[Coral-List] Don't be such a scientist.

Eugene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Thu Jan 12 13:40:32 EST 2012

All that "Don't be too much of a scientist" rhetoric really got 
peoples juices flowing. I do not recall saying I did not believe in 
climate change but I do question whether CO2 is the main driver or 
just along for the ride.  There does appear to have been a slow down 
in temperature rise (lots of ups and down but basically flat) during 
the past decade while CO2 continued to rise. The high world wide 
temperature in 1998 has not been repeated so it tends to skew the 
curve.  The next 10 years should be very telling.
     Question? How many coral-listers are climate change researchers? 
Very few I suspect yet many seem to accept Al Gores statement that, 
"the science is settled." I am certainly not conversant with the 
inner working of the climate science community either but as a 
geologist I do respect the past and the information stored in the 
rocks.  Climate has been changing since the beginning of time. Since 
I, and I suspect most, coral-listers, are not certified climate 
scientists we are all pretty much free to believe, or not believe, 
what climate scientists say.  Why do I say that?
      The Dec 2, 2011 issue of SCIENCE on page 1182 has a striking 
Editorial titled "Addressing Scientific Fraud." The editorial points 
out that "social psychologist Diederik Stapel fabricated data for 
numerous studies conducted over a period of 15-20 years."  "Over 100 
publications are now under investigation."  Apparently this scientist 
was a giant in his field.  His publications have been referenced by 
numerous other scientists, thus compounding the damage his fraud has 
created. Further, the article points out that peer review (we like to 
call it the gold standard in science) did not, and is not designed 
to, catch such fraud.  His works passed through 25 different journal 
editors! The editorial also points out how "difficult it is for 
authorities to respond appropriately, because students, colleagues, 
and universities have so much to lose when fraud is alleged." That 
would be true for governmental agencies as well.  Now I am not 
suggesting that any of our esteemed climate scientists have committed 
fraud but many have made such accusations.  The famous "hockey stick 
"curve is a good example.
       There is much more in the editorial and I suggest listers 
should read it. In the end it was some brave students (call them 
skeptics or deniers) who finally brought the fraud to the attention 
of authorities. Now I am not a social scientist conversant in their 
jargon and interworking's and certainly would not have detected the 
fraud either. Admittedly my knowledge of the interworking of climate 
scientists is not much better but I do know they appear to be well 
funded and a lot is at stake if they are wrong. I suspect that most 
coral reef researchers are in pretty much the same boat. I conclude 
it is reckless to willingly accept pronouncements from a field of 
science about which most of us know so little, especially when it is 
based so heavily on computer models using suspect data and a 
questionable mind-set so vividly revealed by the Climategate affair. 
Yes I know universities authorities investigated and gave these folks 
a clean bill of health.  What else could they do? Think about the 
social science case mentioned earlier.
      Many like to make comparisons with the tobacco industry case or 
point out that industry money may be funding some "skeptics and 
deniers." Is oil company money any different than government money? 
It seems both groups have a lot at stake.
      In conclusion, On page 1220 of the same SCIENCE issue is another 
sociology article titled "Experimenting with Buddies" which relates 
how groups of people using social media were experimentally 
manipulated. Could that happen on the coral list? Umm---we may never 
know when and how we are being manipulated. Who ever started the 
"don't be too much of a scientist" stuff probably had it right. 
Scientists can be as wrong and biased as anyone else. Gene  


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
College of Marine Science Room 221A
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

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