Friday, July 04, 2008

Selection bias and Nobel Prizes

It turns out there is a significant degree of climate scepticism among Nobel Prize winning scientists. See this 92 minute video of a recent conference (via), and this related post that claims the percentage of sceptics is about 50% of these highly honoured scientists.

But, to channel Chris Dillow for a moment, and although as a sceptic myself this is a convenient piece of information, might there not be a selection bias at work here? Obviously very high levels of expertise and ability are necessary for work at the sort of level, in any field, that might result in the award of a Nobel Prize. But a predisposition to scepticism must also be necessary. Nobels are generally awarded not to those who do important work with other people's discoveries - something that should not be underrated - but rather to those who do new work. This demands a predisposition to challenge received opinion, and the ability to regard ones own ideas as being of value even if they do run against the grain within your profession - another prerequisite for a climate sceptic in the recent political environment.

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