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Name-calling fairy dust: “Conspiracy Theorist”

Image: Lewandowsky, Fairy Dust, Logic, Ad hominem

Ad hominem Unleashed on the ABC

On our ABC there’s lots of talk “about evidence” but next to nothing of actual evidence. (The empty homage to “evidence” is handy though, it keeps the pretense alive that it’s a scientific conversation). Stephan Lewandowsky is still doing his Picasso-brain-best to search in all the wrong places for enlightenment.

Is the planet warming from man-made CO2? Lewandowsky “knows” it is. Why? Because the 9/11 truthers are conspiracy theorists (and conspiracies are always wrong). O’ look, a few people ask odd questions about an accident in a building years ago, and sometimes those people are also the species Homo Sapiens Climata Scepticus (!). So it follows (if you are insane) that because some people still doubt the official story of an unrelated past event, man-made global warming will contribute 3.7W/m2 in the year 2079, and we’ll all become souffles in the global Sahara.

I’m not making this stuff up. I’ve tallied up the obvious errors from both articles. His power to confuse himself with red herrings is …  “impressive”.

Lewandowsky scorecard for logic and reason

Argument from authority                   4

Baseless Assertion                                    3

Unsubstantiated Name-calling          1

Ad hominem                                                 2

Red Herring                                                  6

Total                                                              – 16

Lewandowsky uses his Magic Fairy Debating Dust to preemptively stop discussions of climate science evidence.  If anyone complains against any mainstream position on anything, he can define whatever it is as  a “conspiracy theory”. Then his omnipotent powers as a cognitive scientist kick in. I quote: “The nature of conspiracy theories and their ultimate fate is reasonably well understood by cognitive scientists”. He who knows can foresee the ultimate fate of all conspiracy theories. A handy talent which could save us doing expensive Royal Commissions, or Supreme Courts, or heck, we could just use this talent to save us the bother of any courts or commissions or investigations at all.

So God and Lewandowsky, apparently, can always tell the difference between a whistle-blower and conspiracy theorist. (Too bad some conspiracies have turned out to be right. And who cares if a lot of skeptics don’t think it’s a conspiracy in any case). Lewandowsky uses  the name-calling to “poison the well” against people who don’t even believe in a conspiracy, but happen to also be skeptical…

So God and Lewandowsky, apparently, can always tell the difference between a whistle-blower and conspiracy theorist.

The “conspiracy theorist” smoke bomb is multi-purpose. Because it judges people, and not the physics, the ad hominem slur can be applied ad lib.

I’ll see his “conspiracy theory” and raise him one: How about the conspiracy theorists who think (without evidence) that all major skeptics are paid by big oil, and are only in it for the money?

In the end, if the question involves “climate” you can say yay or nay to the conspiracy and who cares? Unless the clouds are conspiring, Lewandowsky is looking in all the wrong places.

And Anthony Watts’ extraordinary program to photograph (for free) the sites that NOAA manages with $4 billion dollars, does that mean anything? No — Lewandowsky could have saved everyone so much time. He can trivialize anything into submission with motherhood statements that miss the point:

For several years now, armies of irate pensioners have been swarming the countryside, spurned on by feverish websites, taking photographs of thermometers in the belief that this would invalidate concerns about climate change — and seemingly unaware of the fact that the utility of a thermometer derives from the accuracy of its measurement rather than anything captured by a colour photo.

It’s good to know, isn’t it, that it doesn’t matter if a thermometer is sitting 3 feet above a concrete platform in the sun, or next to an air-conditioning vent, or near a runway with jet aircraft, it won’t make any difference to the temperature it records. In the new Lewandowsky-Themometer-Law: if it can be captured by a camera, it can’t affect the reading. Somehow thermometers can compensate for all artificial influences that can be photographed. (Does Lewandowsky realize that “accurate” can be accurate, but meaningless? The thermometer could measure to two decimal places and be accurate, but we want the temperature of the region, not the temperature of a a square foot of air near a concrete wall.*)  As a bonus, Lewandowsky manages to be rude and patronizing to everyone over 60 as well: educated retirees become “irate pensioners”.

Lewandowsky tries to casually slide some evidence in there, but nothing much is going his way. He speculates that US Navy submarines must be part of these “conspiracy theories” because they show so much Arctic melting, but if they are in on the Big Scare Campaign, the US Navy got the wrong memo. The USS Skate surfaced at the North Pole in 1959, and the US Navy has photos of it.

US Navy photo of US Skate Submarine surfacing at the North Pole in 1959

US Navy photo of US Skate Submarine surfacing in the Arctic in 1959 (Thanks to John Daly)

The Skate records says: “We surfaced near the North Pole in the winter through thin ice less than 2 feet thick.”

Apparently there a many similar examples all over the web.

Lewandowsky religiously defends his “authorities”

Likewise, climate “sceptics” obsessively yelp at the alleged frailties of the surface temperature record and accuse respectable scientific agencies of “fudging” data, oblivious to the fact that multiple independent analyses of the temperature record give rise to the exact same conclusion.

We might be “oblivious” to the success of independent analyses (which all adjust their own “exact same” conclusions every few years), but it’s more likely that Stephan is  “oblivious” to the obvious: Those independent groups all use the same thermometers (the magic ones next to airports, asphalt, air conditioners and concrete).

Then Lewandowsky mocks Andrew Bolt because he mistakenly thinks Bolt wrote off a British report as a whitewash for the wrong reason (something about the head honcho riding a bike). But Bolt knows it’s a whitewash for lots of reasons, including that Lord Oxburgh is President of the Carbon Capture Association. Let’s guess how much Carbon Capture would be worth if Oxburgh’s committee announced that the science was poppycock. Would that be zero, or less? Do tell us, Stephan Lewandowsky, Australian Professorial Fellow in Psychology, if someone wanted to get an independent real analysis of climate science, would they pick the Chairman of wind energy firm Falck Renewables, who stands to lose prestige, power, and money if he finds anything wrong with the CRU?

The word you’re looking for is Gullible.

With his devout faith in foreign committees and scientists who’ve admitted to losing their data, and sending “awful emails”, Lewandowsky appears to be going out of his way to risk his career and reputation to defend the blatantly corrupt.

Does the University of WA support this kind of reasoning?  For the sake of the UWA science faculty’s reputation, it’s time he was censured. (Please send the man to remedial logic and reason classes ferrgoodnesssake.)

Does the ABC think this irrelevant smear contributes to “public debate” (what, it’s fodder for those who can’t think, and target practice for those who can?)

Australian taxpayers, you pay a professorial type salary to this man who can’t reason, and you pay for the forum he parades his irrational fuming on.

It’s time to protest.

Other articles on Lewandowsky:



H/tip to Steve. Thanks!


*Some people think I’m mixing up precision and accuracy here — which means I didn’t explain myself well enough. In this case I’m warning Lewandowsky that there is something that trumps precision and accuracy, and that’s relevancy. We are looking for trends across decades and for air temperatures that cover square kilometers. A thermometer next to tarmac that was laid 10 years old, is giving us neither. The thermometers can be both precise and accurate, but their results can still be meaningless.

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