Re: [asa] AGW discussion

From: Austerberry, Charles F. <cfauster@creighton.edu>
Date: Wed Dec 02 2009 - 15:19:08 EST

I appreciate Cameron's insights here. Indeed, through the ASA I've
found, at least on occasion, the kind of respectful dialogue about
controversial various subjects that Cameron found at the climate web
site he references.

The trick about handling such controversies, of course, is to
distinguish constructive dialogue from obstructive obsfucation. It's not
easy to tell them apart. How constructive would it be to continue the
endless debate with HIV/AIDS deniers such as Peter Duesberg? It's not
easy, especially for non-scientists, to detect when Duesberg simply
denies the evidence before him. After all, he has a Nobel prize, and he
is a professional virologist. Phil Johnson certainly fell under his
sway. So did S. African Prime Minister Mbecki. Maybe in the grand
scheme of things it's good to give platforms to mavericks such as
Duesberg, because sometimes they are right. But how many AIDS deaths
are worth it? And if global warming is really caused by human
activities, how much suffering from preventable climate change is worth
allowing?

But again, I agree with Cameron's points. When a few non-scientists
motivated by extra-scientific reasons promote a maverick position, that
alone is sufficient to cause the mainstream scientists to circle wagons
and act in ways that are not appropriate. It's unfortunate, because it
gives science a black eye and it prevents scientific truth from coming
out. Mainstream scientists need to be gracious, patient, and use
fair/reasonable argumentation tactics whether their opponents do or not.

Cheers!

CFA

Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2009 16:34:03 -0500
From: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Subject: Re: [asa] AGW discussion

Randy and Others:

My objection to AGW theory has never been to the theory itself, or to
the fact that it appeals to expert argument. My objection has been to
the AGW *style of argumentation* -- to the contemptuous way in which one
group of experts (the majority of climatologists) treats other groups of
experts (the minority of climatologists, and many other earth
scientists, physicists, mathematically modellers, etc., who have
relevant knowledge). To my way of thinking, the "expert argument" which
allegedly "proves" AGW is tainted by the use of any argumentative
tactics other than reason and evidence -- tactics such as shouting "the
science is settled", or "his Ph.D. doesn't count because it's in
Atmospheric Physics rather than Climatology", or "he has done some side
research for oil companies so he must have selfish motives". News
flashes: science is an ever-changing field, and is never "settled";
scientific specialties other than one's own often have insights to give
regarding problems in one's own discipline; employment to do research
for an oil company does not automatically establish that one's
scientific integrity has been compromised; and alleged biases cut both
ways (as if university professors who *don't* work for oil companies
automatically are free from all economic and political opinions which
might bias their research).

And of course, I have seen these same sort of argumentative tactics
employed to attack ID proponents, or even just plain old critics of
Darwinian theory.
And I've seen them in the world of religious studies and other areas of
academia. Aside from their intrinsically dishonourable nature, they are
often very harmful to the progress of a discipline. For example, when
"literary" approaches to the Bible were first attempted in the 1970s,
they were often shouted down by the old school of historical-critical
scholars, who thought they were unscientific rubbish. The
historical-critical scholars would have strangled literary approaches in
their crib, if they had the power, and they did use their control over
journals, etc. to block the entrance of literary approaches for as long
as they could, and I know of people who were not hired in Biblical
studies because they would not kowtow to the "consensus of the experts"
regarding the validity of historical-critical methods. But now literary
approaches are a perfectly legitimate part of the field of Biblical
studies, especially in Old Testament studies. The old guard was simply
narrow and defensive, and abused its power. Having seen the injustice
of this, I tend to be rather sensitive when I see the same bullying and
dogmatism going on regarding evolution, global warming, or other topics.

But it might be worth mentioning the Climate Audit web-site, which
appears to be the closest thing to a moderate web-site that one can find
in a polarized internet world. There is an interesting article there by
a pro-AGW person, Judy Curry, and she is open-minded enough to
criticisms of the behaviour of the AGW lobby to write:

>"it is difficult to understand the continued circling of the wagons by
>some climate researchers with guns pointed at skeptical researchers by
>apparently trying to withhold data and other information of relevance
>to published research, thwart the peer review process, and keep papers
>out of assessment reports. Scientists are of course human, and
>short-term emotional responses to attacks and adversity are to be
>expected, but I am particularly concerned by this apparent systematic
>and continuing behavior from scientists that hold editorial positions,
>serve on important boards and committees and participate in the major
>assessment reports. It is these issues revealed in the HADCRU emails
>that concern me the most, and it seems difficult to spin many of the
>emails related to FOIA, peer review, and the assessment process. I
>sincerely hope that these emails do not in actuality reflect what they
>appear to, and I encourage Gavin Schmidt et al. to continue explaining
>the individual emails and the broader issues of concern."

I have not felt anything like this level of self-criticism from the AGW
supporters who post here. Indeed, Judy Curry's phrase "circling the
wagons"
pretty much describes what I have observed on this site.

Her full post, and a large number of responses to it, are found at:

http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7826

It is good to see a relatively civilized exchange between a pro-AGW
person and skeptical commenters. I wish there were more web-sites and
news sources of this nature.

Cameron.
 
 

Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Hixson-Lied Room 438
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
Phone: 402-280-2154
Fax: 402-280-5595
e-mail: cfauster@creighton.edu
http://groups.creighton.edu/premedsociety/

Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education
http://nrcse.creighton.edu <http://nrcse.creighton.edu/>

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Received on Wed Dec 2 15:19:24 2009

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