Conspiracy Mongering Defies Political and Ideological Labels

By Keith Kloor | June 6, 2013 10:41 am

A recent survey on conspiracy beliefs in the United States attracted a lot of media attention. The first question:

Do you believe global warming is a hoax, or not?

Do …………………………………………………………. 37%

Do not ……………………………………………………. 51%

Not sure …………………………………………………. 12%

The political breakdown, according to the poll, found that “Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77, and Independents are more split at  41-51. 61% of Romney voters believe global warming is a hoax.”

No doubt, outspoken Republican politicians have played a key role here, but this particular conspiracy belief extends beyond American shores. One Forbes blogger wrote several years ago:

In WatermelonsThe Green Movement’s True Colors, British journalist/blogger James Delingpole promises to show that the man-made global warming is a fraud, one that has already cost billions of dollars and is a clear and present danger to our liberty and democratic traditions — and, ironically, to the environment itself.

He largely accomplishes this task and, for the most part, does so without sounding hysterical or radical. This alone would recommend this book to all who care about the environment, the human condition and the foundations of our way of life.

If somebody can tell me when “Dellers,” as he is fondly called by his many fans in the climate skeptic blogosphere, is not being hysterical and radical, I’m all ears. This is the guy who pens editorials titled, “Wind farm scam a huge cover-up.” That on one of his pet issues he is also guilty of the same pseudoscience and fear-mongering that he accuses others of seems to elude him, as I discussed here.

So what’s behind all this wild-eyed talk of global scams and hoaxes? This week, Chris Mooney at Mother Jones writes:

In recent years, a persuasive theory of how and why people deny science and reality has emerged. It’s called “motivated reasoning”—and was described at length in Mother Jones (by me) back in 2011. Here’s the gist: People’s emotional investments in their ideas, identities and world views bias their initial reading of evidence, and do so on a level prior to conscious thought. Then, the mind organizes arguments in favor of one’s beliefs—or, against attacks on one’s beliefs—based on the same emotional connections. And so you proceed to argue your case—but really you’re rationalizing, not reasoning objectively.

At the same time, though, other phenomena are also often invoked to explain the rejection of science on issues like climate change, evolution, and vaccinations—phenomena that may (or may not) be fully separable from motivated reasoning. One of the most prominent of these: Conspiracy theorizing.

Mooney goes on to discuss the findings of a paper that claims to show “conspiracist ideation” in those who stubbornly reject mainstream science. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the methodology of the study has been called into question by climate skeptics. Regardless, anyone familiar with some of the most popular climate skeptic blogs, such as Watts up With That, should have no problem detecting the climate scientists are frauds theme.

None of this is to overlook the missteps and tribalist behavior of climate scientists that has given ammunition to the frothiest global warming is a hoax shouters and political partisans. Unfortunately, the sensitivity over this in climate circles is such that even bringing it up is viewed by some as as an unfriendly act. That’s how poisoned the whole climate debate has become.

My sense is that the same kind of hypersensitive, politically correct dynamic is now playing out with the GMO issue. For example, there is no shortage of conspiracy thinking in progressive circles about the science of biotechnology and genetically modified foods. Look at the comment thread of any GMO-related post or article, especially those in progressive outlets, and witness the conspiracy virus for yourself. Yet progressives seem loathe to tamp down on this virulent strain of anti-GMO crankery within their own ranks. Why is that?

Sorry, but whatever your political leanings, I think it undermines your credibility if you are selectively outrageous about junk science and conspiracy mongering.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, GMOs, select
  • Janice Person

    What a great way to sum it all up!

    “Sorry, but whatever your political leanings, I think it undermines your credibility if you are selectively outrageous about junk science and conspiracy mongering.”

  • Steve Crook

    The recent Lewndowsky paper wasn’t exactly convincing given the sites that provided the survey responses and the shyness of the authors when it came to saying which sites had actually participated.

    The more recent (and much quoted) Cook et. al. 97% paper isn’t looking any more solid if Richard Tols recent analysis is correct.

    There are organisations that specialise in WEB polling and can do it reliably and securely. Lewandowsky should have hired one to run the survey for him, then there might have been less that was open to question.

    I’m left with the view that both papers have been produced to provide ammunition for politicians and campaigners.

    Perhaps Lewandowsky could repeat this survey but looking at correlations in ideation of sceptics of GMO and climate sciences :-)

  • BarryWoods

    Keith – check Retraction Watch for the status of that conspiracy ideation paper….

    It has been unaccessible for over 2 months at the journal!

    see the comments under the abstract for why (mine included)

    • BarryWoods

      the Retraction Watch paper is the conspiracy ideation paper about the paper (same author)

      the one where lewandowsky lies about the methodology used… care to check what the lie is…

      • Keith Kloor


        Do note that I wrote, “Regardless, anyone familiar with some of the most popular climate skeptic blogs…”

        I don’t need even a ham-handedly done survey to tell me the “global warming is a hoax” is a prominent theme on climate skeptic blogs.

        Focusing on my brief allusion to the Lewandowsky paper misses my larger point of the post.

        • Tom Scharf

          Go read the comments at Climate Etc, Climate Audit, even WUWT (for the most part…) and very few people promote the fact that global warming has not occurred in the past 100 years.

          So, for the record, tell me the definition of “global warming” you are using as being called a hoax.

          Instrumental record over the past 100 year?

          More than 50% man made over the past 50 years?

          Belief in CAGW in the next 50 years? 100 years?

          Extreme weather linkage?

          All of the above?

        • MarkH

          They’re also conflating two different papers. The second one is
          likely going to be retracted because it represents psychological
          research on non-consenting individuals.

          Ever since the first
          Lewandowsky “moon landing” paper wash published the cranks have been
          going after it like it was Mann et. al. In reality, it just showed
          what skeptical writers have observed for years. I called it crank
          magnetism when I first started writing. Conspiracists can hold
          self-contradictory conspiratorial beliefs and are often attracted to
          other conspiratorial beliefs, no matter how ludicrous, because it serves
          their overall goal of undermining science.

          • Mr X

            There are more than a few ‘respectable’ ‘mainstream’ beliefs that are contradictory. For example, politicians saying we have to intervene in Syria to prevent Al-Qaeda from taking over there while Al-Qaeda is the lead anti-Assad force. Such contradictions practically beg people to invent the notion that the U.S. government creates the terror threat it claims to fight to get around that head throbber.

  • Tom C

    Keth –
    The methodology of the paper by Lewandowsky should be called into question by anyone with an education past the 8th grade. The fact that such a preposterous, juvenile effort could come out of a university and be taken seriously by an academic journal says much about the corruption of the academy and almost nothing about “climate skeptics”.

  • Tom C

    The problem with the survey which you cite at the top of your piece, is that “global warming’ is often taken as shorthand for “catastrophic global warming”. The fact that no effort was made to probe that distinction means that the survey is worthless, not that conservatives are blinded by motivated reasoning.

    • andrew adams

      Tom C
      Believing that “catastrophic” global warming is unlikely to occur is one thing. Believing it to be a “hoax” is something else.

      • Tom Scharf

        This is probably a valid point, however the question does not allow you to pick “unlikely”, which is why the survey is (intentionally?) flawed. You are given an effective choice of siding with the evil liberals or declaring it all a hoax. My understanding is that most climate scientists do not believe that catastrophe is likely, so are they believers in the hoax or not?

        It would be cleared up if there was a definition of “global warming” here. Global warming over the last 15 years or 400 years is a “hoax”, but not over the last 50, or hundred.

        As I mention earlier, the observations versus projections is conflated here as well.

        • andrew adams


          Yes, I don’t dispute the survey is simplistic and hardly gives the possibility of a nuanced answer.

          My understanding is that most climate scientists do not believe that catastrophe is likely, so are they believers in the hoax or not?

          Well that’s a bit of a strawman as neither the survey or I use the word “catastrophe”. But I would guess that a large proportion of climate scientists believe that the consequences of global warming are uncertain but are potentially very serious.

          I would guess that in surveys such at this aimed at the general public most people would take it to mean the mainstream scientific view that GW has been happening in the last few decades and will continue to happen unless GHG emissions are curbed, and that it is likely to have negative consequences. But of course there will be those who will have their own, different, take.

      • Tom C

        Andrew –
        As Tom S says, the survey is intentionally phrased poorly to get the desired response. I also believe you have a valid point here, but please do tell, when academics like Oppenheimer, Mann, etc goes around saying that wildfires are increasing, hurricanes getting more frequent, tornados stronger, etc etc ad nauseum, and all can be easily disproved what else are we supposed to call it other than a hoax?

        • andrew adams


          Well you don’t give any specific examples of untrue statements people have made, and by the way wildfires do actually appear to be increasing. But no doubt given that academics are human there are examples of individuals making exaggerated or even untrue claims, but this does not constitute a hoax. A hoax would require a far more wide ranging conspiracy involving scientists, journals, science academies etc.

  • Buddy199


    Do you believe that shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies, or not?

    Do ……………………………….. 4%

    Do not ………………………….. 88%

    Not sure ……………………….. 7%

    After much thought, 22 million Americans remain unsure about the intentions of our reptilian overlords.

    • Mr X

      Funny how we never see the response re: do you believe Oswald acted alone to kill President Kennedy or was there a conspiracy?

      Guess the establishment doesn’t like that 75% would say they think the Warren Commission was bullcrap.

  • andrew adams

    Sorry, but whatever your political leanings, I think it undermines your credibility if you are selectively outrageous about junk science and conspiracy mongering.
    Sorry, but this is plain wrong. People have every right to pick and choose what issues they want to take an interest in and express views on those issues and not others.
    Yes, I’ve condemned unscientific arguments on climate change many times and I’ve never voiced any opinion on the scientific arguments on GMO’s. Why? Because it’s not an issue that greatly interests me. I don’t doubt that some people are making dubious “scientific” arguments against them but I don’t have a sufficient understanding of the issue to personally refute them in detail and there are enough people doing so already. I certainly don’t have responsibility for those people’s arguments, nor any particular duty to condemn them. Nor do you have any right to demand that I do. What I do accept is a responsibility not to repeat those arguments without first verifying for myself that they are valid (or not).
    Frankly, I find “you have condemned x therefore you must condemn (unrelated) y” to be one of the most tiresome arguments on the internet.

    • Keith Kloor

      “People have every right to pick and choose what issues they want to take an interest in and express views on those issues and not others.”

      Of course they do. I never said they didn’t. I just said they were being hypocritical. A big part of progressive messaging is how anti-science conservatives are, because of the anti-evolution stance, hostility to climate science, etc. But right now, the liberal sphere is pretty batshit over GMOs, has a bad case of chemphobia, etc. Leading liberals encourage this, too, which makes it all the worse.

      So my point is that progressives undermine their own credibility when they tolerate and encourage such rank unscientific behavior.

      • Buddy199

        So none of us is superior. Kumbaya.

      • andrew adams

        If your argument is aimed specifically at those liberals who criticise the right for being “anti-science” in general then OK.
        I still don’t accept that liberals in general, or those who criticise conservative attitudes on a particular issue (such as climate change) which they consider to be important have a duty to criticise other people’s attitudes to, say, GMOs.

      • Tom Scharf

        Which proves the point….that “anti-science” is not well correlated with political party.

        You immerse yourself too deeply in protecting “your” political tribe from anti-science behavior, in order to use this higher authority as a tool to bash the opposing tribe. Only to find out that you really can’t fix anti-science behavior through appeal to political tribe building.

        There are plenty of things I disassociate myself from on the right. I worry about my values, and if and when a political party more closely matches those I will switch parties.

        • Keith Kloor

          I fail to see how I immerse myself “too deeply in protecting” my own political tribe, whoever they are.

          I guess you’re skipping over all the posts where I’m critical of progressives for their anti-GMO irrationality and all the posts over the years where I’ve been critical of the climate and environmental doom crowd.

          You are simply having a knee jerk reflex to my criticism of climate skeptics and their sacred cows.

          Nobody likes it when their own side is being criticized. Same as it ever was.

          • Tom Scharf

            What I am pointing out is that instead of just railing against anti-GMO madness, you tend to rail specifically against people in your tribe (liberal/environmentalists) who are part of it. The inferred message is “this type of behavior is expected from “them”, but not “us”. Where I see right/left as having nothing to do with GMO’s. You are attaching partisanship where it doesn’t belong IMO. Round hole, square peg.

      • Joshua

        But right now, the liberal sphere is pretty batshit
        over GMOs, has a bad case of chemphobia, etc.

        This is pretty funny. You refer to Kahan’s work on these issues, and then ignore his findings – that there is no greater batshittiness over GMOs among libz than among conz – to once again make unproven and ill-informed generalizations like above. And then you pearl-clutch about “trolls” when I point out your inconsistency.

      • Joshua

        And BTW – Keith. Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe there is a more effective approach on these issues than name calling?

        A “batshit” crazy thought I guess, huh?

    • Mr X

      Again the anti-GMO studies come from countries whose ag sectors have rejected GMO. The pro-GMO studies overwhelmingly come from North America where GMO agrobusinesses dominate. Hard to know whom to trust but I personally avoid GMO as much as I can.

  • Tom Scharf

    Well I would be considered a denier by most liberals, but believe global warming is not a hoax. This is just a prejudiced red meat question for the environmental base. It is phrased specifically to get the intended response.

    Most people interpret this question as meaning “Global warming is a clear and present danger NOW and significant policy changes should be made immediately to avoid it”. The people taking the survey should know this.

    A better question would be “Do you believe the global temperature record shows temperatures have increased 0.8C in the last century?”, or similar.

    Those who believe this is a hoax are probably worthy of contempt.

    When there is no attempt to discriminate between previous instrumental observations and future projections of catastrophe, then the survey is just yet more propaganda in the climate wars.

    This “observations versus projections” discrimination is routinely mashed up by advocates in order to paint the opposition as anti-science. It’s intentional and only shows thinly veiled political motivations.

    • bobito

      Obama linked current extreme weather to climate change in the SOTU. (was at least smart enough to put in the caveat that “no single event can be attributed”)

      Barbara Boxer claimed “this is climate change” about the Oklahoma tornado.

      So are these statements:
      A: Part of a hoax.
      B: An honest mistake about the scientific position on this.

      Either way, these statements don’t help anyone. For the CAGW faithful, it’s seen as validation that extreme weather is being fanned by climate change (which is a scientifically incorrect statement). For the deniers, it’s seen as evidence that people are being intentionally lied to and thus supports their position that it’s all a hoax.

      • Tom C

        Keath –
        I think bobito has asked a very pertinent question here. How would you characterize Obamas SOTU comments, which are at odds with our scientific understanding of the issue? Presumably he had some knowledgeable person review these comments, no? So whatt was it? Mistake, hoax? Please help out.

        • bobito

          I should add that I posted that in response to Tom Scharf’s “It is phrased specifically to get the intended response”. I was not trying to make the statement that all of AGW science is a hoax.

          However, in this case, knowing the political savvy of both people quoted, the only correct answer is “A: Part of a hoax”. So if I got a large number of climate scientists to take my pole they would have to answer “Part of a hoax”.

      • MarkH

        This is the problem with politicians, in general, speaking about science. They’re usually such idiots and have such a superficial understanding that they just embarrass those who devote their lives to trying to understand the natural world.

        The legit climate science community hosted several articles in the aftermath explicitly showing that the correlation with tornados is not present, it is considered to have insufficient evidence according to the IPCC etc. No one listened. All I can say is, Barbara Boxer != scientist.

        • bobito

          Right. The topic is about conspiracy theories, not science.

          • Mr X

            Again, why do we see bazillions of articles denouncing everyone who’s critical of the government these days as a conspiracy theorist? Could it be that there are some actual criminal conspiracies by those in power that they’re afraid of having exposed?

  • Cees de Valk

    This is a difficult issue that cannot easily be resolved. The idea that politicians and their voters should align their opinions with mainstream “established science” (of committees, associations, consensus) is not only naive (because it will not happen), but also wrong: voters and their representatives have the right to form their opinions based on their own weighting of arguments. In fields like biotech and climate dealing with socially and politically sensitive issues, scientists are not the independent detached advisors that we would like them to be. On the contrary. Many are activists or depend in some way on one of the interested parties involved, e.g. through industry funding of research. The science that is respected and above question is the stuff that has been built over many years and has proven its worth over and over again. Most people don’t see biotech and climate in that league (yet). And they are right. It is not necessarily a bad thing that acceptance and adoption of scientific output proceed slowly, even if it may seem misguided in some cases.

  • Buddy199

    Do you believe global warming is a hoax, or not?

    Do …………………………………………………………. 37%

    Do not ……………………………………………………. 51%


    It’s a “garbage in, garbage out” question. The 37% probably answered “Do” in large part because they are suspicious of the political influence bending climate science funding, research and media reporting, don’t believe the catastrophic hyperbole about future climate effects and certainly don’t trust that a solution will be effectively carried out by government (see I.R.S. debacle). The question is phrased in such a way that if you hold any of these very reasonable opinions you’re akin to someone who thinks the Apollo landing was staged on a movie set at Wright-Patterson AFB.

    It reminds me of a 2005 poll where a large percentage of African-Americans responded that AIDS was a genocidal government conspiracy. The results don’t indicate that the respondents were crack-pots. Rather, their reasonable suspicions and resentment about their abusive life experience in general were funneled through a loaded question producing a very misleading response.

    • Mr X

      A lot of questions are rigged to basically create cartoon versions of real conspiracies — for example that JFK was murdered by Reptilians as opposed to his very real enemies in the Mob.

  • DMAllen

    Those convinced that global warming is a catastrophic problem seem unable to appreciate the lukewarmer position that questions the C of CAGW. Lukewarmers emphasize scientific method and empirical data. They make a distinction between scientific theory and scientific hypothesis. Radiation physics, part of atmospheric physics, is widely supported theory. Like other theories it is based on years of validating evidence. Without feed backs, climate sensitivity is about 1 degree C. Projections of greater (or lesser) sensitivity are hypotheses based on hypothetical feed backs. The water vapor and other feed backs that might increase the sensitivity to around 2 degrees (most recent peer reviewed articles) or 3 degrees C ( AR4) or 4-8 degrees C, Hansen, Gore and other other catastrophists are NOT the science. They are hypotheses. Belief that the sensitivity will turn out to be high (or catastrophic) is NOT the science; it is OPINION about the outcome of hypothesis testing. Mooney, Lewinsky, Cook, Gore and other catastrophists appear to believe that their opinion about climate sensitivity IS the science, and that those who reject their opinion are denying science because of conspiracist ideation or motivated reasoning. Baloney. The real explanation is simple based on an understanding of science and scientific method. There is not enough evidence to support the catastrophic hypotheses of high climate sensitivity, and newer catastrophic claims of “weather disruption” also contradict historical data on weather events.

    As a humanist and lifelong conservationist I find the labeling and stereotyping of “deniers’ only mildly amusing.

    • Mr X

      Thank you. I’m glad someone can distinguish between science as a methodology and practice and SCIENCE as a religion/secular creation myth.

  • obamalover20122

    This is cute. The Daily Kos is criticizing other people for being anti-science. Still waiting for them to criticize their own community members for being anti-science conspiracy mongers.

  • obamalover20122

    I was reading the comments section of the Daily Kos and someone posted this:

    That silly tin foil hat nonsense got 21 recs from DailyKos members. I’m totally disenchanted with the Progressive movement right now. Attacking scientists is low.

    But this is a common tactic among anti-vaxxers and climate change denialists. If part of your argument is a full frontal assault on scientists then you have basically come to the conclusion that the facts are not on your side and your only recourse is conspiracy mongering.

    • Mr X

      Maybe those Daily Kossacks should get back to their other favorite passtime, fantasizing about joining the ‘federal militia’ and finally getting to kill some Red State bitter clingers.

  • kdk33

    Much more interesting than Monsanto. Good Job, Keith.

    Now. When the public disagrees with scientists of the first kind, scientists of the second kind weigh in with the scientific explanation for the lack of credibility of scientists of the first kind, presuming of course that they – scientists of the second kind – have greater credibility.

    In ordinary parlance, this is rationalizing. My children do it and it is amusing. My coworkers do it and it is annoying. In academia, it is peer reviewed literature. Fascinating.

    Secondly. CAGW isn’t a hoax, it is the perfectly predictable outcome of perverse incentives acting on human beings pursuing their own self interests.

    CAGW generates research publications, funding, tenure, and (let’s be honest here) fame, power, and money. Pretty much the basic human drivers.

    CAGW justifies interference in the free market; economic winners and losers can be negotiated with politicians, not consumers. .Green energy subsidies, CO2 trading schemes, etc. All of which mean (let’s be honest again) power, and money, if not fame.

    The world is much less complicated that we make it.

    • Tom Fuller

      When I read Chris Mooney writing on motivated reasoning, the phrase ‘physician heal thyself’ always comes to mind.

      If the argument can be kept within its proper frame–discussions of sensitivity and no-regrets policies–I have watched dozens of discussions where the most hardened of skeptics are rational, good-natured and easy to engage. When the Marketers of Doom arrive preaching catastrophic sea level rise and six degrees of separation, the conversation changes. But then, so has the subject.

      • kdk33

        well said

  • jh


    There are many lukewarmers that would like to have a “serious” conversation about climate science. The lukewarm crowd isn’t new, either, so it’s a little surprising that you haven’t noticed it.

    Until just the last few months, when a number of leading figures in climate science have taken a step – a very small step – back, it hasn’t been possible to have a serious conversation with them about anything. They’ve been preaching that the Science is Settled for over a decade and that the model predictions are consistent with the global temp record.

    I mean, Keith, even McIntyre has always accepted AGW. He’s not even an AGW skeptic! What he’s skeptical about, with good reason, is the quality of the science coming out of the establishment.

    • Mr X

      +1 the New Mini Ice Age is coming.

  • Tom Scharf

    Do you believe the pause in global warming over the past 15 years is a hoax?

    How many anti-science liberals would answer yes here?

  • DutchS

    A few liberal conspiracy theories:
    1. The martyrdom of Saint Allende. It’s professionally insulting to suggest anyone in Latin America needs the CIA to stage a coup. The station chief in Santiago got dressed, had breakfast, and then, specifically what? What, exactly did the CIA do?
    2. The Band Played On. When AIDS first appeared there were a handful of people and labs capable of researching it productively. Throwing more money at it would have resulted in huge waste and no faster progress. Because look at the immunizations and complete cures we now have after 40 years of intensive research. Oh, wait…
    3. The Stolen election of 2000. Bush never lost a single recount and the Constitution gives State legislatures exclusive discretion in choosing electors. SCOTUS should simply have ruled there is no Federal jurisdiction over the appointment of electors.
    4. Katrina. Of Katrina, Haiti and Deepwater Horizon, the response to Katrina was the fastest. The Superdome was evacuated within a week, when aid was just arriving in Haiti and there was no clear idea of the scope of the Deepwater Horizon disaster after a week.
    5. Bush lied, people died. Saddam was doing everything possible to convince the world he had WMD’s in 2003. Mistaken, yes, but to say Bush “lied” is to say he had definite proof (not Hans Blix’ or Scott Ritter’s opinion) that Saddam had no WMD’s. Your evidence is….?
    6. Vaccines and GMO’s.
    7. Marxism and “false consciousness” When we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it should be.
    8. What’s the Matter With Kansas? What did liberals do to alienate the voters of a once progressive state? Try everything. Ridicule their patriotism, ridicule their religion, speak for criminals…

    • MarkH

      I don’t think you understand what a conspiracy theory is. It’s not
      the same thing as conspiracy. One is criminal,
      ordinary, common, the other requires one to suspend belief in various
      laws of nature, common sense, probability, and Occam’s razor.

      cold war machinations on #1, on #2 I don’t understand what the “conspiracy” part is, that Reagan played politics on a public health
      issue? That’s not a conspiracy theory. Conspiracies are not the ordinary political machinations or criminal conspiracies that are ordinary, well-established, and consistent with
      things like laws of physics and biology. Conspiracy theories are things like James Inhofe saying global warming is the biggest “hoax” ever perpetrated on the American people. That’s nuts. That means every national academy of every country, thousands of scientists, dozens of journals and their editors are all colluding secretly to falsify data and evidence, and if someone mentions the East Anglia emails I’ll lose my mind, as if anything they are further evidence against a conspiracy and more evidence that global warming denialists are cherry-picking liars.

      #3 no conspiracy needed, again, ordinary political machination, incompetence, whatever. Not a conspiracy theory.

      #4 no conspiracy theory needed! Who says Bush conspired to worsen Katrina, he was just incompetent.

      See the presentation to the UN on the evidence for WMD, even the guy who gave it has expressed regret over hyped evidence. But again, not a “conspiracy theory”, just the very ordinary incompetence, confirmation bias, and warmongering that are entirely believable, and explained by the evidence.

      #6 Agreed! However, if you look at Dan Kahan’s
      research, conservatives are just as likely to believe anti-GMO nonsense, and might be more likely to be anti-vaccine. It’s just liberal media sources that promote these two anti-science conspiracies.

      #7 I don’t even know what this is.

      #8 Not a conspiracy theory.

      I’m the first to point out conspiracy-mongering from progressives and liberals (and if I’m not it’s Keith), but one can’t simply redefine the terms of what a conspiracy theory is to make it seem as if there is false parity.

      • Mr X

        The problem with labelling everything conspiracy theory is that it ignores facts that are actual historic conspiracies. The Black Hand killing the Archduke. The Munich Beer Hall Putsch. Lenin being brought to Russia on a sealed train by the Germans to knock the Tsar’s empire out of the war. Etc etc etc.

        • Mr X

          In other words there are two equally stupid positions 1) Everything is a conspiracy 2) nothing is a conspiracy rich and powerful people never get together with a plan

    • Mr X

      1 Don’t have much to go on for this, except Henry Kissinger’s own admissions — look those up

      2 Again, I haven’t seen any hard evidence that AIDS was invented in a lab. Agree with you here.

      3 Stolen election — spot on. Dubya did win the recounts. The only real bit you can cling to is the odd number of Jewish Pat Buchanan voters, but anti-immigration Jews do exist, and some of them may live in South Florida.

      4 Katrina – have to concur that in addition to the sadistic side of the NOLA PD coming out and the incompetence of local officials, there’s evidence that post-flooded New Orleans was turned into a kind of giant lab for gun confiscation and other general badness. So the libs are right, they’re just wrong about the details that prove what a debacle Katrina was.

      5 Bush lied — you can make a strong case Dubya sincerely believed Saddam had WMDs, because Saddam wanted it to appear to his own people that he still had them. HOWEVER the evidence is overwhelming that the intel was cooked from the start, as even this former Iraq invasion (but not protracted nation building) supporter has to admit to my shame. It would be more accurate to say Cheney and Chalabi et al lied.

      6 Vaccines and GMOs…again it would be easier to make the case against the critics if people like Bill Gates (father big time Planned Pqrenthood board member) didn’t appear to be so obsessed with population control.

      7 Marxism and false consciousness — there are many types of false consciousness and subliminals DO work on the feeble minded/those open to suggestion who sit in front of the idiot box for seven hours a day.

      8 Spot on.

  • Tom Fuller

    That’s the second time in recent weeks that I’ve see you use the verb ‘loathe’ when you intended to use the noun ‘loath.’

  • mickjo

    “Do you believe global warming is a hoax?”

    What a daft question. Who doesn’t think the globe has warmed? A better question might be: “Do you believe that the extent and dangers of anthropogenic global warming have been over-exaggerated?”

    The questions in contentious debates are usually framed by an orthodoxy that thinks dissenters are swivel-eyed loons. Take evolution, for example. Either you’re an evolutionist or a young-earth creationist, never mind that even some prominent atheists think that neo-Darwinism has failed to adequately explain macroevolution.

    The phrase “science reality”, implies science *is* reality, when the two are different things. We don’t even know what matter, energy and the basic forces of the universe are: what we have is essentially mathematical descriptors of them, and useful though those can be, they have limited shelf-lives.

    Then there’s political stereotyping. Surprise, surprise: lefties think righties are loons, and vice-versa. American commentators particularly are inclined to think in terms of their own two-party, polarised system.

    Are climate scientists frauds? I think a few are, but not most, who like scientists in many disciplines these days, are subject to the near-psychotic notion that their models (in the broadest sense) of reality *are* reality. The cosmologists in particular have gone batshit crazy. And yet there’s no shortage of the ignorant who are wont to parrot far and wide the opinions of cosmologists as if they were facts rather than pixie dust.

    Our saving grace is engineering, which luckily is restrained by empirical factors. But theoretical science has become a chimera, quite as dogmatic in some areas as the mediaeval church once was. People still need their faith; they just lack the ability to see they have substituted one kind of mythology for another.

  • Howard

    Conspiracy ideation is a disease. Just yesterday, a neighbor told me that the government is watching his every move on Google, Facebook, etc. What a nutter.

    • Mr X

      I detect some sarcasm with this.

      Not watching every move, just have the potential to pull up his porn habits or any Congressman’s for that matter should they step out of line.

  • Howard

    You should read the Blackboard

  • vsaluki

    Why does it take any more than this simple chart to show who is in touch with reality and who is not.

  • Mr X

    I would rather suggest that the looming new mini Ice Age and the fact that climate data has shown no net warming trend for over a decade has the climate hustlers on the ropes. Same for everyone being a conspiracy theorist regarding the NSA listening to them, 20 years ago you would’ve laughed off or called such a person schizo, now you realize Enemy of the State’s Gene Hackman character was just ahead of the curve. Have any of you ‘skeptics’ out there noticed that damn near EVERYONE who dissents from the so-called mainstream is now a ‘conspiracy theorist’? Perhaps rather than conspiracy theories proliferating to make sense of our confusing times the range of explanations approved by the powers that be have become far narrower than before, in a previous age when men thought for themselves and eccentricity was considered charming rather than a sign of a potential terrorists someone should report to DHS.

  • Mr X

    For example I can believe that many tens of thousands of scientists sincerely believed that the peak of a natural warming trend was caused by human activities, and were sincerely wrong. That’s not to say hustlers like Al Gore didn’t jump on the bandwagon, or that global cooling was also not blalmed on (you guessed it) fossil fuel consumption in the 1970s. Legit science is always hijacked for bad agendas and where there’s money in carbon trading markets there’s going to be hucksterism. I fully expect many scientists who were pushing the AGW ‘consensus’ at the UN to come out and say, ‘Yep, we blew it, the peak warming already passed and now the data indicates we’re entering a cooling phase, perhaps even a new Little Ice Age as from 1300 to 1750’.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


See More

Collapse bottom bar