My Turn: Science proves global warming
November 6, 2008
In “My Turn”, 8/5 and 9/2, the author claims global warming is a scam supported only by junk science. I won’t argue the particulars about climate here. I am concerned about the way the author uses “science” to back up his views.
There is a huge blur in public understanding of real science versus pseudo (junk) science. Real science adheres strictly to the scientific method. Questions lead to a hypothesis ” an educated guess about underlying causes. Then, the real work begins. An experimental method is designed to test the hypothesis. After a long period of data gathering, the results are compiled to see if the data support the hypothesis. The study is then published, so other scientists can repeat the methods and further confirm or weaken the hypothesis with new data. This process is called peer review. Progressive confirmations lead to the development of a theory”a major explanation based on lots of research.
Pseudoscience omits a crucial step, leaping from hypothesis directly to pseudo-theory without any testing. Pseudo-theories (such as a flat earth) are very tempting thought traps because they are so easy to come up with. A pseudo-theory is just a dressed up opinion.
Am I suggesting that scientists are superior people and incapable of lying? Of course not. But their method stresses the importance of trying to operate outside of human biases. When the method is followed, you can be wrong, but you can’t lie and use data to knowingly distort the conclusion. The “My Turn” author suggests that scientists today are taking money to promote climate change alarmism”as if the renewable power industries are organized and powerful enough to infiltrate most research universities and offer these bribes. That’s just not very plausible on such a large scale.
The “My Turn” author mentions the “tens of thousands of real scientists who have signed petitions expressing their skepticism [on global warming]”. He is referring to a petition massively circulated by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) in 1998. Please visit their web-site at http://www.oism.org; this is not a peer reviewed research institution and it has no university affiliation. They claim over 30,000 scientist signatures.
However, quoting sourcewatch.org: “In 2003, the list was loaded with misspellings, duplications, and names of non-persons, such as company names. When questioned in 1998, OISM’s Arthur Robinson admitted that only 2,100 signers had identified themselves as physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, or meteorologists, and of those the greatest number are physicists. Only a few dozen, at most, of the signatories were drawn from the core disciplines of climate science, and almost none were climate specialists.”
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I emailed the OISM to see if anyone verifies signers, and here is my reply:
“We establish their credentials rigorously. This information is not released, however, due to the very low ethical standards of the enviros ” who personally attack and smear everyone who opposes them.”
Rather than blindly believing the information on Sourewatch, I devised my own experiment. I picked names with PhD’s at random off the OISM list and I Googled them. I could not find any evidence that one of these people has a PhD or any published work. But I only tried 35 ” I invite others to participate in the scientific method. See if you can strengthen or weaken my hypothesis that this petition is a complete sham. Pick someone you know, or have heard of, with a PhD in science and you should be able to find their university affiliation. Then, see how many you can validate on the OISM list. Notice the difference that TESTING makes. I could have just hunted down information to reinforce my opinion, but the scientific method forces me to consider that I could be wrong and so I must find some EVIDENCE.
What does real science have to say? The National Academy of Sciences issued the following response: “The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal. The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.”
So is there a liberal conspiracy designed to scare us into pointless and expensive action? Does a world that acknowledges the realities of climate change mean the end of prosperity as we know it? Every scientist I know would caution to be skeptical of any extreme claims and to focus on the scientific data we have. If readers are interested, I can speak to that in a future piece.
To anyone who responds on either side of the issue, please do so responsibly by citing your sources so others can check on your claims.