There is a new book about to be published titled: The Social Psychology of Morality, which is to be published by the Psychology Press. I and several other skeptic bloggers have been given an advance look. The new book has a chapter on the interaction between “high moral purpose” and scientific integrity, and it cites the recent
sliming of climate skeptics work of Stephan Lewandowsky. There’s this [chapter] that pretty well sums up the caliber of Lewandowsky’s work:
The Curious Case of Condemning Climate Skeptics as Conspiracy Theorists (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013)
Into this mix stepped Lewandowski et al. (2013) with a paper titled, “NASA Faked the Moon Landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax” – which strongly implies that people who doubt global warming believe bizarre conspiracy theories. As Lewandowsky et al. (2013, p. 622) put it, “… conspiratorial thinking contributes to the rejection of science.”
One possibility is that this was true – that a disproportionately high number of people who disbelieve climate science also believe in something as silly as the faking of the moon landing. Another, however, was that this was essentially trumped up in order to cast those who are most skeptical of the climate science as fools.
The implication that climate skeptics believe in the faking of the moon landing is another phantom fact. Out of over 1145 respondents, there was a grand total of 10 who believed the moon landing was faked. Among the 134 of participants who “rejected climate science,” only three people (2%) endorsed the moon-landing hoax. The link asserted in the title of the paper did not exist in the sample.
Understanding when people are and are not persuaded by science is an interesting and important area of research. But this curious case highlights the threat to scientific integrity that can stem from high moral missions. The notion that skeptics believed something so silly as the faking of the moon landing is yet another myth essentially concocted by the researchers.
That last line is basically academic speak for “Lewandowsky, you’re full of shit” and I make no apologies for saying that, because it’s the harsh but real truth. As far as I’m concerned, by his actions and lack of scientific integrity, Lewandowsky has made himself the poster child for noble cause corruption. His buddy John Cook, creator of the 97% consensus meme is similarly afflicted IMHO. From Wikipedia:
Noble cause corruption is corruption caused by the adherence to a teleological ethical system, suggesting that persons “will utilize unethical, and sometimes illegal, means to obtain a desired result,” a result which appears to benefit the greater good. Where traditional corruption is defined by personal gain, noble cause corruptions forms when someone is convinced of their righteousness, and will do anything within their powers to obtain or concertize the execution of righteous actions. Ultimately, noble cause corruption is police misconduct “committed in the name of good ends” or neglect of due process through “a moral commitment to make the world a safer place to live.”
Conditions for such corruption usually begin where individuals perceive no administrative accountability, lack of morale and leadership, and the general absence of faith within the criminal justice system. These conditions can be compounded by arrogance and weak supervision.
Here is the abstract:
In this chapter, we review basic processes by which moral purposes can sometimes motivate immoral behavior, and then suggest how moral agendas can sometimes lead social psychology astray through an array of questionable interpretive practices (QIPs). These practices can be used to advance a moral agenda by permitting researchers to interpret the data as supporting that agenda even when it does not. The QIPs reviewed here include: blind spots (overlooking or ignoring data inconsistent with one’s moral agenda), selective preference (accepting research supporting one’s agenda at face value, but subjecting opposing research of comparable or greater quality to withering criticism), and phantom facts (making declarations or drawing implications without evidence). Four major areas of social psychological research – sex differences, stereotype threat, attitudes towards climate science, and the ideology-prejudice relationship– are reviewed and shown to be characterized by unjustified conclusions plausibly reflecting high moral purposes. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how to reduce QIPs in research that has moral undertones.
Friend of WUWT, Psychologist, and Lewandowksy critic Dr. Jose L. Duarte is one of the co-authors.
Read it all here as a draft at the primary author’s website, source: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~jussim/CanHighMoralPurposesUnderminescientificIntegrity.docx
Josh nailed it in his 2012 cartoon:
The fun in all this will be watching how wackadoodle defenders of the faith, like “Sou” aka Miriam O’Brien, will try to defend this travesty of Lewandowsky’s.
UPDATE: Barry Woods advises of a must-read article about the lead author citing Lewandowsky’s horrid work in a symposium http://quillette.com/2015/12/04/rebellious-scientist-surprising-truth-about-stereotypes/
UPDATE2: Worth sharing from the quillete.com article:
His fellow psychologists shifted in their seats. Jussim pointed out that the level of obfuscation the authors went to, in order to disguise their actual data, was intense. Statistical techniques appeared to have been chosen that would hide the study’s true results. And it appeared that no peer reviewers, or journal editors, took the time, or went to the effort of scrutinizing the study in a way that was sufficient to identify the bold misrepresentations.
While the authors’ political motivations for publishing the paper were obvious, it was the lax attitude on behalf of peer reviewers – Jussim suggested – that was at the heart of the problems within social psychology. The field had become a community in which political values and moral aims were shared, leading to an asymmetry in which studies that reinforced left-wing narratives had come to be disproportionately represented in the literature. And this was not, to quote Stephen Colbert, because “reality had a liberal bias”. It was because social psychology had a liberal bias.
Note: shortly after publication this article was updated to fix a spelling error Lewnadowsky > Lewandowsky, and to add text from the Wikipedia reference on noble cause corruption. The word “passage” changed to be [chapter] so it is accurate.
And of course, thanks to Barry Woods for finding the docx file in the first place.