BLT's Nancy Talbott responds to questions about published papers by Report A Crop Circle Formation on Friday, 13 August 2010 at 04:02
August 12, 2010 email from Nancy Talbott: (Please note comments about Italian group of skeptics with an eye on the hoaxed formations in Italy in 2010.)
Vis-a-vis the BLT Team's work and the Levengood 1994 paper, the Levengood & Burke 1995 paper, and the 1999 Levengood & Talbott paper, the fact is that they were all published in peer-reviewed journals--which, of course means, the scientists at each journal who read the articles before publication by the journals accepted the work as adequately meeting the journals scientific standards. My suggestion to you if/when lay-people (or anyone else) raise questions as to the competency of any or all of these papers, that you refer these individuals to the BLT web-site and ask that they direct any questions they may have to us, the authors of the papers. Further I would suggest that you remind people that science is a METHOD, and that each new paper (by us, the authors of the only peer-reviewed papers dealing with the crop circle situation so far, or anyone else who carries out similar fieldwork and laboratory analysis) tries to build on the original facts presented so far--or to discredit those already published statements by replicating the work originally carried out and then presenting whatever NEW results--if any-- are obtained.
No reputable professional scientist would challenge already published work without having carried out research replicating the research they are challenging. And they would only challenge previously published results by anyone if their OWN work produced what they felt were DIFFERENT results. Regarding the 3 published papers by BLT personnel so far, no one has yet done this.
Some members of the Italian skeptics organization did publish a paper attacking primarily Eltjo Haselhoffs remarks (his "Balls of Light" remarks which he presented to Phys. Plantarum in a Letter to the Editor, NOT as an original, peer-reviewed paper of his own). Grassi et al. used a clever sleight-of-hand in their paper in which they linked Levengood's work to Haselhoff's statements, as if the remarks made by Haselhoff were representative of Levengood's work....which they were not. These Italian skeptics did not carry out any actual fieldwork themselves and made no attempt to replicate the BLT work reported in our 3 papers. Without having made this effort, their comments must be understood in that context: they carried out no original field or laboratory work on crop circle plants or soils and made no attempt to replicate the studies reported in any of the BLT papers.
In the scientific arena whenever brand new situations are first studied and examined, and results published, there are almost always questions raised by scientists not involved in that research. But usually the questions raised are based on attempts by the critic to REPLICATE the original work being questioned. When this is NOT the case (as with the Italian skeptic group), it is a pretty clear sign of insincere interest in the actual research, but instead an inadequate attempt to discredit the published work they disagree with. This is not professional scientific behavior.
If anyone (Dr. Vaughan Hurry or anyone else) is not happy with the any peer-reviewed, published work then it is up to them to replicate the published work they disagree with...and then to publish their OWN studies to show WHY they disagree with the original published work.
As I said, science is a methodology....certain facts are slowly established, and then built upon by either the original researchers or by others, in an ongoing attempt to uncover precisely what is going on. Anyone, like Grassi et al., can disagree with published material....but the only serious or reputable way to do this is to carry out one's OWN work replicating the original. This has not been done by anyone so far.
Since the lay-public is generally not well-enough informed regarding many areas of scientific inquiry it is very easy for debunkers to confuse lay-people in the manner attempted by Grassi et al. This is a typical (if totally unprofessional) method used by debunkers of all sorts of things. No well-trained scientist would fail to recognize the Grassi et al. failure--which is why, I am sure, Dr. Hurry refused to publish the Grass et al. paper. in Phys. Plantarum.
I think you should not be concerned that there is debate regarding the BLT papers. The subject being researched is so novel that it is bound to attract detractors....but what we all need to see if more original work carried out, real research based on in-depth fieldwork and laboratory analysis such as BLT carried out. It is entirely possible that new facts will be discovered. It is even possible that what has been accepted as factual in the past will be overturned or modified. But one cannot do this sitting at home. One has to get out and do the actual work.
And if some of the lay-people involved in the crop circle situation are themselves raising questions about the scientific work, such questions are basically insignificant...precisely because these lay-people do not have the academic or scientific training needed to correctly understand what the published material actually says.