I thought I knew what “science” was about: the crafting of hypotheses that could be tested and refined through observation via studies that were challenged and replicated by the broader community until the hypothesis is generally accepted or rejected by the broader community.
But apparently “popular science” works differently, if the July 2012 article by Tom Clynes in the periodical of that name is any guide [I will link the article when it is online]. In an article called “the Battle,” Clynes serves up an amazing skewering of skeptics that the most extreme environmental group might have blushed at publishing. After reading this article, it seems that “popular science” consists mainly of initiating a sufficient number of ad hominem attacks against those with whom one disagrees such that one is no longer required to even answer their scientific criticisms.
The article is a sort of hall-of-fame of every ad hominem attack made on skeptics – tobacco lawyers, Holocaust Deniers, the Flat Earth Society, oil company funding, and the Koch Brothers all make an appearance.
Of course, not once in the article is the mainstream skeptic scientific position even given. If Clynes is unable to parse it out or understand it, it certainly would have been possible to quote someone who could. But that would seem to defeat the purpose. According to Clynes sources, there is no skeptic position, just a series of “information missiles” and Internet memes backed with threats against scientists.
Those who are not actually involved in the details of the debate could be forgiven for believing that skeptics have not real scientific position, since folks like Clynes go out of the way never, ever to write about it. It is the first rule of climate journalism — never quote a skeptic’s scientific position. If you have to discuss a skeptic, quote only the most extreme rhetoric of the political ones like Rush Limbaugh or Marc Morano. Never, ever quote something scientific from a Richard Lindzen or Roy Spencer or even a science-based amateur like Steve McIntyre.
It strikes me that it might be useful at this point to outline a couple of the skeptics’ key points, if only to demonstrate how even in a 7 page article on skeptics with closely set type, they never make mainstream publication. Skeptic critiques focus on both climate science process and core beliefs:
- The climate community has become incredibly insular and resistant to criticism and replication of their work. Peer review tends to be by a small group of friends and close associates, and attempts by third parties to replicate their work are impossible, since climate scientists seldom release their key data to outsiders, even when, which is often the case, their work is publicly funded. In particular, climates scientists often get very “creative” with statistical methods, and often create results which don’t stand up to review by qualified statisticians outside the field.
- While the world has indeed warmed over the last century, and some of that warming has almost certainly been due to man-made CO2, climate scientists are grossly exaggerating future warming in large part because they are exaggerating positive feedback effects in the climate system. Most of the warming in climate models is not from CO2 directly but from feedback effects, and the evidence for strong positive climate feedback on temperature is very weak as compared to the evidence of greenhouse gas warming (more complete exposition here)
Just this much background on the skeptic position would have gone a really long way towards bringing balance to the article, and explaining certain skeptic positions mentioned in the article that just seem irrational the way Clynes presents them with no context (or relentlessly negative context).