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Recognize valid data

 

Last updated 10/18/2019 at 12:43am



Looks like it’s time to hone our skills in recognizing “spin” in print: we have a text book example from last week regarding climate change. In no particular order, here’s what to look for:

Sponsor with vested interest: “The Myth of the Climate Change 97%” was produced by the Heartland Institute. The Institute is a libertarian think-tank paid to produce “studies” that support elimination of all government regulation of business and any government expenditure supporting efforts to combat human caused climate change. It does no original research, only rebuttals to original research.

Unqualified authors: Neither Joseph L. Bast nor Roy Spenser are climate scientists.

“While Mr. Bast described himself as an economist, he holds neither undergraduate nor graduate degrees in economics, and the highest level of education he completed was high school,” taken from an August 2014 Travis County Texas court ruling. Spenser has a doctorate in meteorology, not climatology.

Arguing from irrelevance: The article argued that there are not 97% of climate scientists who accept human made climate change. Even if that were true five years ago, when the article was written, so what? It affects the validity not one whit. And the opinions of meteorologists are just that – opinions, just like those of any other non-specialist.

Questionable citations: The citations here really didn’t matter, but things to look for include outdated citations. With some exceptions, such as standards, citations shouldn’t be more than 5 years old and in the fields of science and technology even less.

John H. Terrell

 

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