Naomi Oreskes, the researcher who could find not a single peer-reviewed climate science publication that disagreed with the consensus that humans are largely to blame for global warming, 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. Sure, she’s well-read on earth science literature, and her 2004 paper was a major contribution to the battle against anti-intellectual global warming denialism, for which we should all be grateful. I know Al Gore is. But I think it fair to say that you don’t need a PhD to do this kind of thing.
Such arguments won’t serve her well. Fortunately, the rest of her case — basically that her work was grossly misrepresented — easily demolishes the notion that there are lots of contrarian climate literature out there. I suspect she whipped off her response in a moment of passion. Note her seventh point, incorrectly numbered the second (6), is also a bit on the touchy side:
6) Contrarians have been trying to refute my work for three years. A previous claim, also circulated and cited by Marc Morano, was subsequently retracted by its author.Evidently it has taken them three years to find some one foolish enough to try again.
So take a deep breath next time, before getting all hot and bothered, Ms. O.
But read her entire case. Especially if you’ve wasted precious second of your life reading silly coverage like this one.