Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
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In a break with standard operating procedure in the climate war, educational website thebestschools.org has published a list of “The Top 15 Climate-Change Scientists: Consensus & Skeptics.” You read that right: a prominent mainstream educational organization included climate skeptics among its list of what it considers to be the best scientists studying climate change.
The three criteria Best Schools used were (1) scientific prestige in one of the many scientific disciplines which inform the climate debate, “from the earth sciences to biology to physics, especially thermodynamics and fluid dynamics”; (2) prominence in the debate, meaning the work of the researcher in question must be known to many of the other scientists working on climate change; and, the shocker to some, (3) representation of both sides.
Best Schools recognizes acknowledging there is still an ongoing debate over the causes and consequences of climate change will be controversial to some and even heresy to others. The article thoughtfully defends this position:
We are well aware that those who support the mainstream position that anthropogenic climate change represents a grave threat to the future of humanity will deplore our decision to represent both side of the debate (or even to characterize the ongoing discussion as a “debate” at all). They have convinced themselves that only cranks and paid stooges could possibly disagree with them. We see things differently.
Simply stated, we maintain that appeals to authority and scurrilous ad hominem attacks are no substitute for rational argument. We also hold that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. This means, among other things, that mainstream climate scientists who roundly condemn climate skeptics for seeking support from private industry ought to be a bit more circumspect, seeing that they themselves receive millions in financial backing from government agencies. The tacit assumption behind their indignation—that only private actors have material interests, while public actors are by definition impartial seekers after truth—simply won’t wash.
Our position is simple. It is the classical liberal one. … [T]he truth is one thing, my knowledge of it is something else. And because this means that the essence of rational inquiry is intellectual humility. And also because the slow and painful advance towards truth is best served by the open and honest airing of disagreement. For all of these reasons, we deplore all attempts to use political muscle to shut down academic debate. Perhaps our liberal take on the ethics of inquiry has become unfashionable in this postmodern age. To which we respond: So much the worse for intellectual fashion.
Three of the five climate realists who made Best Schools’ list—John Christy, Richard Lindzen, and Nir Shaviv—have either worked with The Heartland Institute or participated in one or more of Heartland’s 12 International Conferences on Climate Change.
One may quarrel with Best School’s selection criteria and thus with some of their choices, both whom they included in the list and those they left off. For instance, it is not clear to me scientific prestige or prominence in the climate debate necessarily identifies the best scientists studying climate change. Often the most prominent scientists are those who shout the loudest or make the most outrageous claims, which result in increased media coverage. I would argue many of the most prominent or prestigious scientists working in the field long ago abandoned the scientific method in order to further their political or social goals. Having said this, it is refreshing to see a prominent education group approach the topic of climate change with an open mind and promote the virtues of transparent and honest debate on matters of scientific import as the most likely way for discovering truth.
Bravo, Best Schools!