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← Thank you, Matt Ridley

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by Stephen of Wimbledon

Ridley makes a skillful politician - denying he is saying or doing things while actually committing those very same acts.

His speech is a good up-to-date lesson for anyone who needs to practice applying their critical thinking skills and reading the real message.

He's right about two things:

  • Confirmation bias is very difficult to overcome. It is why childhood indoctrination by religions is evil, for example.

  • The climate change debate too often proceeds on a gainsay basis: "Yes it is ... ", "No it isn't ... " etc.

  • That said, I was a little disappointed that he was so negative about peer review. Using Trofim Lysenko as an example highlights the pernicious way in which those outside the scientific establishment can be promoted by politics - not that outsiders with new hypotheses are heroic simply by virtue of not accepting the current scientific consensus.

    It is politics knee-jerk reactions (gainsaying) - including those within the science project itself - that are the main barrier between the public at large and scientific truths, not scientists seeking a common understanding as Ridley seems to suggest. And politics, above all other human endeavours, suffers from confirmation bias.

    Yes, go to top sceptic sites and read their confirmation bias. Yes, media institutions (NewsCorp, BBC, Blogs) suffer from political bias. Yes, climate scientists are paid for what they do. But that does not automatically mean that we are lost in a sea of pseudo-science. The science still shines through - even to the extent that Ridley himself says he's in the 98% of people who have looked at these phenomena and concluded that climate change is real and that humans have had a role in it.

    If Ridley wants to change things for the better he need look no further than his bathroom mirror. Scientists are not perfect, but compared to modern journalists they are paragons of political virtue.

    Tue, 08 Nov 2011 18:36:38 UTC | #888712