What a summer. I've also called for the retraction of the following paper:
Lewandowsky, S., Oberauer, K., & Gignac, G. E. (2013). NASA faked the moon landing—therefore, (climate) science is a hoax: an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science. Psychological Science, 24(5), 622–633.
The title draws a link between belief in the moon landing hoax and belief that climate science is also a hoax. The title is false. The relationship between those variables is the opposite of that reported. Worse is how the title even suggests a causal relationship here, that climate science hoaxists (which will likely be encoded as skeptics to many readers) got there by starting with the moon hoax belief.
Dr. Lewandowsky has already admitted that there is no link, on his blog here:
"Let's consider the signal vs. noise issue first. We use the item in our title, viz. that NASA faked the moon landing, for illustration. Several commentators have argued that the title was misleading because if one only considers level X of climate "skepticism" and level Y of moon endorsement, then there were none or only very few data points in that cell in the Excel spreadsheet.
Perhaps. But that is drilling into the noise and ignoring the signal. The signal turns out to be there and it is quite unambiguous: computing a Pearson correlation across all data points between the moon-landing item and HIV denial reveals a correlation of -.25. Likewise, for lung cancer, the correlation is -.23. Both are highly significant at p < .0000...0001 (the exact value is 10 -16, which is another way of saying that the probability of those correlations arising by chance is infinitesimally small).
What about climate? The correlation between the Moon item and the "CauseCO2" item is smaller, around -.12, but also highly significant, p < .0001. Now you know why the title of our paper was “NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.” We put the "(climate)" in parentheses before "science" because the association between conspiracist ideation and rejection of science was greater for the other sciences than for climate science."
That's his explanation for the title? It's the most incredible example of tortured reasoning I've ever seen. I doubt I'll ever see anything like this again. He says he put climate in the title because it was the smallest effect, outweighed by others? The fact that there are parentheses around it is supposed to alert readers that it is the lesser effect, and readers will know that two unmentioned variables – HIV and lung cancer conspiracies – were more significant, because we all know that parentheses means "the enclosed effect is smaller than the effects for HIV and lung cancer research" in modern English. One wonders why, given all this concern for "signals" and noise, the parentheses in the headline didn't say something about HIV or smoking/lung cancer, since those were the effects, not climate hoaxism.
It gets much worse. There was never any effect. The CauseCO2 item he cites is not the climate hoax variable – it's just one random item out of six items to do with climate, and the correlation is a scam, as we will see below. I was curious why Lewandowsky never mentions the actual climate hoax variable, CYClimateChange, since his title explicitly references climate hoaxism, and CYClimateChange is the item – the only item – that asks participants if they believe climate science is a hoax. So I looked in the dataset (available here). Of 1145 participants, 3 agree with – at any level – both the moon hoax and the climate hoax. To repeat, 3 out of 1145 participants fit the smear in the headline. The items are based on a 1 to 4 scale of disagreement/agreement, from strongly disagree to strongly agree. My count of three qualifying participants includes anyone who gave a 3 or 4 on the moon hoax and a 3 or 4 on the climate hoax. There is no effect driven by mutual endorsement of these hoaxes. The phenomenon stressed in the headline is simply not in this data.
Note that in the entire dataset, only 10 participants agree with the moon hoax at any level (3 or 4), a profile that is of course central to the effect claimed in the headline.
134 of the participants, 11.7% of the sample, agree with the climate hoax idea, on any level. Of those, 131 disagree with the moon hoax, and 122 of those strongly disagree with it (a 1 on the scale). That is, 97.8% of those who agree with the climate hoax idea disagree with the moon hoax, in staggering contradiction of the headline that was snapped up by the media all over the world.
The truth is the exact opposite of the headline. If someone believes that climate science is a hoax, there are extremely likely to reject the idea that the moon landing was a hoax. And of the ten people who believed in the moon hoax, most did not endorse a climate hoax (7 out of 10 rejected it).
Also note that the skew of this data undermines our ability to obtain any meaningful correlations from it. We will not be able to generate valid correlations when only 10 out of 1145 participants endorsed the hoax, only made worse by the fact that the response scale ranges from 1 to 4. Anyone who would report Pearson correlations in that circumstance, on that variable, and tout their "significance", demonstrates a profound incompetence with elementary statistics and/or or fraudulent intentions. His bluster about the "signal and the noise" was complete nonsense, presumably meant to convey the cues of statistical competence and scientific authority, and would make no sense to any qualified practitioner of quantitative psychology, given the characteristics of this data. And regarding that CauseCO2 item he cited, there are only 4 participants who both disagreed that CO2 causes warming and agreed with the moon hoax idea. 97.5% of those who disagreed with the CauseCO2 item, also disagreed with the moon hoax idea. His correlation there was a scam, a type of artifact of linear correlation that I'll go into another time. This requires logistic regression after you've removed all the outlier or high leverage items.
I offer this definition of fraud: knowingly making a claim that your data do not support, where your (authentic) data do in fact test the claim (i.e. the answer is in your data, whatever the answer is). Fraud can be granular, at the level of Excel spreadsheets and invented statistics, or at the headline level. This is fraud, at the headline level. The headline is false, declaring the exact opposite of the truth. It reverses the relationship given by the data (and the data here will not survive a light breeze, much less things like Cook's distance).
This was an unbelievably awful thing to do, the worst case of malpractice I've seen. It established a link, in the minds of biased journalists and perhaps millions of news consumers, between this moon hoax nonsense and climate skepticism. The apparent malice and pettiness behind such malpractice is deeply disturbing, that anyone would want to do that to millions to people, to marginalize them in public life, by falsely linking them to one of the most insane hoax conspiracies out there (NASA actually landed men on the moon six times – trivia tidbit.)
Something is going on here. Lewandowsky is associated with that deceptively named "SkepticalScience" crew who pushed out the junk 97% study. This is very disturbing. You've got people running a junk study to try to inflate the consensus with the most invalid method we could think up, while their friends in social science are publishing fraudulent studies that smear people who doubt that same (inflated) consensus. Elegant. This is garbage, and we may need a dump truck to clean up social science. I'm looking foward to Chris Mooney's correction/retraction on the Lewandowsky paper, and his future curiosity about actual science.
In the long arc of our civilization, I think the credibility of scientists and journals will likely matter more in influencing public action than whether we can cite "97%" vs. say 91%. The perverse injection of simplistic partisan politics into science needs to come to a speedy end. Journals and scientific bodies, like the politicized AAAS, are doing enormous damage, if we're looking past next week.
8/6/2014 12:26:28 am
Professor Lewandowsky wrote another paper in PLOSone journal with a similar survey, this time run by an American survey company, which surveyed the general public in the USA.
8/10/2014 06:24:35 am
I just checked the PLOSONE data and two 14 years olds believed in the moon hoax conspiracy.
2/3/2016 08:04:42 am
Dr Adam Corner (psychologist) whom Lew sent a pre-press release copy, didn't realize it was the lesser effect... so how is anybody else going to decode Lewandowsky's heading?
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José L. Duarte
Social Psychology, Scientific Validity, and Research Methods.