3) The piece misrepresents the results we obtained. In the original AAAS talk on which the paper was based, and in various interviews and conversations after, I repeated pointed out that very few papers analyzed said anything explicit at all about the consensus position.This was actually a very important result, for the following reason. Biologists today never write papers in which they explicitly say “we endorse evolution”. Earth scientists never say “we explicitly endorse plate tectonics.” This is because these things are now taken for granted. So when we read these papers and observed this pattern, we took this to be very significant.We realized that the basic issue was settled, and we observed that scientists had moved on to discussing details of the problem, mostly tempo and mode issues: how fast, how soon, in what manner, with what impacts, etc. (See Oreskes, 2007 for further discussion).
James Hrynyshyn comments:
Naomi Oreskes, … defends herself against a pathetic attempt to show that she was wrong. (thanks Stranger Fruit.) But in her list of reasons why we shouldn’t pay attention to her detractors, there is sad and completely unnecessary little example of the ad hominem logical fallacy:
6) The author is a medical researcher. As a historian of science I am trained to analyze and understand scientific arguments, their development, their progress, etc., and my specific expertise is in the history of earth science. This past summer I was invited to teach a graduate intensive course at Vienna International Summer University, Vienna Circle Institute, on Consensus in Science. I do not know why a medical researcher would feel qualified to undertake an analysis of consensus in the earth scientific literature.
Now, while I have no problem casting aspersions on someone who clearly doesn’t have the expertise required to tackle a specific scientific problem — I wouldn’t know where to begin when it comes to quantum chromodynamics, for example — this particular example isn’t exactly on that level.
What Oreskes did was perform a database search of the literature and count references to certain phrases and words. I would say any competent medical researcher should be able to manage that much.
This isn’t correct. To classify the papers it is not enough to count references to certain phrases and words — you have to understand what the abstract says and how it fits into the science. Schulte does not seem to have this understanding — of the seven articles he said explicitly rejected the consensus, only three actually did. It is not an ad hominem to point out that someone is unqualified when they are unqualified and prove that they are unqualified.
Andrew Dessler quotes an abstract and writes:
Can you tell me if this paper accepts or rejects the consensus view on climate change?
You can’t. It is impossible for anyone but an expert in this particular climate sub-field to be able to read this abstract and understand the implications for the theory of climate change. Most climate scientists could read the entire paper and understand the implications, but it takes a true expert in a particular field to be able to understand the implications just from the abstract.
Why? Because the abstract of the paper contains only what’s new in the paper. Thus, the implications of the paper to our wider knowledge can only be understood if one is familiar with everything that’s been previously published on the topic.
In this case, the paper strongly supports the IPCC view of climate science. I know, because I wrote it. But for non-experts like Dr. Schulte, it is just a bunch of gobbledy-gook.
Now because Schulte’s paper was hyped by Drudge, a whole bunch of bloggers posted the usual claims that the consensus was busted. Gavin M deals with a typical example by a particularly clueless person called Dogstar.