…

Without doubt the phrase “Here we go again…” comes to mind as the latest scandal de jour rocks the climate sceptic community on the interwebz.

Around the globe, grumpy sceptics have grabbed mugs of warm coco and thrown on their favorite terry-towel dressing gowns in an orgy of sugar fuelled rage, posting voluminous comments on nearly every sceptic and warmists blog a basic Google search can yield.

In a show of solidarity and commitment to the cause of climate scepticism many of them have stayed up well past bed time, missing their favorite reruns of 1970s classic Brit-TV. Yep, they’ve given up watching special screenings of The Two Ronnie’s for a much more important cause.

And the cause of this online militarism?

The recent paper by Lewandowsky et.al titled NASA faked the moon landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax (full text) showing a link between conspiracy ideation and climate scepticism.

Without doubt this was bound to stir the demons of denial: especially when the paper started getting traction in the mainstream media.

The denial machine is hyper-sensitive to any and all forms of criticism. Dare to suggest that they are in error and sceptic bloggers and a swarm of angry, cantankerous wanna-be science experts will go into default attack mode. The entire movement is built on the perception they are a credible alternative to the world’s scientists: start to question that carefully cultivated veneer of false authority and expect them to go-in-hard.

This is exactly what they have done in response to the NASA paper.

This is exactly what every one expected.

I mean, is the only position of the denial community a reflexive and angry defensiveness?


It’s a bit like that old guy sitting on the front porch, yelling at “Those damn kids!” to “Get the hell of my lawn!”

…and then drawing a 12 gauge pump-action shotgun and loose off a few shots for good measure.

Not only is it an overreaction, but disproportionate to the perceived slight.

WtD predictions on reaction to NASA paper

Now recall I made three tongue-in-cheek predictions as to how the denial machine would respond:

  • Prediction 1: expect the usual collection of climate sceptics to claim they’re not conspiracy theorists, and that scientists are involved in an orchestrated campaign to exclude them from the debate and smear their good names
  • Prediction 2: the sceptics and deniers will reject the research, cherry pick its arguments and refute it with their own amateur analysis – just like climate science
  • Prediction 3: I expect the likes of conspiracy theorist and climate sceptic Jo Nova to go ballistic, calling the research “witchcraft” or some such nonsense and a form of ad hominem attack.

So how’d they stack up?

Prediction 1 confirmed: we’re not conspiracy theorists! But it’s a conspiracy!

Just go here to see confirmation of that fact with deniers complaining about being called conspiracy theorists while proposing conspiracy theories to explain away Lewandowsky’s research.

I suspected that the comments section of which ever blog or media site feartuing the paper would be flooded with comments not only dismissive of the research, but claim it was part of an orchestrated campaign to besmirch the good name of climate sceptics:

“There is only one answer to the question – who profits most from what is looking every day more like a scam. Those who oppose the theory or those who support it…………cui bono……..always the answer to those questions which produce two sides in which there can never be agreement. So far there is clear indication that many politicians have personal financial interests in keeping the ‘debate’ going for as long as possible. Cui Bono………..”

The blogger over at Australian Climate Madness sees it as all part of a greater plot:

“I think they dreamed up their dramatic headline conclusion of “climate sceptics are nutters” and worked back from there.

Once they got headline exposure in a couple of major newspapers, their mission was accomplished…”

Mwah ha ha!

Foolish climate sceptics, you have no idea how much control we have over the worlds academies and media! And banks. And the UN. And the world’s military. And every government on the planet. They are all in our pockets, acting out our orders…

As the average conspiracy theorists likes to say: nothing is as it seems, all will be revealed…

Prediction 2 confirmed: they will reject the research, cherry pick its arguments

Throw the sceptic movement a piece of empirical research, and they will switch to motivated reasoning mode and search for the smallest of errors.

Bishop Hill and Jo Nova are leading that change, being cheered on by Anthony Watts.

The comments fields on these blogs are filled with the exact same misinformed reasoning and misinformation that accompanies most of the discussion on these sites.


However, they’ve also started a campaign of FOI requests and other tactics straight form the “lets-harass-the-scientists” play book (I’ll explore in next post).

Prediction 3 half confirmed: I expect the likes of conspiracy theorist and climate sceptic Jo Nova to go ballistic

Well I have so say I was a little disappointed with Jo.

I had the popcorn out and was waiting for some classic Nova/Evans “OMG it’s the international bankers coming to get my money arrrrrgh! Where’s my gold? Under the bed!?!?!?!”

I’d built my expectations on the last time Jo responded to research produced in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, one of the world’s foremost scientific journals. In her fury she redesigned the front cover of the journal:


Which I thought was just adorable.

The whole “It’s evil! Evil!” and “It burns! It burns!” shtick gave me a good giggle. I have sooooo many favorite Nova quotes, but the text that accompanied the above image is amongst her hyperbolic best:

Shame on you Schneider, traitor to science. Shame on the NAS editors who allowed this pathetic excuse for research into their publications. And shame on any member of the NAS who doesn’t shout in protest at this denigration of the good name that took decades to build.

R.I. P. The Scientific Method. Hello totalitarian government, where money buys you authority and authority passes for reason.

As predicted, Jo commented on the NASA paper.

But I was really hoping for some “Nova Gold” with claims about tyrannical government, bankers, the “death of civilisation as we know it” and all the chum she normally throws out to her readers.

Much more muted than I expected:

This could be the worst paper I have seen — an ad hom argument taken to its absurd extreme, rebadged as “science”.

Actually, anything that smacks of genuine scholarship, Jo will refer to as “the worst I’ve ever seen”… so as one can imagine, the list of what Nova doesn’t like is rather long.

Standard Nova reply, but hey – I’m still watching and waiting for the lulz. 


Disclaimer: I was never formally asked to participate in the survey; however I did come across the survey on other blogs and directed readers of WtD to the survey if they were interested. As the comments section attests there is a large number of climate sceptics and “warmists” commenting here.

Coming up in the next post: how the sceptic movement resorts to claims of fraud, misuse of Freedom of Information Requests (FOI) and other bullying tactics…

36 thoughts on “Lewandowsky et.al versus the “We’re not conspiracy theorists but…” brigade (part 1)

  1. […] 2: If you want a breathtaking insight into how the "denier smear machine" mentality operates, go here. Even the title of the site has "denier" in it… what are we denying again? […]

    • And special thanks to Australian Climate Madness for their hearty recommendation of WtD:

      “UPDATE 2: If you want a breathtaking insight into how the “denier smear machine” mentality operates, go here, where the desperate defence of a paper full of flaws is in full flow. Even the title of the site has “denier” in it… what are we denying again? F*ckwits.”

      Gosh, thanks!

  2. Because it is about image management: the moment the “d” word goes mainstream and is associated with their world view… well, that’s the moment things turn sour.

    After almost 20 years of harassing scientists, sending death threats, flooding academics with FOI requests, undermining the science and screaming climate change is a fraud their overreaction reveals their glass jaws.

    Like many a bully, they are hypersensitive to criticism.

    • D. J. Hawkins says:

      Death threats? Really? Must have missed that bit. Name three instances would you? Two? No? Oh come on now, at least one then! Still nothing? Ahhh, well.

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        Dear D.J.

        You will find examples of death threats here:


        And here is video evidence of a death threat being made:


        Care to comment?


        Or will you simply engage in “drive-by” denial and refuse to comment any further in regards to the above evidence?

      • D. J. Hawkins says:

        Oddly, I can’t seem to reply directly to your comment. I see that the collection of “death threats” diminished somewhat from the “over 200” reported by Nature to the rather paltry 27 in the subject PDF. Let’s see, “I hope someone puts a bullet between your eyes.” Direct threat? No. Twenty-six left. “If you don’t take your own life I hope someone ******* does it for you.” Direct threat? No. Twenty-four left. “Please, for Christ’s sake, kill yourself.” [Hey, proper use of the possesive! Bonus points!!] Direct threat? No. Twenty-three left. I think you can see where we’re going here. Vile, disgusting, lunatic; yeah, they’re all that. The one that comes closest would start on the bottom of 1 and continues on 2. Umpire’s call on that one, although shaking your fist at someone from across the Atlantic strikes me as feeble at best. If you really consider these to be serious threats, I’m concerned that you may regularly sucumb to attacks of “the vapors.” I thought Aussies were made of sterner stuff.

        The hangman’s noose is a little startling, but a death threat? Seriously, hanging your opponent in effigy used to be a cottage industry in American politics. Now they feebly demand U.S. presidents be tried for war crimes. Oh, the shame!

        Politics is a full-body contact sport. When scientists climb down from their ivory towers and start making policy pronouncements intended to crush national economies and then titter about it in their e-mails like air-headed Valley Girls, they should expect a little push back from the hoi polloi.

        There. Commenty enough for ya?

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          Wow. You lot will try and justify anything. Whether or not they technically constitute death threats really comes down to perception. You don’t seem to perceive that kind of talk as unsavoury and that says an aweful lot about you. Deniers get butthurt by being called deniers but justify that kind of language and behaviour. Very very odd. Denial is a disease.

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          Yes, showing someone a hangman’s noose is a friendly gesture. Or writing in emails to “kill yourself” or “I know where you live” is polite conversation.

          It is not merely denial: it is lying to yourself and the world.

          Of course, deniers being called deniers usually ends in big tears: “Boo hoo, you associated me with evil Nazis!” Like all bullies, they love to dish it out, justifying it as “I was joking!” or “That’s how the world is!”. But when called to account? They crumple into the fetal position, sobbing hysterically.

          Begone foul Internet troll, back to the shadows!

      • D. J. Hawkins says:

        OK, “youknowispeaknonsense”, apparently you need help with reading comprehension. “You don’t seem to to perceive that kind of talk as unsavory…” What was it I wrote? Oh, right: “Vile, disgusting, lunatic; yeah they’re all that.” If you’re going to go for outright fabrication, drop the comment where people can’t directly see you’re wrong. So what does that say about you?

        They either are death threats or they aren’t. If you walk into a bank with a gun and threaten a teller and walk out with money, it’s armed robbery. No perception about it. You’re backpedaling, and it only makes your case look a whole lot weaker that it already is. “Crying wolf”, and all that.

        And “Watching”, same goes for you. Maybe I just can’t see it, but where exactly did I indicate I thought any of what was presented was “friendly”, or “polite”? Which is your ill-wrought springboard to the breathless revelation that I’m a denier, sobbing hysterically in a crumple, or some such. Honestly, are you one of the charter members of “Writers of the Purple Prose”?

        Well, moving on. Just for future reference, how many FOI requests constitute a flood? As opposed to, say, a trickle or torrent? In any debate, it’s always important to understand the terms. The article at Wikipedia mentions four (4) individuals by name, although it seems McIntyre is a repeat offender. Quite the horde, isn’t it? Alas, they don’t tally the actual number of requests. And before you get all hot about “bogging down the process of science”, that’s what grad students are for.

        As for undermining the science, that’s a laugh. If the science is solid, there’s no undermining that can be done. Standing around screaming “It is NOT!!”, “It is SO!!” may entertain the combatants endlessly, but the folks standing about watching will get bored in hurry. There’s precious little science in modeling anyway. Take any model you like, train it to any baseline you like and then try to hindcast and forecast against known data. Result: trainwreck. Do I think there will never be an accurate model? You never know. The future is a tricky thing to predict. But the next one will be the first one. Otherwise why would people be dealing with CMIP3 and CMIP5? If you have one good model, you don’t need to screw around with 25 or 30 “less good” models.

        Last, since it’s getting late (or rather early for me) what about “climate change is a fraud”? I’ve only ever seen one, in the thousands of posts I’ve scanned at WUWT, that flatly said the climate over the last couple hundred years hasn’t warmed a little. It’s all about attribution. If you want to divert trillions of dollars now to prevent putative damage 200 years from now, you don’t do your case much good by telling people “Well, we’re pretty sure it seems kinda certain that it’s very likely that the 30Gt of CO2 humans dump per year into the 750Gt CO2 vat is almost probably pushing up the global temperature, except for the southern hemisphere where it isn’t.” Just makes me all tingly with anticipation to beggar my children, that does.

        • Watching the Deniers says:


          Bored now.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          I stopped reading when I got to the part where you changed my pseudonym and I noticed you had typed completely in italics, which is usually reserved for the thoughts of characters in fictional stories. Try all caps next time because that makes it true.

      • Sammy Jankis says:


        Like all bullies, they love to dish it out, justifying it as “I was joking!” or “That’s how the world is!”. But when called to account? They crumple into the fetal position, sobbing hysterically.

        I’m reminded of The Australian’s editorialising on this topic not too long ago. After failing to paint the threats against climate scientists as a mere beat-up, the climate science community was told to ‘harden up’, because conservative media commentators receive nasty criticism too. Of course this line of argument completely missed the point. As a media commentator, who is paid to give an opinion, you would expect over the years to receive some nasty hate-mail in response to your writings. Let me stress, that just because it is expected, it’s not excusable. (‘I know where you live’, ‘Go kill yourself’ and so on is never acceptable no matter what the subject). But now imagine you are a climate scientist working at a university or research institution. You conduct some research and publish it in a peer-reviewed journal. Later, some journalists ask you about it and publish an article. In the following weeks and months you receive invitations in your inbox to kill yourself and it is suggested that you should one day face a firing squad. As a scientist, you didn’t sign up for this. It was never your intention to find yourself in the centre of a political battlefield.

      • D. J. Hawkins says:

        I do get a chuckle when someone who thinks “deniers” are a bunch of sissies when they complain about being labeled “deniers” gets all in a huff about a mild twitting regarding their pseudo. Thin skin, much?

        Regarding the italics, OK, pile on ’cause I dropped a tag at o’dark thirty in the friggin’ am. I’ll make you a deal; I won’t play grammer and spelling police if you don’t get snarky about my sad HTML skills.

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          Sounds like a plan guys. But I will say D.J. feel free to politely point out an error – like I said in previous post I appreciate friendly help. Constructive criticism, regardless of differing opinions, can be just that – constructive.

          Cheers – Mike @ WtD

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          I don’t mind if you muck around with my pseudonym, it just goes into the basket with propaganda in a science discussion and grammar policing and other inferior debating tactics. That said, sure, we have a deal.

  3. Sou says:

    The really really odd thing is that so many ‘skeptics’ say climate science is a leftist conspiracy. Yet when an internet survey suggests that right wing ideology is a predictor of rejection of climate science, they are jumping up and down shouting – the study is flawed.

    Very weird.

  4. James Murphy says:

    I’m interested to know why it is that someone like Jo Nova apparently throws “churn” to her readers, whereas this blog is somehow morally and scientifically better? Seems to me like you’re just getting some sort of perverse pleasure from making fun of people with whom you don’t agree, but not really contributing anything constructive. Just like a lot of the deniers.

    Oh, and it’s “loose off a few shots”, or “loosed off a few shots”, not “loosened off”, and it’s fuelled, not feulled. Proof reading and spell-checking are obviously the first casualties in your war against deniers. Better luck next time.

    • uknowispeaksense says:

      “Just like a lot of deniers.”

      “Proof reading and spell-checking are obviously the first casualties in your war against deniers.”

      Is “Just like a lot of deniers.” actually a sentence? I love it when your ilk have to resort to taking the role of grammar police, like it is some sort of argument and then, with much irony, fail at grammar in doing so. Thankyou James. You’re a classic.

      • James Murphy says:

        My pleasure, I aim to please. I don’t know, is it a sentence? You tell me…oh, wait, you haven’t actually committed to an answer, or tried to explain anything, just attempted to insult me, how familiar, and boring.

        I was merely pointing out that there were two very obvious errors in work that someone has obviously spent a fair bit of time writing, and then publishing on here. is that now a crime? I’d like to know about mistakes like that if I were running a blog.

        Who/what is my “ilk” exactly? Do you presume to know how I feel, and how I think, based on a couple of comments on a blog? I think there are loonies, extremists, and ignorant fools on both sides of this denier/warmist debate, and this particular blog seems to be a magnet for unreasoning hatred of deniers, as opposed to blogs for unreasoning hatred of warmists. It’s just another example of how people can waste so much time and effort in running a blog, which, in reality, contributes absolutely nothing to the cause that they claim to represent. It acts as a repository for material that can so easily be used against warmists, by your sworn enemies, people who are obviously happy to apply spin when, and where required.

        I cant help but wonder who the loonies/extremists/haters on both sides would be hating if they didn’t have warmists/deniers to focus on? A football team perhaps? Seems to be about the level of intelligence displayed on a lot of blogs, and, sadly, it’s no different here.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          I haven’t committed to an answer because I’m not the self-appointed grammar police. That’s you.

          What I find truly ironic though is the way you lament that blogs like this are a waste of time and yet here you are making wasting time, making pointless comments on that blog. Irony must be your middle name.

        • James Murphy says:

          Yes, i do think blogs like this are a waste of time, and commenting on them sure beats wasting my time writing my own blog. I stumbled across this one essentially by accident and was so amazed by the sheer volume of drivel, that I was driven to comment, and yes, I guess to add to the drivel.

          In your perfect “right vs wrong” / all-or-nothing world, I would be a Denier, simply because I do not wholeheartedly agree with everything that warmists claim, not because I deny that the climate changes, or that humans have had some sort of impact on it. I agree that the volume of CO2 put into the atmosphere by humans must have an impact of some sort, but that we still do not understand the complexities of the global climate to be able to make accurate predictions about what will happen in 1, 5, 10, 100 years. To claim that we do know for sure, is unscientific at best, and just wrong at worst. As a scientist (but nothing to do with climate science), I think that any decent climate scientist (which I am sure is the vast majority) will maintain their scientific principles. By all means, cut back on CO2 emissions, no one (sane) can argue that’s a bad thing to do, but just don’t claim that anyone has a definitive roadmap regarding global climate change. Yes, it will change, but really, does anyone know how much, and by when? By all means, plan for the worst case scenarios, but make it clear that the planning is based on worst-case predictions, not fact.

          I also dislike the way that politicians and (some) environmental groups have put their spin on the argument, by introducing certainty, where there is actually a wide range of predictions. Claims that sea level will rise by 2-3 times the current IPCC maximum estimate (my own Prime Minister announced this very thing as a “fact” in a speech last year, much to my disgust) may well be right, but we don’t know for sure, and any person or organisation who announces this type of information like it’s the undeniable truth, is misleading people.

          Yes, I also dislike the fact that there are so many uneducated and ignorant fools who claim that the climate isn’t changing, and that humans have had no impact, amongst other totally whacky ideas. Extremists just don’t help anyone, and I look forward to the day when there can be a more moderate debate, but no doubt I hope in vain.

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          Well thanks for – or is that not – wasting your time here. You’re welcome to hang around and comment.

          Some ground rules:

          – Minimal offensive language and NO threatening behaviour (I’ll allow some robust debate but there is a line)
          – Scientific claims need to be backed up by evidence
          – Treat other community members here with respect: imagine yourself in a bar, speaking to a stranger. You’d temper your language and demeanor. No different online or on this blog
          – My posts are my own, often satirical and at times polemical – that is no secret.

          On certainty: I’m well aware of probabilities and uncertainties of climate science.

          As I’ve said many times, I view climate change through the prism of risk management.

          To give an analogy: the US, UK, Australia and others invaded two countries in response to terrorism and perceived WMD threats. Around the world airport security has been drastically changed, while a raft of new (and draconian) anti-Terrorism laws have been introduced. Now, the risk of an individual dying in a terrorist attack is vanishingly small: and yet all of the above happened in response to 9/11.

          In relation to climate change: we have sufficient knowledge to be deeply concerned. If there was even a 1o% change of it be true we’d do something. If there was a 20% chance, we’d be very concerned. If there was a >50% of significant climatic impacts, then we would be deeply alarmed.

          And yes, we are past the 50% threshold of certainty. I’m happy to recommend literature from the journals for your interest.

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          Mistakes have been rectified, so thanks. But I believe the tone was aggressive. Anyway I’ll leave it there.

  5. zooba says:

    A lot more people have died as a result of terrorism in the decade since 9/11 than in the decade preceding.

  6. klem says:

    If these researchers were actually good at what they do, they’d do the same study investigating the alarmist side. It might be entitled “IPCC faked climate alarm – therefore (climate) science is true: An anatomy of the motivated acceptance of science.”

    Somehow I doubt they will investigate climate alarmism in the same way they did climate skepticism. I doubt they would have the balls.


    • Oh Klem! So good to see you haven’t lost your form 🙂

    • James In Footscray says:

      I think Klem makes an interesting point.

      For sure, many skeptics presuppose AGW is wrong because of their political viewpoint, and they know nothing about climate science. However, many climate action advocates are also motivated by a political world view, and know nothing about climate science.

      A much more interesting social and psychological study would examine why people on both ‘sides’ are so determined to show their prejudices are validated by science.

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        I’m sure there is truth in that: take the anti-vaccination movement. It is not uncommon to see those with “left” leaning tendencies to dismiss the science.

        The problem is universal, and in fact well studied. The science of climate change is rigorous and well tested. It is individuals response – both left and right – that is telling.

        • simple-touriste says:

          There is little science, and lots of faith, behind many vaccination programs (Hep B, HPV, influenza…).

  7. James In Footscray says:

    “Just go here to see confirmation of that fact with deniers complaining about being called conspiracy theorists while proposing conspiracy theories to explain away Lewandowsky’s research. ”

    The problem with this ‘gotcha’ comment is that Jo Nova aren’t proposing any conspiracy theory in relation to Lewandowsky’s paper. They’re just saying the methodology is flawed and sources aren’t cited.

    They’re saying it in a strident way, for sure, but there’s no hint of a ‘conspiracy’.

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