Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated?

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Fri Nov 27 2009 - 18:43:34 EST

On Nov 27, 2009, at 7:34 AM, Dave Wallace wrote:

> Randy Isaac wrote:
>> And with all due respect, I would disagree on all points. I do understand what you are saying but I see no scriptural justification for judging others before having a chance to hear all the evidence.
> Randy
> I'm not sure what you are saying. Are you saying:
> a) that we need to hear all the evidence before coming to a hard conclusion
> or
> b) that there is insufficient evidence to warrant further investigation

As for myself it's mostly a. When there is allegations of error or fraud, the proper procedure is have the originating journal, in this case Nature, and have them reexamine Briffa et al (1998) and Mann et al (1998). So if by "we" you mean Nature I agree. You don't have go as far as what's as mentioned in your e-mail. In the case of Hwang Woo Suk case the investigation was handled well by Seoul University and even in the case Jan Hendrick Schoen Bell Labs handled the investigation. In both cases, fraud was found. Once the technical analysis was done it was then passed on to the appropriate legal authorities. But, so far I haven't seen a allegation that a particular data set was manipulated in a particular way in a specific paper. I have served as a prosecutor for my presbytery back when I was in the PCA. When we accuse a pastor the prosecutor must draw both charges and specifications. I haven't seen any specifications, just charges. If we haven't even gotten to that minimal standard -- let alone prove it -- then any discussion of motives is way too premature.

It's ironic that the other major controversy coming from the e-mails is where the shoe was on the other foot. The scientists believed that Soon and Baliunas 2003 was deeply, deeply flawed. This was where the e-mails discussed boycotting the journal. The following was a contemporaneous account in the NY Times:

> The hearing featured Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a co-author of a study, with Dr. Sallie Baliunas, also an astrophysicist at the center, that said the 20th-century warming trend was unremarkable compared with other climate shifts over the last 1,000 years.
> But the Soon-Baliunas paper, published in the journal Climate Research this year, has been heavily criticized by many scientists, including several of the journal editors. The editors said last week that whether or not the conclusions were correct, the analysis was deeply flawed.
> The publisher of the journal, Dr. Otto Kinne, and an editor who recently became editor in chief, Dr. Hans von Storch, both said that in retrospect the paper should not have been published as written. Dr. Kinne defended the journal and its process of peer review, but distanced himself from the paper.
> ''I have not stood behind the paper by Soon and Baliunas,'' he wrote in an e-mail message. ''Indeed: the reviewers failed to detect methodological flaws.''
> Dr. von Storch, who was not involved in overseeing the paper, resigned last week, saying he disagreed with the peer-review policies.
> The Senate hearing also focused new scrutiny on Dr. Soon and Dr. Baliunas's and ties to advocacy groups. The scientists also receive income as senior scientists for the George C. Marshall Institute, a Washington group that has long fought limits on gas emissions. The study in Climate Research was in part underwritten by $53,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, the voice of the oil industry.

In the end it went back to the journal who had a reputation to uphold and they updated their peer review practices so that the failure of quality control that resulted in a bad paper getting through peer review wouldn't repeat. Let the journals do their jobs.

> Consequences. While admitting that the routine review procedure continues to require critical attention, Inter-Research is determined to protect the principles of the review process, the freedom of editors and reviewers and the presentation of diverging opinions, theories and facts. IR will continue to insist on the highest possible quality of papers published in the pages of its journals (Marine Ecology Progress Series; Aquatic Microbial Ecology; Diseases of Aquatic Organisms; Climate Research; Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics). We are searching for additional CR editors who will guarantee a high quality of the papers published, as well as a balanced representation of the complex climate scenario also in the future.

In my opinion both sides are all too willing in to have some sort of circus at a Senate hearing or to throw a hissy fit. Carefully assemble the evidence and always assume innocence until with great tears and against your will there is no other option. Oh, in the prosecution case I had all members of the court including the prosecutor vote on guilt or innocence. I voted with the majority to acquit because exculpatory evidence came out in the trial. At least that's how us "touchy feely" Calvinists do it. Did I just use touch feely and Calvinist in the same sentence? Time to sign off.

Rich Blinne
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Received on Fri Nov 27 18:44:15 2009

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