Saturday, October 31, 2009

Whatever happened to old whats-his-face?

I've been trying to find some medical students and / or doctors who have been brave enough to publically debunk AGW alarmism, on the basis that I am far too chicken shit of the institution-wide backlash that would ensue if I were to do so.

I know there are lots of us out there, skulking around the hallways and hiding in corners during conferences. But the hysterical mass mania of AGW alarmism has made "coming out" as a skeptic such a bad career move in medicine that whenever I have had a hushed conversation with another skeptic re: climate science, we have been twitchy that someone would suddenly rappell down from the ceiling, smack us one and have a tussle with us over our stethoscopes.

So far, my not so exhaustive research has managed to turn up a whole two who have publically made a stand. One was a Christian missionary / medical student who may or may not believe in intelligent design, but still managed to come up with some fairly telling arguments against "An Inconvenient Truth" and the other was an endocrine surgeon and medical researcher called Klaus-Martin Schulte.

This guy is really interesting, and provides a cautionary tale of why it's not advisable to challenge alarmists if your expecting anything approaching a normal academic response. He had seen Naomi Oreskes original essay (essay - not peer reviewed) published in Science claiming that a review of the literature showed a scientific consensus on global warming. (This was the paper that The Goracle used to claim that no scientist refutes anthropogenic global warming and that there is such a thing as a "Scientfic Consensus", thus successfully combining a moron with an oxymoron.)

Schulte had an extensive medical research background in endocrinology and decided that he would use Oreske's own search terms and the same database to verify her results and further them (since he could include dates after her original study). Trying to duplicate the results of a study is a fairly normal thing to do in science. The scientific method is meant to entail "reproducibility" as far as I remember.

Without overtly criticising Oreskes method or final figures, Schulte came up with different results, and even if you included "implicit" agreement (i.e. not overtly stated) with AGW then the figure only got to around 45% in agreement with AGW (Oreskes claimed 75%). She had also appeared to not include, or did not know about, several studies that rejected AGW in her count. (Schulte was far too professional to draw conclusions from this omission, but I'm not - cherry-picking is clearly not just confined to the Mann et al. "Hockey Stick" graph.)

He submitted his results to Science and was rejected (no big surprise if you're a battle weary cynic like me, but I would love to know the actual cited basis, given that it was a well conducted study seeking to reproduce and further the results of something they had previously published), he then submitted it to Energy and Environment and before they could publish it, some details were leaked onto the web.

Naturally, normal scientific climate skeptics were interested, but unfortunately so were the loony fringe skeptics (e.g. intelligent design, space alien conspiracy theorists. Hey, the alarmists have their own loony fringe too, just look at desmogblog sometime). So misrepresentations of the as-yet unpublished paper were all over the web like bird-shit on a shiny car. On the basis of this, Oreskes launched a venomous, public, ad hominen attack on the guy before anyone had even read the real deal.

Schulte then wrote up a really excellent and very professional rebuttal of her attack, and also contacted the Chancellor of the university to which Oreske is attached to demand an apology for her professional discourtesy given that she had not read his paper before publishing an attack on him. He noted that:

“In every draft of my paper, I was careful to make no comment of any kind on the accuracy or reliability of [Oreskes’] research, still less on whether she regarded anthropogenic ‘global warming’ as serious enough to be potentially catastrophic ... I confined myself to citing figures from her essay merely as a point of comparison.”

Beyond that, his paper has been largely ignored or expunged from the record. An Ovid: Medline search doesnt even turn up his article, although it turns up Oreskes original, non-peer reviewed piece of quasi-scientific el dodgo. I had to use the way-back machine to access his rebuttal of Oreske, as its been taken down, although her rather infantile attack on his research is available all over the web.

Eventually I tried putting the authors name and "law suit" into google and for reasons unknown this turned up a copy of his study over at the Heartland institute, which can be accessed as a full-text article.

His whole rationale for checking her claims was that he felt that too many of his patients were suffering undue anxiety from global warming claims, and he felt that the scientific viewpoint was being misrepresented. Dr. Schultes, I feel you buddy.

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