Thursday, 7 August 2008

Always check your sources : to Marcel Severijnen (Pielke Sr's guestlogger of today)

When i was in my second year of university, i remember going on a field trip to some institute ( i forgot which one). Being there, i asked a critical question about the reliability of a source someone was presenting me.

My professor, standing next to me said something i remember untill this very day : "above all, the thing we teach you at university is being critical. Even if that's the only thing we managed to learn you, we've still accomplished our mission".

Sadly, not everyone is seems to be critical enough. When participating in discussions on the internet (no matter what the subject is) there's something which has always struck me : the way people are handling their sources, it seems the rule is : if your source says what you want to hear, you can cite it. Checking the credibility of the source and checking if the thing your source says actually is correct, are thing which are illegal. Or at least so it seems.

Via today's guestlog on Pielke Sr's weblog i stumbled on a clear example of such a lack of criticism : the weblog of Marcel Severijnen (unfortunately it's in Dutch only)

In his second post, Severijnen is paying attention to a reconstruction made by Ernst-Georg Beck, who isn't probably the best person to cite if you want to have a scientifically correct conclusion (see p.ex. here, here & here)

[interlude]
In the same post, he links to Ferdinand Engelbeen, who was the chairman of chlorophiles, a lobbygroup of employees of the chlorine & PVC-industry.

The group was founded some 15 years ago as a response to the Greenpeace campaigns those days against PVC, which was in the news those days. Most belgian household waste is icinerated and in the middle of the 90's research showed the ovens released much more dioxins than previously expected. For Greenpeace, the chlorine in PVC was a suspect as a trigger in the formation of dioxins. Whatever what de reason was (i believe actually it's because of a 'de novo' synthesis) for the dioxins emitted, some ovens were shut down for a while to make adjustments, others were shut down completely. Just to say at the time it was a big issue in Belgium.

During that time, the Chlorophiles did some counter-manifestations (which in the back of my mind i remember being rather 'agressive' in the style of presenting their point of view) against Greenpeace and even wrote a book about the organisation which led to a court case, about which the chlorophiles website states this.
Just to be complete and not always stick to climate, as i thought it's interesting stuff for the Belgian readers, still the main target of this blog..


On the Severijnen blog meanwhile, two posts later Severijnen links to Joseph d'Aleo, another person from whom it is well known that his credentials are, err, "low" (p.e.x this post from last Sunday by Robert Grumbine).


I gave up reading any further.

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