A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Lewandowsky peer reviewed study includes someone 32,757 years old

The worst paper ever published has competition. I was going to mock this, but it has all rather slipped beyond the Plains of Derision and sunk in a parallel universe. Researcher Jose Duarte is flummoxed, he simply can’t explain why a paper so weak was written, but moreso why it was ever published, and why everyone associated with it is not running for cover.  It’s not so much about the predictable flaws, biased questions, and mindless results, it’s now about why UWA, The Uni of Bristol, PLOS, and the Royal Society are willing to wear any of the reputational damage that goes with it.

Lewandowsky, Gignac and Oberauer put out a paper in 2013 which was used to generate headlines like “Climate sceptics more likely to be conspiracy theorists”. The data sample is not large, but despite that, it includes the potential Neanderthal, as well as a precocious five year old and some underage teenagers too. The error was reported on Lewandowsky’s blog over a year ago by Brandon Shollenberger, then again by Jose Duarte in August 2014. Nothing has been corrected. The ages are not just typos, they were used in the calculations, correlations and conclusions. The median age [...]

Study namecalling at Queensland University

UPDATE: See Tony Thomas’s views on the course as it runs: UQ’s Denial 101x : Putting the stink in distinction. The course is living up to all expectations!

Would you too like to learn how to misinform people, mangle English, and toss cherry-picked factoids that avoid the real point? How about studying to be an apologist for scientists who take your taxes, but hide their data? Or perhaps you’ve always dreamed of being an obedient useful fool for the State, to help promote propaganda that governments can change the weather if the people just pay enough money?

Are you looking for a cause to pick up that you can brag about at parties to prove your social superiority, impress teenage girls, or hide your low self-esteem? Do you crave an outlet where you get the thrill of being a namecalling bully, but with the excuse that you are “saving the planet” and “being scientific”?

Good news, Queensland University is dumping any pretense that its science faculty uses logic or reason or has an interest in observable evidence. The university is advertising that abusing English definitions and words meets its standards of higher education. After all, no one [...]

Political bias in peer reviewed science

An excellent article in The New Yorker: Is Social Psychology Biased Against Republicans?

It’s an article about the failings of peer review and research design in psychology due to the dominance of one particular political ideology (rather than having a spread more representative of the total population). You won’t be shocked to find there is a dominance of liberal left-leaning views in the profession. The paper it discusses is by Jonathan Haidt and co-authored by our friend Jose Duarte — the psychology PhD candidate and blogger who entertainingly and comprehensively dissected Lewandowsky on his blog: Do we hate our participants?

It will be no surprise that controversial psychology papers (which disagree with the reviewer’s world view)  are usually treated harshly — no matter if the data is as strong. So, thinking of another field we know, what does it mean for research design and peer review when 97% of certified climate scientists hold one world view? (They not only agree on the scientific hypothesis but on the political action as well — and they boast about that?)  What chance does a “controversial” paper have? Has anyone done a study on the political diversity of official climate scientists? There are plenty [...]


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Lewandowsky — Do we hate our participants?

José Duarte is a psychology PhD candidate. He is able to make sense of  issues in the “Moon Landing Paper” by Stephan Lewandowsky, with some new angles in a way I haven’t seen before. He makes a convincing case for the paper to be retracted, about six times over. My initial analysis of this paper still stands: “This could be the worst paper  I have seen — an ad hom argument taken to its absurd extreme, rebadged as “science”.

I recommend Duarte’s whole long analysis, though there is language there that for legal reasons I won’t repeat or endorse. What we see is sloppy science and grand “incompetence“.

Duarte focuses on the deception of a title based on only 10 responses, some of which were fakes, none of which was disclosed to the reader:

Lewandowsky, Oberauer, Gignac titled their paper “NASA faked the moon landing—therefore, (climate) science is a hoax: an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science.”

Why is their title based on the variable for which they have the least data, essentially no data?

Why in the abstract are they linking free market views to incredibly damaging positions that again, they have [...]

Cook scores 97% for incompetence on a meaningless consensus

John Cook’s 97% consensus paper was never going to tell us anything about climate science, so it does seem somewhat pointless to analyze the entrails. It was always a marketing ploy. If it had been done well it might have been useful as a proxy for government funding in science. But it wasn’t, so all we’re left with is some insight about the state of academic competence.

Finding a consensus should have been easy. After all,  billions of dollars of funding has gone to find some evidence (any evidence) that CO2 causes a crisis, and entire research departments have been set up to produce papers to discuss that. And if they didn’t find evidence (they didn’t), they could still write papers discussing the bias of instruments, the error bars, the adjustments, and so on and so forth. What are the chances that hordes of scientists would not find anything to publish? We also know that while believers were being employed left, far-left, and center, quite a few skeptics were sacked. Sometimes skeptical papers got delayed by up to two years, while there was usually a rapid-print option for believers. Once, a whole journal was even shut down for publishing skeptical papers [...]

Newton, Einstein, Watson and Crick, were not peer reviewed

Sir Isaac Newton

Peer review by anonymous unpaid reviewers is not a part of the Scientific Method.

Once upon a time the fate of a scientific paper was dependent on an Editor whose reputation depended on making sound decisions about what to publish. Modern science shifted responsibility from a single identifiable editor to an anonymous “committee”. What could possibly go wrong?

From Zocalo Public Square

Melinda Baldwin looked at the history of peer review:

I was incredibly surprised to learn that Nature published some papers without peer review up until 1973. In fact, many of the most influential texts in the history of science were never put through the peer review process, including Isaac Newton’s 1687 Principia Mathematica, Albert Einstein’s 1905 paper on relativity, and James Watson and Francis Crick’s 1953 Nature paper on the structure of DNA.

A revolution in science happened without formal “peer review”. Who would have thought?

Crucially, journals without refereeing processes were not seen as inferior or less “scientific” than those that used referees. Few scientists thought that two anonymous readers would better judge a paper than, say, the great physicist Max Planck (who was on the editorial board of the prominent German journal [...]

John Cook’s consensus data is so good his Uni will sue you if you discuss it

UPDATE: After I wrote this Brandon published the letter in full and raised some provocative questions. (See below)


What bad news for The University of Queensland. Their entire legal staff were on holiday at the same time and this eminent university was protected only by a Law & Society 101 student who staffed the overnight service of FreeLegalAidOnline. A mockfest is ensuing across the Internet. It is so unfair.

A year ago John Cook published another 97% study (the magic number that all consensuses must find). It was published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (see Anthony Watts view). Cook’s work is obviously impeccable (except for the part about 97% being really 0.3%), but evidently it uses a special new kind of “open data”. The exact date and time each anonymized reviewer reviewed a sacred scientific abstract is commercial and must be kept secret. These volunteer reviewers allegedly stand to, er … lose a lot of money if that data is revealed (they won’t be employed again for no money?). Such is the importance of this that the University of Queensland left the data on secret-secret forum protected by no passwords and then put urls to [...]

Unthreaded Lewandowsky weekend

What can I say. Not another “downfall” video, oh yes. Oh Yes! But for those who know the background on the Recursive Fury retraction, the irony is delicious. Enjoy. Right to the end.

… …

Yesterday I said I had to learn German. Today it’s probably better that I haven’t.

Read on for clues if you are not familiar with the saga.


Prof Fiona Stanley jumps on climate-pulpit, says skepticism “is like child abuse”

It’s another pious scientist. Sigh.

Why do good researchers sometimes throw their professional standards to the wind (or in this case, just blow them right up?)

Fiona Stanley has done great work in the prevention of spina bifida with folic acid, and with indigenous health problems. The new big state funded hospital in WA is named after her, and she’s another Australian of the Year. (Is that award the worst thing that can befall a good scientist? Post hoc, they seem to think the world wants to know their personal feelings on topics they know nothing about.) Cue Professor Fiona Stanley who assumes all fields of science “work” even though she herself says climate science is politicized.

Stanley goes so far as to say that being skeptical of the IPCC view is like “child abuse”. But isn’t it a form of child abuse to throw away the Scientific Method, to sacrifice the next generation’s quality of life, their careers and then burden them with debts to the the God of Wind-farms and the Saint of Pink Batts? Don’t we owe our kids the transfer of a culture of logic and reason that was handed to us?

At least Stanley admits [...]