Versiongate, inboxgate and now NIWAgate!: or when denial echo chambers implode

Climate sceptics, our operators are standing by…

Since the release of the Lewandowsky paper – “NASA faked the moon landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” –  we have witnessed a wonderful demonstration of conspiracy ideation, the very thing the paper predicts. As the paper notes:

“…Another variable that has been associated with the rejection of science is conspiratorial thinking, or conspiracist ideation, defined here as the attempt to explain a significant political or social event as a secret plot by powerful individuals or organizations…” (Lewandowsky pg. 4)

At last count we’ve seen at least three conspiracy theories explode in the face of the once-mighty denial machine.

Conspiracy #1 “inboxgate” – or when sceptics fail to check email inboxes

Graham Readfearn on Think Progress gives some the details:

Among the conspiracy theories tested, were the faking of Apollo moon landings, US government agencies plotting to assassinate Martin Luther King, Princess Diana’s death being organised by members of the British Royal family and the US military covering up the recovery of an alien spacecraft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico.

In the paper, Lewandowsky concludes that “endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories… predicts rejection of climate science”. The research also claims a correlation between people who endorse free-market economics and the ”rejection of climate science”.

Much outrage from climate sceptics that “sceptic” blogs hadn’t been invited to participate – but in fact they had. That’s right folks, in attempting to refute a paper that implied climate sceptics had a tendency to engage in conspiracy making they responded with, er, conspiracy making:

Not content to wait, Australian skeptic blogger Simon Turnill has sent a Freedom of Information request to UWA asking for Lewandowsky’s emails. Lewandowsky told DeSmogBlog: 

So now there’s a conspiracy theory going around that I didn’t contact them. It’s a perfect, perfect illustration of conspiratorial thinking. It’s illustrative of exactly the process I was analysing. People jump to conclusions on the basis of no evidence. I would love to be able to release those emails if given permission, because it means four more people will have egg on their faces. I’m anxiously waiting the permission to release this crucial information because it helps to identify people who engage in conspiratorial thinking rather than just searching their inboxes. 

Lewandowsky revealed that two of the five skeptic blogs approached even replied to the email they were sent.

One stated “Thanks. I will take a look” and another asked “Can you tell me a bit more about the study and the research design?”

Conspiracy theory #2 “Versiongate” – in which basic methodology is not understood

Among the various conspiracies suggested by climate sceptics was the involvement of this blog. Indeed, Watts up with that? put a post in which the following claim was made:

Anthony, there was recently another survey (longer, and with a 1-5 scale) put out by Lewandowsky’s research assistant, Charles Hanich, on June 4, 2012. It seems that the link for this survey was only posted on two blogs: Watching the Deniers and Skeptical Science. Charles Hanich was also responsible for creating Lewandowsky’s 2010 survey, as mentioned in the comments here.

Anthony Watts then made the following claim:

I believe that Dr. Lewandowsky set out to show the world that through a faulty, perhaps even fraudulent, smear campaign disguised as peer reviewed science, that climate skeptics were, as Jo Nova puts it, “nutters”. Worse, peer review failed to catch any of the problems now in the open thanks to the work of climate skeptics.

Oh really?

I got a scattering of hits from WUWT, but I wasn’t at all phased by the attention from Mr. Watts & Crew.

But what of the claims being made?

Well it seems the big secret has been revealed!

It would seem Lewandowsky engaged in the shameful practice sometimes referred to as “basic methodology”.

In what I’m assuming is a tongue-in-check post titled “An update on my birth certificates” Lewandowsky writes:

I laud the stirring dedication to investigative Googling. Alas, this highly relevant detective work is far from perfect.

If I am not mistaken, I can indeed confirm that there were 4—not 3—versions of the survey (unless that was the number of my birth certificates, I am never quite sure, so many numbers to keep track of… Mr. McIntyre’s dog misplaced an email under a pastrami sandwich a mere 8.9253077595543363 days ago, and I have grown at least one tail and several new horns over the last few days, all of which are frightfully independent and hard to keep track of).


Finally this new friend from Conspirania is getting some legs.

About time, too, I was getting lonely.

Astute readers will have noted that if the Survey ID’s from above are vertically concatenated and then viewed backwards at 33 rpm, they read “Mitt Romney was born in North Korea.”

To understand the relevance of Mr Romney’s place of birth requires a secret code word. This code word, provided below, ought to be committed to memory before burning this post.

So here it is, the secret code. Read it backwards:  gnicnalabretnuoc

Translations are available in any textbook for Methodology 101.

No really.

It’s that funny.

But would you believe the laughs keep coming?

Conspiracy theory #3 “NIWAgate” – in which Jo Nova claims courts controlled by government

As noted earlier today (see also Hot-topic) the climate sceptic movement suffered a major defeat in New Zealand in its attempt to undermine the temperature records. As Gareth @ Hot Topic notes:

The attempt by NZ’s merry little band of climate cranks to have the NZ temperature record declared invalid has ended in ignominious defeat. In his ruling [PDF], handed down today, Justice Venning finds: 

The plaintiff does not succeed on any of its challenges to the three decisions of NIWA in issue. The application for judicial review is dismissed and judgment entered for the defendant. [and] The defendant is entitled to costs. 

It will be interesting to see whether the NZ Climate Science Education Trust, which was established purely to bring this action, is able to stump up to cover NIWA’s costs. If it doesn’t, the NZ taxpayer will be left to pick up the bill for this absurd bit of political grandstanding by the Climate “Science” Coalition.

Astute reader of this blog uknowispeaksense  made the following prediction:

My prediction Mike and its a no-brainer. They will either pretend it didn’t happen or claim the courts are in on the scam.

And then BAM!

Jo Nova goes and claims a conspiracy theory!

Apparently since the judges are employed by the government they “must” be following whatever directives they are given:

The courts are supposed to be independent of the government. When these two institutions are effectively working together we lose one of the major safeguards of democracy. All the more reason to fight to keep the free press, free. What else is left?

No not a conspiracy theory at all…

I’ve worked in-and-out of the legal industry for almost two decades, so I think I can say with some authority Jo Nova has no f*cking clue how the court system works.

Now I admit I’m not across the NZ legal system but I assume they share a similar common law tradition devolved from the British system like Australia.

I’m going to assume that the separation between the judicial, legislative and executive branches is going to be robust and protected by constitutional or legislative safeguards.

Unless of course…

It’s a conspiracy!

But nooooooooooooooooooo, sceptics aren’t “nutters” at all.

21 thoughts on “Versiongate, inboxgate and now NIWAgate!: or when denial echo chambers implode

  1. Sou says:

    Ha ha – Great minds and all that. Earlier today I sent the link about the NZ fiasco to a friend, suggesting deniers would claim that the courts are in on the conspiracy. Too funny.

    And today I went to Lucia’s blog (not usually on my radar, but I went there to see what they were going on about re the Lewandowsky paper). Anyway, they were all chiming in to defend Jo Nova against a couple of posters who pointed out the fact that she’s a conspiracy nutter. Makes you wonder about the sanity of lukewarmers, doesn’t it.

    Stephan is coping with good humour despite the appalling nastiness and ridiculous trashing by deniers. They say that laughter is the best medicine. He’s a climate champion.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Indeed. And yes, you can see the attempted “take down” by the denial machine against Lewandowsky. But then again, he is helped by the utter clueless nature of some of the climate sceptics themselves which is certainly prompting a lot of laughter.

  2. Sou says:

    By the way, John Cook has written up his recent experience on The Conversation – in a very succinct and pointed article on He describes the reaction of deniers as a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction. I’d say he’s spot on.

  3. uknowispeaksense says:

    In relation to NIWAgate, I’ve suffered the dreaded snip for using the D word at Richard Treadgold’s blog. He snipped from “denier” and then claimed an ad hom but he removed the main crux of my comment also which was that they should try it on in other countries and suffer the same humiliating defeat. He doesn’t have email notification which is a real pain. I’ve made a reply or two. It will be interesting to see if I get snipped again. I hate having to take screenshots.

  4. zooba says:

    The implication is that climate skepticism is result of conspiratorial thinking. The name of the paper is enough to get that across.

    But the experiment did not address how the people came to their conclusions. It only asks what people think, not why.

    In what way does the study test the motivations or reasoning of those questioned?

    • Nick says:

      No,the theory is that climate ‘skeptics’/pseudoskeptics/rejectionists are susceptible to conspiratorial rationalising. A different thing.

      Personally,I think that the theory is pretty obviously true,having read many years worth of offerings from such folk on ‘skeptic’ blogs. It’s no surprise that when scientific discussion and exploration of detail is limited by lack of competence or moderation limits comment length, ‘skeptics’ fall back on motivational and social network speculation. It fills a large percentage of total ‘skeptic’ commentary.

      Yes,the survey was limited in scope,with simple questions…easier and quicker for respondents to take part.It’s not as though Lewandosky was trying to draw complex conclusions

  5. Nova:

    The courts are supposed to be independent of the government. When these two institutions are effectively working together we lose one of the major safeguards of democracy. All the more reason to fight to keep the free press, free. What else is left?

    So what she’s saying is that in order to be truly independent, the judiciary must always find against the government?

    • uknowispeaksense says:

      Sammy, she and her ilk don’t know what they are saying as long as it is anti-establishment. The content, quality and implications are irrelevant. I’m sure if you asked her that question she would say, “Of course not,” and truly believing that. She would only think the court should find against the government when it agrees with her bias.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      No, she is saying because they don’t agree with her world view they’re corrupt. This is how she and the denialists deal with cognative dissonance.

      It is also textbook conspiracy ideation: in order to explain away facts that contravene world views, the circle of conspirators – those working behind the scenes – is by necessity drawn wider and wider.

  6. john byatt says:

    Have been working on a piece The logical fallacy of the middle ground in relation to the realists, We do not accept the position of the deniers nor of the alarmists, we take the middle ground” (low sensitivity ) was looking for a good example of that and along came Nova

    “not all conspiracy theories are true but some are ”

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      JB I’d be very happy to repost stuff from you.

      • john byatt says:

        Tops Mike, one of the most persuasive positions to take in a debate is the middle ground,
        I have noticed a shift to this position by deniers that now refer to themselves as realists,

        It will be an opinion piece in the local papers if possible, 200 words max,

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          It is a subtle re-positioning of some to a luke warmist position.

          Note: I believe Andrew Bolt is doing this. His posts on climate have dropped off noticeably these past few months

  7. john byatt says:

    Had this letter printed in both the gympie times and sunshine coast daily, true to form the replies from deniers adjusted the rear view mirror so they could not see the Arctic, not mentioned and then asked if the previous melt of the greenland summit was due to SUV’s

    ARCTIC melt revealed (The Gympie Times August 28 ) You are driving along when suddenly both your Temperature and Oil warning lights come on, what do you do?
    Do your turn up the volume on the radio so that you cannot hear the clanging coming from under the bonnet? Do you adjust the rear view mirror so that you cannot see the smoke billowing from the exhaust pipe?
    Do you pull over and stop the car?
    This year the planet demands our attention, the unprecedented decline of the Arctic sea ice mass this year, which has stunned the scientific community is trying to tell us that we are overheating the planet, the temperature light is warning us to pull over. The almost total surface melt of the Greenland ice sheet this year was the oil warning light now glowing brightly, While the skeptics are busily adjusting the rear view mirror, turning up the volume on the radio and declaring the grinding noises under the bonnet as being just natural variability, the planet could hardly make it more clear, you have a problem, pull over now. My just arrived, carbon tax adjusted electricity bill increased by less than 2 cents per kilowatt hour, a small price to pay for my children, grandchildren and great grandchild’s future. What do you think?

  8. James says:

    It has been a while, but I pop in occasionally to see what’s being written here. Mostly I think you guys are so set in your group think it is unlikely anything I wrote would change that, and I know that is probably what you think of people who are unconvinced that humans are causing dangerous global warming.

    Nevertheless I thought I’d make a couple of quick points.

    1. With all due respect I think you misread what Jo Nova wrote. Basically she was saying that the judge decided to disregard the Coalition’s ‘expert’ IT/Statistical analysis guy because while the judge accepted he was well qualified in that area, he had no direct experience in ‘Climate Science’. Jo Nova was making the point that in NZ all climate science research is Government controlled, NIWA funding is Government controlled, court appointments are Government controlled. The only way someone could achieve the sort of ‘expertise’ the judge would be satisfied with, would be to work for the Government and that would mean they would hardly be in a position to be involved in a case against the Government, particularly if it meant their career and research funding were in jeopardy. So not a conspiracy, just a fact of life.

    2. Anyone with even an undergraduate degree which has involved doing a basic survey and data analysis could not have read Lewandowsky’s paper without realising it had some significant methodological flaws. How it got past peer review I guess may be a question for the Psychological Science Journal to answer. But it is not only skeptics who have ridiculed both the paper and Lewandowsky’s response to questions and criticisms. Tom Curtis a known ‘warmist’ and regular contributor at Skeptical Science raised major problems with it and wasn’t thanks by the ‘believers’ at SkS. Anyway for anyone interested, here is a detailed analysis of the paper including the methodology, data and Lewandowsky’s response. Really the paper should be withdrawn immediately.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks for popping back James.

      With all due respect, expertise is not determined by who the individual’s employer is. It is their relevant qualifications.

      The judiciary in countries such as New Zealand and Australia is free from the influence of the executive body. So when you say “government” we are talking about a large, diverse body in which the separation of powers are very distinct.

      The argument you make is the same one creationists made when they lost the Dover trial, that it is a form of judicial activism and a partisan approach to justice.

      Mike @ WtD

    • Cugel says:

      What the judge said was

      “Mr Dedekind is not an expert in the application of statistical techniques in the field of climate science. Mr Dedekind’s general expertise in basic statistical techniques does not extend to any particular specialised experience or qualifications in the specific field of applying statistical techniques in the field of climate science. To that extent, where Mr Dedekind purports to comment or give opinions as to NIWA’s application of statistical techniques in those fields,his evidence is of little assistance to the Court.”

      That does not read as “the judge accepted he was well qualified in that area” to me. It reads as “qualified in basic statistical techniques”. The judge referred, not to his lack of expertise in climate science as such, but in the statistical techniques which he was meant to be an expert witness in. I’m frankly surprised he found it of even a little assistance, but perhaps he was just being polite.

  9. […] även på ”skeptiska” bloggar. De ”troende” ska ha författat falska enkätsvar. Osv, osv. Här kan du läsa en rolig genomgång av en del av det som har påståtts. GillaGillaBe the first to like this. Utforska inlägg i samma […]

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