Posts Tagged ‘Science Denialism’

Climate Change and the Integrity of Science

From Skeptical Science:

Climate Change and the Integrity of Science: a letter to Science

A letter Climate Change and the Integrity of Science has been published in the journal Science. It’s written by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel laureates (here’s the complete list plus their university affiliations). I recommend reading the entire letter but here is an excerpt:

There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet…

… The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected. But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:

  1. The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.
  2. Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
  3. Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.
  4. Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.
  5. The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

Much more can be, and has been, said by the world’s scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business-as-usual practices. We urge our policy-makers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the un restrained burning of fossil fuels.

The scientists are the members of the NAS most familiar with climate science, as explained by lead signer Peter Gleick:

It is hard to get 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to agree on pretty much anything, making the import of this letter even more substantial. Moreover, only a small fraction of National Academy members were asked to sign (the signatories are all members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences but were not speaking on its behalf). Because of a desire to produce a statement quickly, the coordinators of the letter focused on those sections of the NAS most familiar with climate science and the ongoing debate. But the NAS (and Academies of Sciences and other professional scientific societies from dozens of other nations) has previously published a long set of assessments and reviews of the science of climate change, which support the conclusions laid out in the Science essay.

Lastly, here is a link to the National Academy of Science’s Policy advice, based on science, to guide the nation’s response to climate change.


New Intelligent Design Journal

The Discovery Institute has created a new “peer-reviewed” journal dedicated to promoting intelligent design called BIO-complexity.  They have created it because they can’t get their research published in any reputable journals so they can now claim that they have peer-reviewed researched to back up their claims.  I have pointed out before that simply getting a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal is only the first step in developing scientific theories.  If the paper is ignored by the scientific community then it is a good indication that its findings aren’t considered important or credible.  This happens not just to intelligent design oriented work but to a whole host of other scientists pursuing mainstream scientific ideas.  It took decades for plate tectonics to be taken seriously.  Many papers submitted to reputable journals such as Science and Nature get rejected because they haven’t followed sound protocol or simply because the ideas presented in the paper are considered quackery.  The Discovery Institute makes it sound like ID is the only subject that gets rejected outright by journals.  There isn’t a reputable journal around that would publish a paper claiming to have found a way to trisect angles, create perpetual motion machines or confirm that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth.  Intelligent design/creationism is in the same categories as those long dismissed relics of ignorance. 

The Discovery Institute also likes to trot out Richard Sternberg as their poster child for ID persecution.  In the same article the link above points to, they hold him out again as their martyr and continue to spread the same misinformation regarding his dismissal from the Smithsonian. 

But surely, you might ask, there’s an open-minded editor at some journal somewhere who would give ID a fair shake? I do know of one such editor, Richard Sternberg, who several years ago sent out for review an article by some guy defending a design perspective and then, when the article passed peer-review, Sternberg published it. If there are any remaining open-minded editors willing to send out similar articles for peer-review, the Sternberg affair reminds them what will happen if they do.

Check this link out for the real story behind Sternberg.  It was Sternberg himself who violated protocol and did not get the paper properly reviewed.  He essentially peer-reviewed it himself. 

It will be interesting to see if BIO-complexity allows papers advancing evolution and/or challenging ID to be published.  After all, the Discovery Institute is highly committed to academic freedom and teaching the controvers,y and for so long they have criticized journals for discriminating against views that are contrary to the journal’s ideological bent.  Will they uphold the same principles that they demand mainstream journals uphold?  I doubt it.

The Five Characteristics of Scientific Denialism

From Skeptical Science:

  1. Conspiracy theories
    When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes something is true, the denialist won’t admit scientists have independently studied the evidence to reach the same conclusion. Instead, they claim scientists are engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy. The South African government of Thabo Mbeki was heavily influenced by conspiracy theorists claiming that HIV was not the cause of AIDS. When such fringe groups gain the ear of policy makers who cease to base their decisions on science-based evidence, the human impact can be disastrous.
  2. Fake experts
    These are individuals purporting to be experts but whose views are inconsistent with established knowledge. Fake experts have been used extensively by the tobacco industry who developed a strategy to recruit scientists who would counteract the growing evidence on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. This tactic is often complemented by denigration of established experts, seeking to discredit their work. Tobacco denialists have frequently attacked Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California, for his exposure of tobacco industry tactics, labelling his research ‘junk science’.
  3. Cherry picking
    This involves selectively drawing on isolated papers that challenge the consensus to the neglect of the broader body of research. An example is a paper describing intestinal abnormalities in 12 children with autism, which suggested a possible link with immunization. This has been used extensively by campaigners against immunization, even though 10 of the paper’s 13 authors subsequently retracted the suggestion of an association.
  4. Impossible expectations of what research can deliver
    The tobacco company Philip Morris tried to promote a new standard for the conduct of epidemiological studies. These stricter guidelines would have invalidated in one sweep a large body of research on the health effects of cigarettes.
  5. Misrepresentation and logical fallacies
    Logical fallacies include the use of straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented, making it easier to refute. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined in 1992 that environmental tobacco smoke was carcinogenic. This was attacked as nothing less than a ‘threat to the very core of democratic values and democratic public policy’.

Fox News Reports: IPCC Report Gets an “F” from Critics

It may be time for the United Nations’ climate-studies scientists to go back to school.

And they gave 21 of the report’s 44 chapters a grade of “F.”

The team, recruited by the climate-change skeptics behind the website, found that 5,600 of the 18,500 sources in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Nobel Prize-winning 2007 report were not peer reviewed.

A group of 40 auditors — including scientists and public policy experts from across the globe — have released a shocking report card on the U.N.’s landmark climate-change research report. 

The full article can be read here.  I looked up the website that sponsored the study to find out if this was credible look at the IPCC report and I have come to the conclusion that this is not a very credible report.  Here is why I think this is so.  First, the report has been sponsored by a website devoted to proving global warming is a hoax.  So right of the bat their credibility gets a big black mark in the area of objectivity.  Secondly, I looked the l ist of volunteers to find out what kind of background these folks have.  The list can be found here.  The list contains the names and for some the credentials of those who examined the IPCC report.  A big strike for me against their credibility is that there are few if any actual climatologists listed, or at least from what can be determined from the list.  There are some scientists with impressive sounding credentials but nothing really directly connected to climate science.  Many on the list appear to be bloggers.  Knowing the extent of my scientific expertise, that doesn’t give me much faith in the report either.  A couple of the examiners remained anonymous which is a big strike against credibility and many have no information regarding their credentials so there isn’t an easy way to check out their backgrounds.  Let’s say for the sake of argument that all on the list have impeccable credentials in climate science.  One report cannot overturn decades of research done by thousands of scientists across the globe.  So for me, this news report doesn’t do much for me and only represents more bad science.