Re: [asa] WSJ on scientific credibility

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Thu Dec 03 2009 - 16:28:59 EST

Hi Ted,

Whatever one's views of the CRU e-mails, I think the cited piece indeed captures something of the problem.

I, frankly, don't know how one responds - it seems to be a simple case of either one trusts the judgement of the climatologists or one doesn't.

The great difficulty I face, however, is that whilst there are certainly grounds for questioning the credibility of any particular scientist, group of scientist, or of the scientific enterprise in general, it does not seem to me automatic that the credibility of those asking such questions should itself be assumed.

I do agree with many of the comments made by several list participants over the last few days in regards to the hubris of many scientists - many of whom have made the fatal mistake of coming to believe their own advertising - and I further allow that some scientists are less than honest - even with themselves.

But one has to be frank: it is simply not the case that those critics themselves have the right to an assumption of credibility.

So, yes, we may well have grounds to question the credibility of the scientists. But so too the credibility of their critics.


> echo the concerns expressed in this WSJ op-ed:
> Post-modern efforts to undermine the objectivity of science are only
> encouraged by episodes like this, when tend to reinforce the impression
> that, if you don't like the implications of the conclusions of the
> "experts," you go find your own "experts" to back up a different set of
> conclusions. We are seeing something similar--as I said we would, a few
> weeks ago--with the flap about recommendations for mammograms for women
> younger than 50. I'm not suggesting that we get into that one here; it
> seems pretty peripheral to science/faith, unlike the AGW controversy
> which intersects with theology of creation and stewardship in obvious
> ways. Nevertheless, it's a similar situation.
> You can't put the genie back into the bottle, regardless of whether it's
> ethical to cite or discuss the emails. There will be well-founded
> perceptions, that some scientists do try to control access to the
> exchange of scientific information and opinions--beyond the appropriate
> review process for scientific journals, which can also be abused.
> The root problem, IMO, has to do with balancing the human component
> involved with the creation of scientific knowledge (this has political,
> philosophical, cultural, and personal aspects) with the non-human
> component from nature that objectively exists and does impinge on us,
> whether or not we like what it's saying. Cynics will conclude too
> readily that science entirely lacks objectivity (this is the view
> encouraged by the Edinburgh "strong programme" of social
> constructivism), while defenders of science will conclude too readily
> that science is purely objective and is done by robots in an
> intellectual and cultural vacuum (this was the older view of science,
> before history of science debunked it). The truth IMO lies somewhere
> toward the middle--but the middle, in highly charged controversies such
> as this one, is (by definition) hit from both sides. Let's hope that
> the truth is not a casualty, as it sometimes is.
> Ted

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Received on Thu Dec 3 16:29:19 2009

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