The gifts that keep on giving – deniers’ conspiracy ideation

It was comedy gold when Stephen Lewandowsky released his paper in 2012 NASA faked the moon landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (LOG12) (available here). The response by the denier den community to LOG12 was predictable. When confronted with the findings that conspiracy theorists who endorse a cluster of non-climate-related conspiracy theories are more likely to reject climate science, they fought back the best way they knew how, by engaging in conspiracy ideation about the paper, the authors, the lead author’s institution, the Australian government…. What a classic! I am sure a few of the more sensible amongst them would have been wishing their fellow deniers would shut up, but alas, it became a veritable orgy of paranoia and conspiracy ideation.

not a conspiracy theorist

So much of this was going on, it prompted Lewandowsky to delve deeper into the issue and collect data from the LOG12 response. With John Cook (SkepticalScience),  Klaus Oberauer (University of Zurich) and Mike Marriott (Watching the Deniers), he produced the paper Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation. This paper classifies different types of conspiratorial thinking into easy to understand bites that I hope those of us who regularly comment in blogs will use when engaging climate science deniers who engage in that kind of thinking.

Abstract: Conspiracist ideation has been repeatedly implicated in the rejection of scientific propositions, although empirical evidence to date has been sparse. A recent study involving visitors to climate blogs found that conspiracist ideation was associated with the rejection of climate science and the rejection of other scientific propositions such as the link between lung cancer and smoking, and between HIV and AIDS (Lewandowsky et al., in press; LOG12 from here on). This article analyses the response of the climate blogosphere to the publication of LOG12. We identify and trace the hypotheses that emerged in response to LOG12 and that questioned the validity of the paper’s conclusions. Using established criteria to identify conspiracist ideation, we show that many of the hypotheses exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking. For example, whereas hypotheses were initially narrowly focused on LOG12, some ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors of LOG12, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. The overall pattern of the blogosphere’s response to LOG12 illustrates the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science, although alternative scholarly interpretations may be advanced in the future.

The full article is an excellent read. The deniers of course won’t like it.

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