Two years ago, a group of researchers published a paper with a provocative title: “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax.” In the paper, they noted that a subset of the community that has a hard time accepting the evidence for human-driven climate change tends to more generally believe conspiracy theories.
Ironically, the community responded with… conspiracy theories. Which some of the original authors then analyzed in a paper that was accepted for publication in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. But shortly after its appearance, the article was pulled from the journal website and has existed in an unusual academic limbo since. Today, Frontiers has confirmed that the paper will be pulled permanently—not due to any flaws in it or misconduct by its authors, but because its “legal context is unclear.” All indications are that lack of clarity involves some of its subjects threatening defamation suits.
The initial paper produced results that weren’t entirely surprising. By surveying visitors to climate blogs, its authors found that free-market fans tended to reject scientific findings that had potential regulatory implications, something that’s been found by a variety of other researchers. But it also found that there is a population of people who doubt scientific findings simply because they tended to doubt nearly everything, ascribing a variety of things—the Moon landings, the World Trade Center attacks, etc.—to conspiracies.
This might seem surprising, but the results held up when the same authors extended the study to the US population in general.