Lewandowsky on Denial

Stephan Lewandowsky is interviewed by Robyn Williams of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His argument that climate science denial correlates with with rightwing ideology is strongly supported by evidence.


Neither education nor intelligence overcomes the influence of ideology, he claims. I am unconvinced that this holds for sufficient amounts of education and intelligence. But the measure of sufficiency may present a high hurdle.

He also suggests that the consensus meme is far more useful. It depends on false consensus as presented by skewed journalism. Very worth a listen.


  1. All this psych stuff looking at 'sceptics' and 'deniers' would be more credible if just one of the researchers (and there must be hundreds of them worldwide: there a score or more in the UK alone) had a proper look at which political beliefs correlate with credulous alarmism. One or two studies touch on what draws lefties towards right-on notions of imminent doom but I don't know of any that bother to delve deeper - but then all of the studies I know of were written by people who are themselves credulous alarmists. Lewandowsky, the Cardiff school etc. know very little about what climate science currently says about future climate impacts. More than that, they don't think they need to know. That's not their business. Doom is simply assumed to be a scientific fact and their job is to find out why people don't believe that science says we're doomed. That would perhaps be a valid approach if their studies were solely scholastic, piffling analyses to be used only within the Ivory Tower, but they aren't. The studies are clearly aimed at improving the communication of doom and that makes their authors' ignorance of the science of climate impacts inexcusable.

  2. Stephan, in my experience, knows his stuff and knows his limitations. (This is not to say that all non-experts who are concerned about the issue do likewise.)

    Your other objection, "a proper look at which political beliefs correlate with credulous alarmism", is addressed in the interview.

  3. No, it's not addressed. Lewandowsky and Williams briefly discuss lefties (fake lefties, L says) who think global poverty is more important than climate change. The implication is that they are denying 'the science', which of course says that nothing is more important than climate change.

    Lewandowsky also said that he looked at whether lefties are predisposed to deny scientific results. (They're not, he says, but I'm not sure I believe him. No correlation between leftism and the denial of the science of GMOs and vaccines? Hmmm.) What's lacking is a look at whether they are predisposed to exaggerate them.

    Williams and Lewandowsky came across as ill-informed bigots whose knowledge of climate science begins and ends with '97% of climate scientists say we're doomed'.

    Incidentally, L says that in Oz only 5 or 6% 'deny that climate change is happening'. So what's the problem? Why do we need all these studies on how to convince more people that CC is real? You'll never convince everyone.

  4. All this psych stuff is based on worldviews that vary in the attitude to authority. Not across a spectrum of political left and right, however interesting that might be to the popular media presentation of it.
    Researchers in this field do not use political worldview, it is too arbitrary and socially defined. A 'right-wing conservative' in one nation could be regarded as a radical socialist in another. It is the gradation between those that want rules of behavior, to those that want reasons for behavior that is the metric behind predicting from a worldview if the motivated rejection of science is more likely. Those that are more likely to submit to established, inherited or imposed authority and show aggression towards dissenting views may predominate on the political right, but they also predominate amongst the religiously devout.

    Those on the left who have converted to the philosopy of socialist ideology and have a personality at the authoritarian end of the spectrum may well be motivated to reject mainstream science because it fails to condemn something their favored authority asserts is damaging to humanity.
    The opposite also happens. -(grin)-

    It is the degree to which people are inclined to accede to an external authority or source of legitimation for their worldview that alters the probability they will reject a viewpoint that contradicts the dogmas of their own. Even a viewpoint with the proven track record of utility like mainstream science.

    Which set of political worldviews is most often, or significantly dissonant with mainstream science is a whole other issue...

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