when to doubt a scientific consensus

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when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:57 pm

a friend of mine pointed this article out to me today, and thought I would share it
http://www.american.com/archive/2010/ma ... -consensus
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Ben » Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:23 pm

Hi Manapa
Its unsurprising. There is a tendency among many people to destroy that which they do not understand.
I suggest your friend read some Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for a bit of balance.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:09 pm

Hi, Manapa,
If I were to be completely honest and accurate about that article the screen in front of me would probably melt. I'll settle for saying that it is a brilliant example of the kinds of intellectual dishonesty that it accuses climate scientists of perpetrating.
For starters, it is not about what it says it is about: it is single-minded attack on one branch of science. And it is full of deliberate lies: every single smear in it, as far as I could tell without making a check-list, has been refuted dozens of times by the people actually doing the science.
For some facts, go to http://www.realclimate.org/, a blog presented by climate scientists, and browse. Just one example: among the most recent posts there is http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/04/second-cru-inquiry-reports/, the report of the second enquiry into ClimateGate. Summary: the CRU scientists are honest people doing a good job.

I'll leave my comments at that, or my equanimity may start to fray.
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Ben » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:29 pm

Climate change is real and it's here: report

TOM ARUP
March 15, 2010


AUSTRALIA's two leading scientific agencies will release a report today showing Australia has warmed significantly over the past 50 years, and stating categorically that ''climate change is real''.

The State of the Climate snapshot, drawn together by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology partly in response to recent attacks on the science underpinning climate change, shows that Australia's mean temperature has increased 0.7 degrees since 1960. The statement also finds average daily maximum temperatures have increased every decade for the past 50 years.

The report states that temperature observations, among others indicators, ''clearly demonstrate climate change is real'', and says that CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology ''will continue to provide observations and research so Australia's responses are underpinned by clear empirical data''.

The rest of the article is here: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/cl ... -q63a.html
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:44 pm

Manapa wrote:a friend of mine pointed this article out to me today, and thought I would share it
http://www.american.com/archive/2010/ma ... -consensus


I had a quick browse and followed up one thing (boldface mine) -

(9) When “scientists say” or “science says” is a common locution.

In Newsweek’s April 28, 1975, issue, science editor Peter Gwynne claimed that “scientists are almost unanimous” that global cooling was underway. Now we are told, “Scientists say global warming will lead to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal areas from rising seas, more extreme weather, more drought and diseases spreading more widely.” “Scientists say” is hopelessly ambiguous. Your mind should immediately wonder: “Which ones?”


Here's the pdf of the original article http://denisdutton.com/newsweek_coolingworld.pdf

and it says the following (boldface mine):

Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.


So this kind of blatant misrepresentation doesn't inspire much faith in the rest of their reporting although perhaps some good points are made here and there.
_/|\_
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby alan » Thu Apr 15, 2010 12:19 am

Consider the source: an ultra-right wing propaganda machine. The "American Enterprise Institute" is so out there they just fired the guy who wrote Bush's Axis of Evil speech for not being conservative enough!
No need to even read what they put out; they are professional liars.
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:11 am

Thanks Alan for the heads-up.
I'm not familiar with the publication.
Kind regards

Ben
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:13 am

Manapa wrote:a friend of mine pointed this article out to me today, and thought I would share it
http://www.american.com/archive/2010/ma ... -consensus

Far right wing crappola.
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:03 am

Hey, Manapa,
After reading all the other responses, I thought I'd better say that we do still think you are OK. Sharing something of unknown value, as you obviously did, is no indication of moral turpitude.
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:01 am

Ben wrote:Hi Manapa
Its unsurprising. There is a tendency among many people to destroy that which they do not understand.
I suggest your friend read some Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for a bit of balance.
kind regards

Ben

he has read them, I think all their books? quite the prolific reader really and doesn't stick to one side or one view point.

I shared the article not because of the use of climate change, but the topic of scientific consensus.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:46 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Hey, Manapa,
After reading all the other responses, I thought I'd better say that we do still think you are OK. Sharing something of unknown value, as you obviously did, is no indication of moral turpitude.
:group:

:namaste:
Kim


I wonder why anyone would think someone was morally corrupt for sharing an article on doubting scientific consensus?

but whether the article has good or bad points regarding climate change is not the reason I shared it, the title of the article, this thread and well the main issue it looks at (climate change being an example used btw) should indicate something that is being pointed to, no?

Man walks into a sandwich shop and asks for a prawn salad sandwich on malted bread
the counter assistant informs the man that they do not sell fresh prawns as they are a sandwich shop not a fish mongers
the man says - "I don't want fresh prawns, but a prawn salad sandwich on malted bread"
the assistant looks puzzled for a moment then repeats slowly with a slightly raised voice "we do not sell fresh prawns we sell sandwiches"

bad joke but
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Apr 15, 2010 6:21 am

Manapa wrote:
I wonder why anyone would think someone was morally corrupt for sharing an article on doubting scientific consensus?

but whether the article has good or bad points regarding climate change is not the reason I shared it, the title of the article, this thread and well the main issue it looks at (climate change being an example used btw) should indicate something that is being pointed to, no?
I certainly would not see your referencing that article as a reflection you and you certainly can be excused for not knowing about the heavily pro-business, anti-regulation American Enterprise Institute, which which was a big cheerleader for Bush's Iraq war.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Dan74 » Thu Apr 15, 2010 6:28 am

In the world where climate change has become such a polarising issue I think it's naive to expect a different response to an article that clearly takes a swipe at it.

Personally I'd say that scientific consensus is not something that is spoken of easily. Certainly prevailing theories undergo change (or paradigm shifts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradigm_shift) but consensus is usually something that emerges after decades of verification.

On the other hand sure scientists are human beings and have faults, bunch up in cliques, compete for funding and occasionally use dubious methods etc. But since they are not one body but a disparate array of individuals, when the bulk of evidence points one way to such an extent that a consensus emerges, I think we have very good reasons to believe it is so.

But if one likes one can still argue that the earth is flat, smoking is good for you and Relativity is Jewish science. They sound pretty preposterous but unless you have an appreciation of what's involved, not impossible to believe. The trouble is so few people have any appreciation of what scientists do and how scientific consensus is arrived at, and that's what makes it easy to confuse the electorate and create the impression that there is no consensus when in fact, there is and it is a damn good way to be confident about something.
_/|\_
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 15, 2010 6:36 am

Hi Manapa

Thanks for the response. I understand your concerns with regard to the scientific process which may appear to be 'consensus' or 'group think' from the outside. And from the outside it can appear like some sort of rarified witches covern - scientists validating other scientists in processes understandable only to themselves. Describing the scientific process or scientific knowledge the way the author has is just a cheap shot; diminishing the valuable work of scientists by trying to infer some inherent flaw. You might like to have a look at this article and video talk by Sam Harris on "towards a contemplative science" - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harri ... 15024.html

But one of the reasons I have faith in science is exactly the process of peer review and the process of empirical testing of evidence to produce repeatable results. In this way it shares a similarity with the Dhamma, particularly the investigation of dhammas in satipatthana practice, where the practitioner objectively observes the characteristics of phenomena as they manifest. And another reason I have faith in science is that everything is not yet known. Not everything in the universe that is knowable is known at this point in time. Our discoveries happen over time as our scientific knowledge and our technology increase in sophistication. Knowledge is perfected over years of research and testing. What we knew yesterday is modified by discoveries today and tomorrow as more subtle realities become manifest. But as the years progress, so does our knowledge.

And as for your friend, I think its great that he is very widely read and doesn't form an opinion easily. He is investigating the truth and seeing things for himself. I hope that attitude also attracts him to investigate the nature of nama and rupa for himself.
metta

Ben
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby PeterB » Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:31 am

I think that the dangers of groupthink are immense, and that the scientific community is far from immune to that.
Having read all that I can absorb on the subject , and my first degree was in one of the sciences, I remain resolutely agnostic and unconvinced about the degree to which climate change is man made.
There is so much emoting going on about this issue...
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby nathan » Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:33 am

Ok, first of all on the climate thing, I don't care one way or the other. From direct observation I would say the vast majority of N. Americans will be content to simply crank up the AC in their HumVees while the world burns down around them. Try to stop them and they will happily do whatever it takes to insure they retain the freedom to continue to live in their dreamworld.

On the scientific consensus thing, I find that interesting in much more general terms. For example I've been studying something else and I am completely baffled by both the science and the politics of it. The subject is depleted uranium. What puzzles me is that when the US military takes depleted uranium and puts it into everything from large shells to sophisticated missiles and drops hundreds of tons of it on places like Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afganistan, the scientists, politicians and the media consider the material inert and harmless. However if the same depleted uranium is simply sitting around in warehouses where it may somehow someday become exposed to the environment or potentially fall into the hands of terrorists then it presents an immense danger to us all.

Nothing about depleted uranium (DU) or the way that it is spoken of by scientists, politicians or the media is consistent at all. Either it is very dangerous or else it is harmless. I find the suggestion that it can be both at the same time completely ridiculous. What is implied is that somehow DU when used by the US military is relatively harmless but when it is used by anyone else it is a weapon of mass destruction. That is probably not a reflection of the magical alchemical abilities of the military industrial complex but rather a reflection of the willingness of apparently, most everyone, to stop thinking for themselves. It's interesting how people can devote pages to arguing heatedly about economic, political, philosophical and religious minutia while at the same time the entire world around them continues to soak up poison and death. Frogs in a pot indeed. Thank you science and scientism, your instrumental objectivity makes something as unobservable and subjective as morality entirely irrelevant.
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Apr 15, 2010 10:24 am

Jeez, turn your back for ten minutes and the place is unrecognisable :tongue:
Manapa wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:Hey, Manapa,
After reading all the other responses, I thought I'd better say that we do still think you are OK. Sharing something of unknown value, as you obviously did, is no indication of moral turpitude.
:group:

:namaste:
Kim


I wonder why anyone would think someone was morally corrupt for sharing an article on doubting scientific consensus?

Sorry, Manapa. 'Moral turpitude' was a bit of a joke, trying to lighten the reception your OP got.I could just as esily have said, "we don't shoot messengers round here."
I need to keep on reminding myself that humour online can be misinterpreted very easily, and either avoid it or make it really obvious.

Manapa wrote:but whether the article has good or bad points regarding climate change is not the reason I shared it, the title of the article, this thread and well the main issue it looks at (climate change being an example used btw) should indicate something that is being pointed to, no?

No. As I (quite seriously) said in my first response, "it is not about what it says it is about: it is single-minded attack on one branch of science." I could have added, "masqueradiing as something else entirely."
As such, it is a really bad starting point for a discussion about scientific consensus.

While I'm writing, here's a link to the report that Ben mentioned: download the pdf direct from http://www.csiro.au/files/files/pvfo.pdf or via its home page at http://www.csiro.au/resources/State-of-the-Climate.html
PeterB, please read it. It's clear and authoritative and only a couple of pages long, and the issue is too important to put in the 'too hard' basket.

Alan, you said:
Consider the source: an ultra-right wing propaganda machine. The "American Enterprise Institute" is so out there they just fired the guy who wrote Bush's Axis of Evil speech for not being conservative enough!

That one is new to me. I don't disbelieve it for a moment, but can your give me a source for it that I can share with others?

:namaste:
Kim

Edit: just added the direct link for the pdf.
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby PeterB » Thu Apr 15, 2010 10:41 am

I have read it Kim O Hara. I remain unconvinced. I dont doubt that the phenomena described are described accurately. I remain unconvinced that as yet the cause has been clearly identified.
As I write most of the airports in the Uk are not functioning due to a volcanic activity in Iceland.
We live on a planet with a constantly shifting and changing weather system due to a huge array of causes and effects.
Our mapping and understanding of that vast and complex system is still in its infancy.
I realise that for many man made climate change has become an article of faith with its own priesthood, and It is clear that to question the basis of that faith is tantamount to blasphemy, which turn results in an emotive response.
I can only repeat, I remain unconvinced, as more to the point, do a growing number of experts in the field who are not tainted by association with right wing politics or industry.
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Apr 15, 2010 11:54 am

Hi, Peter,
If you believe that there's a "growing number of experts in the field who are not tainted by association with right wing politics or industry" who don't believe that AGW is correct, you have been misled by AGW denialists whose basic tactic is to convince people that white is grey and grey is black.

As others have said above, science is a pretty robust system for discovering truth and consensus is a pretty reliable indication of where the truth lies.
There are a very few climate scientists who do not accept that global warming in the last century has been caused by mankind. They do not constitute a significant minority (I'd guess 0.1% of the total) and their numbers are not, to my knowledge, growing. They resemble the small minority of medical people who still think smoking does not contribute to lung cancer and asbestos does not trigger mesothelioma.
There's a rather larger group who accept that AGW is broadly true but are energetically debating the detail, as good scientists should. Don't let that mislead you into thinking the consensus is weak. It isn't.

If you want to see good science in action, hang around RealClimate: http://www.realclimate.org/

Metta,
Kim
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Re: when to doubt a scientific consensus

Postby PeterB » Thu Apr 15, 2010 12:02 pm

Spoken like a true believer Kim O Hara..I will leave the floor to you.
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