The Subterranean War on Science

Science denial kills. More than 300,000 South Africans died needlessly in the early 2000s because the government of President Mbeki preferred to treat AIDS with garlic and beetroot rather than antiretroviral drugs (Chigwedere, Seage, Gruskin, Lee, & Essex,2008). The premature death toll from tobacco is staggering and historians have shown how it was needlessly inflated by industry-sponsored denial of robust medical evidence (Proctor, 2011). The US now faces the largest outbreak of whooping cough in decades, in part because of widespread denial of the benefits of vaccinations (Rosenau, 2012). According to the World Health Organization, climate change is already claiming more than 150,000 lives annually (Patz, Campbell-Lendrum, Holloway, & Foley, 2005), and estimates of future migrations triggered by unmitigated global warming run as high as 187 million refugees (Nicholls et al., 2011). A common current attribute of denial is that it side-steps the peer-reviewed literature and relies on platforms such as internet blogs or tabloid newspapers to disseminate its dissent from the scientific mainstream. In contrast, the publication of dissenting views in the peer-reviewed literature does not constitute denial.

The tragic track record of denial has stimulated research into its political, sociological, and psychological underpinnings (Dunlap, 2013; Jacobson, Targonski, & Poland, 2007; Kalichman, 2009; Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013; Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Oberauer, 2013; Oreskes & Conway, 2010). Although research has focused on diverse issues — from HIV/AIDS to vaccinations to climate change — several common variables have been isolated that determine whether people are likely to reject well-established scientific facts. Foremost among them is the threat to people’s worldviews. For example, mitigation of climate change or public-health legislation threatens people who cherish unregulated free markets because it might entail regulations of businesses (Heath & Gifford, 2006; Kahan, 2010; Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Oberauer, 2013; Rosenau, 2012); vaccinations threaten Libertarians’ conceptions of parental autonomy (Kahan, Braman, Cohen, Gastil, & Slovic, 2010; Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Oberauer, 2013); and evolution challenges people’s religious faiths (Rosenau, 2012). Another variable that appears to be involved in science denial is conspiracist ideation (Kalichman, 2009; Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Oberauer, 2013; Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013; Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer, & Marriott, 2013; Smith & Leiserowitz, 2012). Thus, AIDS is thought to be a creation of the US Government (Kalichman, 2009), climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by corrupt scientists (Inhofe, 2012), and research into the health effects of tobacco is conducted by a “cartel” that “manufactures alleged evidence” (Abt, 1983, p. 127).

The conspiratorial element of denial explains why contrarians often perceive themselves as heroic dissenters who — in their imagination — are following Galileo’s footsteps by opposing a mainstream scientific “elite” that imposes its views not on the basis of overwhelming evidence but for political reasons. Mainstream climate scientists are therefore frequently accused of “Lysenkoism,” after the Soviet scientist whose Lamarckian views of evolution were state dogma in the Soviet Union. Other contrarians appeal to Albert Einstein’s injunction “. . . to not stop questioning” to support their dissent from the fact that HIV causes AIDS (Duesberg, 1989).

This conspiratorial element provides a breeding ground for the personal and professional attacks on scientists that seemingly inevitably accompany science denial. The present authors have all been subject to such attacks, whose similarity is notable because the authors’ research spans a broad range of topics and disciplines: The first author has investigated the psychological variables underlying the acceptance or rejection of scientific findings; the second author is a paleoclimatologist who has shown that current global temperatures are likely unprecedented during the last 1,000 years or more; the third and fourth authors are public-health researchers who have investigated the attitudes of teenagers and young adults towards smoking and evaluated a range of tobacco control interventions; and the fifth author has established that human memory is not only fallible but subject to very large and systematic distortions.

This article surveys some of the principal techniques by which the authors have been harassed; namely, cyber-bullying and public abuse; harassment by vexatious freedom-of-information (FOI) requests, complaints, and legal threats or actions; and perhaps most troubling, by the intimidation of journal editors who are acting on manuscripts that are considered inconvenient by deniers. The uniformity with which these attacks are pursued across several disciplines suggests that their motivation is not scientific in nature.

In light of the lethal track record of denial, one might expect opprobrium to be reserved for those who deny the public’s right to be adequately informed about risks such as AIDS or climate change. Paradoxically, however, it is scientists whose research aims to inform the public of such risks who have been at the receiving end of hate mail and threats. Thus, the first author has been labeled a “Nazi zionist kike” and has been accused of “mass murder and treason.” The second author has been attacked on a neo-Nazi website and has received envelopes with a powdery white substance resembling Anthrax (Mann, 2012). The third author has received anonymous abusive emails and nighttime phone calls in her home. This abuse is at least in part orchestrated because the frequency of such emails tends to increase when scientists’ e-addresses are posted on contrarian websites.

Other attempts of intimidation have involved the solicitation of potentially compromising information from the first author 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 (Lewandowsky, 2011). At a public level, an American lobbying outfit has recently likened climate scientists to the Unabomber in a billboard campaign, and a British tabloid journalist entertained the execution of the second author by hanging in what passes for a “mainstream” newspaper in the UK (Delingpole, 2013).

Another common tool of harassment involves FOI requests. Under many legislations around the world, email correspondence by an academic is subject to almost unconditional release. During the last 9 months, the first author has been subject to numerous requests for correspondence and other documents, including trivial pedantry such as the precise time and date stamps of blog posts. In a paradoxical twist, accusations of impropriety were launched against the first author when an FOI-release confirmed that inconvenient research (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013) was conducted with ethics approval. The allegations — by bloggers unaccountable to any form of review or ethical scrutiny — cited the fact that ethics approval was granted expeditiously (for details, see Lewandowsky, Cook, et al., 2013). The second author and his former university endured vexatious demands for the release of personal email correspondence by Virginia’s Attorney General. Those actions attracted national and international attention and were labeled a “witch hunt” by Nature (2010). The demands were ultimately rejected with prejudice by the Virginia Supreme Court. Other attacks on the second author involved front groups like the “American Tradition Institute” and the “Competitive Enterprise Institute” which sought access to his personal emails, professional notes, and virtually every imaginable document from his entire career. The third and fourth authors’ research center on tobacco control has been subject to a number of extensive FOI requests from a tobacco giant, Philip Morris International, for confidential interview records involving teenaged participants. Notably, the identity of Philip Morris was disguised during the first FOI request, which was launched with a law firm serving as a front group (Hastings, MacKintosh, & Bauld, 2011). The information requested included “all primary data,” “all questionnaires,” “all interviewers’ handbooks and/or instructions,” “all data files,” “all record descriptions,” and so on.

The use of FOI to obtain correspondence or research data mirrors legislative attempts by the tobacco industry to gain unhindered access to epidemiological data (Baba, Cook, McGarity, & Bero, 2005). At first glance, it might appear paradoxical that the tobacco industry would sponsor laws ostensibly designed to ensure transparency of research, such as the Data Access Act of 1998. However, the reanalysis of inconvenient results by obtaining the raw data is a known tool in the arsenal of vested interests: Michaels (2008) shows how epidemiological data have been subjected to industry-sponsored re-analysis because of their regulatory implications, such as the link between tobacco and lung cancer or the link between bladder cancer and chemicals used in dye production. Re-analyses by industry bodies often fail to detect such well-established links (e.g., Cataldo, Bero, & Malone, 2010; Proctor, 2011). Similarly, results by the first (see Lewandowsky, Cook, et al., 2013), second (see Mann, 2012), and third (Sims, Maxwell, Bauld, & Gilmore, 2010) author have been reanalyzed on internet blogs (sometimes by the same individuals). Those reanalyses used various tricks, such as the violation of strong statistical conventions relating to the inclusion of principal components, to attenuate the inconvenient implications of the research—specifically, that the warming from greenhouse gas emissions is historically unprecedented (Mann, Bradley, & Hughes, 1998) and that those who oppose this scientific fact tend to engage in conspiracist ideation (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013; Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Oberauer, 2013). Another tactic to discredit “inconvenient” peer-reviewed results involves publishing alternative versions of “the evidence” using different sources that proport to be equally legitimate. For example, the third author’s review of the impact of smoke-free legislation in England, published by the UK government (Bauld, 2011) was the subject of a report by Imperial Tobacco, the world’s fourth-largest tobacco company. Entitled “The Bauld Truth” as a play on the third author’s name (Imperial Tobacco, 2011), it presented alternative, non peer-reviewed evidence as more viable and opened with the statement that the third author’s review was “lazy and deliberately selective”. Anyone familiar with climate disinformation on the internet will recognize those rhetorical tools as the standard fare of dismissal of inconvenient science.

A further line of attack involves complaints by members of the public to scientists’ host institutions with allegations of research misconduct. The format of those complaints ranges from brief enraged emails to the submission of detailed, elaborately-formatted multi-page dossiers. The scientific literature on querulous complainants (e.g., Lester, Wilson, Griffin, & Mullen, 2004; Mullen & Lester, 2006) explicates the nature of the majority of such complaints. However, not all complaints to universities are from querulous individuals: The tobacco industry, specifically Philip Morris, used complaints to scientists’ deans or department heads as part of their action plan to discredit researchers who investigated the health risks of smoking (Landman & Glantz, 2009).

The fifth author has experienced a particularly chilling legal attack based on an article that disputed the legitimacy of the claim by an individual (whose name was not released) that she had with the help of a psychiatrist recovered a “repressed childhood memory” of sexual abuse by her mother (for a review of the case, see Geis & Loftus, 2009). Although the suit was ultimately settled, the complaints to the university delayed publication—or indeed any public mention—of the research by several years (Loftus, 2003).

Those attacks on scientists by personal abuse, vexatious use of FOI and the complaints process, and legal proceedings, have not only consumed valuable time, thereby delaying research, but have also taken an emotional toll. Those attacks have caused considerable trauma among some junior scientists known to us. However, the problem does not end there. Even more concerning is another line of attack that directly targets the integrity of the scientific process: We are concerned about the activities of individuals outside the scientific community and of little scientific standing, who systematically insert themselves into the peer-review and publication process to prevent the publication of findings they deem inconvenient. Those insertions typically involve emails to editors which have been described as “bullying” by some parties involved. Far from being isolated incidents, at last count we have identified 7 editors of several journals who have been subject to such bullying tactics across two disciplines; viz. climate science and psychology.

Once again, precedents for those attempts to subvert the scientific process involve the tobacco industry. A 1995 Philip Morris action plan explicitly devised strategies to interfere with funding of health research. Those strategies included approaches to the appropriations committee of Congress (albeit without raising the profile of the tobacco industry), and the writing of letters critical of public-health research to the editors of scientific journals by associates of the industry’s Tobacco Institute (without necessarily revealing their associations). Landman and Glantz (2009) show how this plan was translated into action.

What are the consequences of such insertions by external parties into the scientific process? There is little doubt that pressure from the tobacco industry affected the course of medical research, if only by consuming massive amounts of scientists’ time that could otherwise have been devoted to research (Landman & Glantz, 2009; Proctor, 2011). It also delayed the translation of that research into interventions and policies that could have saved lives by reducing smoking rates. There is also a growing body of literature which suggests that the aggressive efforts by climate deniers have adversely affected the communication and direction of climate research (Brysse, Oreskes, O’Reilly, & Oppenheimer, 2013; Freudenburg & Muselli, 2010; Lewandowsky, Oreskes, Risbey, Newell, & Smithson, 2013), and allegations of defamation have led to the re-examination of one of the first author’s papers to eliminate legal risks that is ongoing at the time of this writing (Lewandowsky, Cook, et al., 2013).

How should the scientific community respond to the events just reviewed? As in most cases of intimidation and bullying, we believe that daylight is the best disinfectant. This article is a first step in this effort towards transparency. Knowledge of the common techniques by which scientists are attacked, irrespective of their discipline and research area, is essential so that institutions can support their academics against attempts to thwart their academic freedom. This information is also essential to enable lawmakers to improve the balance between academic freedom and confidentiality of peer review on the one hand, and the public’s right to access information on the other. Finally, this knowledge is particularly important for journal editors and professional organizations to muster the required resilience against illegitimate insertions into the scientific process.

Author Note

Preparation of this paper was facilitated by an Outstanding Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council and a Wolfson Research Merit Award from the Royal Society to the first author. Linda Bauld and Gerard Hastings are members of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies. Funding from the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the National Institute of Health Research, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, is gratefully acknowledged. Address correspondence to the first author at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, 12a Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TU, UK. email: [email protected]. Personal web page:


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Good article!

Scientific denial does indeed kill as the authors say. The biggest killer is the denial of a simple truth—inexpensive energy is the savior of the poor, and expensive energy kills the poor.

As a result, the most lethal policies are those proposed by the authors, energy taxes and renewable energy quotas and “tax and trade” energy laws which will harm, impoverish, and kill poor people around the planet. We are already doing it by not loaning funds for coal plants in India … lethal.


why is it a requirement to save every human life. do we have to infest every inch of this world? IS THAT THE POINT?

This “paper” sounds more like a whine than a science paper

How did it pass peer review?

Nicholls et al. (2011) most certainly do not predict numbers of environmental refugees.

War on science? What a hoot.

Since when are falsified mathematical models of partial differential equations with assumed boundary conditions of a chaotic system science?

You have abandoned science, which requires empirical evidence.

This is anti-science to the core. I am utterly disgusted.

If you think freedom of information act requests to academics are harmful harassment because they are “vexatious”, you are seeking an ivory tower without a chink or any accountability to the public.

How do you think software companies and other enterprises make their way in the world with the culture of patent trolls? Not even Google is immune, given a crippling lawsuit that has been in the planning for years and was just launched by its rivals.

There are adversities to every profession and ways in which many types of workers are harassed and vexed for their identity, beliefs and gender.

In academia, conservatives are generally targeted for elimination even when their political beliefs don’t overlap with their field of research. In academia, less progress has been made in terms of gender, racial and disability equity than any other profession, and, speaking as someone who filed a sexual harassment suit against a stalking-harassment by a professor and discovered that, in general, universities flout their sexual harassment policies and face no accountability or consequence for doing so, I think academia is most likely to provide hostile working environments without facing accountability, than most other sectors of professional endeavor in the developed world.

Sorry you feel so abused by the FOIA requests you have received. Why don’t you leave academia, go out in the real world, and see how easy your life is then, if you think you have it so bad now?

I am one of the people named as a “conspiracist ideationist” in (Lewandowsky, Cook, et al., 2013) and one of several who have written to the publishers to complain. It is our letters which, as this article mentions, “have led to the re-examination of one of the first author’s papers to eliminate legal risks that is ongoing at the time of this writing”.
I have also written to the editors of Psychological Science complaining about the “Moon Hoax” paper (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013). There is much to criticise in this paper, particularly the false claim that respondents to the survey were obtained via a request published on the SkepticalScience blog. This claim was questioned by Barry Woods in an email exchange with Lewandowsky in August 2012, and by me in an email exchange with SkepticalScience blog owner John Cook in September 2012. Both Lewandowsky and Cook repeated this false claim, and it appeared uncorrected when the paper was published in March 2012.
The false nature of the claim was confirmed in emails between Lewandowsky and Cook obtained thanks to an FOI request by Simon Turnill, a request which this article describes as “vexatious”.
An error in the prepublished paper was pointed out, denied, and repeated in the published paper. This error thus becomes a lie. I have called Lewandowsky a liar in numerous posts on my own blog, and in comments on other blogs, including one written by Lewandowsky himself at Shapingtomorrowsworld. Instead of dealing with this substantive (and potentially libellous) accusation, plus the many other criticisms levelled at the two papers, he prefers to quote an anonymous racist insult.
The aim of the above paper is clearly to associate his critics with racists, those who send packets of white powder through the post, and those who try to hinder legitimate medical research. It is yet another transparent attempt to paint his critics as mentally unstable.
The accusation remains. Lewandowsky is a liar. His papers are full of errors, based on research so pitifully incompetent it would result in sacking if carried out by the lowliest apprentice market researcher.
He must answer his critics.

Dr. Lewandowsky,

Your paper is an example of the truth that you are either an extraordinarily mentally troubled person, or a true amoral Machavellian. It is natural that you would gravitate toward someone who has the same issues as yourself.

Maybe you should pause a moment and consider why climate science is held in low regard.
Consider Dr P. Jones response to a request for information.

“Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

The answer, of course, “Because that’s scientific methodology, I wish to test your claims”

The consistant refusal to share data, methods and algorithms
with anybody considered not to be “On our team” and response to anyone questioning your results, for example Dr Mann’s response on Twitter to Dr Robert Wilson’s description of his work.

“Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann
Closet #climatechange #denier Rob Wilson, comes out of the closet big time: … #BadScience #DisingenuousBehavior”

Let’s also look at the actions of climate scientists, trying to block publication of critical work in peer-revued journals and in trying to prevent it getting into the IPCC’s revues, as shown in the e-mails stolen/leaked/whistleblown from the CRU.

Look at the language used “Denier”, “Contrarian” and other purgative terms.

All of this, plus the massive spend by “Green” organisations and governments on the whole arena and their reliance on taxes that are, to say the least, “Indulgencies” (In the theological meaning of the word), casts severe doubt upon the validity of large areas of work.

How do you feel about the FOI at UVA for Patick Micheal’s emails (climate scientist) initiated by Green Peace? UVA handed them over. Is that OK because he is a sceptic?

Seems to me there is a bit of hypocrisy here – for instance, what about the needless deaths caused by the banning of DDT, caused by politicians not understanding what the scientists were saying?
Just like the politicians not understanding what the scientists, including IPCC 5, are saying when the scientists say that in fact they haven’t a clue about whether CO2 has any effect on the climate.

This article reads like tattling to the teacher. Yes, there are some nasty people out there who do rotten things to people they disagree with. It has always been thus, on all sides of controversial issues.

But a subterranean war on science? Not hardly.

Where is the science in this?

It is simply another emotive attack from a group of activist “scientists” who very clearly wish to stifle open discussion and debate. Who say “the science is settled” and that a 97% consensus show the days for discussion and debate are over.

Science is under attack not from outside as claimed by the authors here but from within. The scientific community will continue to lose credibility within the public’s eyes whilst disgraceful non-scientific papers such as this one are allowed to be published in science journals.

This sounds like a polemic, not rational scientific research. Actually, calling FOIA requests ‘persecution’ sounds like paranoia. I am really curious what medical credentials Mann has to be published here. And finally, since Mann’s seminal paper on global warming has recently been disavowed by the IPCC, this article really sounds more like sour grapes than rational analysis.

Given AGW is happening (manmade or not) the plans submitted to stop it does not come close to slowing is down let alone stopping it. I.E. first give dictators of impoverished nations fortunes from successful nations, tax corporations for the carbon they use then magically the earth will heal. Global warming is inevitable so we need healthy economies to rebuild cities to accommodate the rise in the seas, move the farmland north till the start of the next ice age then move them back. Unusual natural occupancies have always been used by the power elite to blame the populous and guilt them into behaving. In the 16 hundreds during the first sighting of Hale’s comet the rulers said it was a sign from god and the people should stop their evil ways.

Correction; natural occurrences not occupancies (spell check interjection typo).

This is not science, it’s a typical Climate Wars attack a la author Mike Mann.

The proponents of anthropogenic global warming all refer to increases in temperature and co2 level beginning in the mid 1800s, concurrent with the industrial revolution. However, the only practical way to measure temperature increase is to begin at the beginning of our current warming. That would be at the bottom (the low temperature) of the Little Ice Age. That was in the mid 1600s, two centuries BEFORE the industrial revolution. The “end” date of the LIA is both arbitrary and not relevant in this issue.

The sea level has been increasing steadily for almost 20,000 years, now up 400 feet. The current rate of rise is less than 2 mm per YEAR. Basically, it’s asymptotically approaching zero. When sea level stops rising, we’ll know the next ice age (at least a Little Ice Age) is upcoming.
Certainly pointing out sea level rise is not evidence of anything from natural climate variation.

The numerous peer-reviewed studies on the Medieval WArming Period indicate that the MWP was warmer than now. (All those studies also represent a “consensus”.) Not only that, there were several earlier warmings since the last ice age, each warmer than the next later one. We therefore know that our current warming is within natural climate variation, so there must be some good evidence to claim otherwise. There is NONE.

All the computer models of proponents of AGW ASSUME that water vapor is the real culprit, causing a temperature increase 2 to 3 times higher than the temp increase caused by increasing co2 level. But that assumption is pure speculation. We don’t even know if the net feedback is positive or negative, let along put a number (plus “+” sign) on it. Furthermore, the heating capacity of co2 is limited to a few narrow sun energy bandwidths. At 20 ppmv co2 had absorbed 50% of ALL the energy available to it. At its current level of 400 ppmv, there’s basically nothing left. No temp increase by co2, so there can be no positive feedback from water vapor (even if their assumption was otherwise correct – which remains to be seen).

The only correlation between the variation in co2 and the variation in global temperature is one where temperature variation occurs first and hundreds of years later a similar variation shows up in co2 level. No surprise, that’s the carbon cycle at work.

The co2 increase appears to be due to industrial activity. but, keep in mind that at 400 ppmv (that’s 4/100 of one percent, which is why co2 is still known as a trace gas.)
A crowded gym with poor ventilation can be at 1000 ppmv. Submarine crews were in environments of 3,000 to 5,000+ ppmv for mnnths. Scientists also know that lifeforms not unlike our own survived in co2 levels 10 to 20 times higher than 400 ppmv. Next, keep in mind that co2 level is increasing at about 2 ppmv per YEAR.

The contribution of co2 due to industrial activity is usually quoted in “tons”, but it represents about 3% of the total co2 in the atmosphere. We’re therefore talking about 3% of 4/100 of one percent. That is might small, so there’s plenty of time to get the science right. Don’t let the politicians foist another hobgoblin upon us!

I’m not sure exactly what the complaint is here. Scientists take public research funding knowing that such funding comes with a duty to disclose documents. If they wish to conduct research without FOIA disclosure duties, then they can refuse to take positions and grant money that come with such attached.

Likewise, disclosure of primary data should be mandatory for most research. Certainly other individuals should be allowed to take a go at the data with any statistical approach they choose; in the long run real effects cannot be hidden indefinitely and poor statistical techniques are not going to help your case. Given the publish or perish nature of academia and the well known bias of journals towards “new and significant” results; it is far to easy to massage the data to get published.

Should scientists be called names or illegitimately suffer disciplinary actions? Of course not. But in all honesty, name calling is a feature of the internet age and I can’t imagine a scientist confident in their work and life being seriously impacted by some blog post somewhere. Likewise, while complaints to deans are a waste of time, what exactly should I, as a corporate scientist, do when I suspect that an academic researcher has perhaps fabricated data? It has happened, several times, and that is not counting the times where I suspect that selective exclusion of results just barely pushed results over a confidence limit. Should we just say that only “academics” with “no conflicts” of interest may complain and vet? Of course it is my “conflict” of interest that actually makes redo the researchers experiments in the first place. Working pharma means that I need to know that your data is solid if I’m going to recommend we burn a few million dollars moving forward – of course I’m going be better positioned to find errors or malfeasance – I have a bigger budget and I don’t have to rush my work to publish my article before the tenure committee meets.

There are precious few academics who are willing to spend scarce time and research dollars merely confirming previous research. While processes can be abused, I just don’t see how strong data is going to lose. Yes it is frustrating to waste time, but if anything from my side of the question it looks like far more time is wasted from irreplicable data that really does need more policing. I’d take such interference as a necessary evil over shutting out people who aren’t in the club.

It is surprising what qualifies as research these days. This paper reads like a teenager whining about mistreatment by mischaracterizing legitamate attempts to improve transparency while at the same time engaging in the very tactics being whined about. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

As with most things, FOI can be abused, as well documented here in this article. However, there is also value to FOI. For instance, it should be clear to any scientist the ability to reproduce the results of a scientific paper are fundamental to the Scientific method. That means all data, and code that manipulates data must be available.

Whether extending this to emails is another matter. There are some emails that were released as a part of the Climate-gate affair that look pretty damning. Wouldn’t it be better to have all the information? It’s a Kantian principle to allow information to flow. Certainly, this principle doesn’t achieve the optimal results in particular situations, but in the aggregate, isn’t transparency worth the cost?

The usual suspects, taking the usual line. But it’s particularly amusing to see a group including Lewandowski and Mann — both of whom have been guilty of vicious and vituperative attacks on climate change sceptics — suddenly coming over all pious and holding out their hurt boo-boos to be kissed and made better. What a tragedy that public money is being wasted on this self-serving propaganda!

Well, the article is certainly right about deniers and the destruction they do. Look at the low-lying Pacific islands like the Maldives and how they’re already planning on moving because the deniers of natural global warming have panicked the people into thinking their entire nations are going to be enveloped in water within a few years. Here we are, going into our 1,000-year warming cycle, which always heralds the best of times for humanity, and the deniers of natural global warming want it stopped. They’re utterly powerless to do so, yet they would destroy entire nations and modern economies in their misguided quest.

Yes, the article is certainly right about those pesky deniers. Thankfully, though, clearer heads are starting to prevail and eventually the deniers of natural global warming will be shuffled off to the side and maybe science can get back on track, focusing on the facts rather than the woulda-coulda-shoulda bromide the deniers of natural global warming have been pushing.

The problem with this article is very simple. The earth is, in fact, cooling not warming, and this is becoming more and more apparent with time. By trying to deny reality these authors are merely digging themselves in deeper. They are too ignorant to realize it!

Perhaps if Drs Lewandowsky and Mann in particular spent less time insulting people who disagree with them and more time doing actual climate research they would receive less hate mail.

The authors note “the publication of dissenting views in the peer-reviewed literature does not constitute denial”. The average member of the public does not read peer reviewed journals, especially since most require subscriptions and would largely contain articles they have no interest in. The average person gets their information from newspapers and free sources on the internet (hence why wikipedia is one of the most heavily trafficed websites in the world). This means they will likely be exposed to biased and unscientific information upon which they might base their opinion. The response of the scientific community should be to engage with the public and the media to correct these misconceptions.

As a result of what they read in the media and on the internet, many people have questions about climate change science they would genuinely like answered. Whilst to the good Drs these questions might seem repetitive and mundane, to the people asking them they are genuine. However, instead of having their concerns acknowledged and responded too they are insulted and belittled, labeled “Deniers” and “Conspiracy theorists” and made to feel that they are stupid. Is it any wonder that people who feel personally attacked then respond in kind?

If the authors spent more time engaging with “deniers” and less time insulting them then perhaps they would receive less aggressive behavior in return.

This is how the fight to convince people of one’s position works. It’s true not just for science, but for politics, religion, business, and all other societal institutions. People don’t play nice. It’s not fair. Science is nothing special in this regard.

There is no conspiracy against science. It’s just business as ususal.

Legitimate, ethical scientists should not fear transparency, re analysis of their results, or disagreement with their conclusions. What the public is seeking is assurance that we are progressing toward THE TRUTH, not marching in lockstep toward some particular ecological utopia. Because we are fighting for THE TRUTH, put on your helmets and jock straps boys, because the stakes are high, and the costs of being wrong are significant IN EITHER DIRECTION. The heroes of science are the men and women who suffered personal and professional discomfort to change the world. Those who persevere and maintain their professionalism while engaging in the battle are the ones who should be venerated: whining and complaining has no place in the debate. If you don’t want to be harassed with FOI requests, just voluntarily put your data and your emails out there. If you are right, you will be esteemed in the end. Of course it may happen after your lifetime, which is often the case with icons of science. Accept it. If you are truly seeking THE TRUTH and not personal fame, then you will have no problem shelving your ego and being totally transparent. The truth usually does win out in the end, and it will come quicker if you do not hide behind the curtain looking like the Wizard of Oz. Of course, if you have something to hide, then that will usually come to light as well, as it did with the tobacco companies.

I think we’ve entered the world of make-believe with this paper. Sad.

“Science denial kills. More than 300,000 South Africans died needlessly in the early 2000s…”

Bad science kills more. The bad science behind the DDT ban has killed more than 100X that number, and similar politics are driving mainstream climate “science.”

This whole article is ridiculous if not completely backwards. It’s classic left-wing politics: accuse the other side of doing exactly what you are doing.

The conspiratorial element of denial explains why contrarians often perceive themselves as heroic dissenters? I’m sure that is what the authors would like people to believe.

The conspiratorial element of mainstream climate “science” explains why warmists often perceive themselves as heroic martyrs is a much more realistic assessment.

I have to say that I read this post with some surprise, as it appears loaded and biased, and a none-too-subtle self-defence or rationalisation – at least in part – for withholding information that would enable falsifiability in the domain of climate change research or anthropogenic warming research.

Falsifiability or refutability is the property of a statement, hypothesis, or theory whereby it could be shown to be false if some conceivable observation were true. In this sense, falsify is synonymous with nullify, meaning not “to commit fraud” but “show to be false”. Science must be falsifiable.

From my reading of the SE Anglia CRU scientists’ own emails in the Climategate leaks of 2009, they were already discussing how to obfuscate or frustrate FOI and “hide the decline” of temperature changes. This is not science or mathematical climate modelling as I have been trained in and practiced for over 30 years. It seems more akin to religio-political ideology. There is still such a thing as truth and the professional scientist’s search for same.

I thought the University of Bristol was a credible university. Evidently not, if this is any reflection of the standard of its academics. The Royal Society should ask for its money back.

The article raises some points, tho it also is an unwitting barometer of current topics of debate in both the scientific and nonscientific communities…

Just a few topics this article hints at – the debate over climate change and its causes – peer review (the pros and cons – and possible biases) – information flow to the public about science (versus the need or desire for secrecy) – some people who use the club instead of the argument to make their point – etc.

Someone 20 years from now can use this article as a small barometer of the debated issues.

I have no final “conclusion” except to say – Let’s call people to get back to dialogue and not intimidation – to counter other arguments, claims.

However, that sword (of rational dialogue) should cut both ways…The scientists should be answering questions – defending their claims. The universities should be rechecking to make sure they (and their science depts) stay open as marketplaces of ideas. Thus, if your child/grandchild goes to school and NEVER hears seriously debated issues…but ONLY hears “These are the accepted views”, they are at a substandard university.

Same for a still-free society. Debate, dialogue…and let the games…continue.

“An unexamined life (or society—or popular scientific assumptions) is indeed not worth living ” per Socrates.
* * * * *

(Offtopic PS to the Climate scientist going back 1000 years—you need to go back further…Thinking we had a warmup somewhere around that time…)

“we believe that daylight is the best disinfectant”

This does seem a strange way of concluding an article which seems so afraid of FOI requests, and making more raw data available.

Where raw data is misused, or interpreted poorly, this can be challenged. It also needs to be recognised how common it is for peer reviewed papers to spin data – I’m deeply uncomfortable with the idea that we should just trust researchers to get it right rather than risk letting the plebs access to the available evidence.

Remarkable how some of the rethorical tactics exposed in this paper show out in the comments! 🙂 Denial, ad hominem insults, red herrings, delaying (“scientists should speak with everybody”, yes, as if you could have a constructive conversation on internet between a scientist and a believer who will invoke just anything to keep the conversation going, as if the last word had anything to do with the best argument…), conspiracy accusations…

For the rest, interesting overview, thanks.

Lewandowsky, Mann, et al. are on a medieval witch hunt in modern dress, fooling themselves and attempting to make fools of perfectly decent scientists, and of proper scientific skepticism, a McCarthyite persecution complex in search of a victim. But we will not be victims, nor be quieted by their fascistic, totalitarian philosophy and tactics. True scientists would ENCOURAGE skeptics, would fulfill their requests for data, would over-fulfill those requests, in search of truth. But truth is the last thing that they are apparently interested in. It’s more fun to squelch truth seekers.

Excellent article. I have been disgusted and saddened by my own experiences with climate science denialism. Scientists that find a way to continue to be productive while enduring the abuse of denialists are heroes.

Other pertinent commentary left at “the Air Vent” climate blog.

Fantastic work.

Science Denial like Silent Spring killed 100 MILLION people around the world by DENYING them the benefits of DDT. We rode our bikes directly behind the DDT fogger every week when I was a kid, so close you could feel the heat and not see a thing in the dense cloud, but I’ve never been sick, having perfect children who also have never been sick, and am now approaching 70 like I was 50. Oh, and the robins all survived. Wow! Now take a drive past the Warmists Biofuels Initiative MANDATE GMO biofuels plantations, 100,000s of square MILES of pristine tropical forest slash-and-burned to feed their Altar of AGW Biofuels Billionaires, forcing Americans to burn SIX BILLION BUSHELS of human food grains, and yet not a single bird sings in those plantations, not a single frog croaks, no bee buzzes, they are DEATH ZONES! They are Chosen of Scientocracy. Now go pay your Tithe.

It is delightfully ironic that the author of papers labelling other people as conspiracy theorists should write this paranoid piece claiming that there is a “subterranean war on science”.
Lewandowsky’s paper was criticised because it was junk. Briefly, in order to find evidence to support his preconceived notion that climate sceptics were conspiracy theorists, Lewandowsky concocted a survey with such a transparent agenda (a sequence of questions on absurd conspiracy theories followed by questions on climate change) that any results coming out of it would have been meaningless. Worse still, the survey was only posted at activist blogs (referred to by Lewandowsky as “pro-science”). One of the blogs named did not post the survey at all, a basic factual error in the paper that has been drawn to the attention of authors and editors, to no avail. A link to the survey could easily have been placed in a comment on sceptic blogs, but this was not done, showing that the authors were not seriously interested in getting sceptics to take the survey.
When the errors were pointed out, the authors wrote a second paper, labelling those individuals who had dared to point out the flaws as conspiracy theorists – a gross violation of the ethical principles of the field. When this was pointed out to the editors of that journal, they pulled the paper.
Similarly with Mann’s work – it was criticised by many of his own colleagues, as we know from the leaked emails. They described it as “sloppy”, “dodgy”, “suspect”, and worse. It was Mann, not his critics, who violated statistical conventions (the so-called decentred PCA), and it was Mann and his colleagues who engaged in bullying and intimidation of journal editors who dared to publish any dissenting papers.

The projections and pretensions of this sorry note in the Observer do no credit to the Association for Psychological Science unless it is actually raw data for one of their research projects.

John Brignell has reportedly quipped that putting ‘climate’ in front of ‘scientist’ is like adding ‘witch’ in front of ‘doctor’. It is unfair on the decent ones of course, but it is telling that such a quip has so much bite.

The amount of poor or weak or non-existent ‘science’ that has been hyped in support of alarming politicians about CO2 does no credit to science in general. It is entirely healthy and appropriate that such work be exposed to strong criticism. Mann and Lewandowksy have each seen theirs shredded as a result. In more respectable, or at least calmer, fields, criticism is to be welcomed as a step towards improved understanding. But when the criticism is felt to weaken political initiatives, that would seem to be a different matter. Here ‘understanding’ is far less important than ‘impact’ or PR. I suspect the authors’ rather pompous and sanctimonious note is motivated by this.

Those interested in narcissism might find it a useful source, given these observations as reported on ACM last year (

•Magical thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.

•Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.

•Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person’s ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.

•Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an “awkward” or “difficult” person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.

This is a difficult ailment, with few effective treatments (, but perhaps this note will, unwittingly, help motivate faster progress towards one

The claim is made in this paper, based on a Nature publication by Patz, et. al. that 150000 people die annually due to climate change. This if a flat falsehood. The Patz paper claims that the World Health Organization is their source for this number. I checked on the WHO web site, and the WHO does NOT break out climate change by category. The Patz team aggregated causes of death into their number that probably have NOTHING to do with climate change. The WHO estimates that about 5.4 million people die annually. Of that amount, 24000 people die from weather caused disasters. These deaths are NOT directly attributable to climate change. If CO2 emission reductions were forced by the alarmist community via fossil fuel taxes, the number of people who die from fires and respiratory illnesses would probably soar, due to people burning more wood for cooking and heating. As with his previous work, Lewandowsky should be ashamed of himself for this shoddy, tendentious claptrap.

Sorry, I had a decimal in the wrong place. Annual deaths in 2011 were 54.6 million, not 5.4 million as stated above. This equates to almost 150K deaths per day, overall, of which, on average, 65 would be due to weather. The percentage of deaths caused by weather is 0.044%.

Okay, a bit more back-pedaling. The WHO does “estimate” that in 2004, 140000 deaths were “attributable” to climate change. This is done in a mathematical, but apparently arbitrary way. A percentage of deaths in the WHO categories of “diarrheal diseases,” “malaria,” “unintentional injuries and deaths related to flooding,” and “malnutrition,” are assigned to climate change based on something called “exposure to climate change.” It’s no surprise that CAGW alarmists like Lewandowsky and Mann accept this assignment uncritically. And in fact, since the IPCC now says 50% of climate change is caused by humans, should these WHO fractions be reduced by 50%? God, I hate Post-modern “science.”

In this age of Gen X post-modernist science there now seems to be just no shortage of self-proclaimed ‘authorities’ and ‘leaders’, all busting themselves to deliver us into a ‘1984’ years after that date had passed (and the Soviet Union collapsed).

All hail to George Orwell! Your prescience stands firm!

Please, be calm.

Show us all your search data and code, and shut-in.

A.P.S., you should be ashamed of yourselves for publishing this kind of political attack and utter nonsense!

Foreseeably, the term ‘disreputable journal’, much bandied about by the pro-CAGW set, is one that will surely return to nip them about the buttocks.
Comments from Mann in his Twitter account and by Lewandowsky on his blog ‘Shapingtomorrowsworld’ evince the very substance of this article/paper/polemic ; motivated reasoning.

As one of the co-authors of ‘The Bauld Truth’ from Imperial Tobacco, I can’t let Mr Lewandowsky’s accusation stand that our paper was part of any ‘war on science’. Science needs to be accountable and junk science, especially when used to underpin public policy, deserves and needs to be challenged.

On the contrary, ‘The Bauld Truth’ was simply a blunt, slightly tongue in cheek, rebuttal to a poorly researched piece by Linda Bauld, which had been elevated as a policy document by the government. Bauld’s threefold claims: that AMI emergency admissions had decreased; that less people were smoking, and that the hospitality industry had not been impacted – all as a result of the 2007 smoking ban – can each be readily dismissed by information freely available from the public domain. Much of our ‘non-peer reviewed evidence’ consisted of UK national statistics and data provided by various sectors of the hospitality industry (who one might expect to know more about their business than Professor Bauld?)

It may be an uncomfortable truth that indoor smoking bans led to an increase in smoking rates in the UK and Ireland the year after they were introduced, and caused significant collateral damage in the hospitality industry. Nevertheless, this is what the evidence tells us, and it’s important that future policy decisions are properly informed.

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