Science Friday: credential inflation, denialism, and philosophy of science
If the selectivity employed by climate denialists in choosing their ‘authorities’ were made into an industrial process, it could be used to filter gold from seawater. Of course if their sources can sound sort of “sciencey” while pretending some expertise in current climate science, they can depend on a lot of attention from journalists whose ability to distinguish real experts from fake ones approximates the value of their journalism degree.
Jeffrey Shallit at Recursivity discusses one important climate-denialist’s tool in : “Credential inflation”. (Thanks to my son for the link) And while we’re on the subject, Tim Lambert at Deltoid. gives us assurance that “You too can be a distinguished climate scientist”. Of course the techniques work equally well no matter what reality you’re denying, be it anthropogenic climate change, evolution, or the poor track record of “abstinence-only” sex education.
As understanding climate change is a problem for the layman, the surrounding meta-problem is understanding just what constitutes “scientific expertise”. This is not as simple as it sounds. To the rescue (from Framing Science) is this wonderful, ongoing 10-part CBC radio series, “How to think about science”. You can listen online or download .mp3 files. So far I’ve listened to
- episode 1, an interview with Simon Schaffer, author of Leviathan And The Air-Pump, a seminal and controversial work of science philosophy that explores how trust is mediated in science.
- episode 2, interview with Lorraine Daston, director of the Max Planck institute for the History of Science in Berlin and author with Peter Galison of the new book, Objectivity, which examines the history of how we have come to model the understanding of nature. Less than two hours after I listened to the podcast, David Ng at The World’s Fair posted a great review of her book on his blog: Objectivity: True-to-Nature, Mechanical, and through Trained Judgment.
Which leads me to the most extraordinary scientific find of the week: a relevant “Cathy” cartoon. I noticed it by accident in today’s paper. Believe it or not, here’s the usually lame comic strip “Cathy” exhibiting what Daston would call “mechanical objectivity” in accordance with 19th century science…
Man, the world just keeps getting stranger and stranger.