Re: [asa] IPCC

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Mon Feb 12 2007 - 19:53:05 EST

Rich did a great job of addressing the technical aspects. I think this is also a good opportunity to consider how to assess articles like this. Whether the topic is global warming, evolution, the age of the earth, ID, or any other controversial issue where the public gets into scientific topics, articles like this seem to abound on all sides of the controversy. The key question is, how do we know whether we can trust the article, or how seriously to take their conclusions?

I would suggest that it might help to ask ourselves the following questions when coming across such an article:

1) Does the article describe work that has been published in a peer-reviewed, respectable technical journal in that field of expertise?
    a) If so, has the work been independently reproduced by a different lab or is it an isolated paper?
    b) If not, was the work rejected by peer review? or simply not submitted for publication?
2) Does the work provide new data? If so, has the data been independently reproduced?
3) Does the work offer a new interpretation of previously unexplained data? If so, does the interpretation fit with data that are well understood?
4) Does the work offer a new interpretation of data previously thought to be well understood? If so, does the new model fit all previously explained data as well as make verified predictions beyond any previous models?
5) Is any lack of acceptance by the technical community blamed on a "conspiracy" of peer pressure or funding agency pressure? (this is a typical symptom of either disgruntled scientists whose papers were rejected in peer review or of amateurs who don't like the mainstream scientific conclusions)

I don't think I need to provide a scoring sheet for any of you. This won't tell whether the work presented is true or false but it gives a pretty good indication of how seriously to take the work. In the end, the ideas can only be assessed on the strength of the technical merits. That takes a lot of time and effort and usually requires deep expertise in the field. The above perspective merely helps determine whether an idea is worth that effort.


  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Sunday, February 11, 2007 9:19 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] IPCC

  I came across this recently. It doesn't say a whole lot, but the author
  is supposedly a former editor of the New Scientist.

  An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change

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Received on Mon Feb 12 19:53:47 2007

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