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Lewandowsky, Prof of Psychology, thinks the Labor Government doesn’t benefit if he calls their opponents “stupid”.

Stephan Lewandowsky’s work is a case study in government funded inanity. Some Australians are sure that burning coal will make storms stronger. Others are not convinced. In November 2012 Lewandowsky’s intellectual contribution to science in Australia was to call the unconvinced “stupid”. If that’s not inane enough, at the same time he claimed that he didn’t recieve funding from any organisation that would benefit from his article.

How many taxpayer dollars went towards funding that? No conflict of interest?

Are Australian Research Council funds used as a form of third party advertising for Labor Government policy?

Writing in “A storm of Stupidity, Sandy, Evidence and Climate Change” on The Conversation, his reasoning is like this: some scientists reckon that a very bad storm called “Sandy” has “links” to man-made emissions of a trace gas. Lewandowsky reasons that because those scientists are called “experts”, anyone who questions them should be called stupid. (He thinks this article and that tweet were overdue). Though, in a twist, apparently he doesn’t actually think the unconvinced are actually stupid, he thinks they are ethically “disembodied” people who “mislead”. (As an aside, notice how he approves of news articles that call them stupid even though he doesn’t really think they are. Is that a commitment to accuracy, science, and evidence, or a commitment to marketing and PR?)

In the end, a government appointed group of “experts” like the Climate Commission, declared that humans made a storm worse, and a government funded psychologist says they’re right and everyone else is dumb (or as good as liars) because they are not convinced we are changing the weather.

Note the “Disclosure Statement” next to the “Stupid” headline.

“Stephan Lewandowsky
Australian Professorial Fellow, Cognitive Science Laboratories at University of Western Australia

Disclosure Statement

Stephan Lewandowsky does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.”





The Conversation November 5th, 2012

Stephan Lewandowsky is funded by Australian Research Council Grants (ARC). The ARC is headed by a Labor Party Minister (though you’d have trouble figuring out which one, after Julia Gillard’s emergency reshuffle). The ARC site has a link to a “Minister” which now points at eight ministers. The top dog, probably, is The Hon Craig Emerson.

Let the money flow

Stephan Lewandowsky is a Winthrop Professor according to his CV. UWA tells us that is the highest level of researcher, earning $ 162,396. And that says a lot about standards at UWA, in the School of Psychology, and at the mostly government funded “Conversation” (which got $6 million in grants to get started). Lewandowsky’s name is listed on ARC grants totalling $2 million since 2007. (See here and here). More often, his “Disclosures” simply say he gets money from the ARC and has no commercial interest.

No Conflict of Interest?

The Australian Labor Party is an organization which has hinged everything on a belief that man-made climate change is a problem worth spending billions on. Their future and status are arguably “improved” if seemingly independent experts write about how smart they are, and how stupid the voters are who disagree with their climate policy. The Labor Party is not funding Lewandowsky directly, but Labor party members are in Government now, and decide what the Australian Government funds. The ARC is “an independent body” whatever “independent” means when the panel appointments, and the size of their funding is determined by the Government (and amount to about $880 million per annum). The ARC mission is to deliver policy and programs that advance Australian research and innovation globally and benefit the community. Note the word “policy”.

Fundamentally, Lewandowsky and most academics are reliant on big-government handouts. He scorns the small-government crowd, and thinks they are the blindly driven free-market-people who can’t make rational decisions:

People who subscribe to a fundamentalist conception of the free market will deny climate change irrespective of the overwhelming strength of the scientific evidence.

Which only goes to show how little he knows about the free market, and how divided on tribal lines this is. The free market ultimately is what provides the funds for big-government to feed its fans. It’s not perfect, but irrational decisions don’t last long in a competitive market.

Yet, here is a Prof of Psychology, apparently unable to see even the potential for a “conflict of interest” in this chain. His entire career depends on big-government, and he thinks he can write quasi-science-opinions that slur opponents of big-government policies and pretend there is no conflict?

Blinded by his own ideology perhaps?

It’s not a conspiracy

I may be called a “Conspiracy Theorist” for pointing out the conflict. But there’s no conspiracy necessary here. I’m suggesting a systematic failure and incompetence on every level. Craig Emerson probably has no idea how badly ARC funds are spent. The ARC may not know either. I seriously don’t think anyone higher up has ever phoned Lewandowsky to ask him to write this kind of fallacious and barren prose. As far as I can tell, he is pursuing his own personal belief rather than being “hired” to do so. The editors of The Conversation didn’t see the inanity, possibly because it’s their personal pet topic too, they are a product of big-government, and they were never trained in logic and reason either. And all of the lack of rigour is funded by the taxpayers of Australia. Layers and layers of sloppy thinking that would never survive in the free market.

The real problem here is that someone is responsible for handing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to incompetent people, and no one has demanded that Professors of science follow the tenets of science or the laws of reason. Lewandowsky, of course, is welcome to call us stupid deniers if he feels that way, but why is the taxpayer funding this kind of unscientific namecalling?


As an aside: the science on Sandy

Attributing exact causes for storms is such a mess that even the experts who blame man-made climate change don’t agree with each other. The Climate Commission thinks that hotter water made Sandy worse. Oceanographer Matthew England disagrees, saying that’s “less of a factor”:

“The ocean temperature anomalies of 3-5C off New York that would feed energy into the extra-tropical cyclone in that part of the world matter much less than if such anomalies were located under the storm in the tropics,” Professor England said.

“Basically tropical cyclones are very sensitive to underlying ocean temperatures, but cyclones outside the tropics care somewhat less about the underlying ocean temperatures.

More rational people, like Bob Tisdale, take the long term view and point out that sea surface temperature anomalies along Sandy’s track haven’t warmed in 70+ years, while Roger Pielke points out that there is no recent trend in US Hurricane Intensity from 1900-2012“the last five years have been the “lowest period of landfalling hurricane intensity of any five-year period dating all the way back to 1900.” Sandy apparently wasn’t an unprecedented record storm surge either (Tropical Cyclone Mahina, Bathurst Bay, Australia in 1899, was). There have been plenty of worse storms.

Bob Carter and William Kininmonth wrote a good summary here saying that the Climate Commission was wilfully misleading the public on “Sandy”. Essentially the massive damage was mostly due to inundation and flooding in areas where infrastructure and houses were not designed to cope. Spring tides made it worse too. (Thanks to reader Jaymez)

UPDATE: See Bob Tisdale reply in comments below. Help his do his work and buy his inexpensive ebooks here! (Thanks Bob)


See also: Are ARC grants for science or a form of government advertising disguised as research?

Posts tagged Stephan Lewandowsky

UPDATED: Minor edits and additions were made. The phrase Labor Party in the headline was changed to Labor Government. h/t TheInquirer for proof-reading. Additional information was provided about the ARC mission, & funding.

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