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The Main Hindrance to Dialogue (and Detente)

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJune 16, 2010 10:38 PM


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Today I received an email from Gavin Schmidt, who said he was having trouble posting a comment. (Darn this new system which I'm alternately loving and hating.) Rather than plop Gavin's comment into the thread, I believe what he says warrants highlighting in a stand-alone post. In particular, I hope readers take up Gavin's main issue (reflected in the headline I chose for this post), which relates to why he thinks scientists don't engage more in blog comment threads. Be advised: I'm not interested in readers rehashing the "Tiljander" argument in this thread. Please be polite and stay on topic. From Gavin Schmidt: One of the pathologies of blog comment threads is the appearance of continual demands that mainstream scientists demand retractions of published work or condemnations of specific scientists for supposed errors or other sins. Most often the issue in question has been discussed dozens of times previously and is usually based either on an irrelevancy, or was acknowledged clearly in the original or subsequent paper or is based on some misperception of the science. [See Mann et al (2008) paper.] Nonetheless, these demands are being used as some kind of litmus test for the kind of scientist one can respect and they clearly resonate with people who don't know anything about the subject. However, for those that do, it serves only to signal that there is no reason to engage since the first explanation should have dealt with the issue. How many times do you need to correct someone's misperception of a point of science? If they were sincerely looking for truth, the answer would be once. If instead they are trying to find issues with which they can bash scientists for another reason, the answer is apparently infinite. No scientists have time for that, and this kind of continual low-level insinuation is simply too tiresome to deal with.

Thus what we have is not scientists refusing to engage with serious questions, it is the critics refusing to accept the answer. Since the answer is not going to change, the prospect of actual dialogue is limited.

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