Tag Archives: Lewandowsky

Mad About Mental Issues: Part 2

Let’s continue our survey of the top 10 things you’d be crazy not to know about our growing mental problem.

6 It’s OK to laugh!

While lunacy is ultimately a climate change issue, it does differ from global warming in one important way: you’re allowed to laugh about it, according to CN’s Professor Stephan Lewandowsky [pictured].

Lew interview new 08

Spokespersons for the mad rights movement couldn’t agree more. They’re no killjoys, they say—and the last thing they’d want to do is take the humor out of the subject.

“Every culture in history has enjoyed a chuckle at the expense of the less-hinged,” explains Professor Ian Hickie of Australia’s Brain and Mind Institute [BMI].

“This seems to be hardwired; we couldn’t outgrow it if we wanted to, which of course we don’t.”

And nobody laughs harder than nutjobs themselves, who are the first to dissolve into giggles at a good joke. (And if they have the awkward habit of anticipating the punchline by one or two sentences, all the merrier!)

“We always appreciate comedy, provided it makes sense without being hurtful, yet contains a broader point about the foibles of contemporary society,” explained a drooling maniac who agreed to rant at us in Sydney’s Northside Clinic.

“Then again,” he continued as we backed away slowly, “another equally valid comic tradition entails the reframing—in an exaggerated or surprising way—of some moral intuition of the time and culture in which the routine is performed.”

And if you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point of living?

“You might as well put your affairs in order, hop into a warm bath to stimulate peripheral blood flow and open your wrists with a razor blade (remembering to cut along the length of the arm, not crosswise—a classic beginner’s mistake),” to quote a patient information booklet distributed by the New South Wales Department of Health.

7 Immigrants are at risk.

We traveled to Sydney’s Southwest, where one cluster of suburbs is so rife with cray-cray it’s officially known as the District of Punchbowl.

It’s also an area of high immigration—and that’s no coincidence, say professional ethnographers.

Lewandowsky interview 17

At the area hospital we met women suffering from the erotomanic persecutory delusion that they’d be ravished by strangers unless they concealed every inch of their bodies from view.

In the emergency ward a man was angrily arguing with staff. From what I could make out with my limited Arabic, he seemed to be obsessed with the compass direction in which his bed was facing.

Administrators had set aside a room for the use of 20 or so patients who labored under the shared conviction, or folie à plusieurs, that they needed to ululate and perform a downwards-dog manoeuvre five times a day. I asked one man what he thought would happen if he failed to carry out this ritual. He muttered something about his “soul” going to “hell,” though he couldn’t say where either of these was located.

The local religious centre does what it can. One enterprising imam has set up a Friday activity club where hundreds of people with similar thought disorders find support from others going through the same thing. But he says he just doesn’t have the resources or training to give everyone in the area the help they need.

Meanwhile, though, some of Australia’s migrant populations not only seem to be immune to the kind of meshugaas that plagues Punchbowl, they actually outperform the country’s Anglo-Saxon indigenes on measures of psychic soundness, screw tightness and marble possession.

It’s a veritable head-scratcher. In terms of country of origin, says Professor Lewandowsky, the major epicentres of mental disturbance are as diverse and seemingly random as Indonesia, Lebanon, southern (but not northern) Thailand, Pakistan (but not India), Muslim Bosno-Albania (but not Catholic Serbo-Croatia), the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Iraq.

“Astute readers may notice,” continues Lewandowsky, “that these ‘hot spots’ have one and only one factor in common: they all happen to be war-ravaged nations with a long history of persecution by Israel, going all the way back to the Crusades, and to a lesser extent by the West.”

This observation has led to the favorite hypothesis of alienists everywhere: that most people who lose their senses do so as a result of Judeoamerican Islamophobia.

8 The stigma can be worse than the disease.

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We’ve got Mental Illness Awareness Madness!

Part 1

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? That special time of year has come and gone again! Did you enjoy your Mental Illness Awareness Week?

Here at Climate Nuremberg we’re nuts about MIAW, the annual opportunity to think about a non-climate-related, but nevertheless important, social issue.

Just because climate change is by far the worst problem society will ever face, doesn’t mean it’s the only one. 

Unprecedented temperatures; carbon pollution; the daily toll of species going extinct in real time; oceans rapidly turning to acid; millions of climate refugees in limbo between homelands—these very real crises obviously demand attention.

But so does another tragedy, closer to home. In your own neighborhood are folks who believe in things that just don’t exist.

It’s all well and good to listen to what The Science is telling us about our warming globe. But did you know 1 in 40 Australians will experience hearing things?

As we weep uncontrollably for the loss of Pacific nation after Pacific nation to the onslaught of surging sea levels, spare a thought for people who get sad for no sensible reason.

As academics we can get so caught up in simply surviving the attacks of the oil-funded Subterranean War on Science that we forget about folks with even bigger problems. Folks who think imaginary forces are out to get them, for instance.

But all these people exist, they’re all our neighbors, and they’re all suffering the same problem. I’m referring—of course—to the problem of mental problems.


Credibility: Stephan Lewandowsky, the Americo-Australian cognician now based in England, generously sacrificed his time and reputation to act as a consultant to this article series.

So, whether you fancy yourself a maven of meshuggenology or just an engaged citizen, here are the take-home points everyone needs to know about the growing mental crisis in our community.

1 Insanity is a rich tapestry.

Admit it: when you think of a mental patient you picture a crazy person, don’t you? But this stereotype is too simplistic, explains CN’s Stephan Lewandowsky. While craziness does remain the most common mental problem, there’s a broad gamut of others.

The crazy “only make up about 60% of the caseload at your local asylum,” says the Bristol-based Professor. “Doctors now recognize a whole range of deformities of the mind, from simple severe melancholia to relapsing-remitting batcrappery.

“You could almost write a book about all the diagnoses now in use,” he adds, slightly hyperbolically.

2 Going psycho: it will happen to you.

And if it doesn’t, say epidemiologists, it will happen to someone you know. According to a major recent study, 19% of Australians—that’s almost every fifth person—will take leave of their gourd at some point in their lives. That’s almost one in every five people.

Derangement: Professor Lewandowsky used to think it was something that happened to other people.

3 We need to have a conversation.

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Frequently Feared Questions

Dear climate academia,
Stefan Lewandowsky tells you all you ever wanted to know about the Scared Scientists but were afraid to ask because you didn’t want to know.

Q I worked briefly with [Scared Scientist’s name withheld] and the abduction of the octet has brought up certain… emotions. What if I talk to a trauma counselor at the University and they think I’m nuts? —Logic Bloke

A Mr Bloke,

Nobody is going to judge you! There’s no “right” way to respond to incidents like this, psychologically speaking.

Debilitating grief, constant white-knuckle panic, recurrent ideation about pain and death that crowds out everything else, an all-consuming dread, feelings of paralytic anxiety—these are all normal, healthy reactions.

Lew's views 08

Magic bullet: Lewandowsky owes his life to the designer stimulants that have kept him one step ahead of his pursuers—and with zero adverse effects. Could uppers be the the holy grail of pharmacology: a life-saving drug class with literally no downside?

But you don’t have to go through them alone. As someone who’s experienced them all since breakfast, I can assure you it helps to vent.

So don’t be shy. For once in your climate career, this is no time for scientific reticence!


Q Professor Lewandowski (sic), could you settle a faculty bet: as day 4 of the crisis dawns, is there any unhealthy or ‘incorrect’ way to feel? —ExCapitalistWoman, Sydney

A Ms Woman,

Panic is a deeply personal journey. Your amygdalae, adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system are different from the next person’s, so why should you drop your bundle exactly the same way?

We each have our own timetable for not getting through events like this.

What’s important is that you give in to terror on your own terms—nobody else’s.

Lew' Views Two 06

Nope: On further rumination, Lewandowsky still can’t think of a single ill effect from “half a lifetime” of amphetamine use.

When life gets traumatic the only ‘wrong‘ way to respond is denial. This week’s news is a case in point.

If you ever feel you’re coping well as the kidnapping crisis unfolds, that’s what we call a major red flag. Call your doctor or counselor as a matter of urgency. They can help you get back on track, or put you in contact with someone who can.

But there’s a limited time window, so act while the trauma is still acute.


Q Dear Dr (sic) Lewandowsky, police here in Australia keep assuring us they have “no credible information” about an elevated threat [of further abductions] to us [climate scientists]. Why don’t I find this comforting? —Professor_Planet, Melbourne
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We Are All Scared Scientists Now

For those left behind, trauma

Climate supporters everywhere have been in an emotional purgatory since news first broke of the disappearance of our scientists. Today, a planet’s vigil for eight very special, very scared people enters its critical third blog post—but investigators fear the agony has just begun.

“An early breakthrough is unlikely,” admitted Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin on talkback radio this morning.


Scared Psychologists: CN’s Stefan Lewandowsky believes it’s important to panic about one new thing a day. “The day nothing causes you to soil yourself is the day you truly become old,” he frets. His global network of clinics, Lewandowsky Living With Fear Technologies™, boasts thousands of ‘satisfied shitless’ clients.

Meanwhile, colleagues and grad students at the universities where the eight neurotics worked are being offered free hysteria counseling.

At a media conference today Senior Detective Donald Jenner of the AFP’s Missing Scientist Unit described the emotional and behavioral toll this crisis is taking on the climate-academic population.

“Thousands of climate scientists, [climate] ethicists and [climate] psychologists will be wetting their beds again tonight—not only in Australia, but wherever there’s a large climate-hyphenated community. All their kids can do is give them an extra-big hug when they get home from work today.”

“At the risk of cliché, these tragic situations do bring the community closer,” Det. Jenner continued. “Friends and family of climatologists tell us they’re checking their loved ones’ blogs for the first time in years. Speaking as a parent myself—though I don’t personally have [a climate scientist] in the family—nothing could be worse than looking back and wishing you’d refreshed your browser sooner.”

A peer in fear speaks up

Before he fled to England, Stefan Lewandowsky was in close contact with a number of the desaparecidos, and considered it a “privilege” to call himself “a peer in fear.”

The psychology professor spoke to us in a wide-ranging interview, interrupted only by the continual need to look behind his back. He didn’t mean to be rude, he explained, but enemies could be closing in at any time from any compass direction.

(Lewandowsky admits his obsessive vigilance can make social life awkward, but is convinced it’s paid off. “I’ve never been raped,” he boasts, “by surprise.”)

Eternal vigilance

You can’t be too paranoid these days: The slightest noise from the rear could presage the approach of Lewandowsky’s nameless pursuers. “See, this is why I asked for a chair against the wall,” he whines for the umpteenth time.

“There was talk at one point of my becoming the ninth Scared Scientist,” he recalls.

“In the end, though, we agreed that cognitive scientists aren’t [actually scientists]. Thank Christ… otherwise I’d probably be there right now, by [my frightened friends’] side, huddled in a gibbering mess in the corner of some godforsaken shipping container.”

Lewandowsky adds that he “get[s] seasick at the drop of a hat.”

The climate cognician—best known for overturning decades of rational risk analysis [RRA] with his discovery of Lewandowsky’s Uncertainty Principle—says he yearns for specific information, no matter how grisly, on the fate that’s befallen his phobic friends.

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Definition of ‘climate’ changing faster than at any time in last 1000 years

Natural concept change can’t account for the dramatic saltations we’re seeing in what scientists say the Earth’s climate means, according to an alarming new analysis of the climate corpus.

Climate linguists say the motion on the dial far exceeds background rates of semantic drift, and it shows no sign of damping. They’re increasingly worried that—with recent disturbances in weather, consensus, acidification, pollution, skeptic, global, conspiracist, conspiratorial, trick, hide, what the peer-reviewed literature is, the scientific method, knowledge, evidence and other previously-stable concepts—verbal weirding could represent the new normal.

But Stefan Lewandowsky, Bristol University’s Professor of Cognitive Science and a regular Nuremberg contributor, doesn’t need to see the data. He’s already convinced that things are getting more frequent—because it’s happening to him. Anecdotally.

“Sometimes,” he confides, “I can’t even predict what a given term is going to mean by the time I finish writing a paper about it! People [who read my climate psychology research] are scared and confused.”

Things are getting more and more frequent, he points out.

Things are getting more and more frequent, Lewandowsky often argues.

It’s even prompted Lewandowsky to rethink the legacy of David Viner, a figure once dubbed the Chemical Ali of Climate Change for his predictions that children “won’t know what snow is.”

“We all enjoy a good laugh at his expense, but I suspect we might find the invoice coming back to us,” argues Lewandowsky. “Do your kids know the IPCC’s current definition of snow? When’s the last time you asked them?”

For his part, he admits, “I’ve never tested them. Part of me is afraid to check.

“It’s… my brain,” he concludes. “My brain is afraid to check.”

Most scholars are now unanimous: language change is real, it’s happening, our activity is to blame, and only human action can stop it.

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No means no: protecting yourself from Illegitimate Insertion

Guest post by Stephan Lewandowsky
Bristol University • School of Theoretical Conspiracism

In a way, today’s scientists have it better than Hypatia of Alexandria. They don’t have to worry about being flayed with sharpened stones—yet; but they do endure things no scientist should.


Victims of bullying—like climate scientists—become bullies themselves, warns Lewandowsky, who knows of several climatologists who’ve now progressed to enuresis and fire-setting.

They never signed up for this.

Nobody said their life’s work would be critically scrutinized, repositioned from fact to theory and slandered as “uncertain.”

Nobody warned them their work was going to be forcibly disclosed, competitively replicated (usually with different results), pedantically ransacked for errors and fallacies, refuted in and out of the peer-reviewed literature, ignored, investigated and cleared by two-dozen independent inquiries, debunked by amateurs of no scientific standing, and disbelieved.

(It’s the disbelief that hurts the most.)

The methods may have changed over the centuries, but whether it’s the Roman Inquisition interrogating Giordano Bruno or some head-in-the-sand blogger intimidating the ANU by asking for information, the point of questioning academics is always the same: to stifle inquiry.

Psychologists familiar with the way deniers behave have called it “bullying.” Wikipedia tells us that,

The word “bully” was first used in the 1530s meaning “sweetheart”, applied to either sex, from the Dutch boel “lover, brother” […] The meaning deteriorated through the 17th century through “fine fellow”, “blusterer”, to “harasser of the weak”.

I have an uglier term for harassment of the weak: illegitimate insertion.

When Inboxes Attack: safety tips for email recipients

Because bullying campaigns take the form of email, they can be hard to distinguish from emails.

The point of questioning academics is always the same: to stifle inquiry.

But bear in mind at all times that:

  • A real scientist will always use the email address of a reputable institution.
  • A real scientist will always state his/her credentials and repeatedly acknowledge yours, thus establishing a basis of mutual legitimacy for the interaction.
  • A real scientist will never ask for your credit card number.
  • A real scientist will seldom threaten to rape and murder your family; this is an admission of losing the argument, something proper academics rarely concede.

Deniers often take advantage of the fundamental and absolute openness that is the sine qua non of all science to disguise their attacks as requests for information.

There are, however, some subtle tipoffs. A mala fide email often gives itself away when the sender

  • claims to be a scientist but says words only a conservative would use: bitter, cling, guns, religion, Rush, Limbaugh, Popper, Feynman, etc.
  • claims to be “skeptical,” but later makes a comment that reveals detailed knowledge of your work. Remember, real skeptics know almost nothing about climate science, which is why they’re not convinced yet. But if they understand the science, that’s mens rea right there—they are (by definition) denying it.
  • has a paranoid or distrustful tone. If you sense even the slightest subtext of suspicion, this should set off major alarm bells.
  • casts aspersions on your manhood, then proceeds to hustle you with inflated claims about expensive supplements and weird exercises that just don’t work. Remember guys: if the “results” sound too good to be true, why haven’t you read about it in the peer-reviewed literature?

When people ask for your data, what do they really want?

This is a good question with no easy answers.

A Freedom of Information [FOI] request isn’t necessarily a vexatious, chilling assault on science. It probably is; but what if a legitimate scholar simply needs some data to strengthen the consensus?

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Science mit Stefan

What is the instrument by which skepticism is pursued?

Peer review.*

Peer review is literally the instrument by which scientific skepticism is pursued.

I already explained this to you.

Stephan Lewandowsky

Stephan Lewandowsky is Professor of Cognitive Psychology, but only at Bristol University. Psychology is defined as the study of the mental disorders of rats. “Brains” too, he adds [pictured].

*“Skeptics” often claim the answer is “science itself,” or “the scientific method.” Unfortunately there is no such thing, as half-scientist half-historian Naomi Oreskes has already explained (p. 80) to you.

Did You Know?

Stevan comes from a small village in Wisconsin where they say the word “pursued” instead of “um”!

Are you Lewandowskily literate?


Stephan Lewandowsky. Univ. Bristol staff photo.

S. Lewandowsky (staff photo).

Do you nod mindlessly when water-cooler chatter turns to the newest ‘Lew’ buzz? Are you sick of pretending to have an informed take on ‘Steve’s’ latest retracted masterpiece?

You’re not alone! The Berg now answers the top questions asked by people just like you.

—CN editorial team

General questions

Who is Steven, Stephan, Stephen, or Steve Lewandowsky?

SL: Hi, I’m Stevan Lewandowsky, a Professor of Cognitive Psychology in Bristol. I used to be a Winthrop Professor* at the University of Western Australia [UWA].

My research addresses the distinction between skepticism, cynicism, denial, denialism, pessimism and sardonicism.

Thank you for your interest in my work—and thanks to ClimateNuremberg for offering to host this FAQ. Feel free to ask me anything reasonable.

*The next rank after regular Professor.

Where have I heard Lewandowsky’s name before?

CN: You may know Lewandowsky as the scientist behind NASA faked the moon landing—therefore climate science is a hoax [LOG12] or the 57-page magnum opus Recursive Fury,’ a paper the UWA legal department gushes it is “entirely comfortable” with.

Or perhaps you’ve read Dealing With Bullies, the guide to dealing with skeptics. The success of this slim manual amazes even Lewandowsky, who quips, “it has now been translated into virtually all languages short of Swahili.1

Stephan is hard at work on a new handbook, Are You Being Plotted Against?, which he envisions “as a kind of prequel to the events of Dealing With Bullies.”


Something must be wrong [MbW]: Lewandowsky’s latest work on risk suggests the low climate sensitivity espoused by some ‘skeptics’ would require Princess Di to be alive and dead… simultaneously! “Something must be wrong [MbW] with them,” he believes. “Mentally.”

What do we know about Lewandowsky personally?

CN: Being a climate academic is dangerous. Scientists have had dead rats left on their doorsteps by suspected conservatives who then speed off in yellow SUVs.

And psychologists are at just as much risk as proper scientists, so Lewandowsky is understandably guarded.

What we do know is that he got his undergraduate degree from Washington College, Chestertown, MD and a PhD from Toronto University. In 1995 the unexpected death of a Winthrop Professor led the people of Western Australia to offer Lewandowsky the coveted Winthrop Chair. He was reluctant to migrate, but the citizenry wouldn’t take no for an answer and their piteous entreaties eventually wore Lewandowsky down.

(Some confusion has been caused by his remark that he moved Down Under “in search of adventures and great weather.1” This was almost certainly meant as a sort of joke, given that Western Australia’s climate is no better than Maryland’s—if anything, it’s warmer.)

In 2013 an escalating campaign of victimization by climate deniers finally forced Lewandowsky to move to the UK, where he found steady work as a dock laborer but was soon demoted to Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Bristol University. Unfortunately the move failed to throw his persecutors off:

Carmen Lawrence then made an aside that probably puzzled many—and worried more than a few: “Stephan Lewandowsky just emailed to advise he is still being pursued by climate deniers in an extravagant way.2

Stephan has one son, John Lewandowsky-Oreskes, a pro-science communicator who blogs under the more manageable nom de plume John Cook.

What are Lewandowsky’s personal interests?

CN: In his spare time Lewandowsky enjoys rock climbing, trainspotting and maintaining his blog about the unique challenges of being an autistic psychologist.

It’s been two years now—when is the Swahili edition of ‘Dealing’ due out?? Any updates on its progress?

SL: [Sighs.] Look, if it were up to us, that would have been the very first translation. Life is no barrel of joy in Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania or Uganda if you’re being climate-bullied.

So yes, we feel your pain. Please be patient.

 Trustworthy: Lewandowsky says the climate change issue is about trust.

Credible: The climate debate is ultimately about trust, says Lewandowsky. He ends all his lectures with the same question: “In whose hands do you want your future?”

What are Lewandowsky’s research interests?

CN: Lewandowsky’s early work focused on the science of disinformation, dishonesty and deception. This led naturally into the climate-science world, where he now works full-time as a climate psychologist.

He lists his cognitive-science interests as:

  • the effect of false information,0
  • the effect of fallacious arguments and
  • the effect of perceived consensus on acceptance of ‘the science’ [sic].3

His climate-psychology interests include:

  • the little-known ‘propaganda war on science and scientists,4
  • ostensible think tanks and their ‘chimerical pseudo-scientific conferences,5
  • uncovering the ‘active, vicious, and well-funded campaign of denial that seeks to delay action against climate change,5
  • the ‘thought-control machinery of the right-wing media,6
  • the ‘intimidation and censorship tactics of the denial industry,6
  • climate deniers and their ‘less visible means of attack6,’
  • their ‘subterranean war on science,7
  • various ‘activities beneath the surface, hidden from public view,8
  • paranoid ideation
  • and how it’s linked to unscientific thinking.
Mister sensitivity

Mister sensitivity: Loud conversations cause “physical pain,” Lewandowsky complains—as if he needed yet another reason to avoid human company.

What does ‘ideation’ mean?

CN: Thinking.

Stephan, can you say a bit about the process of writing a paper like ‘Moon Landing’ or ‘Recursive’?

SL: An article [in our field] typically starts with an idea about how people think, act or respond to questionnaires. But remember, cognitive science is a bit like real science in a way: it’s not about having ideas, it’s about proving they’re true.

So once you’ve thought of a title (say, ‘Free-market fundamentalism predicts climate denial’), obtained funding, and so on, your challenge then becomes one of experimental design: what do you have to do to ensure subjects behave the way you predicted?

And to achieve that… well, you’ll really need a doctoral education in psychology. That’s why psychology is so hard—and also why it works so well!

The denialist community must really appreciate Lewandowsky’s help in understanding its problems. How have deniers shown their thanks and support for his work?

SL: I’m sure the majority of ‘skeptics’ are grateful. Unfortunately though, a few bad apples have reacted just the opposite way.

I often worry that the behavior of this minority of ingrates could be used to tar the whole [denialist] population. Hence my personal policy: never dwell on the negative.

If, say, a climate denier says something rude to me—in the literature, on the street, wherever—I’ll write one or two papers on it, tops, then move on.

The key is, never let a bully know how much they’re getting to you.

Any kind of reaction on my part would only make me look insecure.

Which is exactly what bullies want. I assume. Who really knows what anyone is thinking?

CN: Just to expand on Stephan’s answer a bit, one of the most important articles bullies have forced him to write is ‘The Subterranean War on Science.7

In this piece, published by the APS, he details various stratagems pointing to the existence of a major clandestine plot against science—perhaps the most chilling of which is the use of insincere or “satirical” websites. Lewandowsky himself was entrapped by one called Verdant Hopesan ordeal which he eventually found the courage to speak out about:

Other attempts at intimidation have involved the solicitation of potentially compromising information from [me] by a non-existent internet “sock puppet” whose unknown creators pretended to be victimized by climate deniers—and who then splattered the private correspondence on the internet.7

Magic bullet: Deniers sometimes try to speak to Lewandowsky, but “nine times out of 10” he finds he can scare them off with a “killer argument” he heard on Robyn Williams’ show: “What if I told you pedophilia is good for children?”

What on earth would possess a high-earning, internationally sought-after academic to spend his time understanding deniers when they repay him with such ingratitude?

SL: The real question, I think, is why more of us aren’t working on the problem!

Denial now affects half the community—it’s the first psychopathology ever, in human history, [which] you’re just as likely to have as be free of. There are no precedents for such a pandemic.

But here’s the tragedy: the act of rejecting all of modern science is just so bizarre, so incomprehensible to us, as academics, that the [psychology] profession simply chucks denialists in the Too Hard basket.

Well, that’s not OK with me. Not one bit.

No human being belongs in a Too Hard basket (however abhorrent we find them).

My peers never could understand how tolerant, even empathetic I am towards deniers.

Maybe it’s about growing up as an outsider myself. I know what it feels like in the Three Percent. Trust me, kids are cruel when you can’t read basic social situations, modulate your voice like a “normal” person or tell the difference between parody and a literal statement.

In high school there was exactly one person I could relate to: Sartre. L’enfer, c’est les autres! And this—paradoxically?—is probably why I will never, can never, give up on denialists.

To quote Einstein, a scientist who’s often been compared to me:

My passionate sense of social justice and responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and communities9.

0 E.g. Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing

1 Science AMA Series: I’m Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky, AMA!

2 “Fine” Paper Retracted

3 The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science

4 Bitten by a sock puppet, but the climate is still changing

5 The Morality of Unmasking Heartland

6 Stephen Lewandowsky: Confronting the Anti-Science Thought Police

7 The Subterranean War on Science

8 Recursive Fury goes recurrent

9 Albert Einstein, The World As I See It

On the ‘Moon Landing’ paper [LOG12]

Why does the ‘Moon Landing’ paper matter?

SL: Scientists had known for a long time—though there was no evidence for it—that conspiracist ideation was associated with the rejection of climate science.

Yawn, right? Not exactly news.

But what I wanted to know was:

To what extent could we “demonstrate” this without actually interacting with deniers?

Make no mistake, this wasn’t personal. It wasn’t about my own crippling shyness. It wasn’t even about breaking down the methodological and procedural barriers that have kept the practice of psychology off-limits to the empathically impoverished, socially tetanic and vigilantly incurious for far too long.

OK, maybe it was. But it was also about making cognitive science itself so much easier; so much more efficient. For everyone. If our study worked, it would be the “proof of concept” for an idea I’ve championed for years, in spite of just about every psych textbook ever printed:

“Engagement, in my view, is not a solution but just an enormous waste of time.10″

It’s all well and good possessing the rare genius to come up with a postulate like that in the first place, but does this iconoclastic, revolutionary insight actually work in practice?

CN: That’s the best part, scientifically: yes! When the authors crunch the answers from their—largely anti-denier—respondents, guess what? It looks a lot like the stuff deniers probably say.

The UK’s Royal Society grasped the value and novelty of LOG12 straight away.

“It is this Society’s view that the remote procedures perfected by Mr Lewandowsky light the way,” it declared, “by which the behavioral sciences (so called) might at last shake off the narrative sickness. This Fellow has reminded us of that Law unto which all true study is consecrated: Nullius In Verba—which means Don’t Talk To Anyone.

“In Mr Lewandowsky’s hands, the humble Internet-based survey has restored Man to his rightful place in science: the inside of a Skinner box.”

SL: Occasionally someone makes an almost valid criticism of LOG12: that we failed to find a bigger [denialism⟷conspiracism] association. But the “weakness” of the effect is easily explained: the data was contaminated by the participation of actual deniers.

In our next paper we’re going to bypass the entire problem by studying a population that doesn’t contain any deniers—Australian university staff—and soliciting their model of denialist thought. The preliminary data we’re getting with this simple hygienic improvement are already encouraging. They’re a lot closer to the way we think deniers really think.

What does the denialist community have against LOG12?

SL: Honestly? Nobody knows. Three of my doctoral students are doing theses on this as we speak!

It is, of course, self-explanatory why normal people would be miffed if you dismissed their beliefs as “conspiracist ideation”—especially if you’d never met—but it’s not clear why climate deniers appear to feel exactly the same.

Far be it from me to downplay the very real inroads we’ve made into the denialist mind thanks to my research, but the sad fact remains: the psychology of unbelief is still largely opaque to science.

Is it my imagination, or did the cream of denialist bloggery go off on a sort of wild goose chase at one point, desperately seeking an email Lewandowsky never wrote… or something? It was hilarious, in my brain.

SL [giggles]: Guilty! I think it was [confederate] Charles [Hanich] who came up with the idea, which seemed like a rather elegant protocol to tease out just how neurotic some of these [inaudible]-wits could be. [Intermittent giggling.] There’s nothing interesting about the prank itself—it was your basic virtual switcheroo [unintelligible] fascinating was how the complete denier intelligentsia proceeded to scream, right on cue, that we’d tricked them.

I guess we must be the world’s most naïve academics, because [paroxysm of giggling] we were genuinely expecting one or two of the anti-science paramilitary leadership’s most elite minds to point out the alternative hypothesis that maybe—just maybe—we were only pretending to trick them.

You know, for science.

Nope. [Gelastic convulsion.]

So much for ‘skepticism!’

CN: Perhaps the most comical, absurd, Orwellian/Kafkaesque thing about their allegations, of course, is that the word ‘trick’ wouldn’t even entail anything duplicitous or dodgy anyway!

All it means is “a clever way of doing something.” Yet, for various propagandistic motives of strictly historical interest, the denialist disinformation machine has been working around the clock since late 2009 to sow public confusion about what the word does, and doesn’t, denote and connote.

And regrettably these well-funded, orchestrated efforts have now tricked huge swathes of the public into believing there’s something nefarious involved in the concept “trick.”

Bullshit! (As Al Gore would say.) That’s nothing but a ruse. A ploy, a device, a fib; an artifice, wile, dodge, deception, subterfuge, chicane, swindle, con, scam, gyp, flimflam, bunco, grift, lurk, rort, schlenter, flanker, shift, fetch, leg-pull or put-on… for want of a better word.

They fooled the American sheeple.

10 Comment on ‘There is a real climategate out there’ in reply to commenter Ben Heard

A question of legitimacy

Insertion without legitimacy: Opposition to his work, sometimes from people who don’t even have PhDs, makes Lewandowsky furious. “[I] didn’t sign up for this,” he spits. “To be harassed and have [my] work suppressed by people who have no connection to the scientific community.6

On the paper ‘Recursive Fury’

What exactly is recursive fury?

SL: ‘Recursive fury’ is a cute phrase we came up with to describe that striking, rage-like affective display—with its telltale repetition of swear words—that’s only seen in climate deniers whose machinations have just been uncovered by the light of rational academic inquiry.

We still haven’t quite captured the phenomenon verbally—but once you’ve witnessed it live you’re not likely to forget it.

Why was the paper retracted?

CN: The consensus seems to be that the publisher, Frontiers, spinelessly caved in to ethical considerations.

SL: Ha!

Look, I don’t buy it. There are things they’re not telling you. Let’s just say the publishers, the Frontiers board, were gotten to. Certain parties [lowers voice] got to them. You didn’t really think the most powerful industry ever in the history of money was just going to [inaudible] ...eviscerate dead rats for fun, imagine what they’d do to [inaudible] …the way up to the Oval Office.

I—no. I’ve explained too much.

In any case, eight independent investigations have all found our research ethically unimpeachable.

CN: Nine, isn’t it?

SL: Whatever. I was being scientifically reticent. Let’s not pretend anybody counts these things.

It could be dozens, who knows. Do you know? You don’t know.


Nothing is what it seems [NS]: Something stinks, detects Lewandowsky. “This has all the hallmarks of the Subterranean War On Science. Basic NS [Nihilistic Skepticism] 101 tells us that Frontiers’ explanation of events, like any official version of anything, is a tissue of lies.”

But the journal has since issued a public ‘clarification’ revealing—contrary to rumor—that they ‘received no threats’ about the paper. What might this mean?

SL: Their statement reveals quite a bit, actually.

Now that Frontiers’ directors have been intimidated into denying anybody intimidated them, it’s clear how badly the bullies need ordinary people to think the journal wasn’t bullied.

Anyone capable of basic self-sealing reasoning [SS] knows that people only ever deny being under duress for one reason: there’s a gun to their head. But we explained these reasoning skills in detail in previous work, so I’ll just briefly quote one of the articles we’ve done on the little-known worldwide campaign to criminalize science (and marginalize any voice that dares speak up for it):

[I]t is “self-sealing” [SS]—that’s what we call it, and that means that any evidence to the contrary, any evidence against the conspiracy [can be] interpreted to be evidence for the conspiracy…
[T]he stronger the evidence against a conspiracy, the more the conspirators must want people to believe their version of events.11

Oh, and is it just a coincidence that ‘SS’ also stands for Stockholm Syndrome? Yeah, sure.

Coincidences are just an old wives’ tale. Here’s a prediction you can take to the scientific bank. Any day now Frontiers’ spokesmodels are going to start wearing dark glasses and nervously laughing about how they “walked into a doorknob” because they’re “such a bimbo.”

Could ‘Fury’ be considered defamatory, on some level, to the individuals “diagnosed” with conspiracist ideation?

CN: Thanks for raising a crucial issue. There are never any simple answers when the potential for human harm, or arguable harm, is perceived to arise in research.

Anyway, no. No it couldn’t.

All legal, moral and other conscientious qualms about RF are baseless, as Frontiers editor Björn Brembs explains [our emphasis]:

It is quite clear why the content of the paper may feel painful to those cited in it, but as long as “conspiracist ideation” is not an official mental disorder, I cannot see any defamation. If you don’t want to be labeled a conspiracy theorist, don’t behave like one publicly on the internet.12

SL: Exactly; ‘Fury’ wasn’t remotely medical in nature. Any suggestion that the paper had a deeper, grander purpose beyond inflicting pain would be, well… [whistles and makes circumtemporal twirling motion with index finger].

Right? [Laughs.]

When sensible people read a hit piece they generally don’t suspect some therapeutic, diagnostic, clinical or other ulterior motive is at work beneath the insults and polemic!

(Seriously, what part of the phrases “attack piece” and “punitive psychology” do our critics not grasp?)

In closing, bravo to Professor Brembs for deriding Frontiers’ decision [to sell our study down the river] as an act of ‘anticipatory obedience’… not even to the demands of sensible people, mind you. Just to the whims of ‘unpersuadables’ and ‘delusionals!12

CN: Which are not disorders.

SL: Right—which are not, officially, disorders.

11 Recursive Fury: facts and misrepresentations

12 Recursive Fury: Resigning from Frontiers (statement by Björn Brembs)

Irrepressible: Lewandowsky's normal gravitas, which is considerable, is forgotten whenever a bad pun or practical joke—like the

Juvenile at heart: Lewandowsky grins like an idiot when an email prank he pulled with assistant Charles Hanich comes up in the interview. The resemblance to an idiot is uncanny. (These photos really don’t do it justice.) An actual goddamn idiot.

Lewandowsky Safety Update

Ten days ago, UWA’s Prof. Carmen Lawrence confirmed the worst fears of many in the climate community: psychologist and CN contributor Stephan Lewandowsky was still being hounded. He’d relocated his family from Australia to England; he’d even agreed to take down a paper deriding his persecutors as paranoid conspiracy theorists, even though everybody knew it was true; but the plotters weren’t giving up so easily.

It seems the situation hasn’t got any better. Steve is “still being pursued by climate deniers,” according to an email we received today.

He says he’s been unable to get a good look at his pursuers, who switch cars every day.