LASER TALK: The Difference Between Science and the Scientist

The process by which science is worked out, called “peer review,” is not perfect but it has proven very reliable. What gives science integrity is that it has to hold up both to scrutiny from fellow experts before it is ever published,[e.g. 1, 2] and to the real world once people begin to use it. When my kids were little we often had to get antibiotics for ear infections and we never doubted that the antibiotics would work. Regularly, I go to the airport, and I have never once thought: “I’ve heard most of these fly. I hope they put me on one of the ones that actually does.” It is simply not possible that the part of science dealing with the climate has been corrupted and functions outside of this scientific process seen in every aspect of our everyday lives. An individual scientist, on the other hand, may argue for conclusions that are inconsistent with the scientific consensus.

For example, Fred Singer, a physicist,[3] clearly knows more about science than I ever will.  However, in addition to testifying before Congress that CO2 emissions were not a primary cause of global warming, he has also testified that cigarette smoking does not cause cancer.[4] You could probably find a scientist who says that we should pray instead of giving children antibiotics; you just won’t find any scientific organizations that will agree.

To emphasize the point, Jim Powell, a science author who served 12 years on the National Science Board, appointed by Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush,[5] reviewed 13,950 peer-reviewed climate articles published between 1991 and 2012. Only 24 of those articles “clearly reject global warming or endorse a cause other than CO2 emissions for observed warming.” Of the 33,690 authors of those papers, the 24 rejecting articles were written by 34 authors. In other words, only about 1 of every 1000 climate scientists published over 21 years would reject that climate is changing, and/or that humans caused it.[6]

In the review of peer-reviewed climate articles published between 1991-2012 on the Web of Science by James Powell, only 24 reject global warming.[6]

The 24 papers were penned by only 34 total authors out of 33,700 for all articles reviewed.[5]

1) Science Magazine, “Peer Review at Science Publications,” Science (accessed 28 February 2014).

2) Nature Publications, “Peer Review Policy,” Nature, (accessed 3 March 2014),

3) “Fred Singer”. Wikipedia. Last accessed: 4-24-13. URL:

4) Singer, S.F. and M.K. Jeffreys. “The EPA and the Science of Environmental Tobacco Smoke.” Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, University of California, San Francisco. Bates Number: TICT0002555. URL for pdf download:

5) James L. Powell. “James Lawrence Powell”. Copyright: 2011. Last accessed: 5-16-13. A) URL for bio: B) URL for pie chart: C) URL for circle chart:


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