Lewandowsky’s Progress

David Hume awoke Kant from his “dogmatic slumber” when the latter was in his seventies. John Ridgway has the same effect on me. Together we could go far. 

ClimateDenierRoundup, in their regular spot at Daily Kos rounding up us climate deniers, reveal that:

“..in the forthcoming volume of the Annual Review of Public Health […]disinformation expert Stephan Lewandowsky lays out how disinformation has distorted the climate conversation, and what can be done about it. Lewandwosky’s [sic] piece follows two others in the last volume of the Annual Review of Public Health, in which researchers explored how the internet has led to a blossoming of misinformation, and documented how the Trump administration has deregulated and de…um…science’d the EPA.”

The forthcoming paper, written September 16th 2020, can be read here. It’s rather dull, but interesting; for reasons I’ll give in a minute.

Meanwhile, the Bristol Post reports that:

Covid-denial is creeping from the fringes into the mainstream.. Some 20 per cent of people in England believe the virus is a hoax, 40 per cent think it is an attempt by the powerful to “gain control” and 60 per cent feel the Government is misleading the public about the cause.

What is happening in the minds of these people, and how dangerous are their theories? We asked Prof Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive psychology expert at the University of Bristol.

“Any pandemic will give rise to conspiracy theories,” Prof Lewandowsky said. “It has done so for the last 500 years, as far as we know – every time… We got it when Princess Diana died in an accident – it happens after any traumatic event that makes people feel they don’t have full control over their lives. It is an ironic psychological process that if you can blame specific people for things that go wrong in the world, it gives you greater comfort, though this isn’t the case for everyone. People like having enemies, which to me sounds strange, but for some people it reduces uncertainty. The moment you can blame someone, you can imagine the world would be a better place if you got rid of these bad people. That, for some people, is easier to accept than random events. Some bat sneezed in China and now we’re locked down. For some people, it’s easier to think Bill Gates is trying to implant microchips in our heads and that’s why we have to stay home. The fact Princess Diana died because of some drink-driving accident is kind of difficult to accept because it’s so random.”

There’s a lot more to the article, including about forty paragraphs quoting Professor Lewandowsky saying things like:

“There are also some politicians who are actually helping to spread the conspiracy theories. Donald Trump is a master of giving ‘nudge nudge, wink wink’ support to them, and then denying it. The US President claimed in July the “deep state” was delaying the coronavirus vaccine until after the presidential election. He also said he was confident the virus originated in a Chinese lab, despite his own intelligence service finding no evidence of this.”

The US intelligence service has also found no evidence that Cliscep is financed by Gasprom, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true, does it?

Nudge nudge wink wink. 

Of course princesses die in drink-driving accidents all the time, but not always on the very day they’re flying off to marry an Egyptian millionaire and bring up the heir to the throne as a Moslem. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with the heir to the throne (and future head of the Church of England) being a Moslem of course, just so long as he isn’t a Catholic. 

Ever one for hedging his bets, Lewandowsky goes in for some conspiracy theorising of his own on the subject of Covid vaccinations in an article on the Cornell Alliance of Science blog: Speed of COVID vaccine research likely to bolster conspiracy theories:”

John Cook, a professor at George Mason University and co-author of The Conspiracy Theory Handbook, called the anti-vaccine sentiment’s overlap with the pandemic “probably one of the biggest questions that society is facing right now.” He said one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of conspiracy theories is through what he calls “inoculation,” or pre-bunking rather than debunking. […]

Stephan Lewandowsky, Cook’s Conspiracy Theory Handbook co-author, agreed that people are more likely to resist misinformation if you can tell them in advance how they might be misled or manipulated. But he said a larger societal problem drives the type of distrust and conspiratorial thinking that can lead a significant part of the populace to reject a vaccine.

“What we really need to focus on is the global context, the attention economy and the information landscape that we’re all exposed to,” Lewandowsky, a psychology professor at the University of Bristol, said.

“Our information diet in the Western world is basically run by algorithms that are generating profit for a few dozen people in Silicon Valley,” he added. “We know very little about how these algorithms work, so we’re living in an environment where we don’t have any democratic control over something that is really important.”

Hang on, isn’t one of those “few dozen people” Bill Gates, who conspiracy theorists think is planting microchips in our heads? Or is it undemocratic algorithms in our environment? Whose side are you on Stephan?

Finally (for now) the Scottish paper “the National” reports that:

A third webinar in a series launched by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) to look at the “wicked challenges” facing the planet takes place on Wednesday, October 7. “Fake news: The challenges of communicating environmental and climate change research” will feature presentations by Tracey Brown, director of the charity Sense about Science, and Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, chair of Cognitive Psychology at the School of Psychological Science at the University of Bristol.

Fake news; misinformation; conspiracy theories; attitudes to Covid vaccines; climate change denial: Lewandowsky is expert on them all. One day we shall emerge from this mess, and Questions Will Be Asked. And who better to answer them than Professor Lewandowsky? He’s already been called as an expert witness to a parliamentary committee on Fake News. How long before he’s named High Commissar for the Governmental Office for the Suppression of Fake News – FakOff?

But don’t be fooled by the sage homespun comments he imparts to any news medium that will listen. Behind and below the folk wisdom of his comments in the media lies a bedrock of peer reviewed science. See, for example, the bibliography of the article in the Annual Review of Public Health cited by the Daily Kos above, which contains no less than 21 papers authored by – Professor Lewandowsky, including “NASA faked the Moon Landing..” in which Our Author bases his principal finding on the evidence of three out of 1100 respondents, and “Recurrent Fury” – possibly the only paper in the history of peer reviewed science to be based entirely on data which the author boasts of having made up himself.

To say that our Expert has feet of clay is unfair to the hydrous aluminium phyllosilicates that have provided us with pots that have enabled man to express his artistic genius for thousands of years. Our Author’s scientific expertise is based foursquare on pure shit. Spread the word.

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September 30, 2020 at 07:07PM

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