- 1 Talk
- 2 About my SourceWatch contributions
- 2.1 On noting climate science expertise
- 2.1.1 Why I note it - because contrarian non-experts are posing as experts
- 2.1.2 Why expertise is relevant
- 2.1.3 Why (& when) an expert's area of expertise is relevant
- 2.1.4 When a communicator's expertise is relevant (and when it's less so)
- 2.1.5 The Credibility Spectrum (individual expertise is still not sufficient)
- 2.1.6 Further reading on this subject
- 2.1.7 I make this mistake too
- 2.2 Where I part company with other SourceWatch contributors
- 2.1 On noting climate science expertise
- 3 My reference links
(My Talk page is actually over here).
About my SourceWatch contributions
SourceWatch is a collaborative effort, which means that a given page is - somewhat like Wikipedia - a group effort; even if only one person wrote it, they're likely following guidelines set by others.
On noting climate science expertise
Why I note it - because contrarian non-experts are posing as experts
In editing SourceWatch profiles I frequently address the presence/absence/nature of the individual's expertise in climate science. Climate scientist Kerry Emanuel - a Republican - has noted  that
"...into the [media] arena steps a whole host of [people posing falsely as climate experts]. These are a ... brew of retired physicists, TV weather forecasters, political junkies, media hacks, and anyone... willing to tell an interviewer that he/she is a climate scientist..."
[...and then he/she argues (or raise the prospect) that the experts aren't credible, or that climate change isn't happening, isn't us, isn't important, is less important than other problems, is too expensive to fix, or it's too late to do anything about it short of geoengineering. (See Clive Hamilton's Skeptic trajectory) (Are they speaking as scientists, or as attorneys? Also: Bickmore's laws of rationality) ]
Why expertise is relevant
Some argue that expertise is irrelevant, all that matters is the science. But they're overlooking the distinction between using science and doing science - if you're an expert on the science, yes you should evaluate the arguments based on the scientific evidence; but if you're not an expert - and most of us aren't - we're more likely to get a reliable picture if we use the science - i.e., if we rely on those who are experts - rather than trying to do it ourselves.
Why (& when) an expert's area of expertise is relevant
Someone who's been immersed in a field for years has developed a gut instinct for it - "much of this local knowledge actually becomes formalised in rules of thumb, we can call it intuition, gut feelings or even heuristics of we like;" but when an expert in one domain opines in another, watch out, because a) he's carrying the baggage of confidence from his domain expertise, yet b) he's ill-equipped, heuristically, for the domain he's assessing. (& yes, many of us are susceptible to doing this, including this contributor)
Who's not (automatically) a climate expert
Meteorologists focus on the "noise" around global warming's "signal" (video). (Longer: CJR. ) Physicists "...confuse [their] being smart and having the ability to learn everything with actually knowing stuff." (Re their toolbox, see Arthur Smith's essay.)
When a communicator's expertise is relevant (and when it's less so)
Communicators' expertise matters sometimes, but to varying degrees depending on what message they're communicating. There are 2 levels of expertise -
- ability to ascertain what the scientific consensus is
- ability to assess the science for oneself
A competent communicator needs to be able to do #1; but doesn't need to be able to do #2 unless they're espousing contrarian views. So, if the communicator is just channeling the (mainstream) scientists' assessments, then his/her own expertise is irrelevant. But if the communicator's gone off into contrarian-land, then his own climate science expertise (or lack of it) is relevant.
The Credibility Spectrum (individual expertise is still not sufficient)
Even individuals with expertise will sometimes hold views that go against the weight of scientific evidence; so groups of experts will be your most credible sources. See: Kate's Credibility Spectrum.
Further reading on this subject
- On experts and global warming - Gary Gutting
- What, If Anything, Can [true Skeptics Say About Science?] - Daniel Loxton (" when you scoff at the consensus(*) you are scoffing at science itself – in effect you are arguing that the scientific system doesn’t work")
Scientific consensus on climate change, and how to assess it
Connolley's view (plus links) of survey quality:
"With the surveys, there are two internal problems: selection [or responders], and the questions asked; ...[some surveys] suffer particularly from this. The Oreskes work doesn’t suffer from those problems, though, because it isn’t a survey of people but the literature. I think that is good; what matters in science isn’t what people think – that isn’t, so to speak science – but what gets into the literature. Or rather, what is the conversation between scientists; that used to be the literature, arguably nowadays blogs and preprints and stuff count for more; but still, opinion is over rated. Inverted, that is why I’d rate statements by organisations higher…"
I make this mistake too
Apologies. Will try to do better in future.
Where I part company with other SourceWatch contributors
For the record.
Terminology - "AGW Denier", "skeptic", "contrarian" etc
Just for the record, of these 3 terms I much prefer the term "contrarian" (since "skeptics" are anything but, and since many inactivists do not, strictly speaking, deny anthropogenic global warming, just its importance - see the Skeptic trajectory), but another active SourceWatch contributor changes any mention of "contrarian" to "AGW denier", and I haven't chosen to fight this battle.
(The latter is interesting: "The main lesson I took away from the conference was this: there is no consistent contrarian science, and there is no defining contrarian ideology or motivation. Some are sincere. Others are angry at their lack of funding. Some appear to be envious of the IPCC scientists’ success, and others have found a niche that gets them attention they would not otherwise get. Only a few appear to be motivated by politics. No single label applies to them, and I found myself referring to them as “contrarians/skeptics/deniers/enablers/provocateurs/publicity-seekers”.".)
IMO the practice of using profile photos that are particularly unflattering is inappropriate.(edited)
"Report/fix an error" icons
An identical, long paragraph of text about ALEC currently appears on pretty much any SW page with a tie to ALEC; I'd prefer to keep such common text to a minimum.
- crude "Build a reference string" Firefox bookmarklet (which, alas, no longer seems to work in Firefox 8; see "edit stubbiest" for format of the refstring it built)
- New York Times to Wikipedia Citation Greasemonkey script] (haven't used it)