It would seem that the venerable magazine The Economist really believes the global economic crisis is over, since it is now turning the focus of its formidable expertise from economics to climate science. And by climate science, I don't mean the economic implications of the political policies of the eco-fascists in Copenhagen who are seeking to further cripple an already damaged global economy. No, the magazine has actually published an article attempting to examine the large difference between the raw data produced by Australian weather stations and the massaged version of that data subsequently published by the Global Historical Climate Network.
Now, I would have thought that The Economist would be rather more concerned about delving into the complete failure of its writers to identify the budding financial crisis of 2008 or to notice that the so-called economic recovery looks increasingly like statistical smoke and mirrors now that the Obama administration is making noises about what will be the third federal stimulus plan in two years. Instead, it has elected to play defense attorney for the climate-change charlatans in an article titled, Skepticism's limits, which encourages everyone without a Ph.D. to shut up and trust the scientists.
Why? Why do these people keep bugging us like this? Does the spirit of scientific skepticism really require that I remain forever open-minded to denialist humbug until it's shown to be wrong? At what point am I allowed to simply say, look, I've seen these kind of claims before, they always turn out to be wrong, and it's not worth my time to look into it? Well, here's my solution to this problem: This is why we have peer review. Average guys with websites can do a lot of amazing things. One thing they cannot do is reveal statistical manipulation in climate-change studies that require a Ph.D. in a related field to understand. So for the time being, my response to any and all further "smoking gun" claims begins with: show me the peer-reviewed journal article demonstrating the error here. Otherwise, you're a crank and this is not a story.
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There are three problems here. First, as the skeptic whose work is being assailed points out in his response, the Economist article completely fails to debunk the criticism. While two trivial mistakes were correctly identified, neither error was sufficient to call the conclusions into question, let alone justify its dismissal. Second, one does not require a Ph.D. in a related field to correctly identify statistical manipulation. A background in mathematics or statistics will actually be much more useful in a forensic examination of statistical fraud than a doctoral degree in climatology or meteorology.
Third, peer review is not science. It is nothing more than the corruption of science by scientists. Consider the remarkable saga of professor Rick Trebino, a physicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, whose attempt to publicly discuss the errors made in a paper published in a prestigious journal turned into an absurd 122-step tale of hypocrisy, political intrigue and abuse of editorial power that reads like something written by Kafka.
41. Receive the second set of reviews of your Comment.
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42. Notice that Reviewer #3 continues to like your Comment and continues to recommend its publication.
43. Notice that Reviewer #2 continues to hate it for taking issue with such a phenomenal paper, which finally debunked such terrible work as yours, and again insists that your worthless Comment not be published.
44. Note further that Reviewer #2 now adds that your Comment should under no circumstances be published until you obtain the important details from the authors that you confessed in your response to the reviewers you were not able to obtain and are not ever going to.
It has never been clearer that science is too important to be left to scientists. Climategate is merely the ice cube in the amaretto sour that the polar bear sitting on top of the huge iceberg is drinking. While the scientific method is worthy of trust, it is manifestly clear that many scientists are not. And scientists whose career and income depends entirely upon scaring the public into providing government grants should not be trusted any more than any other professional political lobbyist or used-car salesman. Scientists have no one but the numerous bad apples in their midst to blame for the public's increasing skepticism about science and scientists alike. And telling the public to place blind trust in the political process of peer review in lieu of actual science is only going to confirm the skeptics in their suspicions that something is very, very rotten in the present state of science.
As for The Economist, I expect we can look forward to reading numerous articles in the future agonizing over why it missed all the obvious signs warning of the return of the Great Depression.