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Bob Denton

A Tale of Two Papers: An analysis of “- activism that abuses science as a weapon". (Professor Henry Markram Assistant Field Chief Editor Frontiers).

Bob Denton
A Tale of Two Papers:
An analysis of “- activism that abuses science as a weapon.. (Professor Henry Markram Assistant Field Chief Editor Frontiers).”

Paper 1. The Provocation.(The Lewandowsky Deception.)

NASA faked the moon landing - Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax:
An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.

This paper is is notable for its innovation in titling conventions. The paper did not support the implication in the title which contradicts the statement of findings in the abstract:

“We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy
theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon
landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings, above and beyond endorsement of laissez-faire free markets. “

This claim is false. The paper demonstrates that belief in conspiracy theories is a weak predictor of rejection of climate science and endorsement of laissz-faire free markets was the primary and much stronger predictor:

“ First, endorsement of free markets was
highly predictive of rejection of climate science (B = -.77) Second, free-market ideology
also predicted the rejection of other scientific propositions, although the magnitude of that
correlation was smaller (B = -.49) Third, conspiracist ideation was negatively associated
with acceptance of climate science and other scientific propositions; B = -.21 and B = -.55 respectively.”

It is notable that the weakest predictive link found in the study becomes the title of the paper. Not only that, the authors were well aware that their findings did not support the title, so the word Climate is enclosed in brackets, to indicate that the findings did not apply to Climate Science, but knowing that anyone would who read it would be unaware of the meaning of the brackets.
This innovation is known as he “Lewandowsy Deception”. This is the notable feature of the paper, and is to be used by motivated academics when the data fail to support their preconceptions and they have a target group in mind who they wish to provoke.

The substance of the paper showed that a belief in conspiracy theories was a weak predictor of rejection of climate science, or, to put it another way, that conspiracy theorist are weakly susceptible to the memes of climate science denial.

Paper 2. The 'Gotcha'. (The Lewandowsky Fallacy.)

Recursive Fury: Conspiracist Ideation in the Blogosphere in Response to Research on Conspiracist Ideation
This article has been retracted

(NB. This paper has been retracted by the publishers.
There has not been disclosure of the expert legal and ethical advice obtained by the publishers, but the publishers though it appropriate to seek expert advice as to the legality and ethical context of the paper. It is speculated that an avowed feature of the paper, that the quotees were labelled without regard to truth value, would compromise any available defence to an action in defamation; and their failure to take any recognised steps to guard against researcher bias, having placed themselves in a conflict of interest, left the paper ethically compromised.)

The paper gets this title because the researchers gathered comment on the lead author's “Hoax” paper (recursive comment) which was critical (fury).
Recursive Fury extracts from the literature analytic schemata consistent with a belief in conspiracy theories, analytic only, and not proven empirically to be consistent only with a belief in conspiracy theories.

“We derived six criteria from the existing literature to permit classification of hypotheses pertaining to LOG12 as potentially conspiracist”

The authors themselves then named each schema pejoratively. Then by selecting the quotations of identified individuals and classifying them within the framework of these schemata (collectively named conspiratorial ideation), by innuendo, labelled each quotee as a conspiracy theorist, (a debilitating intellectual condition that denies your contribution any weight in rational discourse), and as being engaged in “denialism”, (the active public denial of scientific facts by various means, such as the use of rhetoric to create the appearance of debate where there is none), a mischievous enterprise being the generation, in bad faith, of memes calculated to undermine climate science.

The rationale underlying the paper is :

Major Premise: All wolves have 4 legs
Minor premise: A sheep has 4 legs
Conclusion: All sheep are wolves.

Lewandowsky's Fallacy follows the same flawed logic.

Major Premise: Conspiracy Theorists exhibit schemata X (truth value neglected).
Minor Premise: Critics exhibit schemata X (truth value neglected).
Conclusion: A critic is a Conspiracy Theorist.


The conception of Recursive Fury was ethically reckless, irrational and misconceived in that the researchers:
1. placed themselves in a conflict of interest because the quotees targeted:

a. were participating in public peer-review of the lead author’s paper and the researchers had an interest in discrediting criticism of their paper.
b. as members of a community, were specifically targeted in the sub-title of the lead author’s paper where the word (Climate) was provocatively included in the title.
c. were on the opposite sides in an acrimonious public debate and the researchers had an interest in discrediting the quotees contribution to the debate.
d. were actively being engaged in hostile exchanges in the blogosphere, by the authors, during the period of the study.

2. failed to take any steps to guard against researcher bias in the light of these conflicts of interest
3. given the conflict of interest and contrary to the literature, declared that their analysis would not consider truth values, in other words they would not consider the merits of the public peer-review criticisms of the lead author's work.
4. contrary to the literature, which recognises the ambiguity between conspiratorial and non-conspiritorial ideation and recognises the importance of context in disambiguation, selected partially from the literature on conspiratorial ideation, including only schemata which were consistent with conspiratorial ideation and including no schemata which were inconsistent with conspiratorial ideation, thus determining the conclusion of their research before the schemata were assigned to quotes.
5. then looked for quotes critical of the lead author’s paper, and categorised them, without regard to truth value, as conspiratorial ideation.
6. contrary to the literature, classified spontaneous speculative internet exchanges as evidence of conspiratorial ideation without establishing by individual assessment that the quotees scored highly for propensity to believe in conspiracy theories, the defining criterion of conspiratorial ideation.

In the foregoing the research was incapable of contributing to the sum total of human knowledge, but, the researchers, in breach of their ethical duties under the Australian National Statement

7. failed to exercise appropriate professional judgement in balancing the ratio of benefit to harm, and in determining to proceed with this research came to a decision which no reasonable or responsible researcher could come
8. in any event, failed to minimise harm by concealing the identity of the quotees, or otherwise, and, on the contrary, identified them.
9. falsely represented that their study was in the nature of a 'content analysis' , a recognised experimental methodology in experimental psychology, thus claiming the imprimatur of science, whereas the paper was a purely analytic academic paper reflecting the analytical thought of the authors and not empirical findings in the real world.
10. abused their position as academic researchers to embarrass, humiliate, ridicule , distress and subject to contempt, opponents in a polarised dispute in which the researchers were active participants.

Scheme = habitual thought pattern used to rapidly and effectively make sense of the world – an iterative routine.
Meme = a cultural message consonant with a personal schema and to which an individual will be receptive.
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