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28 June 2012
Inside science

At the New Chronology Yahoo group C14 dating at Tell el-Dab'a is being discussed this past week. A 2010 story was that it was consistently found that C14 dates were older than orthodox chronology – and older than Bietak dated his various archaeological layers. Now, it seems that C14 dates from the time of Hatshepsut appear to support orthodox historical dates – so what is going on? Why isn't any of this being published so that other people can have a look at the data?

C14 is produced by cosmic rays in the stratosphere and upper troposphere – see www.informath.org for a full summary.

This brings us round to a very nice post everyone at SIS should read – see www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/6/28/uk-conference-of-science-journalists…. … which has links to one of his recent articles, 'calibration of a radiocarbon age' as published in Non-linear Processes in Geophysics (2012) which should have captured the popular attention of science journalists but clearly has not. The subject is calibration of C14, specifically as it affects the new state of the art Bayesian methodology of using a cluster of C14 dates to produce an average date. He claims that commonly used calibrations give results that are significantly in error. Keenan had to overcome a few battles to get this article published in a peer reviewed journal – there was distinct resistance to the message. It was submitted in its original form in 2009 but not published until this year. Hence, the post at Bishop Hill is interesting as it provides some clues on how the science consensus works – and the hobnobbing involved.

Keenan attended a conference of science journalists on June 25th and the post is his report of the proceedings and an outline of the nature of the talks, the gist of the views on open display – as they are presented to the outside world. In conclusion he went on to say that large numbers of science journalists are naive in their dealings with scientists – or worse, they collaborate. Too often they accept what they are told without questioning any of it – even when it doesn't make sense. They rely on the integrity of scientists – and their inherent honesty. This attitude protects scientific fraud – that is the thrust of Keenan's argument. If no one questions the scientists they can say whatever they want to say. Fraud is a feature of modern politics, the media, sport, business, every aspect of modern western civilisation, yet we are led to believe scientists are holier than thou, have greater integrity and honesty than anyone else, and would never give priority to their own career and research field. Keenan then says climate sceptics that think bogus research is something special to climate scientists are deluding themselves. Anyone who has looked at other fields of science knows that they can be just as bad. Skewing data is not peculiar to climate science. The prerequisite for integrity in human affairs includes among other things transparency and accountability. They should be a part of all scientific research – a theme bound to get the comments up and running. At 6.15pm we have, scientists are always assumed to be unbiased because that 'is how science works' and imagine how many things we think we know are just lies perpetrated to further careers or suppress others. At 6.18pm somebody posts that after 40 years in science he can't think of a single point of disagreement with Keenan, and at 6.21 a commenter notes that Climategate opened his eyes. What amazed him at the time was the deathly silence of the mainstream media – for weeks. It was as if the release had never happened, or at 7.03, may this explain why more scientists don't speak out against the standards displayed in climate science. Is it because there is a can of worms – and are other areas of science just as bad. At 8.21 somebody recommends reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which is peppered with many examples of fraud in science.

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