By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)
It is sad to see a voice of reason fall silent but exactly that seems to have happened over at "The Skeptical Inquirer". They quite rightly say that limitless skepticism leads nowhere. To be precise it leads to solipsism -- doubting everything but your own existence -- but the means they propose to limit skepticism are astounding.
They seem to want to decide scientific truth not on the facts or on the balance of the probabilities but by majority vote! If you had taken a majority vote among the learned men of Galileo's day you would have "discovered" that the sun rotated around the earth. And you would be WRONG!
The example they give is instructive. They say that because 2500 "scientists" signed a document saying that mankind is causing global warming therefore it must be true. No weighting to the degree of expertise of the "scientists" involved is given nor is any account taken of how many of them stand to lose their research grants if the theory is disproven. But above all, no weighting is given to the many discordant FACTS -- such as evidence that global warming is occurring on Mars too. Did mankind cause THAT? Or did solar variability do it? Many people might therefore want at this stage to rename them "The Credulous Inquirer".
And if majorities win, what about the many scientists who reject the claim of man-made global warming? There is a 19,200 name long petition here -- signed by "17,100 basic and applied American scientists, two-thirds with advanced degrees... Signers of this petition so far include 2,660 physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists..who are especially well qualified to evaluate the effects of carbon dioxide on the Earth's atmosphere and climate. ..(and) ..5,017 scientists whose fields of specialization in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and other life sciences". The petitioners are a much more numerous group than the group favoured by the magazine and they REJECT the view espoused by the magazine.
There have of course been attempts by environmentalist true believers to sabotage the petition drive. However the organisers have, to their credit, made efforts to ensure its validity. "Of the 19,700 signatures that the project has received in total so far, 17,800 have been independently verified and the other 1,900 have not yet been independently verified. Of those signers holding the degree of PhD, 95% have now been independently verified. One name that was sent in by enviro pranksters, Geri Halliwell, PhD, has been eliminated. Several names, such as Perry Mason and Robert Byrd are still on the list even though enviro press reports have ridiculed their identity with the names of famous personalities. They are actual signers. Perry Mason, for example, is a PhD Chemist. "
So even by their own ridiculous "majority rule" criterion, "The Skeptical Inquirer" was showing no skepticism at all.
But it gets worse again: It really looks like they were not credulous but straight-out dishonest in their support for the global warming theory. They depicted their favoured report on global warming as the outcome of a standard scientific peer-review process. As this report from Stats.org notes, it was nothing of the sort. What was published was a totally distorted version of what the scientists had said:
Frederick Seitz, former president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, claimed that he had "never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer review process than the event that led to this IPCC report." Seitz went on to charge that nearly all of the editorial changes made by the report's lead author, Benjamin Santer, "worked to remove hints of the skepticism with which many scientists regard claims that human activities are having a major impact on climate in general or global warming in particular." Others, including the independent but industry-backed Global Climate Coalition (GCC) went so far as to claim that the report had been "scientifically cleansed" in a political effort to emphasize alarm about global warming while deleting references to uncertainty.
And the second report that the Skeptics quoted also said nothing like what they claim:
"Last week the National Academy of Sciences released a report on climate change, prepared in response to a request from the White House, that was depicted in the press as an implicit endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol... As one of 11 scientists who prepared the report, I can state that this is simply untrue. For starters, the NAS never asks that all participants agree to all elements of a report, but rather that the report represent the span of views. This the full report did, making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them."
Clearly, the Skeptics have been taken over by Greenie propagandists, with their characteristic disregard for the truth. Sad indeed. I think a lot of people might now want to rename them as "The Dishonest Inquirer".
The above words were written in 2003 and resulted in a short correspondence with the magazine. By 2007 the credulity had deepened -- as we see here. The Skeptics had become evangelists in fact! An average temperature rise of a fraction of one degree across the entire 20th century got them panicked! NO skepticism there whatsoever.