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Aug 30, 2007


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Peter Kirk

Not long ago you were complaining that journalists were not being objective. Now you seem to be expecting scientists not to be. It would in fact be irresponsible of them and bad science to endorse the alleged consensus, at least unless the scope of their paper is general enough (because it is bringing together the results of many other papers) to allow them to generalise. That is why, very properly, 86% of papers give no clear endorsement one way or the other. Now of those 86% nearly half cannot resist giving some implicit endorsement of the alleged consensus. But the fact that 48% of the papers are neutral by no means implies that these scientists are not mostly supporting the consensus, it shows only that these are responsible scientists keeping their wider opinions separate from their specific results. A responsible analysis of this data from you would have excluded this 48% from the analysis and noted that seven times as many papers support the alleged consensus as oppose it, suggesting that it is indeed a true consensus.

Michael W. Kruse

"But the fact that 48% of the papers are neutral by no means implies that these scientists are not mostly supporting the consensus...."

Thus my qualification of the article title. This is journal content analysis not a poll of scientists. Some scientists publish many studies in a few years and others less. We can get a straw poll analysis from this study. What if all of the consensus affirming articles were the work of seven scientists but the number of authors rejecting the consensus was twenty? The first group published many more articles per piece but there is wider spread skepticism. I'm not saying this is true (and doubt that it is), just that the methodology will not work as poll of scientists.

Schulte is replicating a study. Oreskes falsely used an argument from silence as support for the "consensus" position. (25% in her study, 48% in Schulte's case.) In fact, I have no doubt that some of these "silent" papers were, for instance, about solar radiation. A paper that concludes that, say, 40% of the warming effect is caused by radiation need not take a stand on the consensus view because the scientist didn't study that aspect. The scientist may be fully convinced that AGW is not the case (or is the case) but he/she has no warrant for making a claim based on the published study; thus silence.

That methodology makes it impossible to assess what the real viewpoints are. The claims Gore and the press make based on the Oreskes' study are unwarranted.

The only survey I have seen was done in 2003 by Dennis Bray, which I have in post I linked from Feb.:

“To what extent do you agree or disagree that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes?” Respondents could select seven options ranging from “1 = strongly agree” to “7 = strongly disagree.” He got 530 responses. Here are the results:

1 strongly agree 50 (9.4% of valid responses)
2 134 (25.3% of valid responses)
3 112 (21.1% of valid responses)
4 75 (14.2% of valid responses)
5 45 (8.5% of valid responses)
6 60 (10.8% valid responses)
7 strongly disagree 54 (9.7% of valid responses)

But again, I go back to the fact that content analysis and straw polls are not how science is done.

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