Click images for more details



Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace

Discussion > Unravelling of Grimes "Skeptics = Conspiracy nuts" paper

Context the Lewniverse : The cabal around Lewandowsky seem to go in for quick dirty PR tricks rather than science and have convinced themselves they are doing battle with an army of well funded "deniers"

We've had - Cook's 97% paper
- Lewandowsky's Moon Landing paper and others
- And Robert David Grimes a Lew protege steps forward with his "Skeptics = Conspiracy nuts" paper. Ostensibly supposed to be a paper on Conspiracy Theories in general, but rather knowing Grimes it seems a trick to Smear Climate Skeptics.

The paper appeared in Plosone on January 26th and was widely circulated uncritically among the usual groups/media suspects. Whereas anyone informed would have thought 'surely it's just another piece of crap from the Lewniverse which will fall apart in time'

Fundamental maths errors have arisen, which should have been picked up by the peer reviewers
- First place to look is Martin Robbins article on Jan 31 where the peer reviewer comments
- Also there BHer Jonathan Jones points out he also found the error earlier and made a comment on the original article which has also been commented on by Grimes now.

I would also connect this months paper with 2 other Lewniverse outputs this month.
#1 Also SMEARING Skeptics : as harassers
Lew & Do.Bi's "Asking for transparency= harassment" paper (Lewandowsky & Dorothy Bishop)

#2 John Cook's writings : PR and SMEAR against skeptics in his
Conversation Articles.
The latest one titled "The science for climate change only feeds the denial: how do you beat that?"

Feb 2, 2016 at 7:05 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

OK picking up from Unthreaded where @IDAU (It doesn't add up) said "I think it would be interesting to draw attention of the journalists/editors of publications (listed) that swallowed the paper without examining it to the flaws it contains"

@IDAU is going to have a hard job getting proper corrections, it's like to trying to get confetti back in the box.

The little Atoms item includes an audio link, which doesn't work for me
However I traced in back to BBC Thought For The Day 28th January : Anne Atkins is the speaker

Min 1:20 "Belief in Climate Change increases the risk of damaging inertia"
"Here the maths are similar the number of scientists involved so the conspiracy (if true) would fall aprt in 3 years and 9 months"
Surely organised religion is the biggest conspiracy theory going.. so why is Grimes featured on the religion spot ? Ah here she comes
"A century long conspiracy would collapse with 125 collaborators.
Clearly for a conspiracy to last 20 centuries it wouldn't take many (therefore Jesus is true !)
..500 conspirators this should indicate the collapse of the conspiracy within decades !
.' all the other explanations seem eye-wateringly unlikely'
PS sometimes Plosone links don't work on a mobile Try this for the Grimes paper comments

Feb 2, 2016 at 7:39 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

@IDAU said "I also warned Prof McGovern whom the BBC cited as supporting the study that his endorsement may now prove embarrassing."
He's quoted in this BBC article :*Maths study shows conspiracies 'prone to unravelling' By Alex Berezow Science writer 26 January 2016

Prof Monty McGovern, a mathematician at the University of Washington, said the study's methods "strike me as reasonable and the probabilities computed quite plausible".
"Why they chose someone from Washington State I can only imagine"
- Maybe a case of them ringing round a few profs until you get the CONFIRMATION BIAS quote you want (there should be a word for that)
* Yes the title draws us to the normal projection of the #Lewniverse

Feb 2, 2016 at 7:48 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

A lot of explanation is in the Twitter discussion here
(you can see Twitter without being logged into it)

summarised in the last tweet : \\ the editor's response is pretty dire: paraphrases as "the paper is wrong on its central point but that doesn't matter" //

# Is this how science is done ?

BTW Twitter itself has about 100/1 stories promoting the Grimes narrative eg Mother Jones "This chart shows why your conspiracy theory is really dumb "
agaist each one mentioning the errors

Feb 2, 2016 at 8:30 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Nicolas Gauvrit [in french] Grimes paper about Conspiracytheories is flawed (twice)

Feb 2, 2016 at 9:35 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The obvious conclusion is that the paper is no more than a conspiracy to try to smear climate sceptics. But you have to wonder who they are letting in to Oxford these days when they can make such basic schoolboy errors and be ignorant of the work of Cox.

Feb 2, 2016 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

I have asked McGovern what interpretation he places on the negative probabilities implied by the non-monotonic cdf, but being on the west coast of the US he presumably is still asleep.

Feb 2, 2016 at 10:58 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

As other have pointed out elsewhere, this paper is very useful to those who are mired in scandal.

The Roman Catholic Church can point to Grimes as proof that the silly children just made up the abuse allegations.
As, of course, can the BBC and the House of Lords.

"Nothing to see here. Move along" - it's a very useful paper.
There will be lot of support for Grimes from the less respectable.

Feb 2, 2016 at 11:35 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Stewgreen and others.....

Out of curiosity, has the Royal Society ever produced a formal opinion on Cook's 97% Consensus? Cook, Lewandowsky and fellow collaborators still seem to quote it, as though it IS taken seriously.

Feb 2, 2016 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Feb 2, 2016 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterstewgreen

I've had an acknowledgement from ITV that the issue has been "fed back to the relevant teams". Nothing from McGovern yet though - perhaps anything that hasn't an .edu or .ac mail address goes to his spam folder. I don't have one of those.

I wonder if AF Neil might be interested in interviewing Grimes. He could do an excellent job.

Feb 2, 2016 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

On the surface, the concept that conspiracies have to be small to persist isn't a bad one. My first theory how to prove that Charles didn't kill Diana was that there was NO WAY the French would have passed up the chance to embarrass the UK monarchy if he had had her bumped off. In most cases of conspiracy there are too many people involved who could blow the conspirators out of the water. And do, the British governments haven't been able to keep a secret for ages.

But keeping something secret and getting away with something are different things. Many of the stinkers that governments get through aren't secret. Look at Cameron's dealings over the Brexit - everyone knows he's asked for nothing substantial and has got even less but there's every likelihood the country will vote to stay in the EU. If the public added up all the bad stuff from Europe, they'd have no reason not to leave but we don't do that. Not because it's secret but because it's huge, boring and the alternatives wouldn't be much different. The masters of red tape have been stitching us up for centuries and we let them. It's not a secret, it's just very, very effective.

A good example of where a secret isn't a secret are the cases of child abuse in the Catholic Church and the British entertainment industry. Given that there were jokes about both, long before the stories broke, people knew. Ironically they were both suppressed for the same reason, to protect the institutions and the good they do. The Catholic Church has a very long history of abusing people and generation after generation have turned a blind eye to what were very poorly kept secrets. Part of the reason is that it was genuinely unsafe to criticise something that big and that popular, particularly amongst the powerful. But most people rationalise the issue away themselves. They convince themselves that someone else will deal with the problem or that they’ve over interpreted what they’ve seen.

I can bet that there are pop stars abusing teenagers right now but not only do the colleagues of the perpetrator think it's ok, many of the victims will have gone willingly into their abusers arms. Only when their abuser is ugly and rich will they begin to question who was at fault. It’s important to note that even if victims are complicit in their abuse, it’s still abuse. This is just an explanation why people get away with obviously abominable things.

People are very good at rationalising bad stuff. History is littered with examples and none of them were secrets as such. Maybe the worst examples are known by only a few and wider groups only suspect but they deliberately don’t look deeper. Woven into the denial are the good things the bad thing brings. Germany has and still does think it can run Europe better than those countries run themselves. Jimmy Savile did raise a lot of money for charities. Certain celebrities brought pleasure to wide audiences. If you rock the boat, you lose the good stuff along with the bad. So don’t rock the boat.

And that brings us to the Climate Change Bandwagon. It’s not a secret. It’s a massive institution built across countries and cultures. It’s garnered support from places as far apart as the World Bank and Age UK. Kids are being indoctrinated to its basic dogma every single day. Nobody thinks what they’re doing is part of a plan, never mind a conspiracy. How many know what climate sensitivity is, let alone what the values are or mean? Even scientists don’t know much about the facts. Organisations like the Met Office might say that the public don’t want to be burdened by the sciency stuff but they’re not testing the theory either. I’m almost certain that the odd caveat they now add are purely there because of sceptic pressure.

Feb 2, 2016 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

When Lysenkoism collapsed under the weight of its anti-science reality, the promoters and supporters of Lysenko's consensus had the luxury of anonymity to hide behind.
Lew/Cook/Grimes/etc., etc., etc. live in the age of the internet. Their bilge and slime is well documented and recorded for posterity.
The entertainment value of watching those low lifes backtrack in the future makes what they do worth tolerating today.

Feb 2, 2016 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter


You might be interested in Ben Pile's latest article:

Feb 2, 2016 at 8:11 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

From my little chats with some of you it is clear that a conspiracy view of climate science is common. If you think you don't subscribe to conspiracy theories, consider how most arguments here revolve around accusation - against scientists or organizations etc. In other words, people think scientists etc have an ulterior motive - a conspiracy. Perhaps you should try to go a week, or even a month, without questioning the motives of scientists. Just take their work at face value on the assumption that they are all well meaning (if misguided, in your view) people; criticize just their work.

Feb 2, 2016 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff


Is politics a conspiracy? Let's at least say that people like Figueres are quite open that their goals are political, and climate is just the means of promoting their politics.

Feb 2, 2016 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Raff when does turning a blind eye to incompetence become a conspiracy? When does objecting to it become ideation?

Feb 2, 2016 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Bottomline .. shouting "conspiracy theorist" at your opposition doesn't mean you win
and this is the trick that I postulate Lewandowsky and crew try to pull off

SMEAR ..and DISMISS avoid complex science challengers
.....Is one of the ways the #Lewniverse works.
.................... NOT science, but Dirty PR tricks
..........................Not debate, but propaganda
Their 97% trick is something different, but similar...That time it was 'isolate,intimidate and DISMISS'

' GET CORRECTED ? Well that doesn't matter, cos the narrative has already spread'
- I raise a scenario that even if one of them had spotted Grimes maths error beforehand, they are so convinced that their is an evil army of 'deniers' that they ran the story anyway.
They know the narrative "Climate skeptic= conspiracy nut" would be pasted across a thousand websites and job done, whereas later corrections would not be posted or have traction.
.....Grimes item has been posted 100 times more over Facebook and Twitter than any correction will be.


Knowing that there is a conspiracy does give you one thing : useful context.
..but there are 2 types
#1 Unevidenced Conspiracy theories
#2 Evidenced Conspiracy theories ..and it's useful to test this evidence

Feb 3, 2016 at 7:48 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

It doesn't add up, Tiny, answer those questions yourselves. Do you think Figueres is leading a conspiracy? Do you think that when thousands of climate scientists ignore the work of a psychologist when a few loudmouth bloggers shout about it that amounts to a conspiracy? How many papers are written each year on climate that scientists need to read to keep abreast of the subject and how many do you think scientists should read that are out of their field? Is it reasonable that they should comment on some nonsense written by a psychologist too?

Feb 3, 2016 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

For info a quick explanation of why when @JJ shows the fundamental equation is wrong so far the eds have said 'well it makes little difference to the papers conclusions'

Grimes had come up with graphs which plot the seepage of a conspiracy.
But his wrong maths meant the curve went up and then came down towards zero ...implying that after 40 years a conspiracy is more secure than after 20, when in fact the numbers will be cumulative.

Now the 3 particular events he chose as examples just so happened to be quite short term ie 3 years so the graph hadn't started declining by then.

But the papers maths cannot be universally applied to other examples of conspiracies over 3 years, there it is technically wrong.

Where the media headlines leave you with the idea that you can suddenly test 'the validity of conspiracy theories' with an equation

(The paper is garbage on many other levels as well as Ben Pile points out, but the maths one is a sheer Gotcha)

Feb 3, 2016 at 1:47 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Not wanting to initiate a PLOS account, some technical observations which may (or may not) be useful.

Prof Tol does Grimes too much credit with reference to a (Cox) journal article. This paper would be a bad error in a first (full) probability course. You cannot write down just any function of time as the intensity function for a Poisson process and expect to get well defined probabilities. Basically intensity has to be additive over time intervals. The defence seems to be that it works if the intensity is constant. Well yes, but that is such a trivial 'theory' as to be pointless. The number of 'conspirators' is obviously important, if not in the way Grimes represents.

If people really must go down this path, conspiracies seem more like contact process models used to study epidemics.

Feb 3, 2016 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterbasicstats

I'm sure Jonathan Jones won't mind me repeating a few of his words which make for a good explanation of the mathematical error to a lay reader:

In medical terms the non-monotonic curves correspond to a situation where dead patients spring back into life if you wait long enough.

Martin Robbins points out at Little Atoms that Grimes uses a grand total of three (3) real life conspiracies as his data set.

Actually, it's worse than that because one of them, the PRISM surveillance program, hardly counts in the same category as the other two. PRISM originated from the United States National Security Agency (NSA). For those that weren't aware, the NSA is paid to do things secretly. For crying out loud, it's their job.

Then there's all the false negatives that may, or may not, exist. A conspiracy that is never exposed is, well, never exposed and so would not, and could not, be included in the data.

Grimes is another example of a Physicist chancing his arm at political psychology and sociology and proving only that he wasn't as good at Mathematics as he may have led his employer to believe. Now who else does that bring to mind?

Feb 3, 2016 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Update : I've been waiting for the Plos One editor to do something
..If you make a clear important error when do you correct it ?
Good customer service means you correct it as ASAP

(Like if a supermarket made a false claim in their newspaper ad, they'd fess up straight away to keep credibility)

I'd expect an error note right at the top of the abstract
... but no, 9 days later nothing been done.
A reader still has to go into the comments section to find about the maths error that everyone agrees on.

BS paper published→media memes propagated
Never corrected→ memes left in public's mind
Is that the state of science in 2016 ?

..................With these guys seems it's about Propaganda not Science

Feb 7, 2016 at 12:05 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

We'd got as far as Tol saying if you take out the bit with the maths error the paper contains nothing new , ie it was all known in Poisson 1837
And then says even if you corrected maths error, a paper applying the more complex Poisson models was done 40 years ago.
Now since a paper is supposed to have NEW SCIENCE, then why was the paper published ?

The UPDATEs are that
Chris Bauch (handling editor) argues is that Grimes had the new idea that conspiracy ideation can be evaluated thru Poisson process despite maths error.
"Grimes had the bright idea to realize that conspiracy ideation could be evaluated through failure modelling."
(I just wonder if Lew isn't writing this stuff himself)

Tol replies with his conclusion about how the paper was hyped up by the media

"It was a mistake to highlight this minor contribution in the popular media."
... (Yes especially since false memes have been propagated which are not likely to be corrected.)

He pointed out : "We all seem to agree that, had the methods section in the paper been correct, it would not have been new."

"The paper's contribution thus lies in its empirical contribution.I think the number of observations is too low to support any conclusion, but standards of proof vary."

BTW Here is an example of how a publisher of a Lewniverse paper acknowledges it has errors

Feb 7, 2016 at 12:59 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

update Jonathan Jones : calls the paper naive

Grimes assumes that a conspiracy fails on a single defection. This is a hopelessly naive model (note that the mafia and drug cartels continue to exist despite multiple defections), but it is at least well defined. He then correctly notes that if a conspiracy member dies before defecting then the number of potential defectors is reduced, and so is the probability of new defections
Too right that's not the half of it ..It tests the too simple to be true rule. Like in an internet age how can you make predictions on a conspiracy just cos a conpirer dies, ansd anyway in the old days a guy could have left a secret paper or something

Back on the Plos One official comments : A commenter points out a simple thing

Why does Grimes choose to make the Paper title
......... : "On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs"
and not "On The Viability Of Conspiracies"
Yes like if by Ockham's Razor you should reduce something to the simplest
What Grimes does is make the paper about Conspiracy Theories and not Conspiries

But I suspect that his paper is deliberately constructed as a vehicle to smear political opponents as "conspiracy theorists"
..... That's the Lewniverse MO ..It's all about Propaganda PR tricks rather than science

Feb 7, 2016 at 1:17 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen