I've noted before:
Loops are at the heart of nonlinearity and the complexity that makes the world interesting, but loops are also dangerous and eagerly avoided by the analyst. Circular reasoning is rightly condemned within pure logic and feedback loops are the bane of every sound system, but loops of self-consistency seem naturally at the heart of how we make sense of the world, and what true understanding is. I think one of Hofstadter's points [in "I Am a Strange Loop"] is that it is only through level-crossing loops that you can break out of simple tautology into true understanding. Perhaps this is at the heart of the "inductive" reasoning that Popper persistently attacks in his "Logic of Scientific Discovery" [...] Economic loops are central to growth; the familiar chicken-and-egg loop is at the heart of life itself.
One of the major interests of this blog has been climate science and trying to understand some of the objections to it. That there is a feedback loop of self-affirmation among those who reject the science was always pretty clear, but Stephan Lewandowsky and coauthors have managed to put together a new paper that examines one iteration of the climate denial loop in fascinating detail. The paper itself can be downloaded free (accepted but not yet copy-edited) - Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation. If the subject matter were not so serious and the influence of the "loopers" so strong (quotes in major newspapers, congressional hearings, etc) this would be quite hilarious. In reality, along with the hilarity I find it more than a little alarming, though perhaps humanity has always muddled along with this sort of phenomenon going on beneath the surface.
Lewandowsky et al's abstract reads in typically dry scientist-speak:
Conspiracist ideation has been repeatedly implicated in the rejection of scientific propositions, although empirical evidence to date has been sparse. A recent study involving visitors to climate blogs found that conspiracist ideation was associated with the rejection of climate science and the rejection of other scientific propositions such as the link between lung cancer and smoking, and between HIV and AIDS (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, in press; LOG12 from here on). This article analyzes the response of the climate blogosphere to the publication of LOG12. We identify and trace the hypotheses that emerged in response to LOG12 and that questioned the validity of the paper's conclusions. Using established criteria to identify conspiracist ideation, we show that many of the hypotheses exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking. For example, whereas hypotheses were initially narrowly focused on LOG12, some ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors of LOG12, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. The overall pattern of the blogosphere's response to LOG12 illustrates the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science, although alternative scholarly interpretations may be advanced in the future
I watched these reactions happening at the time - I believe my only participation then consisted in contributing some comments at Lewandowsky's blog. Anyway, I wonder if we'll see another iteration of the loop this time around?!