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Right, left, wrong: people reject science because …

You’d be forgiven for thinking science is under attack. Climate science has been challenged by deniers and sceptics, vaccination rates are falling thanks to anti-vaccination movements, and GM crops are…

It doesn’t matter how much evidence you have, people have already made up their mind about science. Flickr/blakeimeson

You’d be forgiven for thinking science is under attack. Climate science has been challenged by deniers and sceptics, vaccination rates are falling thanks to anti-vaccination movements, and GM crops are pillaged by anti-GM activists. But what determines why people take these positions?

Foremost is a person’s “worldview”, their basic beliefs in how society should be structured and operate. Recent research has shown time and time again that people who endorse extreme free-market economics are prone to reject science with regulatory implications - such as the link between tobacco and lung cancer, or greenhouse gasses and climate change.

On the flip-side are speculations that the anti-GM and anti-vaccination movement are the domain of the political left. Some commentators have even referred to a “liberal war on science”, and have claimed that both ends of spectrum have their own selective blindness to evidence.

So, is the rejection of science politically symmetrical? If people on the right reject climate science, do people on the left reject evidence inconvenient to their worldview?

A liberal war on science?

To date evidence for left-wing rejection of science has been scarce. One study found opposition to HPV vaccination is focused on the right. Similarly, a European study found opposition to GM to be the domain of the extreme right.

In a peer-reviewed paper, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, colleagues Gilles Gignac, Klaus Oberauer, and I report a survey of Americans that sheds light onto the role of personal worldviews and political opinions in science rejection.

Much like previous studies, we found that conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science. But personal politics did not predict attitudes to GM at all, and had a more nuanced effect on vaccinations.

Liberals were somewhat more likely to reject vaccinations than conservatives. But this was balanced by opposition to vaccinations arising from free-market endorsement. Thus, there appear to be two routes to resistance against vaccinations. On the political right, Libertarians were arguably resentful of intrusion into patenting and regulations. On the political left, people were perhaps suspicious of the “pharmaceutical-industrial” complex.

Taken together, the data do not provide terribly strong support for a “liberal war on science”.

It’s all a conspiracy

Our study examined another factor repeatedly implicated in science denial - conspiratorial thinking.

Denial of the link between HIV and AIDS frequently involves conspiratorial hypotheses, for example that AIDS was created by the US Government. Likewise, YouTube videos critical of HPV vaccinations and many anti-vaccination blogs are suffused with conspiratorial content.

And a United States senator recently wrote a book entitled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future – a title that makes it rather difficult to dismiss the possibility that conspiratorial thinking is involved in climate denial as well.

Indeed, our study found that rejection of all the science areas studied — GM, vaccinations, and climate science — was associated with conspiracy theories. The extent of this association differed between areas. It was modest for GM food and climate science, but rather substantial for vaccinations.

The likelihood that someone would reject vaccinations was roughly three times greater if a person endorsed a conspiracy theory — for example that MI6 killed Princess Diana — than if they did not.

We also looked at the proportion of people who believed conspiracies directly related to science. 10% of respondents thought that “U.S. agencies intentionally created the AIDS epidemic and administered it to Black and gay men in the 1970s.” 20% believed climate change is a “hoax perpetrated by corrupt scientists who wish to spend more taxpayer money on climate research”.

And 15% thought that the “alleged link between second-hand tobacco smoke and ill health is based on bogus science and is an attempt by a corrupt cartel of medical researchers to replace rational science with dogma.” These figures show that the conspiratorial element in science denial cannot be ignored.

Why is there an association between science rejection and conspiracy theories? Conspiratorial thinking in science denial may serve two distinct roles.

First, a conspiracy may help dismiss findings that are inconvenient or threatening for other reasons. For example, the tobacco industry has referred to medical research on the health effects of smoking as “a vertically integrated, highly concentrated, oligopolistic cartel.”

The invention of a conspiracy can also explain away a scientific consensus — as in the case of climate change. If a person cannot accept that researchers independently converged on the same, evidence-based view, then a conspiracy among researchers provides an alternative explanation.

Conspiracies are also antithetical to scientific reasoning. While consistency is a hallmark of science, conspiracy theorists often subscribe to contradictory beliefs at the same time - for example, that MI6 killed Princess Diana, and that she also faked her own death.

While science relies on evidence to guide theory - including revision where necessary - conspiracies reinterpret data to match theories. And while science considers all available data to develop hypotheses, conspiracy theorists dismiss evidence that supports the “official” account, instead relying on small pieces of anomalous data. The fact that Timothy McVeigh’s car lost a licence plate is given more weight than the entire body of evidence that identified him as the Oklahoma City bomber.

When worldviews and conspiracies determine people’s attitude towards science, it is perhaps unsurprising that simply providing more evidence isn’t enough to alert people to the risks they are facing — be it from smoking, HIV, or climate change.

Join the conversation

194 Comments sorted by

  1. Laurie Willberg

    Journalist

    Not another whiney science denial article...
    Funny how anytime someone mentions a conflict of interest it becomes a "conspiracy theory".
    We have pure scientific inquiry and then we have Scientism, which is a philosophical materialist reductionist viewpoint.
    This article isn't about science, it's about Scientism. And all of us with a liberal balanced education aren't buying it.

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix,
      What the the guidelines to differentiate between conspiracy theories that are
      a. Accusing global warmists of conspiracy; and
      b. Accusing deniers of conspiracy?

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    2. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Most people I suspect are not convinced either way because they have yet to experience any difference in the weather in their particular area. In my area in May 2012 there was a heat wave. In May 2013 there was a cold spell. People form opinions based on their personal experience, not on the say-so of "official" opinions which in a variety of disciplines change on a regular basis -- this week coffee is bad for you, next month it's not. People are used to these flip-flops and realize that whether climate change is occurring or not, they'll live through it/adapt one way or another.

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    3. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Any notion of comparing "attitudes" is unscientific because it's dealing with philosophy, not science.
      The proof is in the pudding -- ideology is ideology, and this article is all about ideology, not science.

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    4. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Sean Manning

      Nope. I'm in the category of those who will believe it when I see it.
      By the way, what penalty will these various parties to the debate pay when either side is found to be wrong?

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    5. James Gilbert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Laurie, if your doctor told you that you had a terminal illness and you would die in 6 months unless you improved your diet, would your response to that be "I'll believe it when I see it" ?

      Let's sat you yourself were not a doctor and so weren't qualified to evaluate the evidence, but you didn't believe this guy and decided to get a second opinion. In fact, you're a skeptical type so you decide to get 999 second opinions all from qualified doctors. Out of those 999, 997 confirm that you're dying. and 2 disagree. What do you say now?

      It is ****ludicrous**** to ignore the warnings because you can't see the weather around you actually changing. By the time that happens, it will be decades too late.

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    6. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      "....Nope. I'm in the category of those who will believe it when I see it...."

      What are your views on Quantum physics Laurie? On the origin of the universe?

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    7. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Nice troll, Laurie. Very witty to claim a conspiracy lies behind the article about the flakes and wingnuts who cling to conspiracy theories.

      Oh, wait - just checking your posts and...

      Ah, I think I see why this article might've made you a tad uncomfortable.

      [Backs away slowly...]

      Keep taking the passiflora incarnata, eh?

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    8. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      You just don't get it, do you, Geoffrey. Calm down and stop trying to accuse people of things.

      The research Stephan's article refers to involved testing people for universally acknowledged forms of conspiratorial ideation NASA faked the moon landings, MI6 killed Priness Di, etc.) and then seeing if there was a correlation between independently-verified and unrelated conspiratorial ideation and other forms of science denilal, like climate and vaccination. The research did find such a correlation.

      This is called science.

      If you calm down and read the article clearly before leaping at trigger terms like 'conspiracy' you might have understood that for yourself.

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    9. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Well, Laurie, if those who argue from the evidence for the reality of climate change turn out to be wrong they'll look a bit silly and we'll have spent a bit of money and slowed our economies down a bit without needing to. Embarrasing and costing a bit (though converting to renewables for energy generation will pay back quite a lot of the cost).

      If the denialists are wrong and we chose not to act, on their advice, we're pretty much fried.

      Interesting comparison, isn't it?

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    10. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Nick Kermode

      Yup - keeps sneaking up on me too - by the time I've seen it coming I'm generally already on the deck - damned, sneaky un-natural gravity!

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    11. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to James Gilbert

      I would ask to have a look at the doctor's crystal ball which he must have been using to scry my date of demise. This is a lousy analogy for a variety of reasons including that you are taking my remarks out of context.
      I have read a variety of arguments for/against the theory of global warming due to CO2. I have also read about the impact of solar flares, EM radiation, changes in the earth's magnetic field (it's diminishing) and the possibility of a reversal of earth's magnetic poles.
      So far all I have seen anyone "do" predicated on a positive theory of global warming is invent a fantasy system of carbon credits in order to make an obscene pile of money. It seems to fall into that realm of create a problem then create a system to profit from it.
      Scientists need to get busy creating a universally free, non-polluting form of energy. They also need to find a way to clean up our water, our air and our land from the fallout of the technology they developed in the first place.

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    12. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      I have a great interest in Quantum physics, especially theories regarding energy fields that are overturning the old Newtonian paradigms.
      You are getting off topic. This article is about ideology, which is philosophy, not science. The author wishes to attack anyone who doesn't mirror his way of thinking. Logic is a sword that cuts both ways.

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    13. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      So in desperation you resort to ad hominem. Nice try, no cigar.
      I call 'em as I see 'em. Scientism is not science except in the philosophical reductionist materialistic views of people who belong to skeptic organizations.
      When independent science contradicts corporate science, the corporate science devotees trot out their ad hominems and accusations of conspiracist theorums.
      The author vainly tries to label those who don't mirror his beliefs under a banner of pseudo-psychology.

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    14. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Hey Mr Journalist, are you going to persist with a studied posture of porcine ignorance all your life, or are you going to do some background research?

      American Chemical Sodiety has prepared a Climate Science Toolkit for us: http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/climatescience.html

      Then there's Spencer Weart's "Discovery of Global Warming - a History" available as a book or as a set of hyperlinked essays at the website of the American Institute of Physics. http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

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    15. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Guidelines? Reality.

      The reality is, it is not possible that science is false, ergo science deniers (Denialists) are conspirators.

      Given the harm that Deialists are foisting on Australia, I call them treasonous conspirators.

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    16. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Believe this.

      Observation 1. Sun irradiates earth with short-wave energy.

      Observation 2. Earth re-radiates long-wave energy.

      Observation 3. Greenhouse gases retard transmission of long-wave energy, not short-wave energy.

      Observation 4. Satellite observations show decreasing emission to space of this long-wave energy, at EXACTLY THE SAME WAVELENGTHS as CO2 absorbs long-wave energy.

      Observation 5. Arctic sea ice is melting, so that summertime sunlight is being absorped in exposed…

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    17. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      "Quoting other politically-based opinion articles written for this blog are not evidential of global warmist theory. "

      Err, there is no opinion, political or otherwise, in The Conversation's reporting of findings of OBSERVATION-only research.

      Thanks for the WSJ opinion piece reference. Of the 16 signatories, did you know that "half the authors of a controversial Wall Street Journal opinion piece denying the Earth's warming trend have ties to the oil and gas industry" according to Amy Silverstein…

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    18. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      You have uncovered my secret - I am unmasked. As part of the secret socialist global conspiracy of scientisists, I have been working tirelessly to undermine our sworn enemies, the climate science deniers, creationists, homeopaths and the anti wind-farm nutters, with the cutting use of sarcasm in comments sections.

      Unfortunately, you have exposed the fatal flaw in my approach - my enemy has the kind of leaden sense of humour upon which irony bounces like bullets off superman.

      Silly stuff…

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    19. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben,
      You are taking the long way round to discovering that the debate is about which science to accept and which to downplay.
      That's a matter for scientists, not for writers.

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    20. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to David Arthur

      What are your observations about industry funding of Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth, WWF and other lavishly-funded protest groups? Your contribution would be more balanced if you revealed these amounts, which could well be orders of magnitude greater than all industry funding of sceptics.

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    21. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      It's true I'm thick, and equally so that I take the long way around to even the most basic insights, which probably accounts for the fact that I have no idea what debate you're referring to here.

      I am, however, interested in how people think, emote and reason. I'd previously assumed there was a spectrum (or to be more accurate, spectra) of types of thinking, but it's hard not to notice the fifty-fifty split of 'conservative' and 'liberal' and question if it's real etc, and why is should be so.

      As for 'which science to accept and which to downplay', I've long allowed that practice of good science is precisely that process. Which is in large part why I accept, for example, AGW. Which is a matter for all of us - even thick writers.

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    22. Smudge Martens

      Engineer

      In reply to James Gilbert

      "Laurie, if your doctor told you that you had a terminal illness and you would die in 6 months unless you improved your diet, would your response to that be "I'll believe it when I see it" ?"

      I'm glad you mentioned diet. There is to no consensus on what constitutes a healthy diet. For example, for every peer reviewed study that shows that serum cholesterol poses a coronary health risk, I can show you an equally valid peer reviewed study that contends that there is absolutely no correlation.

      Science, Science ... Why Have You Forsaken Me?

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    23. Doug Ducat

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Actually it's bad journalism that puts out these so-called flip-flops. Media loves to over-sensationalize scientific studies and findings and so a study that locates an anti-oxidizing protein in coffee beans added to a random comment about anti-oxidants helping prevent cancer gets a headline of "Coffee may cure cancer." Then the next week a study completed revealing further dangers to caffeine consumption gets the headline of "Is coffee killing you?"

      Scientists are just figuring things out.... it's journalists like yourself that perpetuate doubt because of "flip-flopping."

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    24. Doug Ducat

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Scientists discovered AGW and the relationship between CO2 emissions and warming. It's politicians that created the system you're complaining about... with carbon scores and carbon taxes, etc.

      None of which has to do with the validity of the science.

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    25. Doug Ducat

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Smudge Martens

      Biochemistry is a very complex subject and, as technology gets better, we are making new discoveries all the time. Sometimes these discoveries contradict old discoveries. That's what science is all about, getting new information to change our past perceptions. It may be a little while, but we'll get most of the nutrition stuff straight.

      The real question is whether or not people will believe it when we do, since nutritionists aren't really scientists and all have their own opinions and 'expert advice' and there seems to be a world-wide misinformation network promoting disbelief in science.

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    26. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Doug Ducat

      Doug,
      What is that relationship between CO2 emissions and warming?
      The IPCC is unable to say. Do you have better information on which to base your unproven assertion?

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    27. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Doug Ducat

      Doug,
      The biggest reason by far in challenging existing science is plain.
      It is mistakes and bad performance in existing science.
      If any field, apart from climate work, was performing as badly as climate work, it would also attract a deal of criticism. This is especially so in the present age of the blog.
      It is almost as if there has been a breakdown of academic rigour or of the education that leads to it. We in the older generation, often retired, are probably the main critics of younger effort. We dislike the prospect of sloppy science getting a green light. We are appalled by the prospect of huge expenditures and changes to life style arising from bad science and premature decisions based on it.
      Of course, the generation of people most strongly defending this bad science are the bad scientists themselves. Lavish funding has swelled their ranks so they have the numbers in many arguments.

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    28. Phil Dolan

      Viticulturist

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Ever wondered Geoffrey why it's called the greenhouse effect?

      Why does a greenhouse warm up but not let the heat as just as quick?

      The heat from the sun is one thing. The heat going back up is another. I'm no scientist so I can't give you the specific data but I understand it to be; if I broke into your house by squeezing through a window and eating every thing in site and drinking all your grog, oh, none there, well the milk then and I was a cartoon character, my belly would swell up so much that I couldn't get back through same window.

      CO2 lets in sunlight but traps whatever the wavelength heat is.

      There's masses of info on it if you look.

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  2. Phil Dolan

    Viticulturist

    Believing in one conspiracy theory leaves you open to believing in others it is said.

    Is that why a lot of religious people believe in the climate change conspiracy? After all, God must be the greatest conspiracy theory of all.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Phil Dolan

      I think you nailed it Phil, we keep telling people that it doesn't matter what they believe and then turn around shocked when people believe crazy nonsense

      I don't know why they think it is okay to criticise someone for denying global warming but to criticise someones god belief is out of bounds

      Apparently cliamte denial and GM crop conspiracy are okay to denigrate but other crazy beliefs are not

      a bit of cherry picking seems to be going on

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    2. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Here's some of what the IPCC said that matters -
      http://www.geoffstuff.com/Disaster%20AR5SPM.JPG

      And you thought the IPCC were predicting all sorts of tragic disasters, did you?

      Here's a beaut example of what happens to science when the non-scientists hop in, from the yet-to-be-released WGII draft (possibly approved draft) table 12.4 -
      http://www.geoffstuff.com/Disaster%20AR5SPM.JPG

      Note the non-scientific basis for estimating probability (or something vague that sounds like probability, from a head count of those in agreement at a meeting, sometimes).

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Hmmmmm, who to trust? who to trust?

      Should I trust NASA, NOAA, Oxford Uni, Melbourne Uni, GISS, MIT, Australian National Academy of science, CSIRO, BOM, Yale, Havard, ANU....

      or should I trust some random on the internet?

      ohhh geezz, this is a hard one, no the one hand we have NASA and on the other hand we have a random on the internet?

      Who do you think I should trust Geoff?

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    4. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Thie institutions that you mention contain a variety of opinions on this matter. A blind appeal to authority is not a useful way to decide an issue. For example,

      A group of nearly 50 very prominent NASA scientists and astronauts has issued a public letter to current NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Jr., requesting that NASA stop supporting unsubstantiated claims of manmade global warming.

      The letter reads in part:

      "We, the undersigned, respectfully request that NASA and the Goddard…

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    5. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Yes and there is a list of over 1,000 scientists who have all signed a petition asking that the false teaching of Evolution be removed from public education

      There is also a leading scientist at MIT who has written to MIT asking them to remove their statements regarding AGW

      As for your "A blind appeal to authority is not a useful way to decide an issue" nonsense

      I am not qualified to "deciede" whether or not to "Believe" in the big bang theory

      No amount of research on my part at this stage…

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    6. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      NASA responds to the 49 former employees, none of whom are climate scientist:

      http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=36679

      ""NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry, including the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate. As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue 'claims' about research findings. We support open scientific inquiry and discussion.

      "Our Earth science programs provide many unique space-based observations and research…

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Yes, Mark, they do hold a variety of opinions - because they are actually scientists - but none of those opinions aligns with you or 'the boss'.

      By the way, do please do a little basic homework before misusing the term 'appeal to authority' in this way. Asking a doctor about medicine is NOT appeal to authority (asking a hundred doctors, even less so!); asking a champion golfer about medicine would be. If you can't grasp a distiction this simple, how do you hope to ever understand even basic science?

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    8. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      "A group of nearly 50 very prominent NASA scientists and astronauts has issued a public letter to current NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Jr., requesting that NASA stop supporting unsubstantiated claims of manmade global warming."

      Terrific so in which peer-reviewed journals did these "nearly 50 very prominent NASA scientists" publish their conclusions? Links please?

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    9. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      You mean like James Hansen? What sort of climate scientist is he?

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    10. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael,
      What a pity that the IPCC, drawing together research from a couple of decades and billions of dollars in the making, is unable to put a figure on exactly how much temperature change is associated with CO2.
      The present state of admitted poor understanding does admit the possibility that CO2 has a trivial effect on global temperatures.
      You have gone way overboard in you assertions and I think that you owe an apology to MP.

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  3. Jeremy Tager

    Extispicist

    I can only hope the actual study is both more sophisticated and nuanced than this. First, you don't differentiate between science (eg climate science) and gm crops, which are a product and aren't by any definition 'science'. Secondly, you assume that the science is settled in all cases. In the case of GM, where access to gm materials is restricted and controlled by those holding patents, where every study showing negative results is greeted with vilification and immediate dismissal demanding standards not applied to negative results, there is substantial concern that the biotech industry is preventing legitimate science from occurring. Thirdly, you glibly throw out the term 'conspiracy theory' as though it is clear. Is Monsanto seeking to control the world's seeds and therefore food? Is that a conspiracy theory or does the evidence of Monsanto's aquisition of seed companies and its aggressive litigious behaviour support the assertion?

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    1. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      I should add that the GM products - food crops are being rejected for a host of reasons. Some of those relate to the claims made by those promoting them (better yields for instance or safe for human health and the environment - all contested) and some of the reasons relate to social and political realities (corporate control) and some relate to issues such as pesticide use, resistance etc - agricultural issues not directly about gm). The claim that opposition to GM is anti-science is both intellectually dishonest and intellectually lazy.

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    2. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      "Indeed, our study found that rejection of all the science areas studied — GM, vaccinations, and climate science — was associated with conspiracy theories"

      What a load of crap.

      Rejection of client science is not based on conspiracy theories alone. It is often based on the observations of normal people who are comparing what they are seeing and experiencing to what they have been sold by alarmists and their fellow travellers in previous years.

      It is not unreasonable for someone who is experiencing floods, snow storms or who can read a temperature chart that shows no warming for the past 15 years or so, to question whether the planet is warming dangerously.

      That is not a conspiracy theory, it is an inconvenient truth!

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    3. Nick Kermode

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      " Rejection of client science is not based on conspiracy theories alone."

      Strawman.

      From just a couple of paragraphs in the article....

      "associated with", "extent of this association", "repeatedly implicated", "another factor" and the cherry "It (the association) was modest for GM food and CLIMATE SCIENCE".

      Did you read the article?

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    4. Rory Cunningham

      Test Analyst

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Great to see some of the target demographic here :). Do you consider yourself a conservative or a free market thinker?

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    5. In reply to Ken Swanson

      Comment removed by moderator.

    6. William Raper

      Retired

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Geoff,

      You state "a temperature chart that shows no warming for the past 15 years or so".

      Please supply a reference to this very important claim!i

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    7. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to William Raper

      William,
      Sure. Here is one such graph, this from data from the RSS group that uses microwave emissions detected by satellites, responding here to the lower troposphere.
      In some ways, satellites are better than surface based observations because of better coverage in polar areas and developing countries like much of Africa.
      I make no claim as to whether this graph is correct or not, because I was not involved in its construction. This is an attitude I take to data produced by others. It is not meant to imply that there is a problem with this chart.
      URL: http://www.geoffstuff.com/RSS16years.jpg

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  4. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    This article, like so many others miss the point entirely.

    People need to care on a fundamental level whether or not their beliefs are correct more than if their beliefs make them feel good.

    If you fundamentally care whether your beliefs are true, you will take the steps needed to be critical and adjust your beliefs

    As long as we keep telling people you can believe magic man in the sky for instance and this isn't a problem......well then they can believe anything

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  5. Ian Fraser

    Independent researcher

    This article and the comments published so far demonstrate the need for basic philosophical studies in secondary school. One of the reasons that conspiracy theories attract 10% to 20% of the population is because most of the population don't understand what science is. Typically in school we learn of scientific discoveries and development of related technologies.

    It is only in university that we learn something about science as method and the methodology of science. The sociology of science includes study of how conflicting ideas are addressed among people involved in science, thereby providing a good background for interpreting communication about science.

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    1. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Ian Fraser

      I think you mean indoctrination of Scientism. The majority of the population understands that science is a tool, not a belief system.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      No, I don't think he means that at all. He is clearly talking about scientific method and the fact that relatively few peole without quite advanced education are properly exposed to the idea, let along achieving a really workable understanding.

      But you can keep advancing unsubstantiated claims about 'the majority of the population' if you like. It won't actually prove anything.

      By the way, I'd be fascinated to hear how you define the difference between 'scientism' and 'science'...

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    3. Ian Fraser

      Independent researcher

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      No, Laurie, I mean learning about science, and yes, it is necessary to know what scientism is and be able to recognise it in order not to be seduced by it and not to confuse it with science.

      The belief that science can explain everything and provide meaning for life is a reasonable, brief definition of the term 'scientism'. Such a belief is a long way from recognition of the value of scientific method based on the requirement that empirical evidence supports any proposed theory.

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    4. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Scientism is a philosophical viewpoint. Science is unbiased inquiry without the philosophising. It attempts to draw conclusions about the natural world in a non-judgmental fashion. It's discovery without the editorial remarks.

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    5. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Ian Fraser

      Scientism rejects empirical evidence as "anecdotal". History reflects a schism between empiricists and rationialists. Now this is something that should be taught in high schools and isn't.

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    6. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Nice strawman Laurie. The only one talking about 'scientism' is you. Everyone else - including the article - is talking about science.

      What aspects of science do you reject and why?

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    7. Ian Fraser

      Independent researcher

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Thank you Laurie for these three statements, all of which I agree with fully.
      While scientism rejects empirical evidence as 'anecdotal', science justifies its statements on the balance of probabilities of the various observations of empirical evidence.
      The historical schism between purely empiricists and purely rationalists continues today. In modern science both empirical evidence and rational reflection are required. Hume and Descartes are both highly respected in modern science.
      Yes, high school curricula should include broad scope philosophical studies - not only in the philosophy of science but generally encompassing the history of ideas, with introduction to the analysis and assessment of science, secular humanism and religious systems.

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  6. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Nick Kermode

      Nick,
      I am saying that good science is essential to proving the case for climate change.
      Until the case is proven, there is no need nor want for snake oil of the sociology type.

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    2. Nick Kermode

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey I think we have very different ideas of what constitutes good science and proof. I think that hundreds of years of physics on top of; atmospheric physics, conservation equations for energy, momentum, mass and water, ideal gas laws, fluid dynamics, spectroscopy, uraniumthorium dating, isotopic analysis, solar physics, optics, hydrology, meteorology, ecology, biology, chemistry, geophysics, oceanography, Earth and Planetary Astrophysics etc etc etc in addition to decades of satellite data and empirical observations is "good science" and proof in as emphatic a way as science can possibly "prove" anything. You must disagree. The fact that you refer to all the above and the thousands of other fields independently confirming the science as a "mob", "trashing science" is QED to Mr Lewandowski I'm afraid.

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    3. James Gilbert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey, what would you consider good evidence for CC, given that we are unable to perform experimental manipulation? I'd genuinely like to know.

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    4. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to James Gilbert

      James,
      Good evidence for man-made climate change - which is what we are talking bout - does not come from a group of people sitting around discussing the consequences of research that has not yet proven a link between CO2 in the air and air temperatures.
      This is NOT good science, this is one step up the scale from gossip.
      http://www.geoffstuff.com/ImpactsWGIIAR5.JPG
      There is page after page of it, in blind obedience to the assumption that much of climate change is due to man.
      THIS HAS NOT BEEN SHOWN.

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    5. James Gilbert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      OK, so that's what you don't consider good evidence. What I asked for was exactly what you DO consider good evidence that CC is happening, given that we can't experimentally manipulate the planet's CO2 levels?

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    6. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to James Gilbert

      James,
      If you accept that we can't experimentally manipulate the planet's CO2 levels, you seem to be accepting that there is not a way to link atmospheric CO2 levels to heat generation. Correct me if I am wrong.
      If you accept this, don't you see a weakness in a hypothesis that claims that there is a direct connection, a causal connection, without being able to prove it?
      What we are seeing is a very large volume of work predicated on a large unquestioned assumption that there is a causal link (be…

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  7. ricphillips

    logged in via Twitter

    An interesting hypothesis. I am not surprised that there are indicators that science-denial is correlated with a paranoid-intentional disposition.

    There have been many personality axes drawn by which personality traits are typed, and people are thus classified. (Introversion v extroversion for example). I have thought at times there should be one drawn between nihilism and paranoia as an expression of how disposed one is to ascribe intentional, purposefulness to observed phenomena - and from…

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    1. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to ricphillips

      Interesting.

      What if the two modes were "rational thought" and "irrational thought?" Then the spectrum would represent the degree of preference for the two modes of thought.

      So instead of nihilism, and the presumption of no active intentions, the extreme left would represent an absolute preference for pure rationality and the complete absence of presumption and self interest.

      And on the right we would have absolute preference to consider only self interest, and only from the fixed perspective…

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    2. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to ricphillips

      Thanks for this. I struggled a bit with some of the psych terms and references, but I found your comments interesting.

      I think for the human animal, a social creature, it's useful to have both types of personalities in the group, balanced by the greater weight of more normative types, which might be why the spectrum is perceived by me as roughly split 50-50 'left / right'. The paranoids and nihilists aren't always wrong, and, if they cause friction that sparks discussion of the issues at hand, this will allow others to find the reasonable / useable consensus - the greatest good and all that.

      As for the types of people in the world, I divide them into 'medicated' and 'non' - and I think [lowers voice] there's a few here in the comments section that would benefit greatly by swapping sides.

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  8. Paul Richards

    integral operating system

    Thanks for the article and worldview.
    Stephan Lewandowsky wrote; "But what determines why people take these positions?" The simple answer is our value system and need to begin research with the end in mind.
    The risk is basing our worldview on a flawed premise, when this happens there is always an emotion at the centre. There is no ideology can help evolve past this. There is no master with all the answers. There is only ourselves, the emotion and silence.
    It is interesting this bias is transparent to those who have grown through this level of thinking.

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  9. Chris Harries

    logged in via Facebook

    I've tried to gauge if there's a correlation between those who disbelieve in climate science and those who disbelieve in evolutionary science and there appears to be very little cross linkage (has this been studied at all??). One would expect a close correlation if conspiracy is the reason for scepticism..

    Can only conclude that all of us have a reserve of suspicion that experts are not always correct and all of us have various vested reasons for not wanting to believe in certain scientific conclusions…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Chris, I'd thought there was a correlation between denying climate science and evolution, but I must admit I can't put my hands on any data...

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    2. Darren Kay

      Private trader

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Surprisingly difficult to find literature on this. Pew Research Center based in the States does provide insight via their polls eg:

      http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-5-evolution-climate-change-and-other-issues/

      'Public views on evolution are, not surprisingly, strongly linked to religion, while public views on climate change are strongly linked to party and ideology.'

      The common thread being (social/fiscal) conservatism. No idea about causality though - do you join the GOP because you share these views or do you share these views because you're a GOP voter?

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  10. David Maddern

    logged in via Facebook

    Unfortunately, this article seems to use liberal to mean left. In Australia Liberals are right. ( In my view Greens are not on this continuum )

    Everyone has a view, if interested. Regarding Climate Change I have given up believing that everyone can be taken along.

    We, those in the know, must do all we can. It is indeed awful that Climate Change got into the political arena.

    Minimize the amount of meat we eat. Support people making a difference. Make car journeys worthwhile, walk or ride to re supply milk, or start using powdered milk ( turning it over will minimise the oxidation, that has put you off before.)

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to David Maddern

      David, it anoys me, but I think it is inevitable that the English speaking world will settle on the Americam terms 'liberal' and 'conservative'...hell, we pretty much have a Democrat and a Republican Party in Australia now, even if they are still called 'Labor' and 'Liberal'.

      One amusing epiphenomonon was that, I gather, when Cory Bernardi was addressing one of the cashed up gangs of good old boys in the US that he loves to hang out with, he had to quickly explain that in his (our) country 'liberal' (as in the political party he belongs to) meant 'conservative'!

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  11. Liam Hanlon

    Student

    When it comes to GM crops I think its safe to say many on the lefts views come from the fact Monsanto has a terrible environmental record and acts criminally towards farmers. Corporations don't make food for us out of the goodness of their hearts, they do it for profit and profit alone.

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    1. Sean Manning

      Physicist

      In reply to Liam Hanlon

      Farmers aren't philanthropists either. They also grow food for profit. Are they evil?

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Liam Hanlon

      Couldn't agree more, Liam.

      I don't distrust the science of GM (and completely disagreed with Greenpeace's actions in Canberra) but i certainly have social, political and economic concerns with patents and private companie slike Monsanto. I also, like the Union of Concerned Scientists, have deep concerns about our current industrial 'agriculture' system and therefore a fear that focusing too much on simply engineering new crops types for monoculture is a distraction from the real changes needed.

      I don't think it's too difficult to enunciate this distinction and I didn't feel that this article was criticising these views as being anti-science.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Sean Manning

      He didn't say they were. There is, however, some troubling evidence around the behaviour of companies like Monsanto. There's a difference between business and evil.

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    4. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Monsanto was mischievous in Diplomatic Language, Negligant in Legal Niceties and pushed thourogh bastardry in the vernacular, in that it distributed the changed DNA in the wind blown pollen of GM Canola was that into the Farming World.

      Why did they do it? Perhaps so other farmers clean crops, get polluted for the grudging acceptantce of GM

      No wonder there is a backlash against GM

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    5. Liam Hanlon

      Student

      In reply to Sean Manning

      They don't yield the type of power corporate groups do over our food production. Farmers aren't the ones who sue a farmer for keeping seeds of a good crop.

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  12. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    Perhaps people reject science because basically everything is regarded as a science these days and everything is based on scientific research by "experts".

    I'm not talking medical science but I'm talking about the other "sciences". And especially the social "sciences".

    Anyone checked out the "gender science" lately at the Hawke Research Institute or other Australian Universities

    How many of you academics actually do know that the University of Adelaide handed out a doctorate to a woman of…

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  13. Chris Harries

    logged in via Facebook

    Crossover between science and business is a big issue. We may implicitly trust science, but do we trust the businesses that deliver the goods, like GMO products?

    Nuclear scientists tell us about the immense energy locked up in the nucleus of atoms and how tapping that energy can safely provide society with endless energy, obviating the need for coal fired power or nuclear or wind... and it all sounds so good and rational and sensible and possible.

    And then we end up with TEPCO, and it all comes unstuck.

    The motivations and competence of of science may be pure and good but the motivations and competence of the corporations that deliver the products of science to us are too often bound up in greed for money and bureaucratic ineptitude. Mistrusting commerce is valid, and not the same as mistrusting science.

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  14. Chris Booker

    Research scientist

    Interesting article, but I would have to agree with Jeremy Tager - the GM crop issue should be kept out of discussions of 'science denial'.

    What is going on there is a collusion of different factors - sure, on the one hand fear of technology and our ability to alter the environment and life around us is definitely a part (if anyone's interested, 'Unnatural: the heretical idea of making people' by Philip Ball gives a great history of this fear of human interference in biology, and in fact, suggests…

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    1. Phil Dolan

      Viticulturist

      In reply to Chris Booker

      I agree with you that creating Roundup resistant plants is not good, but it's not the science of GM that's bad, it's the spraying of Roundup.

      The science of medicine is not bad because some use it to improve sports performance.

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  15. Rod Lamberts

    Deputy Director, Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University

    Neat and useful study (as always!), Stephan.

    Great seeing more and more studies like yours and Kahan's appear that explore the nuances of the simple, often binary, audience categories we have been using to date. Hope you get some useful comments and thoughts in amongst the inevitable trolling-frenzy this kind of subject matter kicks-off.

    Cheers,
    Rod

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  16. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Geoffrey Henley

      Research Associate

      In reply to Phil Dolan

      So where have I denied that the climate changes?

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    2. In reply to Phil Dolan

      Comment removed by moderator.

  17. Zvyozdochka

    logged in via Twitter

    There must be some element of religiosity present in science denial?

    For example; one of the American Congressman (shameful bunch mostly) who denies AGW, says that God proved via Noah that he would protect the world.

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  18. Courtney Regan

    PhD candidate & Farmer

    Please don't add GM crops into the argument. The debate over health impacts from GM aside, there is compelling evidence that GM crops provide no yield benefits and do not reduce the amounts of inputs required. In fact the addition of roundup ready genes and the cross pollination with conventional plants is creating a whole new weed problem and the over reliance on glyphosate is causing accelerated resistance in weed populations, making a very useful chemical impotent.
    There are also significant…

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    1. Stephan Lewandowsky

      Chair of Cognitive Psychology at University of Bristol

      In reply to Courtney Regan

      Those considerations are perfectly valid and I share your ethical concerns. I also agree that there are some political considerations that may speak against GM in the eyes of reasonable people. However, those are separate from the arguably exaggerated fears about "frankenfoods" which we targeted in our research. If you look at the paper and our choice of items, you will see that they targeted the "scientific risks" independent of political considerations. This is difficult to do, but we tried (and consulted extensively with agricultural scientists during item selection).

      All that said, it is of interest to understand what predisposes people to reject GM foods (whether there are good reasons to do so or not), which is what our study sought to do.

      My personal opinion is that GM foods are probably perfectly safe to eat but that they come with a huge baggage of political and ethical questions that need careful analysis.

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    2. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Stephan Lewandowsky

      Hi Stephen,perhaps the next time you look at the science of gmos you don't speak with agricultural scientists but look at the following areas:

      the extent to which regulatory approvals are based on company provided data (and the implications of that for scientific integrity)
      the extent of peer review of that data (none)
      the manner in which negative results are treated in the scientific community and the effect of that on both scientific process and the credibility of GM science specifically
      whether the standards demanded by those who attack negative results are those they demand of company produced studies
      The extent to which negative studies are duplicated

      I think if you compare the science that is claimed to underpin GM products to that supports climate change, you will see some deeply disturbing failures of scientific process and some deep corruption of the way in which science is conducted - not to mention a far more contested scientific arena than proponents admit.

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  19. Neil Thomson

    Lawyer

    The problem I have with this article is that it lumps climate change denial, resistance to HPV vaccination and anti-GM together while it is possible to accept one or more on the available evidence. Moreover one can reject HPV vaccine whilst accepting other vaccination programs.

    The evidence for climate change is clear, although the degree that ti is anthropomorphic is questionable. There are strong grounds to resist GM. The deniers in this case are the corporate interests as the evidence is…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Neil Thomson

      Nobody said you had to collect the complete set, Neil - merely raised a sample of reasonably well known and popular forms of denial - not the same as lumping them all together.

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  20. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    I’m all for herd vaccination and I accept the tenets of A/climate change. I also have a good deal of respect for Stephan Lewandowsky; however, his suggestion that anti-GM proponents are unscientific is vacuous. GM proponents fail to acknowledge that the major biotech corporations are chemical (and pharmaceutical) giants with an ignominious history of regulatory violations. Is there one good reason why anyone should place their trust in recidivist offenders?

    GM criminality is not a conspiracy…

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    1. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Stephan Lewandowsky

      Hi Stephan, herewith links as requested:

      Crime, Bio-Agriculture and the Exploitation of Hunger:
      http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/46/1/26.short

      Cheap Capitalism: A Sociological Study of Food Crime in China
      http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/52/2/254.abstract

      Criminology and Genetically Modified Food
      http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/44/2/151.abstract

      Food Crime, Regulation and the Biotech Harvest European Journal of Criminology (2007) 4 (2): 217-235
      http://euc.sagepub.com/content/4/2/217.short

      Plus e-book:

      Eco Crime and Genetically Modified Food
      http://tinyurl.com/m76en4c

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  21. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

    Boss

    Lew, do you remember writing this?
    "Skepticism is not only at the core of scientific reasoning but has also been shown to improve people's
    discrimination between true and false information (e.g., Lewandowsky, Stritzke, Oberauer,
    & Morales, 2005, 2009)."
    Why am I sceptical of claims made of a strong link between CO2 in the air and air temperature, given that there is no generally-agreed paper that makes the critical quantitative link? Or given that the IPCC has just written "No best estimate…

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Mr Sherrington, I've no reason to doubt that you've provided much valuable science to this nation in the past. As such, you have a substantial position of authority from which to argue.

      In our dialogue at "https://theconversation.com/lomborgs-criticism-of-current-renewables-is-years-out-of-date-18744";, where you asked a series of questions for which I provided the correct answers (if I had been incorrect anywhere, then you would have clarified my misapprehensions), you ended the discussion with…

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    2. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to David Arthur

      David,
      I can see reasons to doubt the analysis of the author of this blog essay. Can you?
      http://rankexploits.com/musings/2012/pinatubo-climate-sensitivity-and-two-dogs-that-didnt-bark-in-the-night/
      How advanced is your science?
      Note the several references to published papers with low ECS. These are papers that I cannot find in the IPCC report.
      How balanced is the science?
      You quote "Inundation of coastal infrastructure with sea level rise." Where is the data? I can quote papers the IPCC did not use, papers that do not support your fear.
      How complete is your science?

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      I don't have a problem with low ECS estimates, but I'm not confident that they can consider feedbacks due to hydrological cycle intensification, and albedo decline with permafrost thaw and consequent methane emissions.

      I cannot account for IPCC not considering papers with low ECS values, (is C Monckton among the authors?); as an AR5 reviewer you would surely have raised any concerns?

      Prospective inundation of coastal infrastructure to 2100? http://www.ozcoasts.gov.au/climate/sd_visual.jsp

      Longer term, the understanding is that atmospheric CO2 ~400 ppm last occurred mid-Pliocene, back before the Greenland ice-sheet formed (Hansen et al, (2013) "Climate sensitivity, sea level and atmospheric carbon dioxide" Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 2013 371, 20120294, http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/371/2001/20120294.full.pdf); that's another 6-7 metres.

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      In particular, I'm not sure that such short-lived transient phenomena as aerosol loading from Pinatubo's 1991 eruption can tell us much about Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity, due to long response times of non-atmosphere components of the climate system.

      Hansen's Phil. Trans. R. Soc. might better inform us on that issue than analysis of the transient response to Pinatubo 1991.

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  22. Paul Prociv

    ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

    An interesting analysis, but one which doesn’t go far enough (although where would you stop?). Conspiracy theories abound, and tell us much more about the believer than the theory. I must confess to having a penchant for conspiracies in my youth, then gradually losing it with growing experience of life. As an academic, I encountered parochial conspiracies on a daily basis, only do discover, on becoming involved in university administration, that the powers-that-be were not sufficiently competent…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      I know what you mean, Paul - many years ago I used to quite enjoy reading Nexus magazine....but it just turned out to be the same old crap re-issued over and over.

      And, as they say, if it's a choice between conspiracy and incompetence, go with incompetence every time!

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    2. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      I found academics were pretty adept at covering up misconduct. Just create a situation where any whistleblowing will result in well founded fear of having grants blocked and there is very little dishonesty that the vast majority of academics wont wink at.

      Possibly raping a student in broad daylight on the registry steps might be pushing it, but anything short of that you should be OK.

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  23. Kevin Marshall

    IT Consultant at Engineering

    Professor Lewandowsky has previously made analogies “climate science” with two the hypotheses “HIV causes AIDS” (HCA)or “smoking causes lung cancer” (SCLA). There are fundamental differences that he does acknowledge.

    - AIDS and Lung Cancer are clearly catastrophic both for anyone who acquires the condition, and in terms of the millions who have died from these conditions. It is a forecast that makes climate change a nontrivial condition.
    - With AIDS or lung cancer there is no mild dose. With…

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Kevin Marshall

      Kevin,
      Regarding your comparison to the legal process only, could I note that the IPCC expects us to take a "Balance of probability" approach as in our civil law, while not filling the higher test of "Beyond reasonable doubt" of our criminal law.
      On matter such as drastic reactions to perceptions of climate change, a matter which has the capacity to kill people, surely the higher test should be applied.

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    2. Kevin Marshall

      IT Consultant at Engineering

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      The IPCC does not meet the equivalent of "standards of balance" of evidence that is set in civil law in a number of respects.
      To bring a civil case in Britain I believe the plaintiff has to demonstrate that they have a case to bring an action, then has to show that they have the better argument to an impartial jury. The defendants are given rights to cross-examine that evidence and present an alternative case. The IPCC is merely evidence gathering is free to ignore, and has ignored complaints that the evidence is far weaker than they make out.
      In any court in Britain the boundaries of what is admissible, and the rules of the court are laid down. It is presided over by judge, and (in higher level cases) the ultimate decisions are made by a jury. Strict measures are taken to ensure the independence of both judge and jury from the plaintiff. The IPCC makes the rules, and acts as plaintiff, judge and jury.

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  24. Michael J. I. Brown

    ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

    There has been quite a bit of discussion of the Galileo Movement and conspiracy theories, the most notable example being http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/happy_to_help_those_who_ask_but_not_people_who_peddle_this/

    While the Galileo Movement disputes this, Malcolm Roberts has the following statement in http://www.conscious.com.au/docs/new/13_appendix.pdf

    "Although minutes of meetings of small groups pushing global governance are withheld from the media and the public, it's open knowledge that the groups meet and that they are led by prominent international bankers."

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Michael,
      If you seek to bag people with selective quotes, why not read this one?
      http://www.geoffstuff.com/A_New_Growth_Path_for_Europe__Final_Report.pdf

      Wow, ther's a conspiracy prescription if you want to read it that way. It makes me fear for Europe because it was commissioned by the German Federal Government. When you analyse it, it's just another outpouring of rabid green.

      What part of CSIROh whose URL you gave, caused you concern? I'm nonplussed as to why you mentioned it. If you dispute a part played by banks, consider the composition of the Deutsch Bank climate change advisory board when Climategate broke.
      http://www.geoffstuff.com/DB%20Green%20Steering.JPG

      You might recognise a number of extremist agitators here, people close to deranged in their thinking, in bed with a big bank in the middle of controversy.

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    2. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Isn't a conspiracy supposed to be secret, rather than openly publishing reports and putting them online?

      I don't think the quote is particularly selective. At least some members of the Galileo Movement subscribe to banking conspiracies, including those of Eustice Mullins. They were discussing this on their twitter account last night.

      Seems very consistent with Lewandowsky's research.

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  25. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    There are 157 comments to this article, of which 45 (29%) have been removed by the moderator.

    Of the 112 comments not removed by the moderator, I have contributed 8.
    Of the 45 offending comments removed by the moderator, I estimate that I am the author of 5 such comments. That is, 38% of my contributions to this page have not complied with The Conversation's standard of civility and respect.

    I hope all readers can accept this apology for these lapses on my part.

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to David Arthur

      De nada, David, we will just extrapolate across the gaps as best we can.
      Please supply us with some non specific and undirected statements uncompliant with The Conversations standard of civility and respect.
      They will hopefully not be moderated, and we can apply them to those intriguing gaps, as a calibration aid for our extrapolations.
      There will be degree of "guesstimation", but the entertainment will be guaranteed, and the subjects of the moderated posts will remain speculative, and no further offence generated.
      I give "Blundering dunderhead" as an example that doesn't contain profanities, as does "incorrigible narcissist" and "duplicitous posturer" and many better such examples than I can provide?
      Come on David, you have us all intrigued!
      Don't leave us in suspense.

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to James Hill

      Perhaps 'The Conversation' can supply the unexpurgated to Prof Lewandowsky for research purposes.

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    3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to David Arthur

      Perhaps Lewandowsky asked for the snips. I was snipped for a brief suggestion that (from memory) 'impressions' have no place in science. No swear words at all.
      Did you ask for snips, Lew?

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      BTW, at the ACS Climate Science Toolkit, there's a link to a handy primer on "Infrared radiation and planetary temperature", by Raymond Pierrehumbert, published by American Institute of Physics in 2011 in "Open Physics". The link is http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/papers/PhysTodayRT2011.pdf

      It's nice and easy to read, and clears lots of misconceptions, such as the one about CO2 being insignificant relative to water vapour by pointing out that:
      "The atmosphere, if CO2 were removed from it, would cool enough that much of the water vapor would rain out. That precipitation, in turn, would cause further cooling and ultimately spiral Earth into a globally glaciated snowball state. It is only the presence of CO2 that keeps Earth’s atmosphere warm enough to contain much water vapor. Conversely, increasing CO2 would warm the atmosphere and ultimately result in greater water-vapor content—a now well-understood situation known as water- vapor feedback."

      Happy reading.

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  26. Geoff Chambers

    retired

    The paper under consideration here was conceived as a follow-up and replication of another paper by Lewandowsky, and others , which claimed to demonstrate a link between conspiracy theorising and climate scepticism. Some of us climate sceptics looked carefully at his first paper, and discovered that, alongside the numerous faults and absurdities in the methodology and analysis, there was a false assertion about the origins of the sample in the paper. Instead of correcting the error, Lewandowsky…

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    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Geoff Chambers

      Geoff

      As arguing the reality of climate change wastes valuable time, energy and, in many cases, patience, I expect we'll be seeing more actions such as this:

      "L.A. Times Bans Climate Deniers - When Will the Rest of the Media Follow Suit?"

      http://x2t.com/256685

      "...Now, let me be clear: I am sympathetic to the conflict that media outlets face, between publishing or airing the unvarnished truth on the one hand, and showing “balance” on the other. There are often reasons to err on the side…

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    2. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna,
      As I've stated many times, I'm an auditor, not a denier. Several times on TC I have dismissed the coalition direct action plan as not viable. Other times I dismiss stupid stuff put out by the IPCC or someone else.
      The banning of the views of a sector is Fascism as expressed in WWII by the burning of books and later by Mao ditto.
      If you want to align yourself with extremism, that is your choice and I say go your hardest.
      You have not shown a single lie to have come from me. If I make an error, I apologise and correct it.

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    3. Phil Dolan

      Viticulturist

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Very nice Dianna and good on the LA times.

      I think it would be good to completely ignore the deniers which I will do from now.

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    4. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Phil Dolan

      Thank you Phil.

      Energy is precious, whether personal or planetary, discretion is essential.

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    5. Geoff Chambers

      retired

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna Arthur
      Your reply to my comment is irrelevant. No-one is suggesting that Lewandowsky should be banned for lying, simpy that he should explain himself.
      The facts are these:
      When Lewandowsky’s first paper in Psychological Science was “prepublished” in July 2012, several sceptical commenters noted that the claim that the survey on which it was based had been publicised on the SkepticalScience website seemed to be false, since there was no sign of the survey there, or on the Google Wayback…

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    6. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Geoff Chambers

      Phil Dolan,
      But how are we going to identify these deniers before ignoring them?

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    7. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Phil Dolan

      Phil,
      Try -
      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Genetic_fallacy
      and
      Pre-publication, MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE
      NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax:
      An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science
      Stephan Lewandowsky et al

      "Rejection of science must be distinguished from true scepticism, which may prompt the
      revision of a scientific claim on the basis of evidence and reasoned theorizing. Skepticism
      is not only at the core of scientific reasoning but has also been shown to improve people's
      discrimination between true and false information."

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    8. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Chambers

      You’ve been obsessed with this issue for at least the whole year. Your inflammatory and exceedingly disgusting remarks about Dr Lewandowsky can only be published on second rate blogs and deserves a zero response from Lewandowsky. Get over it or get help.

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  27. Geoff Chambers

    retired

    Shirley Birney
    Pointing out that Lewandowsky has said something false is neither inflammatory nor disgusting. And the Conversation is not a second-rate blog. Nor is the Scientific American, Huffington Post, Redaction Watch, or Frontiers in Psychological Science.
    Professor Lewandowsky has three courses open to him; correct the error and apologise; refute my arguments; or ignore them. By ignoring them he will be announcing publicly that errors in scientific papers don’t matter.

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    1. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Chambers

      You misunderstand. The second rate blog to which I referred is this one:

      geoffchambers.wordpress.com/

      I trust you will have the decency to delete the disgraceful remarks that have been on your blog since February?

      As I alluded to previously, the remarks are not fit to be published on TC.

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    2. Geoff Chambers

      retired

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley Birney
      I’ve certainly been rude about Professor Lewandowsky on my blog (I’ve also praised him for his stand on government-condoned torture), but I don’t think I’ve ever been disgusting or inflammatory. In my fictional work “Apocalypse Close” I once gave him a turtleneck shirt and compared him to a turtle, but only so I could get in a joke about the turtle having a retractable head, whereas Lewandowsky never retracts anything.
      Rudeness has to be seen in context. Lewandowsky has accused…

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    3. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Geoff Chambers

      I have just read through your blog. Nope, nothing that could be construed as disgusting or inflammatory, disgraceful or rude. It's actually quite witty. Lewandowsky seems to be simply an opinion pollster who tries to fit data into preconceived pigeon-holes and then declare those who disagree with his interpretation to be (gasp!) anti-scientific. This after begging question after question that anyone who disputes his preconceived theories is a conspiracy theorist.
      Just as I suspected.
      In the meantime I've found the impartial scientific articles at the NIPCC website to be quite enlightening.

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    4. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      If Dads’ Army does it for you, then the NIPCC, SPPI, Heartland Institute's for you - all in together, this foul weather.

      Alas, poor old Carter got busted by NZ’s High Court last year (costing taxpayers a packet), Monckton got busted by the House of Commons, Singer got busted for his pseudo-science on DDT, CFCs, passive smoking and cancer, Seitz (RIP) got busted for forging a National Academy of Science letterhead……. and the band plays on……….

      Meanwhile the crochet ladies prepare Devonshire tea at Heartland’s bingo-palooza, the “guns for hire” collude with corpses and all and sundry slobber over the ill-gotten filthy lucre.

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  28. Barry Woods

    Member of Public

    Perhaps, if the Professor Lewandowsky could correct a substantial error in LOG12,

    “NASA faked the moon landings - Therefore [Climate ]science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” by Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, Gilles Gignac – Psychological Science [LOG12]

    then the criticism of Professor Lewandowsky and his co authors byth e'sceptics' might not have been so great..

    The factual error is:
    The LOG12 methodology states that the survey was posted at the SkepticalScience…

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  29. Geoff Chambers

    retired

    Barry Woods
    I’ve just posted a comment at
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/absolutely-maybe/2013/10/14/motivated-reasoning-fuel-for-controversies-conspiracy-theories-and-science-denialism-alike/#comment-207
    making much the same point and quoting your correspondence with Lewandowsky - I hope correctly.

    I note also that Geoff Sherrington, a frequent commenter here, wrote to the Bishop Hill blog earlier today (or possibly later today, given that he’s in Australia) claiming that he’s been blocked from commenting at the Conversation.

    It seems to me unthinkable that at a blog entitled the Conversation, financed partly by the Australian and British governments and partly by the author’s employers, the author of an article should meet serious criticisms with a deafening silence.

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    1. Foxgoose

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Chambers

      It is indeed strange that Professor Lewandowsky and his supporters here are apparently unwilling to make any response to clear evidence of academic fraud.

      Maybe "The Conversation" should be renameed "The Sermon For Today......Followed by The Deafening Silence".

      In addition to the proven fraudulent claim, outlined by Barry Woods & Geoff Chambers above, that the first Lewandowsky et al paper questionaire was published on a blog where it never appeared - there were an number of individuals libeled…

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    2. Geoff Chambers

      retired

      In reply to Foxgoose

      Foxgoose
      Thanks for pointing out the photo. I’d taken it for a picture of a Bedouin having furled up his tent and gone for a quick dip in the Med.
      Actually, it looks a lot like the view from the window here where I sit. It could even be a photo of me doing my early morning yoga on a sticky patch of the dunes, except I wouldn’t be so naff as to tuck my jeans into my trainers.
      To tell the truth, our patch of the Mediterranean doesn’t have grass, because the local council sends a bulldozer out to shift the sand around, piling it up in the autumn to protect us from winter storms. I just hope they remember to pile it 3mm higher every year, otherwise we might be part of the 50 million climate refugees that are threatening to invade your shores every year.

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  30. Geoff Chambers

    retired

    Looking again at the photo, the person doesn’t look as if they’ve adopted that pose voluntarily. I think they’ve been dropped in it from a great height by some external forcing. And the legs have a stiff unbending look about them, suggesting a character to match.
    Stephan is a big gliding fan, I remember. Good Gaia, you don’t think....?

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    1. Foxgoose

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Chambers

      Well - that would be a terrible blow to the emerging science of climate psychology, wouldn't it?

      On balance though, I think he might just be experiencing some orientation confusion following his recent arrival from the antipodes.

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