Today, most scientists are able to report their findings without worrying about draconian sentences from the state. But they still face the enmity of people who simply don’t believe the empirical results or who have a vested interest in the status quo. Individual ideologues, interest groups, industry lobbies, social networks, and even policymakers freely lash out at researchers whose work threatens their belief systems or their livelihoods.
Stephan Lewandowsky at the University of Bristol, in the United Kingdom, and University of Western Australia, has been among the most recent psychological scientists to be targeted — oddly, for his studies on the very psychological variables that lead to people’s acceptance or rejection of science. In a high-profile paper titled “NASA Faked the Moon Landings — Therefore (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science,” published earlier this year in Psychological Science, Lewandowsky detailed his research suggesting that people who reject climate science also tend to believe in assorted conspiracy theories, such as the 1969 lunar landing being a hoax.
Psychological scientists find themselves particularly subject to intimidation campaigns in the legal arena. Loftus’s memory studies involving tens of thousands of subjects are classics, and have been replicated hundreds of times. She has forever toppled the concept of memory as an accurate recorder of life experience. Over the past 40 years, she has demonstrated that eyewitness testimony is often unreliable, and that false memories can be triggered in individuals merely through the power of suggestion.Inconvenient Truth-Tellers – Association for Psychological Science – APS