Scientists and scientific explanations

In light of NIST's WTC7 report, it would be good to have a look at DRG's excellent debunking of the widely held misconception that a document by scientists makes it an ipso facto scientific document. From page 23 of "Debunking 911 Debunking:"

Having looked at two ways in which people, as illustrated by journalists, can avoid confronting the evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, I now look at a third: the assumption that if an explanation is given by scientists, it is a scientific explanation.

In our critical moments, we know that this is not neccessarily true. We know that there have been scientists who were willing to prostitute themselves - to fudge the truth for the sake of money, which in some cases might simply mean to keep their jobs. We even know that some scienists have done this with regard to global warming, an issue that threatens the very survival of human civilization. We should be aware, accordingly, that if 9/11 was orchestrated by our own government, there would be scientists on the government's payroll, or on the payroll of companies heavily dependent on government contracts, who would provie false accounts of the collapses of the WTC buildings or the damage to the Pentagon. There is, nevertheless, a widespread tendency to assume that if some explanation is provided by scientists, it must be a scientific explanation. An explanation should be considered scientific, however, only if it exemplifies certain standard criteria.

One criterion,often expressed by speaking of scientific method as involving "inference to the best explanation," is that the explanation has been shown to be superior to the other possible hypotheses. Scientists cannot say: "We assumed that A was the cause of X. We then found a way that A might have caused X. We were happy with this explanation. So we didn't consider hypothesis B, which some other people had suggested." And yet, as shown in Chapter 3, this is exactly the method used by the scientists who wrote the NIST report.

To be sure, scientists can often in practice get away with using that method if their resulting explanation fulfills the most important of all riteria - that the explanation be consistent with all of the relevant evidence. If it is not, then the explanation is said to be falsified. Or, to be more precise, the explanation must be consistent with *virtually* all the evidence. It is usually considered acceptable to have a few "anomalies" - phenomena that it is asumed, will eventually be shown to be consistent with the theory. But an explanation cannot be considered scientific if it must classify the MAJORITY of the evidence as anomalous.

And on page 144, upon introducing his chapter debunking NIST:

The content of these documents will also be less surprising insofar as readers are aware of the Bush administration's record with regard to science. Already in 2003, the editor of "Science" spoke of growing evidence that the Bush administration has undermined the scientific integrity at federal agencies by "invad[ing] areas once immune to this kind of manipulation." Later that year, the minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform published a document entitled "Politics and Science in the Bush Administration." It described "numerous instances where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings." In 2004, a statement accusing the Bush administration of engaging in "distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends" was signed by 62 renowned scientists; by December 2006, this statement had been signed by over 10,000 scientists, including 52 Nobel Laureates and 63 recipients of the National Medal of Science. If agencies of the Bush administration would produced flawed scientific analyses to promote the administration's agend on issues such as the environment and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, as the studies show, then it would hardly be surprising that a Bush administration agency would produce a scientifically flawed report to rebut evidence that this administration was responsible for treason and mass murder.