Scientific truth is more important than self-promotion

May 16, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Posted in Climate science, IPCC | 1 Comment

I’d also point out that what the media says is of little consequence in comparison to what the science says. And science is not a matter of opinion, but of research, testing, analysis and deduction.


Dear 2500scientists,

I am not going to tell you bluntly whether I agree or disagree with fergusbrown’s quote up there; I think it depends on context.

This is the way I see it:

First, it seems to me that perhaps it would be a good idea for you to recognise that science does not depend on personalities. The celebrity status of politicians and rock stars fits more easily with our celebrity culture. It was not always so.

Second, you might also bear in mind that the IPCC was designed, and exists, to enable policymakers to be presented with a consensus on climate change science to facilitate informed policy decisions by governments worldwide. Thus, the IPCC reports provide an assessment once every six years following a process of peer-review that effectively eliminates unsupported evidence and extreme views because they would never be accepted or agreed by such a large number of scientists around the world, and would not have made sense to base policy decisions upon. What is left is a moderate(d) globally accepted assessment that informs, but does not prescribe, policy.

There is a great article titled ‘Reasons to be Cheerful‘ in NewScientist in which Spencer Weart explains that the IPCC “…was created by conservatives to forestall ‘alarmist’ declarations from self-appointed committees of scientists” and over the years it “…has evolved into a robust transitional institution that provides authoritative conclusions of grave significance.”

Self-appointed scientists now operate outside the IPCC. This minority of scientists holding minority views (contrarians, sceptics and deniers) have to use misinformation tactics, as exemplified by TGGWS, to invent and stir up controversy and to get any attention. That is easy to do in a celebrity culture where the general public love to spread old wives’ tales (i.e. junk or pseudoscience) and gossip (i.e. personal points) and tend to focus on debating skills or charisma rather than truth and evidence.

Despite my saying that science does not depend on personality, there are individuals I would name if you stopped me in the street and asked me to name key senior people in climate-related disciplines. They have earned my respect due to:

  • the positions they hold (which I know)
  • the respect they garner from other scientists in the community as a result of their own contributions to science (which is extremely important)
  • their written works (a tiny fraction of which I have read)
  • their qualifications (which I can look up)

The names that come immediately to mind include these:

and several more, if I had time to reflect (as I have always been pretty bad at remembering names) including these prestigious four-letter acronyms 😉

P.S. This overall picture matters more than the name of each person represented by a green dot.


1 Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. I’ll claim a defence of context: I was referring to the veracity of climate discussions, rather than the social significance…

    of course what comes to the public through the media matters, as it is often the means by which the public makes its own assessments, in spite of a declared cynicism about the sources. One of the big problems for science is that the public will respond to what it is told, and it doesn’t read the science for the information, it always comes second-hand.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: