Practice with scientists

While I was away the Washington Post finally got around to posting responses to the two factually and logically challenged George Will pieces on global climate warming change (discussed by us here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).  One of these, a letter from the World Meteorological Organization, patiently points out that Will has no business interpreting scientific data.  They write:

It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record — as was done in a recent Post column ["Dark Green Doomsayers," George F. Will, op-ed, Feb. 15] — and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects.

The second of these, an op-ed by science writer Chris Mooney, while detailing the specific factual failings (legion they were) of Will's two recent columns, made a more general point about the Post's attitude toward facts.  He writes:

Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists — following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence. That, in the end, is all that good science really is. It's also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be — now more than ever.

We would suggest (for the nth time) that enforcing this recommendation ought to be the job of some kind of grown up, like say an editor.

2 thoughts on “Practice with scientists”

  1. FWIW, one of the reasons why I like Schick and Vaughn’s text (How To Think About Weird Things) when I teach critical thinking is precisely because they emphasize the connection between critical thinking skills and general scientific reasoning.

  2. I agree with Gary about the connection between critical thinking skills and general scientific reasoning–as scientists we are encouraged to consider what experiment or information might invalidate our hypotheses (or what new evidence might invalidate the conclusions we have drawn from our data).
    I don’t get the feeling from George Will that he gives serious consideration to potential flaws in his own argument.

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