Yet another climate post, but like my previous ones, this isn’t really about climate, it’s about science and it’s current state. Everyone by now has read about the leaked emails and source code (source followup here) last week. It’s a big deal.
There was a NY Times post today about a scientist who addresses skeptics. She listed three approaches a scientist can take when confronted by skeptics:
The Climate Research Unit went for #2, the scientist in the article believes that #3 is the best way (I agree), and this got me thinking about where skeptics come from in the first place, and how to deal with them.
One of the reasons I become skeptical about a some scientific and medical research is because the authors hide the data and they won’t make their methods known. I’m not a scientist by training, but I have some background in critical thinking and statistics. I’m not a stupid person (deliberately, anyway). If you show me the numbers and tell me how you interpret them, I can better judge your results.
Which leads to point 2:
“Skeptics are willfully ignorant of the scientific method and religiously cling to unfounded beliefs in the face of contrary data.”
Ok, you see my point? I’ll spell it out for the above mentioned skeptic: not all skeptics are created equally. Smart scientists know this, of course. And smart skeptics know that not all scientists are created equally.
Scientists who follow methods 1 and 2 above are not helping the cause of science. Whenever we use non-scientific tools (such as “consensus,” which is just large scale appeal to authority), we’re not helping the intelligent-but-ignorant skeptic join us, and intelligent people know the difference between a good argument and a bad one.
I understand the frustration when dealing with the hopelessly stupid skeptic—these people are never going to change their minds no matter what evidence you present to them; they should just be ignored.
But please don’t ignore the honest skeptic, the fellow who is simply begging for the straight evidence. A good scientist is also a good communicator, who can take the data and explain it clearly to another intelligent and honest seeker of understanding.
If you have good data, why not share it? If you have iffy data, for the sake of good science, share it too, and we’ll all be wiser.