Neil deGrasse Tyson On Science Denial and the Press

September 18, 2017

Quartz:

It’s often said that of all the published scientific research on climate change, 97% of the papers conclude that global warming is real, problematic for the planet, and has been exacerbated by human activity.

But what about those 3% of papers that reach contrary conclusions? Some skeptics have suggested that the authors of studies indicating that climate change is not real, not harmful, or not man-made are bravely standing up for the truth, like maverick thinkers of the past. (Galileo is often invoked, though his fellow scientists mostly agreed with his conclusions—it was church leaders who tried to suppress them.)

Not so, according to a review published in the journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology. The researchers tried to replicate the results of those 3% of papers—a common way to test scientific studies—and found biased, faulty results.

Broadly, there were three main errors in the papers denying climate change. Many had cherry-picked the results that conveniently supported their conclusion, while ignoring other context or records. Then there were some that applied inappropriate “curve-fitting”—in which they would step farther and farther away from data until the points matched the curve of their choosing.

And of course, sometimes the papers just ignored physics altogether. “In many cases, shortcomings are due to insufficient model evaluation, leading to results that are not universally valid but rather are an artifact of a particular experimental setup,” the authors write.

Those who assert that these papers are correct while the other 97% are wrong are holding up science where the researchers had already decided what results they sought, the authors of the review say. Good science is objective—it doesn’t care what anyone wants the answers to be.

The review serves as an answer to the charge that the minority view on climate change has been consistently suppressed, wrote Hayhoe. “It’s a lot easier for someone to claim they’ve been suppressed than to admit that maybe they can’t find the scientific evidence to support their political ideology… They weren’t suppressed. They’re out there, where anyone can find them.” Indeed, the review raises the question of how these papers came to be published in the first place, when they used flawed methodology, which the rigorous peer-review process is designed to weed out.

Guardian:

You may have noticed another characteristic of contrarian climate research – there is no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming. Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on. There is a 97% expert consensus on a cohesive theory that’s overwhelmingly supported by the scientific evidence, but the 2–3% of papers that reject that consensus are all over the map, even contradicting each other. The one thing they seem to have in common is methodological flaws like cherry picking, curve fitting, ignoring inconvenient data, and disregarding known physics.

If any of the contrarians were a modern-day Galileo, he would present a theory that’s supported by the scientific evidence and that’s not based on methodological errors. Such a sound theory would convince scientific experts, and a consensus would begin to form. Instead, as our paper shows, the contrarians have presented a variety of contradictory alternatives based on methodological flaws, which therefore have failed to convince scientific experts.

Human-caused global warming is the only exception. It’s based on overwhelming, consistent scientific evidence and has therefore convinced over 97% of scientific experts that it’s correct.

 

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One Response to “Neil deGrasse Tyson On Science Denial and the Press”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    This 5 minute explanation by deGrasse Tyson may be the best I’ve ever viewed.
    and the quotes from Quartz and The Guardian put more nails in the lids of the climate change denier coffins. WHY the F*** is this message not getting through to enough people fast enough? (as Tyson laments near the close of his talk).

    Of course, we know that since climate change deniers are also racists, they will ignore Tyson simply because he’s black, but they won’t listen to Al Gore either, and he’s from a Confederate state and a tobacco=growing family. (???)


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