Monday, April 6, 2009

Ten Replies...Advocacy vs Science (From Helicity)

I came across a very interesting blog called Helicity that was replying to the replies of a climate change skeptic (to his earlier post). I thought many of his responses were both patient and insightful, and it's a topic I have covered myself. For those (like me) who aren't familiar with it, helicity is a meteorological term that, "in the most general sense, illustrates to what extent a fluid flows in a corkscrew manner. It’s used in forecasting the likelihood of tornadic development through the Storm Relative Helicity scale (SRH)." The blog's author, "Daniel ‘counters’ Rothenberg, a student of Atmospheric Science at Cornell University," uses helicity as a metaphor for the wild spinning of academic and everyday life.

It's a long post, and I highly recommend you read it. I hope Daniel won't mind that I've included a couple of excerpts here that I found interesting.

Regarding consensus:

"What does “consensus” mean? It means that the people that actually do climate science generally reach the same conclusions and interpretations of the data they work with. In climate science, there is a strong consensus that AGW is the best interpretation of the pertinent data. What this response fails to hit almost entirely is that it’s not the consenus that matters; it’s how that consensus came to be. In the case of climate science, AGW continues to be supported by new lines of evidence. It allows us to answer questions, but also to ask more questions. The important thing is that ain’t nobody done gone and knocked AGW’s knee-caps out! There is a consensus precisely because not only is AGW the most robust explanation of the data out there, but no one has come and falsified it yet."

Regarding peer-review (or lack of it):

"You know, when a skeptics scientific thesis can thoroughly be debunked and refuted in a short, few-paragraph blog post, is it any wonder that it can’t pass the muster of peer-review? Peer-review is far from a perfect, flawless process, and it certanly can insulate the scientific establishment from major changes - even changes which prove to be necessary. But the issue isn’t politics in the peer-review process; it’s flawed science wasting peer-reviewers time."

Regarding refuting data:

"If someone has a serious issue with the latest Mann paper (or any paper in the climate science literature), then it’s about time that they draft a formal refutation and publish it. I can guarantee that if the refutation is legitimate, it won’t have any problem making it into a respected journal. If skeptics are really sitting on AGW-shattering calculations and have better theories formulated, then they need to start publishing them. The problem is that they don’t."

As I said, these are only excerpts from the Helicity post. I recommend reading it in its entirety.

[And for those who are easily confused...this is a blog, so it isn't science, merely an opinion about science.]

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