Tom Curtis: An open letter

Hello Tom Curtis
You are a Skepticalscience regular. In your post dated September 28, 2013 you laid out independent lines of evidence showing how John Cook, the proprietor of Skepticalscience, did not post a survey from Australian psychology researcher Stephen Lewandowsky on his website.

But the notorious paper Lewandowsky wrote makes this claim. In fact, the paper’s results are critically dependent on the survey being posted there. It says a broad audience saw the survey because it was posted on Skepticalscience.  It analyzes comments from the website to support this.

You know both the above to be false. You have every reason to believe this. You recently re-iterated your belief.

As a climate blogger and commenter, I and others have asked Cook and Lewandowsky on several occasions how their results can be supported if their data was faulty. You rationalized the results referring to survey responses from But the paper des not include data from this website (see table below).


From LOG12, Supplementary information. The authors claim the survey was posted at Skepticalscience. is not listed as a source.

Lewandowsky can put the issue to rest by releasing the raw survey data, but has simply refused. Instead, he and Cook wrote a second psychology paper using those who asked for data as study subjects.

Matters have stalled. But, Lewandowsky and Cook have your confidence. You have supported them through the years. They may pass over their critics and study subjects in silence but they owe you an answer. You and others have sunk significant effort into running Cook’s website over the years. How does the same silence appease you? Releasing the data would answer questions you raise more than anyone else’s.

Could you use your influence to assist getting the raw survey data released?

-With thanks



  1. Tom Curtis

    1) The papers results are almost entirely independent on whether or not the survey was posted at SkS, or merely tweeted by John Cook. I make this point in the comment at Shaping Tomorrows’s World to which you link, saying:

    “Having said that, the failure to post at SkS is irrelevant except as rebutal to Lewandowky’s subsidiary argument in any event. The proportion of “skeptic” and “non-skeptic” responses is easily determined from the data itself, once the four almost certainly scammed responses are excluded. There have been no substantial arguments that call the apparent ratio into question. Even Barry Woods obsessive attempts to make an issue out of this depend essentially on ignoring the fact that a link to the survey was posted at a “skeptic” blog, albeit not one that was requested to post it.

    In short, the failure to post at SkS undermines completely Lewandowsky’s argument that the responses to the survey was drawn from an un-biased because the proportion of “skeptic” and “non-skeptic” commentators at SkS reflected the proportions in the general population (an argument that is hard to credit in any event). However, there is no substantive reason to suspect the proportion of “skeptic” respondents apparent in the survey is not the actual proportion of “skeptic” respondents (excluding the four nearly certainly scammed responses). Therefore the justification in the argument from SkS’s population is irrelevant to the actual results of the paper, which are not adequately supported by the paper in any event.

    2) I am not on good terms with Lewandowsky, who does not respond to my emails, and probably does not even read them. Nor have I defended Lewandowsky except to the limited extent of rejecting overblown critiques while acknowledging the clear flaws in LOG12.

    3) Cook is not an author of LOG12, and hence is not in a position to release the data, even if he should wish it. Therefore he is irrelevant to this issue. I have notified Cook of the relevant evidence, and urged him to look closely at it. What he has done about that advice is his business, not mine.

    4) While it would be appropriate for Lewandowsky to issue a corrigendum regarding the posting of the survey at Skeptical Science, and at Junk Science; and I would do so if I was in his position – it is not a substantive issue with respect to the results of the paper and therefore entirely in his and the editors perogative to decide whether or not to do so.

    5) LOG12 simply falls apart under close analysis. Therefore this is not a substantive scientific issue, and not one I am inclined to waste my time on. If you are seriously interested in discrediting LOG12, publish a critique. Don’t waste your time on this nonsense.

    I will not be further responding to this post. I have said more than enough at various locations to establish my views very clearly on this issue. Any further, IMO, is simply a waste of time. I have more important things to do. As I will not be further responding on, or even looking at, this page, please have the courtesy to not read anything more into that than the stated fact that I think this is a waste of time.

  2. Brad Keyes


    why did you encourage the deletion of my comments a few minutes ago at AndThenThere’sPhysics (where I’ll probably never be able to reply because Ms Wotts has a history of using indefinite moderation as a means of censorship)? Which is to say: why are you such a coward?

  3. Shub Niggurath

    Please pause and consider your own account for a moment. We agree that the scientific content and veracity of findings of LOG12, even disregarding the survey issues, approaches a null.

    But yet,
    (a) Lewandowsky managed, as you point out, to convince his peers and the editor of a high-tier journal to publish it
    (b) gain significant traction among his media contacts to write accounts trashing climate skeptics as conspiracy nuts
    (c) write a second paper trashing those asked for the data as conspiracy nuts
    (d) contest/litigate the suspended status of the second paper as attacks on academic freedom.

    The only common point binding the whole Moon Hoax and Fury exercise is the question of Lewandowsky’s data. Your opinion, or my opinion about the representative-ness of his survey data, are secondary to what the paper itself states.

    There can be no post-hoc justification of data quality after a survey is complete, especially in a survey of this nature.

    I, and others, are not particularly interested in your ‘views’. Your views, or my views, do not count. What matters is whether the paper’s data is as the authors represent them to be. Unfortunately this aspect concerns scientific integrity, a topic I am certainly interested in.

    The question therefore is more of a ‘how do you square with yourself knowing that your colleagues/bosses are lying to you’ kind. It is an attempt to evoke a sense of latent propriety I believe you hold.

  4. Shub Niggurath

    Yeah, he’s going around these threads announcing his decision to not read them anymore. I bet he thinks if he stops being reminded about it, it’ll go away.