Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

Phil Plait nails it… again.

Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy is pretty science-minded (intentionally understated for dramatic effect). One of his latest posts deals with the email "scandal" at the CRU and as usual, Phil makes his point both decisively and eloquently. Here are a few choice bits, but the entire post is well worth reading.

On what the CRU scientists were doing…

What these files do show is scientists trying to deal with data, software, and science, all the while also trying to figure out what to do with attacks on their work that are largely ideologically driven. I don’t think they handled that all that well, and that doesn’t surprise me. They’re scientists, not wonks. Of course, if you look at the files from the point of view of giant conspiracies it seems very racy […]

On the attitude of the CRU scientists…

As far as the scientists’ attitudes go, much hay has been made of that as well. But I wonder. Imagine you’ve dedicated your life to some scientific pursuit. You do it because you love it, because you want to make the world a better place, and because you can see the physics beneath the surface, weaving the tapestry of reality, guiding the ebb and flow of forces both subtle and gross. Then you find that people start attacking you with flimsy evidence, politically motivated vitriol, and even elected officials say that what you are doing is a "hoax". How do you react?

That’s one of my favorite points. Wanting to stop bad or faulty research from getting published in reputable science journals is not a bad thing. The climate change deniers generally have nothing valid or worthwhile (from a scientific standpoint) to publish.

On how science works…

Science is necessarily conservative. Once something is established as being an accepted model/theory/law, then it becomes the standard paradigm until it is shown to be flawed in a significant way. You may not like it, but in modern climatology, global warming is accepted as the standard. It’s not up to me or anyone to prove it right at this point, it’s up to scientists to show it’s wrong. To do that you’ll need a lot of really good evidence, and from what I have seen and read that evidence is not there. Maybe it’s fair to say not yet there, but in reality it may not be there at all.

On the term "denier" versus the term "skeptic"…

I’ll note that some people are still upset by my use of the term deniers. Again, to be clear: a skeptic is someone who uses evidence and logic to reach a conclusion. A denialist is someone who will say or do anything to deny an issue. I stand by my definition. There are actual global warming skeptics out there — and I would not only support their efforts but praise them — but what I see on the web and in the comments overwhelmingly is denial, not skepticism.

That’s what I usually see as well, though I do see some "skeptic" papers from time to time. Deniers, however, latch on to the irrelevant papers or the quote-mine papers or the artificial drama papers and hold them up as proof positive that climate change is a hoax or a scam. It’s somewhat pathetic and really shows a lack of understanding of science… how it works, and how it’s used.

But I suppose that’s to be expected from deniers.

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