Unlocking the Conspiracy Mind-Set

Stephan Lewandowsky

Justin Gillis tries to unscramble the conspiracy culture surrounding climate change for the New York Times:

When I first met the NASA climate researcher Gavin Schmidt a few years ago, we discussed the proliferation of material on the Internet attacking mainstream climate science. I asked him whether he thought climate contrarians were flirting with conspiracy theory in their views.

“Flirting?” he said. “No. They’ve already had conspiracy theory out on a hot date, and now it’s the morning after and they’re sitting up in bed, having coffee.”

I happened to recall that conversation the other day as I read the latest chapter of a remarkable back-and-forth between mainstream researchers and climate contrarians.

It all started last year, when a social scientist named Stephan Lewandowsky, of the University of Western Australia, and two colleagues published a rather provocative paper. It was based on an anonymous Internet survey of the readers of climate blogs.

The title alone will give you a sense of the findings: “NASA Faked the Moon Landings – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax.” The subtitle was “An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.”

The strongest finding in the survey was that ideological belief in an unregulated free market tended to be a predictor of someone’s willingness to reject the findings of mainstream climate research. No great surprise there. It was the secondary findings that set off a brouhaha…

[continues in the New York Times]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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24 Comments on "Unlocking the Conspiracy Mind-Set"

  1. People should respect their betters.

  2. Interesting, you’ve got right wing conspiracies, you know, climate change is a hoax, the UN wants to establish a one-world oppressive “socialist” government, the media has a liberal bias etc. Left wing conspiracies tend to run along the lines of 9-11 was a staged, inside job, AIDS was created to eliminate blacks, poor Africans and gays, the CIA sparked the crack epidemic in the 80s, etc.
    I guess it’s not surprising, given all the obvious disinformation, propaganda and general bullshit coming from the LAMESTREAM media, that you get all kinds of conspiracies theories floating around as people try and make sense of wtf is “really” going on.
    Perhaps your particular flavor of conspiracy says more about you than any “objective reality.” Still, here’s a link about 30 conspiracies that turned out to be true:
    For the record, the left wing conspiracies I mentioned, to me, seem more likely than not, except maybe the one about AIDS.

  3. OtherWorldly1 | Feb 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm |

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the main “conspiratorial” mindset regarding global warming is in regards to it being “man-made.” That is to say, they don’t argue that there isn’t a warming trend occurring globally, but they believe it is the result of natural processes like solar cycles and what not, and NOT the result of increased CO2 production resulting from human industry. In that regard, I think this claim is most definitely still up for debate, and given the drive by the oligarchs to create an entirely new market in carbon credits, which could even eclipse the value of the derivatives market, it would seem to make sense that these people would push the so called accepted explanation given to us by Al Gore, et. al.

    • Kevin Leonard | Feb 23, 2013 at 10:03 am |

      You are correct. But raise any questions and you are labelled a “denier,” or I guess that got some backlash and now the phrase is “climate contrarians”…? wtf is that? He used the word 7 times in his article.

    • LucidDreamR | Feb 23, 2013 at 4:07 pm |

      Ding! Ding! Ding! It is interesting how this HUGE distinction continually goes unmentioned…

  4. BuzzCoastin | Feb 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

    > Justin Gillis tries to unscramble the conspiracy culture
    surrounding climate change for the New York Times
    Translation from the NewSpeak:
    Justin Gillis tries to add disinfo to the conspiracy culture
    surrounding climate change for the New York Times’ bosses

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