Pharyngula

Oreskes smacks down Shulte

This sounds so familiar. A few years ago, a historian of science, Naomi Oreskes, reviewed the literature on climate change and concluded that there is a unanimous consensus in the published work that anthropogenic carbon is a major contributor to global warming. Now a denialist has re-analyzed those papers and is saying that Oreskes was wrong : almost half of the papers are “neutral”, neither supporting nor refuting anthropogenic change, while 6% do reject the idea.

I say this is familiar because I see papers published all the time that have the word “evolution” in the title, use evolutionary theory as a guiding principle, and come to conclusions that support evolutionary theory, and creationists look at it and say that they’ve just disproved evolution, or that the work proves Intelligent Design creationism. It’s really easy for someone ignorant of a field to browse a paper that does not spell out its case for evolution (and most of them don’t — it’s taken for granted) and read into it ideas that aren’t there. Case in point: Phil Skell. You can also read anything on Uncommon Descent that mentions a scientific result and find a parade of buffoons distorting it to mean the opposite of what the work actually implies.

In the Oreskes case, we’ve got an unqualified individual, Klaus-Martin Schulte, a medical researcher, digging into the databases and trying to tell us that they say something compatible with the denialist position. He sounds like another Skell, maybe not quite so deranged, but still babbling. On the other side, we’ve got Oreskes herself responding to and refuting Shulte’s bogosity. It’s great fun to read and far more persuasive, since she doesn’t rely on mangling science to make her case.

I’m not a climatologist either, but I think I can tell who I trust. And it isn’t the revisionist who tries to twist scientific papers, and who thinks that the absence of an explicit endorsement of a widely accepted scientific theory means the paper does not support said theory.

I just realized … none of my work ever came out and said “These results prove Cell Theory.” Does that mean cell theory is in trouble now, too?

Comments

  1. #1 Grumpy Physicist
    August 31, 2007

    Gee, funny how just about all the thousands of papers in Physical Review never mention how they confirm or refute Newton’s “theory” of conservation of momentum. Guess there’s no consensus there!

    Maybe Shulte, since he’s supposedly a medical researcher, can apply the same technique to stuff in his own field, and show that the controversial “germ theory” has weak support.

  2. #2 TheBrummell
    August 31, 2007

    Does that mean cell theory is in trouble now, too?

    Absolutely yes, I’m afraid. This heretical notion of cells begatting more cells is contrary to the very definite and limited begatting series found in the bible. Your failure to reiterate the love of gawd in every cell and in every thing you say obviously means you harbour some doubts about its veracity; you doubt it, so you yourself admit its falsehood, QED. Besides, where’s the love in your just-a-theory?

  3. #3 jre
    August 31, 2007

    Tim Lambert is all over this. And he has asked readers to pitch in with some distributed evaluation. If you care about this issue, it’s a good way to help.

  4. #4 The Science Pundit
    August 31, 2007

    Does that mean cell theory is in trouble now, too?

    Yes, you ignorant sack of protoplasm!

  5. #5 garth
    August 31, 2007

    Cells? Cells?! I thought I was made of meat doughnuts!!!

  6. #6 wildcardjack
    August 31, 2007

    I’ve been trying to come to grips with the question of what the dose-response in the transmissivity of a gas mixture and I’m only getting models from the global warming people. I am also curious about man made changes in albedo with land development.

    I think there are clearer problems with petrochem than some far off sea level change. These issues need to be brought up along with global climate issues. Perhaps louder in some aspects.

    Oil supports petro-dictatorships and Islamic fundamentalist.

    Coal kills people in its mining and releases nasties in the smoke stacks.

    Natural gas is probably the most innocent in this regard.

    But if you can get the idea that there are current problems to be dealt with there might be some response.

  7. #7 Mena
    August 31, 2007

    I was talking to someone who helps with the lectures at Fermilab. This person told me that they did want to have both sides of the global warming debate but they wanted to only have independent researchers who actually had data. They got a guy who talked about how the ice fields are melting but all of the global warming deniers seem to be in the pocket of the oil companies or some other special interest. And the Fox/Rush crowd continues to believe without question…

  8. #8 Stephen
    August 31, 2007

    Just think of the recursive exercise it would be to publish papers that way. “This supports the Standard Model which supports the Quark model which supports …… which supports gravity, which supports the link between mathematics and reality.” At the end of every paper.

  9. #9 paul
    August 31, 2007

    Dr. Myers

    I know this is off topic, but I don’t know where else to put it. I just bought a book by Sean Carroll, called The Making of the Fittest. I had never heard of it till now. Have you ever commented on it in your blog? And if not, would you like to?

  10. #10 gex
    August 31, 2007

    It turns out, if you look at all the eligible voters in this country, Bush did not get a majority! This proves he is not president!

  11. #11 K. Engels
    August 31, 2007

    I just searched through the Vatican’s online library and found that ZERO percent of the documents claim that Cthulhu does not exist. Therefore, the Vatican is pro-Cthulhu cultist.

  12. #12 Russell
    August 31, 2007

    Stephen writes:

    Just think of the recursive exercise it would be to publish papers that way.

    Hmmm… Maybe at the end of every paper we write, we should add the sentence, “Thus corroborating evolution.” It might look a bit odd at the end of a paper on logic or software engineer. But what the hell. 😉

  13. #13 Dave Eaton
    August 31, 2007

    Hmmm… Maybe at the end of every paper we write, we should add the sentence, “Thus corroborating evolution.”

    Someone figure out how to say it in Latin. Sort of biology’s “Cartago delenda est”.

    One thing I think sucks about global warming ‘denialism’ is that there are plenty of ‘iffy’ parts of models that deserve attention. The reconstructions and histories have significant uncertainty and the error bars on the data are significant. But the denialism machine has people jumpy, and it makes anyone outside the fold of climatology the object of suspicion if one wants to examine and understand the data, adjustments and algorithms that are used.

    When we say “consensus” about anything in science, one has to wonder just how much we are consenting to underwrite, and no doubt, even with many trends established, no one should get a pass when it comes to the data or the calculations. I’ll drive a hybrid without too much convincing, but I won’t live in a yurt without considerably more. So it irks me to see it always come down to surveys and polemic, as if either of these were relevant, and assenting to what little the survey actually says, the response is still predicated on what exactly is happening as best as we can tell.

    Even amongst those of us who are convinced that there are problems, there ought to be some concern that model predictions are all over the place, and I despise the religious tone that the discussion has begun to take. I see reasons to make serious changes, but how serious is predicated on whether (for instance) sea level is likely to rise a few feet or eighty, and some honest scientists disagree on this point without being funded by Exxon. Understanding the nature of feedbacks, the quality of the observation networks, and the overlaid natural cycles are all incredibly important, but have become difficult to discuss because people are quick to associate interest with ulterior motives.

    So public understanding of the science becomes completely goddammed muddled because the science becomes a proxy for prior set of political commitments, even amongst scientists. The current battlements are drawn almost exclusively along partisan lines, largely because since there has been so little done, no sensible cost has yet been incurred. I would be willing to bet that once definite policy options are discussed, the lines will be redrawn in surprising ways, because people will begin to have personal oxen gored. It’s easy to be an ‘environmentalist’ when it is a rhetorical proxy for ‘progressive’. Once actual ocean views of Kennedys get blocked, we see that difficulties arise in a hurry…

  14. #14 Zeno
    August 31, 2007

    Garth: Cells? Cells?! I thought I was made of meat doughnuts!!!

    Meat doughnuts? Your theory is that we’re made out of pasties.

    Sounds good.

  15. #15 squib
    August 31, 2007

    all in the name of demanding to drive one’s own car everywhere.

  16. #16 complex_field
    September 1, 2007

    @ #13

    corroborant evolutionem, QED

  17. #17 complex_field
    September 1, 2007

    also re: #13

    I saw in the WSJ an editorial called “Not So Hot”. It was a gross mischaracterization of an error in the calculation of the warmest year in the history of the USA. They implicitly equated that with global trends and took a leap of logic right off a cliff.

    Clearly they are less interested in the truth than in pandering to their big-business base. No surprise.

    I have lost all respect for WSJ.

  18. #18 Jepe
    September 2, 2007

    Mr Myers wrote:”A few years ago, a historian of science, Naomi Oreskes, reviewed the literature on climate change and concluded that there is a unanimous consensus in the published work that anthropogenic carbon is a major contributor to global warming.”

    Let me inform you that mrs Oreskes study was also challenged in 2005 by Benny Peiser because of fundamental flaws in her research.
    http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis/Scienceletter.htm

    Unfortunatly Science Magazine refused to publish Mr Peiser’s rebuttal.

    And no, I am not a religious fundamentalist (actually I am an atheist) and I don’t challenge evolution. But I do challenge this anthropogenic caused Global Warming hysteria.

  19. #19 marty
    September 3, 2007

    Funny, it used to be “There’s no such thing as Global Warming”. Interesting that it is now “There’s no such thing as HUMAN CAUSED Global Warming”.
    What will it be next? “No such thing as EUROPEAN DECENDED HUMANS CALLED BOB SMITH OF PASADENA CAUSED Global Warming”?

  20. #20 Jepe
    September 9, 2007

    @Marty
    I don’t dispute that there is some Global Warming, but I do doubt the AGW hypotheses. The Global Warming we are experiencing now is in no way unique, it falls within the natural variability.

    Contrary to all the propaganda and media hype there is NO consensus on AGW, in fact more and more scientists dare to declare themselves skeptics on this issue.

    Within 10 years this hysteria will be over, and proponents like Mr Myers will be embarrassed to have fallen for this delusion.

    More on the flaws in mrs. Oreskes research:
    http://www.friendsofscience.org/index.php?id=107
    http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Monckton-SchultelettertoOreskescover9-4-07.pdf

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