Saturday 24 August 2013

Some comments on scientific consensus, climate cynics, peer review

Science is majoritarian. There is no 'vote' as such but how else can controversies be decided? By magic? They're decided, temporarily, when most scientists agree on them - until something else happens to change the consensus.

The trick is that minority views, if they are true, must find a way to become the majority view by providing convincing evidence and argument. This never happens all at once or without struggle but a strong enough case will win out in the end.

The fact that climate sceptics/cynics are a minority doesn't mean that they're wrong. The fact that they continue to be a minority and have no actually convincing evidence or arguments - that means that they're wrong.

It's most frustrating people say 'peer reviewed' as if it meant 'scientifically certified.'  'Peer review' in a general sense doesn't end at publication. Scientists continually review, reproduce,reinforce and criticise other scientist's work. That's where scientific objectivity comes from.

The Peer Review stage of publication is only the first step. It only guarantees that a paper is worthy of wider attention, debate and scrutiny, not that it's flawless and unassailable.

'Peer review' in a general sense can go on for years, decades, centuries even. When a previously accepted idea is overturned that is because peers have reviewed it and convinced themselves through experimentation and argument that another set of observations or another interpretation of the facts is superior.