Recursive Fury From David Rose?

There’s accusations flying around the blogosphere in all directions at the moment on the currently very hot topic of “Recursive Fury”, also referred to as “Conspiracist Ideation” in the literature.

By way of a little background, this time last year the learned journal Frontiers in Psychology published a paper called “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation”. The lead author is Stephan Lewandowsky who is now Chair in Cognitive Psychology at Bristol University just up the M5 motorway from here. If you click that first link you will note that rather than being able to read the paper you will instead find a note from the editors that reads as follows:

In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors.

That form of words has changed recently, because for last twelve months or so it has said instead:

This article, first published by Frontiers on 18 March 2013, has been the subject of complaints. Given the nature of some of these complaints, Frontiers has provisionally removed the link to the article while these issues are investigated, which is being done as swiftly as possible and which Frontiers management considers the most responsible course of action. The article has not been retracted or withdrawn. Further information will be provided as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

According to an article in yesterday’s Guardian about the controversy:

Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper. After threats of frivolous libel and defamation lawsuits, a journal will retract an academically sound paper.

Nobody likes being called a conspiracy theorist, and thus climate contrarians really didn’t appreciate Recursive Fury. Very soon after its publication, the journal Frontiers was receiving letters from contrarians threatening libel lawsuits. In late March 2013, the journal decided to “provisionally remove the link to the article while these issues are investigated.” The paper was in limbo for nearly a full year until Frontiers finally caved to these threats.

The University of Western Australia (UWA: Lewandowsky’s university when Recursive Fury was published – he later moved to the University of Bristol) also investigated the matter and found no academic, ethical, or legal problems with the paper. In fact, UWA is so confident in the validity of the paper that they’re hosting it on their own servers.

Click that link if you want read the paper and discover what all the fuss is about. In addition to all the virtual newsprint Stephan Lewandowsky has also released a video telling his side of the story. Here it is:

Stephan Lewandowsky: In Whose Hands the Future? from Peter Sinclair on Vimeo.

At this point you may possibly be wondering what all this has to do with The Great White Con? Well, we’re obviously concerned at the apparent threat to academic freedom posed by “contrarian bullying”, as are lots of other people. However there’s more to it than that from our perspective. Take a look at the section of the video starting at about 2 minutes 40 seconds.  In it you will spot a headline we are extremely familiar with here at GWC Ivory Towers, from the very same Mail on Sunday article by David Rose that persuaded us to launch this humble site last September! As Stephan puts it (at 3:20):

The bottom’s falling out of the Arctic, so we have a serious problem. We have a problem with the planet, but we also have a problem with the fact that in my opinion the public’s right to be informed accurately  is being violated through the injection of disinformation at a time when the clock is ticking and the planet is accumulating energy.

We felt sure Mr. Rose would have some comment to make on such a controversial topic, and we were not disappointed. Over on Twitter once more the following conversation ensued:




We’ll keep you posted!

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