This is not science

James Annan picks up on a defense petition in Statement from the UK science community and is surprised that the petition did not get more coverage.

Polls and petitions are political, not science. It is an absurdity to be offering petitions asserting confidence or in supporting some scientific theory. Using such tactics may create warm and fuzzy feelings in the hearts of advocates but does little to credit their beliefs.

Instead, what such tactics illustrate goes hand in hand with the withholding of data and information and with the labeling of those who do not share the beliefs. Science is a matter of learning and education. Anything a ‘scientist’ does that is not focused on learning and education takes away from science rather than contributes to it. This is why a scientist publishes data and methods so others can learn from what he learned. A scientist discovers and then teaches. That cannot be done by impugning the student or keeping data and methods secret or by using obfuscation as a teaching method.

There has been a hue and cry wailing about inadequate scientific literacy in the public since Sputnik went up. Climatology provides pertinent, important, and appropriate material to support public education about science and its methods. You can see examples of this in the blogs and posts of those who examine weather data and its collection and explain methodologies and provide exercises in analysis that a moderately educated layman can follow and replicate. The problem is that such teaching is being done by those who are being called names and impugned while those who are employed in the field are using assertion of authority, straw men, and petitions to make their point. The student is faced with the dilemma: “who you gonna’ believe? me or your lying eyes?”

Let us hope learning science prevails over polling and petitions and assertions of authority.

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