Thinking Christian

Thinking Christianity for church, home, and community

Will the Public Lose Its (Science) Religion?

Posted on Nov 28, 2009 by Tom Gilson

More than two years ago I wrote “Servants of a Twisted God,” including the following:

Recently in the influential journal Science, Matthew C. Nisbet and Chris Mooney bemoaned scientists’ difficulties with influencing public policy. They recommended that scientists back off from their technical language, and recast their communications in “frames”—alternative ways of viewing information—such as “public accountability,” “public morality,” and “economic development.” They proposed that “scientists should strategically avoid emphasizing the technical details of science when trying to defend it.”

But there’s a deeper problem. Nisbet’s and Mooney’s advice can only lead to science undermining its own platform to speak. Something very similar has happened before.

Consider the position of science and scientists in Western culture. Put bluntly, science is our god of knowledge, and scientists are its only priests.

Nisbet and Mooney would have scientists do more of this: to present persuasive arguments rather than pure science. They want scientists to spend less energy on telling the public the full truth, and more on being politically effective. They are encouraging scientists to follow the fatal path that too many clergy took in the past: to become priests of power, servants of a twisted god.

The public will lose its religion over this.

Cara L. Santa Maria wrote recently in the Huffington Post, Is Science Just a New Religion? Her assessment is no, it is not religion, and for my part I emphatically agree it ought not to be. Science ought to be what science is, and what it is so good at: using empirical means to give us reliable information about the natural world.

But Bradford at Telic Thoughts points out the Checkered Beliefs of some science practitioners. Santa Maria’s article was written before the ClimateGate revelations were made, but now Bradford draws an interesting connection:

Is Science Just a New Religion? is authored by Cara L. Santa Maria and appears at the Huffington Post website. A read of this is timely in the wake of Climate Gate which shows that scientists are not immune to unethical impulses which sometimes plague mere mortals as well. Cara seeks to explain “two enormous differences between science and religion: doubt and faith.” Cara gets off course almost immediately by asserting that religious certainty quickly dwindles when doubt is present. Her point is tautological for one could remove the adjective religious and insert almost anything and come out with the same result. Certainty about the correctness of U.S. policy toward Iran quickly dwindles when doubt is inserted. Certainty about global warming quickly dwindles when doubt is inserted. Certainty about RNA world proposals quickly dwindles when doubt is inserted…

And then yesterday in the wake of ClimateGate, we have this from Michael Bolt in Australia:

The tide is turning. and fast. There will soon be an accounting – and the mood and the money for it. The reputation of science – and of many scientists – will be damaged severely.

Michael Egnor responds,

Bolt is right about this: there will be an accounting for this fraud. People are very very angry, and while the skeptics whose darkest doubts have been vindicated don’t pull the levers of organized science (the frauds do that), there are some financial and political resources available to the skeptics who have been demanding integrity in science, and they understand now that this is war.

Meanwhile Chris Mooney himself tells us his opinion on Why ClimateGate Ain’t Nothing:

None of this is at all relevant to the climate issue today. It’s a nasty, ugly sideshow. The science of climate change doesn’t stand or fall based upon what a few scientists said in emails they always thought would remain private….

The fact is that no matter what a few scientists may have said in emails, we have to go to Copenhagen and deal with our warming, melting planet. That’s what matters. The rest of this is hot air.

But that’s not all that matters. What also matters is trust.

Science, practiced the way it ought to be practiced—the way scientists say it is practiced—is a good thing that needs continuing strong support. But it stands in danger right now: danger from within, or rather, danger that flows naturally from following a path like that recommended by Nisbet and Mooney.

It’s not just that the public might cease bowing to the idol. It’s also that it might start thinking twice about dropping all those billions of dollars in the bucket.

42 Responses to “ Will the Public Lose Its (Science) Religion? ”

  1. woodchuck64 says:

    “ClimateGate” will fade away unless there is real, substantial evidence of fraud. RealClimate provides some context to the fragmented emails posted by the hackers.

  2. ClimateGate might fade away but if so it will be attributable to apathy or the lack of coverage outside the blogosphere. A fair and impartial investigation that replaces spin is in order. If the scientists did nothing wrong then that would clear them. WaterGate showed that you cannot stonewall truth forever.

  3. olegt says:

    William Bradford wrote:

    ClimateGate might fade away but if so it will be attributable to apathy or the lack of coverage outside the blogosphere. A fair and impartial investigation that replaces spin is in order. If the scientists did nothing wrong then that would clear them. WaterGate showed that you cannot stonewall truth forever.

    That is an interesting theory, Bradford, but I don’t think it works in practice. Scientific fraud is typically discovered not by an intrepid reporter but by another scientist. The Piltdown Man was debunked by anthropologists. The “biggest fraud in physics,” perpetuated by Hendrik Schön, came to light through efforts of physicists.

    The self-correcting nature of science is a cliche, but it is also a fact of life. Fraudulent science is exposed not because scientists are an altruistic, high-minded bunch. Scientists can be as arrogant and selfish as people of any other occupation. Two other things make science self-correcting. 1. Scientific discoveries undergo peer review. 2. Scientists compete with one another.

    Note that the process of peer review does not stop at the publication stage. Once your results become public, other people try to replicate them and to do even better. When something does not smell right people quickly take notice. That is precisely how Schön’s downfall began: no one could replicate his breakthroughs. Scientists are incredibly jealous of their competitors, so Schön’s fantastic results attracted much scrutiny. And no, it wasn’t the MSM or bloggers in pajamas who exposed him, two physicists did.

    So what’s up with the pitchforks this time? It’s not so much the scientific data that are in contention. No, it’s the implications of the data that people with an axe to grind—oil companies and conservative think tanks—do not like. Hence the campaign to discredit science by exposing climate scientists as fraudsters. Good luck with that. You’ve tried that before with Charles Darwin (see From Darwin to Hitler), but theory of evolution is here to stay. And did you know that Isaac Newton also committed fraud at one point? Should we discard Newtonian mechanics as a result?

    So get a grip, guys. The right-wing blogosphere can make a lot of noise, but its reach is limited. When you threaten to cut science funding, make sure you have enough votes in Congress and a president who is willing to go along.

  4. Olegt:

    So what’s up with the pitchforks this time? It’s not so much the scientific data that are in contention. No, it’s the implications of the data that people with an axe to grind—oil companies and conservative think tanks—do not like. Hence the campaign to discredit science by exposing climate scientists as fraudsters. Good luck with that.

    The way to discredit science is to blur the distinction between data and implications of data. We have specific legislation pending in congress now sometimes dubbed Cap and Trade. Its provisions are justified by its supporters by citing data indicating global warming. What critics- conservatives and others- have been pointing out is the insufficiency of data needed to support the specifics of the bill namely, clear predictions as to how the bill would alter climate compared to a scenario lacking the effects of the bill. The predictions would occur within a time frame at the end of which we would assess the predictive accuracy with actual data. Climate legislation should have both a predictive component and a sunset provision if its advocates wish to contend that the bills are solidly grounded in science and not politics.

    Those who wish to avoid discrediting science need to be honest about our capacity to determine how natural forces alter climate. We know that climate change is cyclical and that CO2 levels fluctuated before mankind could have influenced CO2 levels.

    Making Al Gore a poster boy for global warming did nothing to assure me that this was solely about science. The attitude that global warming trends justify GW legislation without a thorough examination of its effects does not protect science either. There are many of us who are unwilling to give the GW lobby a blank check to fashion legislation as they see fit. There is more politics than there is science in the GW movement.

  5. olegt says:

    Bradford,

    I find it interesting that you complain that people “blur the distinction between data and implications of data” and then—in the same paragraph!—argue about specifics of cap-and-trade legislation. How silly of me to think that this thread is about climate science!

    This isn’t totally unexpected. It is my impression (correct me if I’m wrong) that conservatives don’t give a fig about science per se. It’s the implications of scientific knowledge that bother them and they move to stem the problem at the source. Theory of evolution implies humans weren’t specially created 6000 years ago? Discovery Institute will work to discredit evolutionary biology. Public health researchers reveal that smoking is harmful to your health? The Heartland Institute will tell you it’s all junk science. NHTSA studies indicate that seat belts save lives? Call it junk science, too!

    But let’s look at your scientific argument.

    Those who wish to avoid discrediting science need to be honest about our capacity to determine how natural forces alter climate. We know that climate change is cyclical and that CO2 levels fluctuated before mankind could have influenced CO2 levels.

    Yes, Bradford, we have identified several natural climate cycles, but they do not explain the warming trend of the last century. The rise in the CO2 concentration, on the other hand, is well documented. The greenhouse effect is simple physics and climate records over many thousands of years confirm a strong correlation between the CO2 concentration and average temperature. That’s pretty much a smoking gun, don’t you think?

  6. I find it interesting that you complain that people “blur the distinction between data and implications of data” and then—in the same paragraph!—argue about specifics of cap-and-trade legislation. How silly of me to think that this thread is about climate science!

    And how silly of me to think that data should have implications for specific legislation. How silly to think that climate science should have anything to do with the effectiveness of proposed remedial legislation for global warming. After all if we accept that global warming is taking place then all we need to do is endorse a proposed bill said to effect its amelioration. Simple stuff for ideologues not wanting to get into the details of whether or not the bill would have a significant impact on climate.

    This isn’t totally unexpected. It is my impression (correct me if I’m wrong) that conservatives don’t give a fig about science per se.

    As opposed to liberals like, say Al Gore, who recently was quoted in a speech as stating that the earth’s core was millions of degrees hot. Gotta love those useful idiots but not IDiots for the latter group has a conservative element believing that life evidences design. IOW, if you’re going to be an IDiot (or a tard) at least support an appropriate leftist cause.

    It’s the implications of scientific knowledge that bother them and they move to stem the problem at the source.

    Implications like laws which impact all of us. It’s evidently too much to ask that if global warming legislation is to be touted as scientifically grounded, that it incorporate a core element of scientific research namely, the falsification principle. When a bill is said to lower CO2 emissions we should expect figures and a time frame to accompany the nice wording of intent. We should also expect that the projections would be evaluated at some point (preferably at the end of the projected period) to allow for legislative adjustments due to inaccuracies. I have yet to see a left of center advocate for Cap and Trade endorse this eminently reasonable request. Why?

    Theory of evolution implies humans weren’t specially created 6000 years ago?

    Please. You know you’re toting at windmills (or straw men) with this as most all of your opponents are not young earthers.

    Discovery Institute will work to discredit evolutionary biology. Public health researchers reveal that smoking is harmful to your health? The Heartland Institute will tell you it’s all junk science. NHTSA studies indicate that seat belts save lives? Call it junk science, too!

    Why the hypersensitivity? Most of those you debate are lovers of science who may not be researchers but generally devote much more than passing interest to it. Some teach. Some work in the medical field. Some work at the technology end. Some write. Some work with computers and programs and some are just plainly interested in and respect science and things like seat belts, no smoking policies…

    Yes, Bradford, we have identified several natural climate cycles, but they do not explain the warming trend of the last century. The rise in the CO2 concentration, on the other hand, is well documented. The greenhouse effect is simple physics and climate records over many thousands of years confirm a strong correlation between the CO2 concentration and average temperature. That’s pretty much a smoking gun, don’t you think?

    You’re an intelligent guy and so is Zachriel so make an effort to deal with actual rather than straw man arguments. You’re right. The rise in CO2 levels has been well documented. So have rises in average temperatures. Having stated two areas of agreement let me go on to mention some points you omitted. There are natural causes for climate fluctuations and variations in CO2 levels. Our appreciation of this does not include methodology allowing us to precisely demarcate the separate inputs of natural causes and man made sources.

    In addition we have an inexact science with respect to the most important element of the discussion- our ability to predict legislative effects due to an inability to grapple with a huge number of variables which can only be estimated within uncertain ranges. When faced with this, supporters of global warming initiatives do not acknowledge the uncertainty of their proposed solutions but rather adopt the political response of demonizing opponents of their cause. There is denialism taking place but it has less to do with data than with questioning of the science behind the solutions. I have no problem with your climate diagnosis and neither do many others. But that need not require a brain freeze on the part of the public which discourages investigations into proposed solutions.

    You mentioned oil interests. Let’s be clear that green industries are billion dollar enterprises and likely to eventually collectively top the trillion dollar mark. When that much money is at stake only fools would chide citizens for asking tough questions about solutions.

  7. olegt says:

    Bradford,

    It would be one thing if you agreed with the science and disagreed with the proposed remedies. Public policy must be argued in public domain, I have no problem with that.

    But you go well beyond that. In your post at Telic Thoughts, entitled An Ominous Story, you seem to imply that scientists may have fudged the data, therefore the scientific findings may not be credible, therefore policies based on them would not be sound:

    Read the entire article at the link. What fudging does is destroy credibility. Calls for policy changes on a global scale depend ultimately on the credibility of data arguing for climate change. It also depends on the credibility of those supplying data about both the problem and the plausibility of suggested remedial measures. Arrogance and ideological blindness engender deception. Deception can derail even sound policies.

    You’re not arguing about the policy, you are suggesting that it’s the science that is not to be trusted.

  8. olegt says:

    And in case someone wants to argue against my larger point that conservatives aren’t interested in just debating policy but aim at science for good measure, here is an excerpt from this week’s WSJ editorial Climate Change Emails Reveal Rigged ‘Consensus’:

    The furor over these documents is not about tone, colloquialisms or whether climatologists are nice people. The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at, and how a single view of warming and its causes is being enforced. The impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.

    It’s the same tired old game: discredit science to prevent policy changes. It didn’t work with tobacco, didn’t work with the environment, didn’t work with asbestos, didn’t work with seat belts, didn’t work with evolution. But it surely helped delay these changes, so no surprise that it’s being used again and again.

  9. woodchuck64 says:

    William Bradford:

    The rise in CO2 levels has been well documented. So have rises in average temperatures. Having stated two areas of agreement let me go on to mention some points you omitted. There are natural causes for climate fluctuations and variations in CO2 levels. Our appreciation of this does not include methodology allowing us to precisely demarcate the separate inputs of natural causes and man made sources.

    All strictly true, but what exactly does “precisely demarcate” mean? According to the 2007 IPCC report (Wikipedia summary), scientists are greater than 90% sure that most of the increase in global average temperatures is due to increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Is greater than 90% good enough to take political action or should we do nothing until they’re greater than 95% sure? Greater than 99%?

  10. From the TT blog: Read the entire article at the link. What fudging does is destroy credibility. Calls for policy changes on a global scale depend ultimately on the credibility of data arguing for climate change. It also depends on the credibility of those supplying data about both the problem and the plausibility of suggested remedial measures. Arrogance and ideological blindness engender deception. Deception can derail even sound policies.

    Olegt: You’re not arguing about the policy, you are suggesting that it’s the science that is not to be trusted.

    More precisely the allusion is to the specific data generated by the scientists writing the hacked emails. Their data is tainted but they have only themselves (and a hacker) to blame.

    The disappointing aspect of this is the reaction of scientists. There is not uniformity of course and some reactions were as they should be. But faced with a choice between circling the wagons and condemning the email contents, too many have gone defensive. If the scientist writing emails was named Michael Behe and the recipient of his emails, suggesting fudging for ID, was William Dembski the same scientists would not be so indulgent.

  11. WSJ: The impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.

    Olegt: It’s the same tired old game: discredit science to prevent policy changes.

    Rigged from the start takes it too far. But if I were an honest researcher my rage would be directed at Mann et al.

  12. woodchuck64:

    According to the 2007 IPCC report (Wikipedia summary), scientists are greater than 90% sure that most of the increase in global average temperatures is due to increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Is greater than 90% good enough to take political action or should we do nothing until they’re greater than 95% sure? Greater than 99%?

    Your quote indicates that more than 90% of scientists believe that temperature increases are attributable to man made sources of CO2. But that does not address my point. I’m looking for something more precise. E.g. The increase in CO2 over the time span in question was x. Y per cent of this x figure is attributable to human input. The remainder to nature. Bill C&T will cut CO2 emissions in the coming decade by z. The effect of this on global warming will be a decrease of t compared to a baseline projecting s without C&T. After a decade the bill would sunset as an investigation into the accuracy of the predictions takes place. The investigation can start slightly before the end of the decade to allow for continuity. If surprises are evidenced by the data lawmakers can make corresponding adjustments in the contents of the law. The surprises can come from both directions. Making a bill responsive to changing data is in consistent with honoring science is it not?

  13. SteveK says:

    olegt,

    It’s not so much the scientific data that are in contention. No, it’s the implications of the data that people with an axe to grind—oil companies and conservative think tanks—do not like. Hence the campaign to discredit science by exposing climate scientists as fraudsters. Good luck with that.

    Oh, it’s definitely about the data – the destroyed raw data. We look forward to the campaign to brush this off as no big deal so we can focus on what really counts – the continuation of the public hysteria campaign. Good luck.

    “SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

    It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.”

  14. olegt says:

    SteveK,

    That article seems a little off base. Little Green Footballs dug a little deeper and look what they have found:

    Just one little problem with this latest tempest in a teapot — no data was destroyed. And the article at The Times, oddly enough, just happens to leave out that part of Phil Jones’ explanation.

    According to CRU’s Web site, “Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data.”

    Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit, said that the vast majority of the station data was not altered at all, and the small amount that was changed was adjusted for consistency.

    The research unit has deleted less than 5 percent of its original station data from its database because the stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends, Jones said.

    Try harder, Steve.

  15. Kendalf says:

    olegt wrote,

    The self-correcting nature of science is a cliche, but it is also a fact of life. Fraudulent science is exposed not because scientists are an altruistic, high-minded bunch. Scientists can be as arrogant and selfish as people of any other occupation. Two other things make science self-correcting. 1. Scientific discoveries undergo peer review. 2. Scientists compete with one another.

    I’m surprised no one picked up on this. One of the most troubling issues to me about Climategate is that it seems to reveal that in this field at least, the self-correcting nature of science has been derailed and manipulated.

    I have no idea who Steve Watson is nor his credibility, but I am citing his article (http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=28074) only because he has links to all the pertinent e-mails which seem to show the climate scientists implicated in the CRU leak talking about undermining the publication of papers contrary to their positions, keeping dissenting views from inclusion in the IPCC report “even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is,” and either sabotaging or ostracising peer-reviewed climate journals that appear to be open to publishing dissenting views.

    I also found relevant this personal statement by another IPCC contributing author calling for the barring of Mann, Jones, and Rahmstorf from the IPCC process. Eduardo Zorita writes,

    I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. They depict a realistic, I would say even harmless, picture of what the real research in the area of the climate of the past millennium has been in the last years. The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.

    These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the ‘politically correct picture’. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the ‘pleasure’ to experience all this in my area of research.

    Where then is the self-correction in the science of climatology?

  16. SteveK says:

    That article seems a little off base.

    If true, then I stand corrected and the UK paper should also correct their story.

  17. woodchuck64 says:

    Kendalf:

    One of the most troubling issues to me about Climategate is that it seems to reveal that in this field at least, the self-correcting nature of science has been derailed and manipulated.

    To repeat, RealClimate has provided context to out-of-context emails. There is no evidence of fraud.

    For example:

    keeping dissenting views from inclusion in the IPCC report “even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is,”

    Despite the hyperbole people use in private correspondance, those dissenting views were included in the IPCC report (see above link, “Redefine the peer-reviewed literature!”).

  18. How should I respond to the below? [an article questioning AGW theory] (I’m in the process of trying to persuade Siemens Corp. (a company with half a million employees in 190 countries!) to donate me a little cash to do some CO2 measurments here in the UK – looking promising, so the last thing I need is news articles calling into question (again) observed temperature increases–

    A dose of reality correcting the mythology of objectivity. When a scientist is quite naturally concerned about funding, bad news (from the perspective of lessening that funding opportunity) provides incentive to downplay the “bad” news. There is a great deal of politicking mixed in with discussions of the science behind global warming.

  19. olegt says:

    Bradford,

    I suspect that in this case there may be far less nefarious reasons to downplay the “bad” news. GW deniers will throw anything at the wall in hopes it might stick. I bet it’s a good helping of BS as usual.

    Do you know which article question AGW theory Manning was referring to? If not maybe you should investigate before basing your comment on things like that.

  20. It’s not GW denial Olegt. Why deny a built in legal mechanism for falsification unless there is a large political component to GW?

  21. SteveK says:

    For the record, I’m not a GW denier. I’m a warming-is-necessarily-a-bad-thing denier.

  22. Some GW advocates have predictecd that the earth will be 2 degrees Celsius warmer by 2050. In the next 40 years there will be ample opportunities to confirm an upward trend in that direction. My question is, if the data does not indicate that to be the trend and instead shows a much slower rate of growth, a static temperature or (dare we even think this) a decline, why would we not want to adjust our legal provisions aimed at emissions accordingly?

  23. woodchuck64 says:

    SteveK:

    For the record, I’m not a GW denier. I’m a warming-is-necessarily-a-bad-thing denier.

    Warmth isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but the unknown effects of rapid change can certainly be. The speed of climate change we’re experiencing is very rare in geologic history. It’s logical to want to slow that as much as we can until we know exactly what the effects will be and/or have the technology to address potentially serious consequences. This seems like a common-sense approach to me.

  24. SteveK says:

    I can’t argue with taking a conservative approach, woodchuck64. My argument is with the hysteria that some choose to add into the mix.

    Haven’t we experienced this rate of warming before? I seem to recall that we have, but maybe I’m wrong.

  25. SteveK says:

    Never heard about this in the news until I read it today, but below is another report on the GW fiasco. Is this another case of a news outlet grinding their axe at someone elses expense, or is this legit? Honestly, I dunno. There’s so much junk out there I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude. The truth will eventually get out.

    CRU’s Source Code: Climategate Uncovered

  26. olegt says:

    SteveK,

    American Thinker has an axe to grind? Perish the thought.

    Seriously, take anything written by amateurs like Marc Sheppard with a grain of salt. As I said above, fraud in science gets uncovered by scientists. So far we have seen a lot of huffing and puffing in the right-wing blogosphere, but no accusations of fraud came from AGW dissenters among scientists. Get a clue.

  27. Olegt: Seriously, take anything written by amateurs like Marc Sheppard with a grain of salt. As I said above, fraud in science gets uncovered by scientists. So far we have seen a lot of huffing and puffing in the right-wing blogosphere, but no accusations of fraud came from AGW dissenters among scientists. Get a clue.

    Yes, step into the real world and note that dentists do not accuse other dentists of fraud, doctors do not accuse other doctors of fraud, police officers do not accuse other police officers of criminal behavior and ideologues have a double standard which ignores transgressions by “their side” while lambasting others for horrible crimes like wedge strategies. You may say that a doctor will accuse another doctor when fraud is proven and you are right. That only points out the double standard. Google the names of high profile IDists and read samples of the accusations made against them. Some are pretty serious things and none are predicated on legal convictions. Get a clue indeed.

    What Climate Gate has done is expose the fact that global warming is dogma for many of its supporters. The data is in. The debate is over. Close your eyes and shut down your brains and be prepared to support whatever treaty comes out of Copenhagen. Forget reevaluation of data which would periodically check for the need to revise our thinking by noting real world measurements. Dogma does not allow for such things.

  28. Dave says:

    Hi olegt

    I am a “denier” – you may even call me a proud “denier” – and I have been a denier ever since this GW nonsense began. Four decades ago I read a book on the coming ice age so perhaps that inoculated me. Or perhaps it is the persistent, media driven, “studies show” mentality. There is no idiocy which some reporter or editor will not publish if it is prefaced by the phrase “studies show”. If you were commision “studies” of the accuracy in forecasting of the typical “end of the world as we know it” predictions by such brilliant “scientific” lights as the Erlichs, John Holdren, Al Gore, the CRU, etc. you would discover that “studies show” they are invariably wrong.

    I have often pondered this curiosity, and have tried to recall even one instance in which the apostles of impending doom have been correct in their prognositications, but cannot. You would think that the law of averages would result in at least one correct prediction – just by dumb luck – but it appears not to have happened at all. Now, I may be mistaken, I haven’t performed an exhaustive search of all the relevant material, so if you could provide one instance to enlighten me I would be in your debt. In the meantime, perhaps you should apply your much vaunted skepticism to the “science” of climatology. You may discover that it is far less precise than you apparently believe.

  29. Tom Gilson says:

    This MIT meteorology professor is probably (one would think) a scientist…

    He doesn’t come right and say there’s fraud. He just says,

    The quality of the data is poor, though, and because the changes are small, it is easy to nudge such data a few tenths of a degree in any direction. Several of the emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have caused such a public ruckus dealt with how to do this so as to maximize apparent changes.

    Pretty close, considering what Bradford just noted.

  30. Dave says:

    Carbon Trading Could Trigger a ‘Sub-prime Style’ Economic Crash

    Plans to expand carbon markets at UN climate talks this December could trigger a second ’sub-prime’ style financial collapse and fail to protect the world from a global warming catastrophe, according to a report from Friends of the Earth.

    The trade in carbon permits and credits, primarily based in Europe, was worth $126 billion in 2008 and is predicted to reach $3.1 trillion by 2020 if a global carbon market takes off, according to Friends of the Earth.

    However, the majority of the trade is not between polluting industries and factories covered by carbon trading schemes, but by banks and investors who profit from speculation on the carbon markets by packaging carbon credits into increasingly complex financial products similar to sub-prime mortgages, which triggered the recent economic crash, according to the researchers.

    The report, A Dangerous Obsession (PDF), focuses on the buying and selling of a new “artificial” commodity — the right to emit carbon dioxide — which the UK and other developed country governments want to expand into a worldwide market and are pushing in the negotiations leading up to the Copenhagen climate talks in December, say researchers.

    More
    http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/11/06/carbon-trading-could-trigger-a-sub-prime-style-economic-crash/

    (check out the capcha phrase on this one… “$5-billion saboteur”)

  31. Holopupenko says:

    I believe William Vallicella captured the essence of what global warming extremists are all about:

    To put it polemically, the gas bags of global warming are CO2mmies. The point of this bit of invective is to highlight the anti-free market, totalitarian, and politically correct ideological nature of this so-called “science.”

    Oh, but Bill’s a philosopher… whose encroachment upon, heh, “science” olegt likely won’t tolerate…

  32. Kendalf says:

    woodchuck64:

    To repeat, RealClimate has provided context to out-of-context emails. There is no evidence of fraud.

    Did I say anything about fraud?

    What exactly is the “context” in which we should understand the e-mails I cited where they talked about what they would do undermine journals that published the work of “skeptics”? I read the pertinent points from the RC link you gave, and I really don’t see any suitable explanation that shows how these statements were appropriate, acceptable, or justified for scientists of their stature. If you could help me understand this, I would appreciate it.

    Also, the issue of concern isn’t whether they were successful at keeping contrary papers out of the IPCC report, it is the clearly expressed intent that should be troubling. Scientists who speak like this seem more akin to politicians with an agenda rather than investigators of truth.

    In addition, the links that you cited do not address the statement I quoted by Eduardo Zorita, who personally affirms the kind of “hijacking” of scientific debate and the bullying and subtle blackmailing of those who would present alternative interpretations and analyses that these e-mails seem to imply are taking place.

    Let me offer here the commentary–she calls it an “external but insider” assessment and perspective”–of another climate researcher, Judy Curry, especially her description of the “Climate tribalism” that she has observed:

    Hence it is difficult to understand the continued circling of the wagons by some climate researchers with guns pointed at skeptical researchers by apparently trying to withhold data and other information of relevance to published research, thwart the peer review process, and keep papers out of assessment reports. Scientists are of course human, and short-term emotional responses to attacks and adversity are to be expected, but I am particularly concerned by this apparent systematic and continuing behavior from scientists that hold editorial positions, serve on important boards and committees and participate in the major assessment reports. It is these issues revealed in the HADCRU emails that concern me the most, and it seems difficult to spin many of the emails related to FOIA, peer review, and the assessment process. I sincerely hope that these emails do not in actuality reflect what they appear to, and I encourage Gavin Schmidt et al. to continue explaining the individual emails and the broader issues of concern.

  33. olegt says:

    John Derbyshire offers a sensible piece of advice to conservatives at National Review Online: A few general truths to keep in mind in the wake of Climategate..

  34. Quoting from Olegt’s link:

    The ninth commandment is: trust science. By this we mean a true science, based on objectively established criteria and agreed foundations, with a rational methodology and mature criteria of proof — not the multitude of pseudo-sciences which, as we have seen, have marked characteristics which can easily be detected and exposed.

    Good advice and it is what this conservative has been preaching. If there is a down tick in the temperature data don’t fudge it because you believe the long term trends will continue to show an upturn. If legislation is fashioned make sure it includes sunset provisions to allow for the continued reevaluation of data. Continue to reevaluate data because you trust science rather than dogma. Don’t be afraid that future data will spoil a major government project as much as ya all love the government and love to demonstrate through it that the smart boys know what’s best for the plebians.

  35. olegt says:

    Bradford,

    I hope the Johnson quote is not the only lesson you took from Derbyshire’s article. His point 3. Consensus vs. contrarians is especially worth pondering as it applies to both AGW and ID.

  36. Is consensus derived by having Al Gore proclaim that the science is in and the debate over? Sounds more like dogma than science to me. In fact the whole GW campaign has been badly mangled from the start. What is needed are more people who do not need to see which way the wind is blowing before they come to conclusions.

  37. olegt says:

    Bradford,

    For some reason you keep dragging Al Gore into this. Gore is not a scientist and his opinion has no bearing on the consensus among scientists. You understand that, right?

  38. Olegt, from the outset I’ve tried to draw your attention to what really matters and you keep resisting despite the fact that the science is connected to my point. I’ve already agreed that over multiple recent decades there was a warming trend shown in the data. That’s where you want the discussion to end. But the reality is that what is important is what we do as a consequence of the data. That’s political and so is Al Gore and congress.

    It would be more useful if you would focus on the sufficiency of scientific data related to Cap and Trade and whatever it is that will come out of Copenhagen. Based on exchanges over the last couple weeks that seems doubtful. You do understand that scientitifc data does not fashion legislative enactments don’t you?

  39. The Deuce says:

    Actually, let me throw in my near-total disagreement with Derbyshire and Paul Johnson on this. What they say sounds good, until you dig a bit deeper into it.

    What occurred to me when reading Derb’s article is the way science is a nearly complete point-for-point fill-in for God in his mind.

    In particular, notice how he says that we should trust science, but not scientists. No matter how dishonest, corrupt, etc the followers and practitioners of science may be, science itself remains pure and uncorruptible.

    The way he has set things up, all good things (IPods, matches, GPSes, drug treatments) come from science, whereas the blame for bad things always goes to human sin. Derb defines science as that which can only be a source of only goodness and truth, and then uses that as a basis for saying that we should trust it.

    But where is this science that supposedly exists as distinct from flesh-and-blood scientists? I can see, hear, even touch and smell scientists, but I have never seen this science. How may I know whether any given statement is a gift from pure and uncorruptible science or falsehood told by a wicked scientist?

    Derb tries to solve this by saying that it’s a matter of settled science vs unsettled science, but that’s no help. The AGW proponents *claim* that AGW is settled science every chance they get, Derb says that it isn’t. Who am I to believe? How am I to know that something really comes from science, that I may trust that it is good and true?

    Here’s the real problem. There is no such entity as science that transcends scientists and can be trusted apart from them. Derb has taken an abstraction and reified it in his mind. There are only scientists, some of whom tell the truth and develop helpful things, some who lie, and some who do both, many of whom are corrupted by politics, etc.

    And while science doesn’t transcend scientists, truth does transcend liars and ignoramuses. The truth remains the truth regardless of whether or not anyone affirms it or believes it.

    In fact, this really isn’t about science and scientists at all, but about truth and people looking for the truth (Derb conflates the two). People of all stripes (not just scientists) are liars and frauds who don’t tell the truth, but you should trust the truth nonetheless. And how do you know what the truth is, as distinct from people claiming to tell it? It’s not a matter of identifying what’s “settled truth” or “settled science”. Rather, you use your *own* judgement, your *own* capacity for reason.

    Yes, when you use IPods and and stuff you are implicitly placing your trust in something, but it’s not some perfected entity called “science”. You’re simply trusting that whatever beliefs about the workings of the physical world the researchers and engineers who developed it had, they were close enough to the truth to make a working IPod.

  40. Tom Gilson says:

    Excellent, Deuce. Brilliant, in fact!

  41. olegt says:

    Well, what can I say? You, guys, have figured it all out.

    Newton was a scoundrel, dabbled in alchemy, and even falsified data. Can’t trust Newton, can’t trust Newtonian mechanics.

  42. Dave says:

    Hello olegt

    I was reading up on the comments here and found your most recent comment (#41);

    Well, what can I say? You, guys, have figured it all out.

    Newton was a scoundrel, dabbled in alchemy, and even falsified data. Can’t trust Newton, can’t trust Newtonian mechanics.

    Since I couldn’t recall any reference to Newton in the preceeding comments I did a search for the name. The only other comment which mentions Newton is comment #3 above written by… yourself?!? (expressions of shock and dismay – woe is me, I am undone)

    And did you know that Isaac Newton also committed fraud at one point? Should we discard Newtonian mechanics as a result?

    I’m curious? Why the fixation on Newton? Even the article “accusing” Newton of fraud includes a veritable “rogues gallery” of fraudsters (if the author is credible – I have a constitutional tendency to skepticism) So, here we have you accuse (or drawing our attent toward an accusation) that Newton committed fraud as an apparent defense of Newtonian mechanics?!? (more expressions of shock and dismay). I haven’t quite figure out the reasoning behind this – but then “reason” seems to be a little light on the ground throughout.

    The next time we meet Newton the context implies that someone has suggested, “Newton was a scoundrel, dabbled in alchemy, and even falsified data. Can’t trust Newton, can’t trust Newtonian mechanics. At least that is the impression I received from the preceeding comment, Well, what can I say? You, guys, have figured it all out. which instigated my search for comments on Newton.

    Imagine my surprise upon discovering the only comments referencing Sir Isaac originated from your own keyboard.

    (This captcha, coincidentally enough, is “BLATTE hunting) ’nuff said.

  43.    
Comments RSS Feed
Real Time Analytics