Does the Heartland Institute Understand the "Scientific Method"?

By Chris Mooney | May 23, 2011 11:41 am

My latest DeSmogBlog post is about the Heartland Institute, which is holding a conference in D.C. entitled “Restoring the Scientific Method.” What do they mean by that? Prepare yourselves:

The theme of the conference, “Restoring the Scientific Method,” acknowledges the fact that claims of scientific certainty and predictions of climate catastrophes are based on “post-normal science,” which substitutes claims of consensus for the scientific method. This choice has had terrible consequences for science and society. Abandoning the scientific method led to the “Climategate” scandal and the errors and abuses of peer review by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The scientists speaking at this conference, and the hundreds more who are expected to attend, are committed to restoring the scientific method. This means abandoning the failed hypothesis of man-made climate change, and using real science and sound economics to improve our understanding of the planet’s ever-changing climate.

Let’s just say that this caused me to get rather….critical. Of absolutely everything they are saying here, which is wrong in so many ways it is hard to count.

Head on over to DeSmogBlog for my critique.


Comments (6)

Links to this Post

  1. News Ablaze! » Blog Archive » scientific method | June 6, 2011
  1. Physics PhD UofT

    Chris Mooney is an idiot. Head on over to his blog for proof.

  2. Nullius in Verba

    When you said you were rather critical of absolutely everything they say, I was really looking forward to something a bit more comprehensive, and indeed critical. I like something meaty to argue about. So, what do we have?

    but really, it boils down to “my expert is better than your expert”

    Yes! Excellent. I’m glad you said that.

    …despite the weight of expert opinion…

    A very very large number of scientists see it as…

    oh, dear!

    If you’re convinced you’re right and the bulk of mainstream scientists, expert bodies, and scientific societies are wrong on climate change…well, you’re not exactly making Francis Bacon proud.

    Oh, dear, oh dear!

    So the Heartland’s dictum that our experts are better than yours is wrong because our experts are more numerous than yours – to which you reckon Francis Bacon would agree. It’s hard to know what to say.

    “If the scientific mindset means anything at all, it means trying to control one’s biases by never being too sure of one’s preconceptions.”

    Sounds good! Have you tried it?

    “Meanwhile, Heartland also claims these mainstream scientists are making a claim to “scientific certainty” when they aren’t.”

    Fair point. Some parts of the mainstream may have tried strongly to give that impression, but they haven’t actually officially said it. The argument is not really about certain versus uncertain, though, but between having a very high level of confidence and an intermediate to low level. I guess somebody simplified for the press release.

    But that’s only a few real criticisms and you’re not even very critical. That they might have misused the term “post-normal”, that they’re claiming their experts are better and less corrupt, and they claimed with too much certainty that climate scientists are claiming too much certainty – i.e. misusing the term “scientific certainty”. To which you basically say that a lot of other people think they’re wrong.

    I see what you mean about feeling unmotivated. My sympathies! I hope you’ll be feeling better when you get back.

  3. bad Jim

    The Heartland Institute is of course completely corrupt, yet even they accept that cigarette smoking is as dangerous as global warming.

  4. The Engineer

    I second Physics PhD UofT.
    Unfortunately I,m only BSc, but surely the motion is passed.

    This proof is as ironcast as anything Mooney has provided.

  5. I did head over to the blog; same trenchant critism. “They’re sooo wrong”. Not worth the click …



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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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