How does a person decide what is good science?

In the comments section, there is a continuing demand for peer-reviewed articles to “prove” claims (some of which are not actual science claims, but rather reasoning and logic). Rather than continuing to answer in the comments section, I have decided to write a series of posts on how one can evaluate scientific claims. The criteria is not related to “peer-reviewed journal articles written” or other methods generally used by the climate change advocates.

Please be patient. There are other projects I have to complete, so the series may take a bit to produce.

Argument from Authority

Much of the power of the CAGW position relies on argument from appropriate authority.

As of 1978, the word appropriate was not in the term.  Appropriate was added in the hopes of making a logical fallacy valid.  I have searched but cannot find where the change originated.  Since most frequently I see the term used when discussing CAGW, I suspect that may be the origin of the change.

What does the insertion of “appropriate” do for science or any other discipline (Carl Sagan said there were no authorities in science)  CAGW is supposed to be so complex only a climate scientist could understand it.  A condescending remark at best.  Basic science is understood by many.  Poor experimental design, name-calling, bullying–many people recognize this as not science.

For now, I will ignore the truth/falsity of the claim and go with the idea that there is an appropriate authority.  What is a climate scientist?  Consider the following scientists, based on actual scientists out there today:

Scientist A     PhD in physics and geology               Scientist H     PhD  in paleontology

Scientist B     PhD in atmospheric science            Scientist I     PhD in meteorology

Scientist C     PhD in meteorology                       Scientist J   PhD in environmental science

Scientist D    PhD in meteorology                       Scientist K      PhD in Ecology/Climatology

Scientist E     PhD in physics                                 Scientist L      PhD in applied mathematics

Scientist F     PhD in meteorology                            Scientist M     PhD in physics

Scientist G     PhD in theoretical physics

Which of these are climate science experts?  Which are climate scientists?  One could inquire about their GPA, the subject and content of their master’s and doctoral thesis in an effort to find the most qualified in their field.  The best and the brightest should be the appropriate authority, right?

That was not the choice of CAGW followers.  The criteria chosen was how many peer-reviewed articles each scientist had published.

First question:  How does writing a paper indicate who is brilliant and who is not?

Second question:  Who determines which journals qualify as peer-reviewed?  (Hint–it’s the same people who benefit from the classification of said journals.)

So the definition of the authority is independent of degree, schooling, thesis subject, and so forth.  It depends entirely on how many articles are published in approved journals.

I cannot find any justification for defining an expert as someone who can get a small number of peers to give his paper a thumbs up.  The small number of papers published versus papers written would also indicate a great deal of luck in getting the paper published.  Name recognition probably helps.  In addition, there are a lot of papers that are quite good that will never see the anointed status of “peer-reviewed” even though they were excellent papers with no errors in them.  Unless someone can empirically prove that publishing papers makes you smarter, faster and cooler than the guys with the exact same degree and education, this is not proof of expertise.  It’s an arbitrary definition that allows CAGW to choose whom they want to call authorities and control the story line.  One would also need to explain why a PhD in physics supporting CAGW with publishing in peer-reviewed journals makes you a superstar while the same degree means nothing if you disagree with the CAGW and are not published.  The education is the same–the knowledge of math, computer modeling, and so forth should be easily understood by the unpublished physicist.

The argument from appropriate authority is just an attempt to convince people that a logical fallacy can be altered to produce a desired outcome. Cleverly adding words to a logical fallacy does not make it any less a fallacy.  It’s still argument from authority and it’s still invalid.

One response I have seen to the authority question is concerning doctors.  You don’t go to a cardiologist for dentistry and vice-versa.  You don’t go to a cardiologist for treatment of dental problems, but cardiologists can and do recommend trips to the dentist.  Dentists and hygienists are trained to look for signs of heart disease and diabetes, mouth cancer, etc.  They don’t treat the problems but they can recognize the need for someone trained in another field to take a look.  One would hope if a patient went to a cardiologist on the recommendation of their dentist, the cardiologist would not tell them the dentist is overstepping his bounds and send them home.

Also, specialists in medicine look for what they are trained in.  Go to a infectious disease specialist for treatment of thrush and you may end up with months on an anti-fungal medicine because the thrush won’t heal.  The thrush was diagnosed, so the treatment is applied and applied.  Give up, try a periodontist and an otolaryngologist and it turns out the problem is an auto-immune disorder.  Had you gone with the specialist because he was the “authority” and stubbornly stuck with him, how long would a correct diagnoses have taken?  Would it ever have occurred?  Narrow fields of study may prevent a scientist from seeing anything outside their fields.  It may well be the answer lies outside their field–and dismissing anyone outside the field as “not an appropriate authority” is destroying any chance of the truth being found.  That’s why there are no authorities in science, only data.

The  latest in peer-review:   Flatulence on airplanes: just let it go  (Abstract only–paper is pay-walled)