Credentialism and its outcomes
In the 20 years during which I was an active academic researcher, I was repeatedly appalled by the low intellectual standards that I found in papers by colleagues. They repeatedly ignored basic scientific caution and, all too often, concluded what they wanted to conclude, regardless of what their data actually showed. I got a couple of papers a year published in the academic journals pointing that sort of thing out. See here.
I have no background in climatology and only the most basic background in physics and chemistry -- but even from that low starting point I have often found that in climate-related articles there are the most glaring follies too. One instance is attributing the high surface temperature of Venus to a "runaway greenhouse effect" -- when that temperature is perfectly well explained by basic adiabatics -- as the outcome of the pressure exerted by the huge Venusian atmosphere. And just basic logic seems often to be overlooked. So I have always suspected that climate science is just as impoverished intellectually as science in the fields that I am more familiar with.
And an exquitiste demonstration of that has just been put up by Willis Eschenbach. He takes a climate paper from a most prestigious academic journal -- "Nature" -- and tears it to very small shreds. "Nature" is of course a great temple of global warming. I have done some pretty savage shredding of other people's papers in my time but the comprehensive shredding by Eschenbach leaves me way behind. It is a classic.
So how come? How come science is often so unscientific? Credentialism plays an obvious part. The number of years of formal education that a person gets on average has been steadily climbing for many years. Teachers, for instance, once learnt their job as apprentices but now a four-year degree is normally required. And the inevitable outcome of credentialism is a great expansion of the higher education sector. All those degree-hungry people have to be taught. And the teachers concerned have to earn their stripes. To prove yourself as an academic you need to do research and get the results published in some respectable outlet.
But all men are not equal and those who are capable of rigorous scientific thinking is apparently few. The sort of article that I and Eschenbach find absurd is the product of the credentialled but incapable. There are just far too many academics around who are not up to the job. But they are needed because there are so many students to be taught.
Is there a solution? I think there is. But it will be as unpopular as it is simple. Student loans and grants should be given only to those who can be shown to be in the top 5% of IQ. Some people who fail such a test will still be able to enroll if they can self-fund but the overall effect should be a large reduction in student numbers. And with fewer students to be taught, universities can be more selective about the teachers they hire. And better selected teachers should do better conceived and executed research -- JR