Stephen Lewandowsky: Confronting the Anti-Science Thought Police

March 21, 2014

Stealing data, hacking servers, dressing up as “computer technicians” to infiltrate scientific institutions, threatening scientists with death, and intimidation of scientific journals through internet trolling and threats of legal action.  All in a days work for the anti-science movement.
Quick – is this 2014 or 1420?

Anyone that’s been on the receiving end of intimidation and threats knows how dangerous the thought control machinery of right wing media has become.

Psychologist Dr. Stephen Lewandowski walks us through the intimidation and censorship tactics of the denial industry:

The evidence for global warming is overwhelming. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences stated as “fact” that the globe is warming from human economic activity. This overwhelming scientific consensus is, however, vociferously opposed by a vocal minority of actors. Who are those people and by what means do they oppose mainstream science?

In whose hands the future” is a video by a cognitive scientist who studies the denial of science and who has himself been attacked for his work. The video takes viewers on a personal and scientific journey into the murky world of climate denial and the blogs that serve as staging ground for attacks on climate scientists and other scholars and public intellectuals in the climate arena.


Is this 2014, or 1420?

The video analyzes the public aspect of the attacks on scientists and presents evidence that the blogosphere’s discourse differs considerably from conventional scholarly discourse. Instead of providing scholarly critique, the discourse in the blogosphere fits many criteria for conspiratorial thinking. The video also reports some of the less visible, subterranean means of attack, such as the attempted intimidation of journal editors and publishers by parties external to the scientific process.

The material in the video suggests that the public’s right to being informed about a critical issue is being violated by a small number of agitators.  There is also some reason to believe that scientists themselves may be unduly cautious in their public statements because of the anticipated harassment from political operators and their allies in the blogosphere.



78 Responses to “Stephen Lewandowsky: Confronting the Anti-Science Thought Police”

  1. omnologos Says:

    How many people here agree with Lewandowsky about the existence of a ‘small number of agitators’ that live in a ‘murky’ world and are staging a ‘subterranean’ war on science?

    I’d like to hear Peter’s opinion too.

    • That’s a weird question! It sounds like you don’t believe this is happening or that you somehow agree that they should be carrying out this type of anti-science activity. Are you a supporter of theirs?

      • omnologos Says:

        Bob – i do not believe in conspiracies, unless they are proven. So I do not believe that global warming is a ‘hoax’, and I am convinced the tobacco companies conspired to keep people smoking.

        However Lewandowsky is very specific – he knows for example that large conspiracies such as those claimed by moon-hoaxers or chemtrailes are extremely unbelievable, hence the reference to a ‘small’ number of ‘agitators’. So it’d be interesting to see how many people follow his lead and why.

        It seems for example that for Peter is enough to see some names resurface. However in my case Heartland or any tobacco supporters have zilch to do with my understanding of the science or where I get my information from.

        • jpcowdrey Says:


          You haven’t answered the question. Do you or do not believe there is a small group of actors that fuel conspiratorial thinking? People such as Willis Eschenbach, Pielke, Jr., Tony Watts, Steve McIntyre, et cetera, who do not explicitly claim climate science is a hoax, yet provide disinformation that allows the conspiratorial mindset to persist. Some of these people whose views have explicitly influenced your own thinking.

          • omnologos Says:

            Are they or anybody else conspiring to misinform? There’s no evidence for it and against the idea that each one of them is expressing anything other than their own opinions. I have disagreed at one point or another with most of them and if they woke up tomorrow as new members of SkS that wouldn’t change my AGW opinion a bit.

            Ps Do conspiracy theorists need them or anybody else to nurture their thoughts? Not at all – see the history of chemtrailers. Anyway I don’t think that’s what Lewandowsky claims. He mentions the right of the public to be informed.

          • jpcowdrey Says:

            The question is not whether they are themselves conspiring to misinform, although that is an interesting question. My opinion is, yes they are, and they are doing it openly. The question is if their persistent disinformation fuels conspiratorial thinking.

            Why are you so evasive?

          • omnologos Says:

            Evasive? I have said, conspiratorial thinking finds some source to nourish itself from, and that’s independent from the source. Chemtrailers are climate skeptics too.

            ps I reject Lew’s methods because anybody who puts Richard Betts among the conspiratorial skeptics has simply no clue. Imagine reading a paper where the Pope were put in a list of Lutherans?? Or Obama taken as example of a Republican? Or Peter Sinclair classified as a “Sky Dragon”? Its authors would be marked as total losers for the rest of their lives, and rightly so.

            pps I have a very simple explanation on why WUWT is infinitely more popular than RC, SkS or ThinkP. It has nothing to do with conspiracy theorism. After all what is the point of fighting conspiracy theorists if all your answer consists of is another conspiracy theory?

    • greenman3610 Says:

      we have the documents from the tobacco trials – the template was set then. we know how the war on science works. This is how it will be conducted until it stops working

      • astrostevo Says:

        I think this clip – the interview with christian climatologist Katherine Heyhoe is pretty relevant here too :

        Intended to intimidate yes – and I’d add confuse and deceive and hide by adding lots of extra noise to try and drown out the signal.

    • jpcowdrey Says:


      Do you not find it a tad disingenuous to solicit others’ opinions without first proffering one’s own?

      My suggestion is, if the shoe fits, wear it. Don’t be coy.

      • omnologos Says:

        Apols JP I assumed everyone knew I just can’t stand Lew and his methods, let alone follow him anywhere 😉

        I’ll believe in this anti-science subterranean war when some heavy-hitting document about it will surface.l

        • jpcowdrey Says:

          And rejecting a person’s ideas on the basis one’s personal distaste is what kind of rational thinking?

          hint: it isn’t.

          Marc Morano’s website should be all the documentation one should need, if one has the gift of critical thinking.

        • anotheralionel Says:

          If everybody waited for such a heavy hitting document then it would never appear, that is to play into the hands of tyrants and demagogues who wish to shut down the narrative of truth.

          As for one such document you could try this:

          Bob Altemeyer’s – The Authoritarians

          which provides background and the following for specifics

          Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations

          and then visit DeSmogBlog and look up material by John Mashey.

          You have been around the block a few times so you should know about this stuff, if so are you being deliberately blind and obfuscatory?

          • Thanks for the plug!

            Anyone who doesn’t understand how this works might start with Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony PDF (2010):
            See especially sections 1 and 2 for basic definitions and a model of the overall structure and money flows.

            Section 5, p.19-20 describes that 1998 GCSCT project, hosted at American Petroleum Institute, with an all-star cast of anti-science folks, that clearly lays out the strategies to obscure science, all too reminiscent of those employed so well by the tobacco companies. It has a link to their full report.

            Of course, it’s been 4 years, and we have learned a lot, including about the wonderful money laundry called Donors Trust, created to obscure the tax-free money flows. See PDF here, Appendix I.

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      It appears to be true,but there also exists a large number of agitators that live in a clear world and are staging a terranean war on science (and reason).
      The latter group pretty much believe what they are saying is true,while the former likely and cynically are acting only to preserve their personal monetary and or political interests. The latter are just their unwitting tools.

  2. The direct bullying many scientists are the victim of say something about the intellect of the people behind them, and your witch hunt images couldn’t be more fitting. It’s impossible to argue with people like that as they are not remotely open to the idea of open discussion and trying to grasp the science at all. Its clear that the gut like vomit they come up with over and over is based on deep emotional feelings that this field of science threatens their existence and turn to at least “verbal violence”. Hence you have people like Delingpole comparing climate science policy actions to a holocaust (which of course wouldn’t work very well as a threat on Holocaust deniers – sorry couldn’t resist).

    Like I have said so many times, many “deniers” readily accept the science behind every level of gizmo gadget that can be bought, but for some reason the fundamental physics and science behind climate change is somehow a hoax. I still cannot understand this selective acceptance of whats science and whats not.

    I believe many people are very gullible, and have not trained their skeptic brains enough, so its very easy to mislead people with conspiracy thinking. We see this also with regards to the anti-vaccine movement, some clear cognitive dissonance with regards to risk. The majority of people don’t have the attention span to try to understand the real science – unless something that could be related to climate change tears down their house. I am afraid that if we need the majority of people to have their houses fall over their heads before they react – its will be way too late.

  3. […] unwilling to take the risk of publishing the paper and being open to potential frivolous lawsuits. Peter Sinclair has a video of Lewandowsky discussing the contrarian academic censorship […]

  4. […] unwilling to take the risk of publishing the paper and being open to potential frivolous lawsuits. Peter Sinclair has a video of Lewandowsky discussing the contrarian academic censorship […]

  5. Gingerbaker Says:


    “I’ll believe in this anti-science subterranean war when some heavy-hitting document about it will surface”

    So, the fact that the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobil et al surreptitiously spend 1 billion dollars a year on climate denial infrastructure doesn’t indicate a conspiracy to you?

    The fact that Anthony Watts was discovered to be receiving large amounts of money from the Heartland group is just a coincidence and he really is offering top-notch legitimate scientific criticism, not an ideological load of propaganda – is that your position?

    • omnologos Says:

      So who’s the conspiracy theorist now Gingerbaker? Billions are spent for green propaganda and all sorts of other causes, do you see conspiracies everywhere?

      • skeptictmac57 Says:

        Could you clarify your use of the word ‘propaganda’ here?
        Some senses of the word simply mean communicating ideas with the aim of influencing a group. Most of us use the word in the more nefarious sense of an intentionally misleading form of communication.
        Which are you using here?

  6. rayduray Says:

    Attn.: Know-It-Alls

    Here’s your chance to shine. Today is World Water Day. Just what do you know about water? Find out….

    FWIW, I normally score 2 or 3 correct out of 10 answers in Guardian quizzes. They’re even more eccentric than I am, eh? But in this instance, I scored a 7 out of 10. Howzabout you? 🙂

    • omnologos Says:


      I missed question 5 (I thought it was hours per person, not in total – 40 bilion hours mean very little – 5,000 hours per person mean a lot, 57% of their lives)

      I also missed question 10, answering 15 million instead of 11 million. The Guardian not being alarmist enough, for once.

  7. Typical omno, semantics, impossible demands of ever changing goalposts and absolute references, and yet providing no believable reference for his own statements, false comparisons between sneaky hidden oil interests with the covert intent of deception compared to public renewable advocacy, comparing the meager sources available to scientists compared to the richest and most powerful corporations in the world as if they were “equal”….. The list goes on. Its all drivel. I still remember his response on the issue of Katherine Hayhoe threats. First he denied it, then when confronted with evidence, changed tactics to denying the seriousness of the threats. And so it is with everything. There is a difference between skeptical inquiry and denial. Its one thing to check the facts carefully from multiple sources. The other extreme… is a form of disorder.

    • anotheralionel Says:

      Agreed Chris and seeing this topic I figured omno’ would be in directly and, when I zeroed onto this article, there he was with the first comment, so predictable.

      Anybody who writes this, ‘…i do not believe in conspiracies, unless they are proven…’ is seriously short of some logical thinking.

      Yeh! Yeh! I know omno’ is something with computers which handle logic and therefore he is ‘Data’ i.e. faultless.

      We could change that into, ‘…i do not believe in diseases, unless they are proven…’ which highlights where the logic problem is.

  8. mbrysonb Says:

    I call ignoratio on Omno. Look and ye shall find! (You can start with John Mashey’s post, and chase it with a selection of Conway and Oreskes, Jim Hoggan and Littlemore, Stephen Schneider’s book.) It’s so easy to dismiss the truth when you refuse to look at the evidence…

  9. omnologos Says:

    There are many things I disagree with Peter on, but he’s the only active warmist blogger who’s ever understood that the only reason for you guys to talk instead of droning on and on, is me. 😉

    (Not me as a person, but me as an individual with a non-consensus view)

    That’s something that has escaped Tamino. ATTP, RC, ThinkP, Desmog etc etc.

    That said, given I am not a troll I will not engage each and every one of the countless questions that are coming my way. But you should all think about the fact that if a real troll wanted to pop up here and ruin the comments section, there would be a lot of willing unwitting collaborators…and those are you.

  10. omnologos Says:

    Very shortly…

    Propaganda isn’t necessarily a nasty word. You need to convince people and that doesn’t happen via telepathy. Sometimes things have to get dirty, as depicted in the movie ‘Lincoln’. But it’s naive and mindless to think stated motives are all that’s needed to judge if some propaganda is for nefarious purposes or not. There has been too much greenwashing already.

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      The Koch’s especially,Heartland,GWPF and WUWT are using propaganda to intentionally deceive and mislead. Most environmental groups are using propaganda (in the milder sense) to persuade and inform about an issue they actually accept as true as do almost all of the most informed scientists in the world.
      I do not think these two senses of the word propaganda are equal.

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