A Peerless View

by endlesspsych

By Keir Liddle

James Delingpole has a bee in his bonnet about climate change, to put it mildly. He is a prime example of what is known as a climate change sceptic or denier. He has recently copied and pasted this article from Martin Durkin onto his Telegraph blog criticising Prof. Brian Cox for describing the “documentary” film The Great Global Warming Swindle as:

“Polemical Cack”

Durkin is unsurprisingly unhappy about this as evidenced by his quick recourse to Godwin’s Law:

Brian looks like a rebel.  One of the kids.  He has long hair and wears a T-shirt under his jacket.  But appearances can deceive.  I’ve met countless grungy greens who are every bit as censorious and freedom-hating as the most well-ironed Nazi.

Note that, unlike Delingpole, I have removed the strong tags from the above quote. The article bares all the hallmarks of climate sceptic nonsense – making hints of a conspiracy perpetrated against them by scientists:

So if some scoundrel (like me) pops up and says the science behind this garbage is bunkum, the scientific establishment – Cox & Co – become furious.  And I know to my cost what it’s like when they turn on you.

One can only feel sorry for Durkin. He clearly isn’t cut out for academia: an area which advances human knowledge via the method of very clever people disagreeing with each other, sometimes vehemently.  So what justification do climate sceptics come up with for the scientific consensus on climate change? Well, rather than evidence and data, the tactic employed in this particular article appears to be insinuation and conspiratorial nonsense.

Cox & Co are no saints.  They are not above the prejudices of the age and their class.  Nor are they unaware of their own economic self-interests.

I am unaware of Cox’s economic self-interest in claiming climate change happens. Indeed, I’m not aware of the green implications of high energy physics research, but I assume Durkin has some information connecting Cox to the supposed climate science gravy train that all those nasty scientists, with their consensus, are on. You know, the one where they conspire not to challenge the idea that climate change is real and is man-made, just so they can get more grant money (ignoring for a minute that whether or not climate change is man made, climate scientists would still be funded to study the climate… but I digress).

The evidence for this conspiratorial assertion couldn’t just be that Cox, as well as most scientists, disagrees with Durkin. Surely not? Surely the argument isn’t simply insinuation and smear?

Sadly, it appears to be just that, and it encompasses an attack on the climate science by dint of attempting to cast doubt on the peer review process, again by insinuation:

Peer review is at best imperfect.  At worst it’s a rather nasty form of censorship within the scientific community.  Good papers are frequently rejected.  Rubbish is often printed.

This “master stroke” allows Durkin to deny the current scientific consensus on climate change while at the same time suggesting that the dastardly and unfair peer review process is rigging the game and “good” climate change science is being censored by a scientific elite. “Good” hereis  being taken to mean science that conforms to Durkin’s point of view. Presumably, he thinks his views unrelated to the politics he claims clouds the scientists’ judgement, in what can only be described as a colossal irony fail.

Peer review is far from perfect — although it’s hard to see how any system that involves human beings could achieve perfection — but is it really the pernicious method of censorship that Durkin and Delingpole believe it to be?

In short, no.

Peer review is the system by which academic journals decide what is worth publishing – some articles are accepted, most sent back for corrections from reviewers (of which reviewer two must be stopped!) and yes, some are rejected outright. However, that doesn’t stop people submitting articles to other journals, and just because Science or Nature don’t want to take your paper, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some niche journal (with a lower impact value) that won’t.

Also, peer review is clearly not a barrier to that which goes against the consensus being published: have Durkin and Delingpole not read Medical Hypotheses or any of the numerous Complimentary and Alternative Medicine journals? Indeed, if they wanted to, they could set up their own Journal of “true” Climate Science and publish the deluge of research ‘refuting’ anthropogenic global warming that the floodgates of peer review, which they appear to hold are controlled by money-grabbing politicised enviromentalist scientist types, are holding back. They could set up such a journal and publish all these papers by respected or up-and-coming scientists that they claim will destroy the consensus on climate change, and reverse government policies they claim are damaging and illiberal.

They could, and to my mind should, publish and be damned. Let the world see them for the fools they are.