By JR on Thursday, April 17, 2014
Amusing: Lewandowski revisited
Stephan Lewandowski has written two papers designed to show climate skeptics as nutters. The first was accepted for publication in a good journal but not actually published and the second was published but then withdrawn. Both papers have however been readily available on the internet for some time. The second paper was largely designed to refute the many substantial criticisms of the first.
A major criticism of the first paper is that many of the statements Lewandowski gathered could have been the work of "trolls", impostors or other people not giving sincere responses over the internet. Now that the second paper has been withdrawn on ethical grounds by the journal which first published it, my curiosity about the whole affair was revived and I read the second paper as located on Lewandowski's university site.
My chief curiosity was not about ethical issues. I expect dishonesty from the Green/Left -- witness the "Climategate" emails, for instance. Rather I was interested in the central issue of data integrity. How do they answer the challenge that their data was not a true sample of skeptical thinking?
And their answer is pathetic. They raise the "faking" issue at some length and conclude: "Finally, without a priori specification of what constitutes faked responses, the scamming hypothesis is in principle unfalsiable: there exists no response pattern that could not be considered "fake""
Precisely, one would think. There is no way of rejecting the "fakery" hypothesis because there is no way of detecting what is fake. So the data could indeed be substantially faked. Therefore there is no guarantee that it is not fake. The study is simply inconclusive. It proves nothing because the genuineness of the responses cannot be guaranteed.
Faked responses are a big issue in questionnaire and other psychological research. I battled with that issue for 20 years in my own psychological research. There are ways of minimizing the problem -- all of which I used -- but in the end I concluded that there was no solution to the problem and that survey research is largely useless for its intended purpose. For that reason, I have now spent another 20 years or so devoting my attention to history instead (e.g. here and here). History has its problems but it is my view that it tells us a lot more about human behaviour than psychology does. And the history of Warmism is of an unending stream of failed predictions.
But in any case the whole Lewandowski enterprise is a huge example of one of the informal fallacies of logic: The "Ad hominem" fallacy. Even if he could prove his claim that skeptics are unduly suspicious, it would not mean that they were wrong. But Warmists rarely argue on the science. Abuse of skeptics and appeals to authority is their "modus operandi" -- as we skeptics repeatedly observe in our encounters with Warmists.