Science … or faith?

The barney over Steig’s paper on Antarctic warming and O’Donnell’s rebuttal, and the ethics of an author acting as reviewer for the critique of his own publication continues unabated. Bishop Hill has asked for an opinion on the matter from the Committee on Publication Ethics. Read Chair Liz Wager’s reply here

I don’t think there is any dispute that the author of a paper should be given an opportunity to reply to criticism of his paper. The argument that as the original author he is best placed to review a critical paper is a plausible one but not one that will find a lot of favour unless steps are taken to ensure that there is at least one other (neutral) reviewer, that the original author is identified as such during the review process, and that he is not in a position to influence publication of the critique.

What we are seeing in the case of climatology is a tight-knot group of scientists who on the face of it are prepared to go to any lengths not only to defend their own version of the science — regardless of how weak their case might be on occasion — but also actively to prevent alternative interpretations of the data being published and every possible obstacle being put in the way of legitimate criticism.

What those of us of a sceptical turn of mind find so frustrating is the easy acceptance of something that in almost any other aspect of life would be treated with cynicism bordering on outright disbelief.

Personally I don’t know whether it is Steig that is right in this instance or O’Donnell (or whether neither of them is). Nor am I convinced that it matters greatly in the overall scheme of things since not even the most alarmist predictions are forecasting a rise in Antarctic temperature sufficient to melt its icecap — ever!

But one of the stones in the shoe of the warmists has been Antarctica’s refusal to obey their rules and get warmer — all except the Peninsula and several reasons have been put forward as to why that is doing so, none of them connected to global warming.

And yet, lo and behold!, Steig et al come up with a paper that shows that the whole of West Antarctica is actually warming after all. The normal human reaction to this ought to be “Aye! Right! Pull the other one.”

Why? Because there is ample evidence that this is not what is happening and the fact that it is not happening in no way detracts from the broad global warming hypothesis. So why go out of your way to prove something that is irrelevant to your hypothesis in the first place?

Whether similar thoughts went through Ryan O’Donnell’s mind I wouldn’t know but something sparked his interest and he followed where it led him.

To a conclusion that the statistical method used in the Steig et al paper was flawed and that by changing the parameters slightly the end result (to put it in simple layman’s terms) didn’t make sense.

Simple test:

A – Hands up all those who think that having discovered this O’Donnell ought to have written a paper saying he thought Steig was wrong and submitted that paper for publication in order to test whether he or Steig was right.

B – Hands up all those who think O’Donnell should have kept his mouth shut or better still should never have looked critically at Steig’s paper in the first place.

If you opted for ‘A’ then you are saying that no-one is perfect but that we only get to be perfect by listening to criticism and taking appropriate steps if it is justified.

If you opted for ‘B’ then you are suggesting that climate scientists are all perfect and that to challenge them is the equivalent of heresy.

Welcome to the weird world of Cargo Cult Science.


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