Outrage of the Week: Climate deniers suppress paper linking them to conspiracy nuts
We're going to start off this week by plunging right into one of our regular features, the Outrage of the Week.
This involves something from about two weeks old but I'll include it here because I consider it a follow-up to my discussion last week of global warming and the latest report from the IPCC.
It starts with a 2012 research paper by Stephan Lewandowsky of the School of Psychology of the University of Western Australia and others. The paper showed a correlation between being a nanny-nanny naysayer on global warming and being a believer in a variety of conspiracy theories. That is, there is a connection between believing in conspiracies and refusing to accept the reality of climate change. As the title of the paper says, "NASA Faked the Moon Landing - Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science."
The paper was published in the journal "Psychological Science." It produced a tsunami of nasty comments from the nanny-nanny naysayers - who didn't like it being pointed out how similar to, and connected with, conspiracy nuts they are. This even though their arguments against the reality of climate change are almost invariably based on some version of a conspiracy among climate scientists who apparently are all left-wing radicals out to destroy our way of life.
In the blogosphere, the primary theory that emerged was that most of the people who took the survey the formed the basis of the study were people who accept the science - but, who, instead of answering honestly, somehow all decided to pretend to be climate kooks, giving the craziest possible answers so as to make the contrarians look like the whack jobs which they are.
That is, a paper about a tendency among this group to believe in conspiracy theories was met by, yes, a conspiracy theory.
The reactions were so many and so intense that they provided the basis for another paper by Lewandowsky, this one titled "Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation."
That paper was published in the journal "Frontiers in Psychology" in 2013.
Here's where the outrage comes in.
"Frontiers in Psychology" has formally retracted the paper after what the journal itself called "a small number of complaints" from the naysayers claiming the paper was defamatory.
The study was removed from the journal’s website last year while its editors evaluated the naysayers’ claims. And now they have retracted it, with a notice that says in effect that while they could find no academic or ethical problems with the study, they were not willing to risk a lawsuit.
Now, thanks to the University of Western Australia, the paper can still be found online, at least for now; if you want to see it, there is link below.
But the idea that "a small number of complaints" from people who dislike how they are described in a scientific paper can force that paper to be withdrawn through threats of lawsuits and that these threats are being wielded to hide the nature of much of the opposition to climate change, threats which thus serve only to protect the interests of the powerful, is nothing short of an outrage. It's the Outrage of the Week.
Link to Lewandowsky's second paper: