Disunity yet again plus impolite scientists
A couple quick points. First, check out Joe Romm’s post on this recent Times article. Apparently most meteorologists neither have training in climate science nor have Ph.D’s. Romm obviously dismisses them as a source of authority. While I more or less agree with him, I’m also somewhat more sympathetic to the meteorologists. It’s not too unreasonable to think that expertise in weather forecasting makes you at least a little qualified to speak of its long-term trends. We’ve returned to Paul Newall’s problem with modern science: it has become so specialized that almost no one can comment on anything.
On an somewhat different note, check out blogger Steve Easterbrook’s great post on rude academic scientists and peer review. I’ll definitely have more to say later, but let’s highlight this for now: “And scientists don’t really know how to engage with these strange outsiders. Scientists normally only interact with other scientists. We live rather sheltered lives; they don’t call it the ivory tower for nothing.”
Part of the problem is that scientists, and academics more generally, like it this way. They (we?) don’t really want to worry about mundane, everyday concerns. Harvard professor Louis Menand touched on this in his article on the professionalization of the academy. Interestingly, this desire for isolation exists side-by-side with our self-proclaimed desire to be “the foundation of decision-making.”
This attitude especially leads me to say that Easterbrook is only partially correct when he writes “The scientific community doesn’t have the resources to defend itself [w.r.t. the C.R.U. scandal], and quite frankly it shouldn’t have to.” While the opposition to climate change has been particularly rabid, in many cases I think we deserve some of the blame. We can’t simultaneously say we’re the most important component of policy and then be surprised when people attack what we say. That’s kind of like complaining when the opposing team plays defense. It’s their job to do so, just as it’s the job of anti-regulatory zealots to distort the science.