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SOCNET  July 2006

SOCNET July 2006

Subject:

Re: echo chamber of climate scientists?

From:

Andrew Cleary <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Andrew Cleary <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 Jul 2006 14:01:14 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (231 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

I don't find Oreske's arguments very compelling and I find her
unconvincing and distrust her motives. 

She states that there is a consensus on the global warming issue because
there is a lack of published papers arguing the contrary. But: isn't
this to be expected based on the notion that the burden of proof lies on
those suggesting a relationship other than the null hypothesis? There
are very few published papers proving that the moon is not made of
cheese; does this mean that there is a consensus amongst scientists that
the moon *is* made of cheese? It is up to those claiming a relationship
(in this case between "human activity" and "global climate warming") to
support and prove their claim in a way that convinces the rest of the
scientific community. In this sense, the "measure" of the efficacy of
their arguments isn't "the number of papers published that disprove
their argument" as Oreske claims; the measurement is in the heads of
those that they were trying to convince: are they convinced that their
arguments have supported their hypothesis? She's citing entirely the
wrong metric, and she offers nothing for support of that metric except
her own statement that it matters: "this explains my findings." 

In that sense, the SNA that claimed that the people that *were* being
convinced of the thesis (those that were approving these papers in the
peer review process) were the people that were putting forth the thesis
in the first place is quite relevant, though I am not claiming that is
irrefutably proven... Just that it is an interesting avenue of inquiry
that calls some question on the value of the current peer review system,
particularly in areas of science where any argument is going to be very
tenuous due to the inability to do controlled experiments and reliance
on interpretations of small statistical variations in uncontrolled data.

That she seems confused on the burden of proof is exhibited throughout
her letter, for example: " Yet some climate-change deniers insist that
the observed changes might be natural, perhaps caused by variations in
solar irradiance or other forces we don't yet understand. Perhaps there
are other explanations for the receding glaciers. But "perhaps" is not
evidence." Indeed, but one does not have to prove that the moon is not
made of cheese to conclude that a claim that it *is* made of cheese has
not been substantiated. The burden of proof is on those proposing the
hypothesis of the relationship between "human activity" and "global
climate warming" to deal with any potentially conflicting theories, not
on those who are listening and judging their hypothesis. It's a
misunderstanding of the scientific method. *They* must deal with the
competing hypothesis, not those who are evaluating their arguments.

And once again, when she quotes Newton, she misapplies his statement:
"once scientists had successfully drawn conclusions by  "general
induction from phenomena," then those conclusions had to be held as
"accurately or very nearly true notwithstanding any contrary hypothesis
that may be imagined.... ", by saying "Climate-change deniers can
imagine all the hypotheses they like, but it will not change the facts
nor "the general induction from the phenomena."" The correct
application, however, is that we have observed over a very long time and
with abundant data that the climate of the earth has changed for
billions of years without being caused by "human activity"; thus, we
should hold the conclusion that climate change is not caused by human
activity even in the face of other "imagined hypothesis", until and if
those new hypothesis are proved. Again, the burden of proof is on those
suggesting the new "imagined hypothesis". She is incorrectly reversing
the logic here.

I note that Oreskes isn't a climate scientist; she is instead a
professor of the History of Science, which along with her misapplication
of scientific logic, makes me wonder whether she is more "historian"
than scientist. On top of that, she exhibits clear signs of political
advocacy that additionally call into question her scientific
objectivity, e.g. she references the Bush administration (not a typical
scientific reference), and ends her letter with a call to "act now". 

In short, she appears to me from this letter to be someone more
interested in misusing the tools of science to advance a point of
advocacy rather than an objective scientist legitimately applying the
tools of science to gain a better understanding of the world.

Andy


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
On
> Behalf Of Richard Rothenberg
> Sent: Monday, July 24, 2006 1:10 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: echo chamber of climate scientists?
> 
> *****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****
> 
> In the continuation of her article, Dr. Oreskes cites the story of
plate
> tectonics denial.  I just wanted to add that perhaps the most
> influential voice in 20th century statistics--that of R.A.
> Fisher--continued to rail against the association of smoking and lung
> cancer until his death.  There are relativity-deniers,
> evolution-deniers, HIV-deniers etc.  I agree with Dr. Oreskes that
they
> are not the problem.  The problem rests with the people in power who
try
> to turn such arguments into convenient truths.
> 
> Rich Rothenberg
> 
> Valdis Krebs wrote:
> 
> > *****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****
> >
> > In today's LA Times, the author of the original study responds to
the
> > WSJ op-ed piece...
> >
> >> I am the author of that study, which appeared two years ago in the
> >> journal Science, and I'm here to tell you that the consensus
stands.
> >> The argument put forward in the Wall Street Journal was based on an
> >> Internet posting; it has not appeared in a peer-reviewed journal -
> >> the normal way to challenge an academic finding. (The Wall Street
> >> Journal didn't even get my name right!)
> >>
> >>  My study demonstrated that there is no significant disagreement
> >> within the scientific community that the Earth is warming and that
> >> human activities are the principal cause.
> >>
> >> Papers that continue to rehash arguments that have already been
> >> addressed and questions that have already been answered will, of
> >> course, be rejected by scientific journals, and this explains my
> >> findings. Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed
> >> scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus
> >> position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that
"most
> >> of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been
> >> due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."
> >
> >
> >
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-oreskes24jul24,0,823343.story
> >
> > On Jul 14, 2006, at 9:47 PM, Valdis Krebs wrote:
> >
> >> *****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****
> >>
> >> Opinion piece in today's WSJ claims that SNA shows that the
scientists
> >> whom agree on global warming are all a tightly-knit group -- a
mutual
> >> admiration society -- that dismiss all contrary findings without
> >> consideration.
> >>
> >> Here is an excerpt... Wall Street Journal; July 14, 2006; Page A12
> >>
> >> > In addition to debunking the hockey stick, Mr. Wegman goes a step
> >> > further in his report, attempting to answer why Mr. Mann's
mistakes
> >> > were not exposed by his fellow climatologists. Instead, it fell
to
> two
> >> > outsiders, Messrs. McIntyre and McKitrick, to uncover the errors.
> >> > Mr. Wegman brings to bear a technique called social-network
analysis
> >> > to examine the community of climate researchers. His conclusion
is
> >> > that the coterie of most frequently published climatologists is
so
> >> > insular and close-knit that no effective independent review of
the
> >> > work of Mr. Mann is likely. "As analyzed in our social network,"
Mr.
> >> > Wegman writes, "there is a tightly knit group of individuals who
> >> > passionately believe in their thesis." He continues: "However,
our
> >> > perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback
> >> > mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently
politicized
> >> > that they can hardly reassess their public positions without
losing
> >> > credibility.
> >> >
> >> > In other words, climate research often more closely resembles a
> >> > mutual-admiration society than a competitive and open-minded
search
> >> > for scientific knowledge. And Mr. Wegman's social-network graphs
> >> > suggest that Mr. Mann himself -- and his hockey stick -- is at
the
> >> > center of that network.
> >>
> >> Since this has become a political issue, is the opposing group also
an
> >> echo chamber? Similar to the red-blue political divide we see in
the
> >> USA?
> >>
> >> Would be interesting to run Mark Newman's community algorithm on
all
> >> scientists/papers involved in global warming, eh?
> >>
> >> Valdis
> >
> >
> >
_____________________________________________________________________
> > SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for
social
> > network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
> > an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
> > UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.
> >
> >
> 
> --
> Richard Rothenberg, MD
> Professor, Department of Medicine
> Division of Infectious Disease
> Emory University School of Medicine
> Editor, Annals of Epidemiology
> 49 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive
> Atlanta, GA 30303
> T: 404-616-5606
> F: 404-616-6847
> E: [log in to unmask]
> 
> 
> _____________________________________________________________________
> SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
> network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
> an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
> UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.

_____________________________________________________________________
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