See also see this story on proxies
I am a scientist and I have lived around fellow scientists for many years and I know their feeding habits well. I therefore know that the members of our secular priesthood are ordinary folk. But civilians were blind to this fact because our public relations department has labored hard to tell the world of our sanctity. “Scientists use peer review which is scientific and allows ex cathedra utterances. Amen.”
But the CRU “climategate” emails have revealed the truth that scientists are just people and that peer review is saturated with favoritism, and this has shocked many civilians. It has shaken their faith and left them sputtering. They awoke to the horrible truth: Scientists are just people!
Now all the world can see that scientists, like their civilians brothers, are nasty, brutish, and short-tempered. They are prejudiced, spiteful, and just downright unfriendly. They are catty, vindictive, scornful, manipulative, narrow-minded, and nearly incapable of admitting to a mistake. And they are cliquey.
Thus, we see that the CRU crew define a “good scientist” as one who agrees with them, a “bad scientist” or “no scientist” as one who does not agree with them, and a “mediocre scientist” as somebody who mostly agrees with them. Further, these judgments are carried to the peer-review process.
Claiming lack of peer review was once a reasonable weapon in scientists’ argument armamentarium. After climategate, all can see that this line of logic is as effective as a paper sword.
For example: the CRU crew publicly cry, “If our skeptics had anything to say, let them do it through peer review, otherwise their claims don’t count.” Never mind that this parry is a logical fallacy—an argument is not refuted because it was uttered outside a members-only journal. Pay attention to what they say privately:
Proving bad behavior [about peer review] is very difficult. If you think that [Geophysical Research Letters editor] Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.1
They say that this journal or that one, because it dared publish peer-reviewed work that did not agree with the CRU consensus should be banished from the fold, and that its editors should resign or be booted, and that everybody should agree not to cite papers from those journals, and so on.
In other words, use muscle and not mind if you don’t like the results. Get rid of the editor and put an agreeable apparatchik in his place.
Another popular thrust: claim that it wasn’t real, genuine, honest-to-goodness peer review that led to skeptical findings being published. Something must have gone horribly wrong for those papers to have seen the light of day! Peer reviewed is thus implicitly defined as that process which publishes only those views that agree with prior convictions.
Sensing that that tactic could fail, some said, “Aha!, let’s see if we can disparage the authors of those skeptical papers: if we can successfully savage and malign them, then their findings are wrong.”
Yes, sir, dear reader, you guessed it. Another logical fallacy. It is absolutely no argument whatsoever to say a finding is wrong because its purveyor is “not a real climatologist” or “has not published much” or that he “has few citations from previous papers.”
It is also a fallacy to say that because a skeptical argument has appeared on a website—and could not pass through the gauntlet of the good-old-boy peer review system—that it need not be answered.
Here’s some advice to my fellow scientists: If an argument appears on a website, or on FOX news, or in a newspaper, or even on the back of the t-shirt, and that argument fails, then simply say so and say why. And then be done with it. Do not make an ass of yourself by claiming that answering criticisms that do not come from your circle of friends is beneath you.
If an argument that is old and has been well refuted elsewhere, say so, and say where a reliable refutation may be found. It makes you look desperate and foolish to say that the argument came from a blogger and is therefore suspect. And it makes people believe the blogger.
Anyway, do not cry foul over skeptical blogs and then simultaneously publish your own blog to disseminate your own beliefs. “They can’t publish a blog but we can.” That just looks stupid.
But don’t let’s get too carried away, everybody. These kind of behind-the-scenes activities, perhaps more heated in some respects, are the same in every field. Climate scientists are people and so are scientists in other areas. Bad behavior is nothing new and will never change, because people will always be people.
1I wrote to the author of those words and asked, “I can understand that you feel strongly about the matter, but does your conviction run to harming the career of a fellow scientist merely because he disagrees with you?” I’ll let you know if I receive and answer.
See also see this story on proxies