Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#7 Dunlap, Jacques - History of Climate Science Denial, Freedom from Peer Review and its Implications

This is the seventh installment of Dunlap, Jacques' (2013) study of the history of our dysfunctional public climate science education dialogue.  They focus on the influence of "conservative think tanks (CTTs) on the output of "skeptical" climate science book publications.  

In this final section they look at conservative think tanks’ uncritical contrarian approach of accepting whatever argument sounds convenient, even when internally inconsistent.  It’s superficial projection and PR mileage they are concerned with.  Undergirding the whole thing is a personal conviction that wishing it hard enough can make it so.  Thus they arrived at a mental landscape where Faith Trumps Facts. 

We should recognize how profoundly different things are in the scientific community with its built-in self-skepticism and their peer review processes.  

Both formal prepublication - and of course the constant unofficial peer review process of scientists communicating with each other, going to conferences to argue with each other, while learning from each other.  Independently cross checking each others work. The constant hum of healthy constructive skepticism driven by a thirst for ever better understanding.  

That special dynamic something is totally lacking within the Republican PR effort - and it’s time the intelligentsia start doing a better job of proclaiming why they should be trusted, but I digress.

Here you’ll find out about how out and out lying became the mainstay of the Republican climate science contrarian PR strategy.  Facts that it would be good for younger activists to be aware of.  Given that the study has a CCA License I've decided to Repost the complete text in a few installments.  I thank Riley Dunlap and Peter Jacques for the opportunity to Repost their impressive work.

The excerpts and related links will be added shortly…

#7 Freedom From Peer Review and Its Implications

The American Behavioral Scientist

Climate Change Denial Books and 
Conservative Think Tanks
Exploring the Connection 

Copyright © 2013 SAGE PublicationsThis is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Am Behav Sci. 2013 Jun; 57(6): 699–731.

Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs)

#7 Freedom From Peer Review and Its Implications

It is often noted that individuals promoting climate change denial, including the small number of contrarian scientists, mainly criticize or “audit” the work of climate scientists (especially as summarized by the IPCC), and only infrequently contribute to climate science themselves (e.g., Powell, 2011, chap. 3). 

Unlike mainstream climate scientists, who publish primarily in peer-reviewed journals, these critics typically employ a range of non-peer-reviewed outlets, ranging from blogs to the books we are examining. A large majority—97 of the 108 books—are self-published (33), published by a CTT press (35), published by a conservative (or conservative religious) press (17), or published by a popular press (12), and are thus unlikely to have undergone peer review—particularly by individuals with expertise in climate science. 

The remaining 11 books are issued by publishing houses that specialize in natural science and may have been subject to peer review, but this is often not clear from the publishers’ websites. 

Of interest, four volumes are issued by Multi-Science Publishing in the United Kingdom, which also publishes Energy & Environment, a minor journal known primarily for providing a forum for climate skeptics and criticized for lack of adequate peer review (see, e.g., Barley, 2011). 

Notably, not a single denial book is published by a university press.10

The general lack of peer review allows authors or editors of denial books to make inaccurate assertions that misrepresent the current state of climate science. Like the vast range of other non-peer-reviewed material produced by the denial community, book authors can make whatever claims they wish, no matter how scientifically unfounded.11 

In fact, the lack of peer review in the “denialosphere” (Pooley, 2010) means that denial claims are continually recycled, no matter how many times they are refuted by empirical test or shown to be logically untenable (Powell, 2011; Washington & Cook, 2011). Weart (2011, p. 48) terms them “zombie arguments” because they repeatedly rise from the grave.

Whereas scientific knowledge slowly but surely accumulates through testing, and then rejecting, modifying, and/or verifying hypotheses and theories,12 the denial literature is cumulative in the literal sense. 

Regardless of how thoroughly discredited in the scientific literature, denialist claims (the recent warming trend reflects a natural cycle, is the result of solar activity, won’t produce harmful impacts, etc.) are retained and reused whenever convenient. 

Non-peer-reviewed books espousing climate change denial offer an ideal means of presenting these claims, accounting for the growing popularity of such books. Strikingly, many of these books not only provide fallacious critiques of climate science but also present an alternate reality in which global warming is a hoax created by a conspiracy of supposedly greedy scientists, liberal politicians, and environmentalists (McKewon, 2012).

The general lack of peer review for the denial books is a common feature of the vast body of literature produced by the climate change denial community, ranging from blogs to newspaper op-eds to policy briefs from CTTs. 

Not being subject to peer review allows authors or editors of denial books to make scientifically inaccurate and discredited claims that are often amplified in conservative media and the blogosphere, potentially reaching significant segments of the general public. Their false claims are also used by conservative politicians, who sometimes invite the authors to testify at congressional hearings (McCright & Dunlap, 2003) and thereby provide them a direct voice in the policy-making arena. 

Although mainstream scientists occasionally take the time to debunk some of the more visible denial volumes, the proliferation of such books makes it impossible for busy scientists to critically review most of them. 

Thus, denial books are likely to continue to multiply, and many will receive considerable attention from sympathetic and scientifically unsophisticated audiences (McKewon, 2012). They are clearly a vital weapon in the conservative movement’s war on climate science, and one of the key means by which it diffuses climate change denial throughout American society and into other nations.


In compiling those lists of additional information, particularly when I plugged in the titles of contrarian books mentioned I was consistently appalled at the pages worth of links to contrarian blogs mirroring said stories - opposed to that, I found next to nothing offering serious critique and alternative sources so that others could have easy access educational opportunities.  Then I wonder at all the tens of thousands of students out there who must understand this serious climate science and who do spend time on internet and see this stuff, yet they say nothing.  Or perhaps they occasionally engaging in some name calling. 

What’s needed is for lots and lots of informed rational folks who care, to engage in that internet dialogue.  It doesn’t require name calling, or at least that can be kept to a minimum and handled in a more constructive way self-deprecating manner.  Rhetorical jujitsu is your friend.

Simple statements.  You are wrong about this and this..., This is what you are missing…,  Here are some links where you can learn some of the details.  Finished.  

SkepticalScience has an awesome collection of myths debunked.  It’s backed up with simple, intermediate, and advanced level explanations.  There are many other sources I don’t have the time to list.

When contrarians toss out wild arguments use some rhetorical jujitsu on them.

Ask them why they don’t want to learn about the rest of the story.  After all the climate engine is a fantastically fascinating thing and we depend on it for everything.  It’s about constructive learning.  Contriving reasons to resent each other isn’t going to help anyone.  It’s about being okay with occasionally getting it wrong.  It’s about understanding we learn from our mistakes as well as each other.  It’s about explicitly allowing the evidence to dictate our understanding.    

I don’t have the time to line up links to further right now, but I do want to get this posted.  
I’ll fill in the links when I can. 

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