Archive for November, 2009


Ha Ha. Ha.

November 30, 2009

Gordon Crovitz (never heard of him) has a column on the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal. It’s terrible. As with many terrible things — ungh, these socks are rank…here, have a whiff — it’s maybe worth a read. Among the many terrible things he does is to concoct his own context for the e-mails, saying that they were merely “published online” and “released by an apparent whistle-blower,” thereby disregarding the privateness and collegiality of the discussions as well as the touchy subject of their purloining.

Here are some other particularly asinine quotes:

The panel, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, now faces the inconvenient truth that it relied on scientists who violated scientific process.

Yes, and what “scientific process” might that be? Do tell.

The emails showed how the global-warming group stifled dissent. They controlled the peer-review process, keeping opposing views unpublished, then cited “peer review” as evidence of their “consensus.”

I still haven’t seen how they stifled dissent. They had discussions about where to publish, where not to publish, what journal has been publishing bullshit, and what journals are not publishing bullshit. It’s obviously perfectly legitimate to spread the word that a given article is terrible, even if it makes it through peer review. That’s what I’m doing right now, even though this article would never have made it through peer review. It is entirely unclear how this could amount to “controlling the peer-review process.” I’m not sure what it would even mean to control the peer-review process.

This unseemly business reveals another flaw. Why are scholars who review papers allowed to remain anonymous?

Because if they don’t remain anonymous, the papers they reject could come back to haunt them. The hope is that they’ll be more honest this way.

But here’s the real doozy:

How many of the anonymous reviewers who spiked skeptical scientific papers over the years are the people who wrote these emails detailing how they abused peer review to block contrary evidence?

Yeah. That’s a good one. As if an orientation against skeptical scientific research is an entrenched and immovable position and not something one arrives at after learning the science; as if there might also be no reason that a given skeptical scientific paper might be disregarded on the scientific merits.

It’s true that the medical establishment also routinely rejects anti-vaccination papers…probably because those papers are garbage. Sure, one can make the case that a propensity to reject anti-vaccination papers is an institutional bias built into the powers that be, but that case cannot be made by deference to discussions among members of the medical establishment. To make that case, you need to point to other things, like a particular orientation toward truth, or a particular conception of reasoning, that eclipses otherwise good scientific research as irrelevant or ill-founded.

There’s actually quite a bit more stupidity in Crovitz’s essay, but I don’t have the time to take him down line-by-line. Basically, every statement is dripping in spin. Enjoy!


Tank Steak

November 30, 2009

Looks like scientists are moving forward on the laboratory grown sausage. It’s an idea that’s been getting traction for over a decade now. Here’s a short, somewhat popular piece I wrote a few years back on the ethics of lab grown meet.


Off the Grid

November 29, 2009

This map is insane. I think it’s extremely misleading, but Revkin’s linked to it at Dot Earth so it probably deserves some comment. Looking back over my e-mails from the past week, I suspect that a map charted from my own correspondences would be pretty similar. I’m on several international distribution lists and listservs, and what with Copenhagen heating up, it wouldn’t be hard to reconstruct something similarly broad-reaching. Moreover, since there’s no information on who said what and how parties were linked, the map is more of a commentary on the global reach of information transfer than on a web of intercalated responsibility.


Accidental Misintepretations

November 29, 2009

My son Jasper and I were watching Wall-E last night. In the middle of the movie, he turned to me and asked:

“Dad…so, if we throw our garbage all over Colorado, then the robots will be able to live here?”

He’s three and a half.


Manning Up

November 28, 2009

Joe Romm has published a must-read piece written by Michael Mann, one of the central figures in the CRU hack and an important person in climate science. Romm begins his post by focusing on the science, which is interesting to those who care about climate science, but I impose a false constraint on myself to stay as far from the science as possible (not my bailiwick, and all that). I’m more interested in the somewhat more abstract questions about legitimacy, justification, truth, rightness, etc.

In that spirit, let’s cut to the chase. Here are Mann’s responses to the e-mails, reprinted directly from Romm. I’m pleased that Mann has offered these explanations, but I think they have weaknesses — weaknesses that well could cause problems for him down the line. I’d like to point these out in hopes that he’ll clarify.

I’ve noted a few things in orange and added green to indicate the quotes from the original e-mails. One of the first things that Mann could do, and maybe should do, is release other related e-mails that help to corroborate his case. It’s not that I care, particularly, to read his dirty laundry, but that some further release of e-mails would help establish that his are not post-facto justifications. As a charitable reader, I’m willing to give him and others the benefit of the doubt; but as there are many non-charitable readers in the blogosphere, an evidential basis for offering these claims would be helpful

On with it then, to the justifications…

Read the rest of this entry ?


Green Curry

November 28, 2009

I’m sure many have already seen this, but perhaps not the philosophers. Joe Romm has published a letter from Judy Curry (Georgia Tech), only a week or so after Steve McIntyre published a different letter from her. You can and should read both of them.


Redubbing Peer Review

November 26, 2009

Roger has a new post up on any attempt to redefine peer review. It’s worth a read. I don’t really disagree with his main point about the spirit of peer review, and he’s certainly pretty well entrenched in the politics of this whole thing, so I think he’s right to say that the crowding-out strategy isn’t a very good one. Peer review will win in the end, even without FOIA requests and stolen e-mails. Which is all to say: I think we should still put a good deal of stock in articles that pass peer review, and we should also weigh strongly the credibility of journals.

Given the reactions to the CRU e-mails coming from more skeptical quarters, however, and given Godwin’s law, one suspects that maybe this video captures what some think was going on.

Vodpod videos no longer available.



November 25, 2009

There is waaaay too much going on right now to do any service to the number of things happening. I’ve been running helter-skelter all day trying to prepare for our big feast tomorrow. Even still, here’s a fun little roundup:

Here. Give thanks for this:

Global ice-sheets are melting at an increased rate; Arctic sea-ice is disappearing much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than previously forecast, according to a new global scientific synthesis prepared by some of the world’s top climate scientists.


Philosophy of Journalism

November 24, 2009

Maybe I’ll tip this one off to Yulsman, Kloor, and Fleck (all readers of this blog), as well as any other journalists out there, but there’s a somewhat interesting discussion going on about the philosophy of journalism on Leiter’s blog. Carlin Romano laments in the Chronicle of Higher Education that there is no philosophy of journalism. As we’ve seen in the past, Brian Leiter no likey Carlin Romano. The daggers are out for him on this one too.

I’m surprised that Leiter didn’t point this out, but there’s definitely a discussion about journalism ethics, though that discussion tends to be sequestered primarily to journalism schools and shocked audience reactions after films like Shattered Glass. (Peter Sarsgaard is amazing, btw. Darth Vader leaves a bit to be desired, though he’s better there than with Jar Jar.) It’s an understandable oversight. Journalism ethics deals with a different set of questions than philosophical ethics, and even applied ethics as conducted by philosophers. I don’t see any reason why philosophers can’t, in principle, contribute to that discussion. Maybe the journalistically inclined readers have something to add.


Two Conferences

November 24, 2009

CFP for the ISEE/IAEP conference in Allenspark, Colorado, June 8-11 2010. Abstracts due Feb 1, 2010. This is a great conference in the mountains not far from here. Anyone interested in environmental philosophy should consider submitting a paper.

CFP for a conference on Ethics, Energy, and the Future at the University of Delft in the Netherlands, June 24-26, 2010. Abstracts due Feb 15, 2010.