Re: [asa] WSJ on scientific credibility

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Thu Dec 03 2009 - 16:41:56 EST

PS: Re-reading this it reads as a far more "aggressive" than I intended.

My point is NOT that anybody who criticises the scientists should AUTOMATICALLY be judged suspect - and I fear it may read that way.

My point - rather - is that the entire game of claim and counter-claim reduces to a case of "he says, she says" with precious little way to choose between competing claims other than to pick the side most amenable to one's own point of view.

Consequently, science is reduced to a post-modernist power game (some would argue it always was!) where he who has the most "guns" wins.

Basically, I'm voicing my own perplexity: short of going and getting an Ph.D. in climatology, and spending 20 years learning something about the field what can one do other than to trust the experts? Particularly when (1) one knows several of the experts personally and knows them to be honest and competent; (2) when one has a rough feel for the data and knows it to offer general support to the experts; and (3) one must (after the manner of Pascal's Wager) make a decision (the assumption being that, indeed, sufficient data HAS come in).

Apologies to any who have voiced criticism of the CRU and who might have taken my remarks as specifically directed at them.

Blessings as always,
Murray

> 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.
>
> Blessings,
> Murray
>
>
>> echo the concerns expressed in this WSJ op-ed:
>>
>>
>>
>> http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/12/03/science_is_on_the_credibility_bubble_99388.html
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> 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 16:42:20 2009

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